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by George Skentzos

To coincide with its international launch in Japan, Toyota Australia has today showcased a virtually hand-built pre-production version of the fourth generation Toyota LandCruiser Prado SUV.

Due to go on sale in Australia from November, the new Toyota Prado boasts revamped styling, improved performance and economy and a raft of driver assist technologies for both on and off road.

As Toyota’s fourth largest market for the Prado, a portion of the development work was carried out in Australia, with test mules disguised as the current generation Toyota Prado covering 100,000km on local roads – 70 per cent of which were unsealed.

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With four models to choose from in Toyota’s 4WD and SUV fleet, Prado represents the first step into true off-road ability, meshing the qualities of a luxurious family SUV and capable off-roader.

In order to fulfil this reputation for the new generation model, Toyota has adapted many technologies from both the Lexus RX and LandCruiser 200 ranges.

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While exact specifications are still being finalised, expect the new Toyota Prado to feature some of the electronic aids developed for passenger vehicles such as vehicle stability control and traction control as well as seven airbags as standard.

The current 4.0-litre V6 petrol engine gains dual VVT-i with power increased by more than 10 per cent, while a turbo-diesel variant will also be made available which will see fuel economy drop to less than 9.0-litres per 100km.

The design direction for the new Prado has been described as “intelligent modern” by chief engineer, Makoto Arimoto, forming a fresh yet familiar styling evolution for the nameplate.

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The Prado is marginally bigger than its predecessor with an extra 80mm in length and 10mm in width, while a lower overall ride height of 15mm contributes to an improved drag coefficient of 0.35 – down from 0.37.

At the front, a new vertical grille echoes its predecessor, flanked on either side by cylindrical high-beams and projector low-beams with a three-dimensional profile of the clearance and turn signal lamps.

The door mirrors feature integrated LED indicators while the same technology is repeated in the read tail lamp clusters together with a body-coloured rear spoiler housing the rear wiper.

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A full-size spare tyre cover blends the rear and also houses the built-in rear camera which works in tandem with front and side cameras to give a virtual surround view of the entire car on all but the base model.

The side profile is dominated by integrated fender flares which rise up from the tyres and shoot toward the rear with the sharply trimmed lower section of both the front and rear bumpers making the overhangs look shorter.

“LandCruiser Prado has continuously evolved to satisfy diverse customer needs – and fourth-generation Prado will accelerate that trend. It has a pedigree stretching back more than 50 years and is fundamental to Toyota’s reputation of quality, durability and reliability,” said Toyota Australia’s senior executive director sales and marketing, David Buttner.

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The Prado has been Australia’s most popular medium SUV for more than a decade, with more than 148,000 sold since its introduction in 1996 – with Toyota expecting to reach the milestone 150,000 sales before the end of the year.

From this figure, the official fleet-private split is roughly 65:35 although a sizeable proportion of those fleet sales are novated.

Full specifications, pricing and driving impressions will be made available closer to the car’s official launch in November.




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