I bought this vehicle after reading every review I could find on these kinds of cars; the Everest, Disco4, Pajero Exceed (former owner 2009), Trailblazer and Isuzu.
The Prado is a good car, and I am very happy with it so I thought I’d write more about the perceived merits/ demerits in this car compared to the others that I have seen on countless reviews.
First off, I would have preferred the Discovery4. It drives more nicely, has a more swish interior, it’s driving position is excellent, and it is capable on and off-road. But two things: price and dealer network saw it struck off the list. Specifying the Disco up to GXL Prado level (fairly basic) amounts to around $13,000 more, and that’s with the full Nappa leather and heated seats taken off that I got fitted to the Prado ($3600). Having said that, if that’s not an issue for you then the Disco is a great car, with the SDv6 model being the sweet spot. With the Disco5 coming out you can probably grab a bargain.
But the Prado. Possibly it’s worst trait is a fairly stodgy drive. However, I drive mostly in rural and regional Australia where Kangaroo’s have cost me a lot of time and money. So I considered all cars with the cost of not only having a steel bull-bar fitted, but with the corresponding (not needed, but ideal) suspension fit-out that improves the handling well beyond that of any of the cars at stock-standard (on par with Disco). So the fact that the Everest drove better than the Prado meant little, as I have spent $1900 upgrading the suspension so that it now drives better than the standard Everest and Disco. There was no raised height (not what I needed), just better suspension to cope with 80-odd kilo’s now sitting forward of the front wheels.
The interior is also great. I like the room up front and for the kids in the middle row. However, I do find there’s little to no room for stuff bigger than a cup to be stored anywhere. Snatch-straps, tie-downs, ropes, tow-bar couplings and the like sit in a bag in the boot, whereas on most other car’s there’s still at least some under-floor storage (Isuzu has a tray which seems to work well).
Also on the interior – everything is bog-standard Japanese. That means it’s well put together, simple and universal which allows for aftermarket upgrades to whatever you want. As I indicated previously, I did get a full 7-seat and bits leather upgrade for $2600 (which covered door trims, centre console etc) and added heated front seats for $990.
The side-swinging door is also something I prefer to a lift-up tailgate. Backed up against a wall, a side-swinging door will allow you to open it a little and reach in to grab something or stuff something in. A lift-up tailgate has you on your knees trying to stuff something up into the boot. I’ve been there, done that several times. Split tailgate is ideal.
The sat nav is reasonably rubbish. It has old maps (2013, I think) but it does mostly what you want it to do. Not being able to adjust while driving it is annoying (Toyota think we all drive alone apparently).
Fuel usage is great. My 3.2L diesel Pajero averaged around 10.5L/100km and the Prado (at 9400kms) is averaging around 9.3L/100km, despite the Prado being 390kg heavier than the Pajero. Both cars had roof racks, bar, lights, tow bar and that’s about it.
The power really is adequate. That’s not Toyo-fan speak for gutless – it’s just right. There are faster and more responsive vehicles out there (like every single one, bar the Pajero and Isuzu on my list) but I’ve never wanted for more poke out of the car. And that’s coming from a Volvo XC70 which had 169kW and 470Nm of torque and was 450kg lighter – so I definitely know what I am missing out on. I need to plan a little more on an overtake, but that’s about it.
Resale was a significant factor in my purchase. The Everest, the Isuzu and Pajero all lost the argument when I did a search for 2012 model cars (granted, Everest wasn’t there but I searched for Ranger, along with Colorado7 and the like) and tried to see what they were asking on a car sales website with around 100,000kms on the clock. The Prado didn’t just continually track higher, it blitzed the competition. Although I had no information on the Everest, I doubted it’d track as high. As the ride & handling was null and void, the Everest didn’t stack up compared to the Prado in my opinion. The Disco4 was next best for resale but we were talking around $10 – $15K differences on three to four year old cars.
Now I’m not the type who would buy a car purely for resale (the aforementioned Volvo as proof, with a second one bought this year) but when you’re looking at just the straight price haggling at the start of a purchase, it comes into play if you have two cars that are close enough in most regards (Prado/ Pajero/ Everest) but have a price outlay to begin with. The Prado cost $4500 more than the Everest and $6400 more than the Pajero with the options I wanted on it. I know I will make up the $6400 difference with the Pajero and am reasonably confident on the $4500 with the Everest that it meant that the price difference became a moot point.
The 150L diesel tank in the Prado is awesome. While this can be fitted as an extra to all of the cars now, buyers have to note that some cannot be fitted with an extension tank if you fit a towbar. The 150L tank does weigh it down somewhat – after I reset the fuel average on a full tank, it will track for high 9’s and towards the end track towards low 9’s in the L/100km department. The argument that this added weight is bad is a bit silly; just fill it with 80L’s of fuel if that’s a problem for you. Now and then you can fill it right up for the big trip if you like.
I’ll do at least one tour of the outback per year, with another one somewhere a little less remote (e.g. Tassie). What I have always found is that there is always a dealership for Toyota’s and Fords (a JLR issue). This isn’t for any breakdown thing, but if I have 3000km’s left to go before a service, I’ll be over that mileage by the time I come back. With the Toyota, I just phone a couple of days ahead and get it done mid-trip. Nice and simple.
The servicing is okay. The 6-month interval doesn’t kill it for me, (except when I travel overseas for work, which can be up to 7 months at a time), but the 10,000km is ridiculous. The frustrating thing is that it’s just a pluck – it’s not engine specific across the range. They’re lucky it’s reasonably cheap, but still, Toyota need to move on from the 1990’s. I note Subaru is starting a dealer-backed mobile mechanic thing, so perhaps Toyota will come to the party (likely in 10 years).
So that’s about it. I know I made the right decision for my vehicle, but thought I’d put some info on my experience out there, in particular the idea that you can get a quality suspension change from outlets like ARB, TJM or Lovells & Bilstein (like mine) for less than $2000, which negates the main drawback on this car. If you don’t do that, then I would say I would still have picked it due to the lower life-costs, but it would have been a closer argument with the Everest.