The Toyota LandCruiser Prado is Australia’s best selling large SUV, but do the numbers prove it’s the best large SUV as well?
The LandCruiser Prado has been exceptionally successful for Toyota Australia. 17 years since it first launched and now in its fourth-generation, Australians have bought more than 200,000 of the Japanese-made large SUV.
A more impressive statistic is that if you counted sales of Toyota’s entire “Cruiser” range for 2012, which consists of LandCruiser Prado, LandCruiser 200 and 70 Series and FJ Cruiser, as an entirely separate business to Toyota’s other cars, it would’ve come 10th on the list of best-selling manufacturers.
To remind ourselves about what all the fuss is about, we embarked on a drive to New South Wales' Blue Mountains outside of Sydney, with a bit of off-roading thrown in for good measure. The idea was to familiarise ourselves with the Prado while also celebrating the bicentennial anniversary of the first Europeans to cross the region.
Our test car was the five-door Toyota LandCruiser Prado Kakadu diesel, which has a retail price of $91,490, $1000 more than its petrol equivalent. The Kakadu sits at the very top of a somewhat complex Prado range, which starts at $55,990 for the base model GX but is also available as a three-door, starting at $56,090. There are two variants of the three-door and four variants of the five-door. For those who want an even bigger SUV with more off-roading capability, the LandCruiser 200 Series is the way to go.
The LandCruiser Prado range is available with a 3.0-litre turbo diesel across the range and a 4.0-litre petrol V6 on the five-door GXL, VX and Kakadu. Our Kakadu review car was equipped with the turbo diesel motor, which has 127kW of power and 410Nm of torque. Officially it uses 8.5 litres of diesel per 100km, which, given its massive 150L fuel tank, means it can do about 1750km on one tank. On that same token, it will cost about $225 to fill up at current diesel prices.
During our three days behind the wheel we drove roughly 500km and averaged about 10.5L/100km. That consisted of some off-roading and plenty of Sydney traffic, making it a pretty reasonable figure for a vehicle that weighs 2435kg.
The Toyota LandCruiser Prado is classified as a large SUV and technically competes with the more city-friendly SUVs like the Ford Territory, Holden Captiva 7 and Toyota’s own Kluger. In reality, the main competitor is the Mitsubishi Pajero both in terms of price and genuine SUV capability.
The seven-seater Prado is one of the larger SUVs most commonly seen in suburbia. It has tremendous appeal to families not just because it’s an ‘unbreakable’ Toyota but because it’s actually an SUV in the traditional sense of the word. It’s not a road car turned into an SUV, such as the Ford Falcon-based Territory.
The upside of that is Prado’s very rugged and can-do attitude. It’s eager and willing, feels exceptionally well put together and has the capability to go where none of its car-based competitors dare – even with 2500kg of cargo in tow. Apart from the even bigger and more off-road-focused Toyota LandCruiser 200 Series, the Prado would make an incomparable vehicle of choice in the unlikely event of a zombie apocalypse.
The downside is refinement. Where the likes of the Ford Territory and Toyota Kluger drive and behave like a car, the Prado behaves more like an old-school four-wheel-drive. The steering is vague and there’s a reasonable amount of body roll around corners. The diesel engine tends to make its share of noise, and although the five-speed automatic gearbox is well matched, it doesn’t have the same car-like feeling of a modern automobile.
Sit inside and the interior doesn’t look nearly as big as it should for a vehicle that measures nearly five metres in length. The front seats are comfortable and supportive but the second row seats could do with more legroom. The third row is ideal for children or best left folded flat for cargo. There’s plenty of headroom.
The side-hinged boot door requires a little too much space to open in tight car parks and you need to leave a reasonable amount of room at the back if boot access is required. Some prefer the top-hinged system as it requires less room to open but the Prado’s door does allow easier access to the boot when rear space isn’t an issue.
We had our 19-month-old son come along for the drive, his ISOFIX baby seat clipped in (with a little bit of force), and the rear screen DVD entertainment system was a huge bonus. The up-high position of the Prado and the sunroof also made the long drives easier as it allowed for better field of vision for the little guy, something definitely worth considering if you have kids.
Speaking of features, for that extra $35,500 over the base model GX, the Prado Kakadu comes with a whole bunch of interesting goodies. Apart from the basics, such as smart entry and start (leave key in pocket), the Kakadu gets radar cruise control (that allows you to follow the car in front at a set distance), parking sensors, reversing camera, satellite navigation, a 17-speaker JBL audio system, rear-seat DVD entertainment system, 18-inch alloys, 3-zone climate control, leather-accented interior and a pre-collision detection system that automatically brakes when a crash is imminent.
When the going gets rough, the Prado’s many off-roading systems come into play. Be it the downhill assistance control, or CRAWL, which is borrowed from the LandCruiser 200 series. CRAWL control technology manages the way power is directed to each wheel individually, helping to maintain maximum grip on steep or slippery surfaces. It’s sort of like cruise control for the outback.
We did some relatively basic off-roading in the Prado and, unsurprisingly, the Toyota never seemed fazed. Many buyers are unlikely to ever take their Prado off-road, but the capability is reassuringly there.
On the safety side the Toyota LandCruiser Prado includes seven airbags, vehicle stability control, and a five-star ANCAP crash rating.
On the warranty side, the Toyota Prado range has a three-year/100,000km warranty. Where it beats the competition is the 15,000km service intervals and Toyota’s guarantee of a maximum $210 cost per service for the first six services.
If you’re after a well-built, traditional SUV with genuine off-road capability instead of a more road-focused SUV, the Toyota Prado is a strong choice.