And so our time with the 2016 Toyota LandCruiser Prado VX has come to an end. Our final foray with Australia’s favourite large SUV involved a long road trip out to Lithgow on sealed surfaces, followed by two days of bush bashing as support vehicle for one of our twin-test video shoots.
The Prado had already done plenty of urban trundling (like most Prados do, if we’re being honest) during our loan, but this was the first time we’d had the opportunity to coax it out of the city and into its natural element. While the Prado plays the part of family hauler in town well enough, it’s once the going gets tough off-road that the Prado really comes into its own. You can find out about our long-term Prado in our introductory instalment.
On the highway, the big Toyota cruises along effortlessly. There’s no doubt the Prado makes all kind of sense as a long-haul tourer or tow vehicle and it’s precisely why you see so many on backroads and in country towns around Australia, usually with a caravan or camper trailer in tow. The diesel engine and six-speed automatic transmission work well at highway speeds, the ride is beautifully insulated. And while the outright handling won’t win any awards, that isn’t, and hasn’t ever been, the Prado’s focus. Read some towing impressions from our second long-term update.
We love the seating position, the visibility, the general comfort and the way the Prado can soak up long distances without fatiguing those inside the cabin. It’s just another reason the Prado is such a good family vehicle. The large fuel tank makes for a touring range well over 1000km on the highway, too, which is perfect for country areas where there isn’t a fuel stop every few hundred kilometres.
Shifting into sixth on the freeway, the diesel engine is barely ticking over, reflecting in a fuel use figure that will drop under 10L/100km on prolonged highway runs. Overall, our Prado used an average 10.9L/100km over the duration of our loan, which is genuinely impressive for a large SUV.
The Prado proved it’s worth as support vehicle by being able to soak up a large quantity of camera gear, baggage and other assorted supplies. Even with three kids across the second row, you can still load heaps of gear into the luggage area, meaning the kids can be catered for on longer trips. The side-hinged cargo door is an annoyance, given it is heavy and you have to manually lock it open to prevent it whacking you in the back, and it’s one of very few bugbears that we couldn’t get over during our time with the Prado.
Once you hit the dirt, the Prado steps up a notch and makes even more sense as a long-haul tourer. If you’re going to be spending extensive time camping, or travelling through national parks, there really isn’t a better off-road tourer available. There’s a lot to like about Toyota for this kind of journey, not the least of which is the extensive regional service network, but there’s a lot more to the Prado’s off-road capability than simply ease of service.
First the ride. The suspension set-up and indeed range of travel, is almost perfectly attuned to rough off-road work. No matter how harsh the corrugations or washouts, the Prado just sails over them in comfort. It makes for a comfortable cabin experience for all occupants, which means a much more enjoyable trip off-road. There’s almost no dust entering the cabin either, even if you’re ploughing through extremely fine bulldust.
In high-range 4WD, the Prado will tackle most reasonable off-road terrain, only requiring dips into low-range when you’re ascending or descending truly nasty hills. As you can see from the photos, the breadth of wheel travel means the Prado only cocks a leg in the air on very rare occasions. All four wheels on the ground makes for much safer progress off-road.
The Prado rarely touches down off-road either. Approach, departure and ramp over angles are perfectly suited even to more hard-core work, meaning you don’t have that wincing feeling when you hear the undercarriage dragging over sharp rocks.
General traction off-road is also a Prado strong point. In low-range, the gearing is beautifully suited to low-speed crawling, and as such, the Prado is rarely left spinning tyres on loose surfaces due to nasty surges of torque. The other factor that really makes things easier when you’re working off-road is throttle feel and modulation. Point the Prado at a nasty incline that you struggle to accept will be easy to tackle and the Prado basically walks up without so much as a spun tyre.
Off-road, the Prado is an SUV that rarely puts a foot out of line when you take everything into consideration. The sum total of its abilities is one of safety and assurance. It means novice off-roaders can safely tackle what we’d call mid-level terrain, while experienced off-roaders will be able to send a Prado just about anywhere.
The round up for our Prado long-term loan is one defined by averages. Across the broad portfolio of tasks an SUV must be capable of, the Prado – especially in VX trim – is a better than average off-road focused SUV. It isn’t pulse-quickening in terms of outright handling, and it’s no rocket ship either, but it isn’t meant to be.
The Prado’s success is best explained by the ownership story. Find a Prado owner and you can almost bet the house that it won’t be the first example that they have owned. What the Prado does so well is to deliver exactly what people expect of it time and time again, and that’s why Australians love them so much.
Our gripes from the outset were the infotainment system, which isn’t as good as it should be, and the cargo door, which with side-hinging, isn’t as effortless to use as we’d like. Those gripes remained throughout the duration of the loan and across the CarAdvice office. Despite that, though, they aren’t deal breakers.
The Prado VX remains an exceptional all-rounder that can be used as a family hauler, tow vehicle, off-road warrior and long-haul tourer. There’s plenty of ammunition as to why it is such a sales favourite with the Australian public. It’s not dynamic in any way, shape or form, but it is an SUV in the traditional sense. It rides comfortably and can take a mountain of abuse.
2016 Toyota LandCruiser Prado VX
Date acquired – October 2015
Odometer reading – 11,230km
Travel since previous update – 3310km
Consumption since previous update – 10.9 L/100km