Toyota has updated the Landcruiser Prado, but are the changes for the better? Paul Maric finds out...
There's one thing you'll find in almost every big town in Australia – a post office and a Toyota dealer.
That explains why the 2018 Toyota Landcruiser Prado hasn't changed much. It's much like a Porsche 911 in the sense the formula needs no alteration or dramatic design change. People buy it because it's a Prado and they know it'll do what it says on the box.
The Toyota Landcruiser Prado sits on a ladder frame chassis, uses an efficient turbocharged diesel engine and features enough off-road technology for you to climb Mount Kosciuszko while your drinks are chilling in the centre console fridge.
In 2018, the Prado picks up a new front end that features a new bonnet, revised headlights, plus a new bumper bar to improve off-road driving. At the rear, the taillights have also received a minor makeover.
Inside the cabin, changes to the instrument binnacle are joined by a revised centre stack and switchgear.
Prices are down across the board and Toyota has added autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and pedestrian detection, active cruise control, lane departure alert and auto high-beam across the entire automatic Prado range.
The Prado GX (manual) kicks off from $53,490 (plus on-road costs), moving on to the GXL (manual) from $59,990, the VX from $73,990 and finally the Kakadu tested here from $84,490.
While the VX and Kakadu are automatic only, the six-speed manual can be swapped for a six-speed automatic in GX and GXL spec for $3000. The only option available on Kakadu is premium paint, which will set you back an additional $550.
Sitting at the top of the Prado tree, the Kakadu is seriously equipped and comes with Toyota's most advanced four-wheel drive technology. Standard kit includes:
- 18-inch alloy wheels
- seven seats with electric third row
- Smart entry and start system
- Satellite navigation with Suna traffic channel
- Bi-LED headlamps, Daytime Running Lamps (DRLs) and LED fog lamps
- Roof rails and side steps
- Privacy glass
- three-zone climate control
- Rear differential lock
- Leather seats including power driver and passenger seats, heated seats (front and second row), and ventilated seats (front row)
- Cool box
- 14-speaker audio system
- Panoramic and Multi-Terrain Monitor
- Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS)
- Multi-Terrain Select system (MTS)
- Crawl control
- Drive mode select
- Premium woodgrain-look steering wheel with audio, Multi Information Display and telephone controls
- Blu-Ray rear seat entertainment system with three wireless headsets
Inside the cabin, the Prado Kakadu looks quite sharp with its new instrument binnacle and centre stack. The seats are super comfortable and there's a heap of leg- and headroom in the second row.
A four-bottle fridge sits in the centre of the first row and is a clever idea for long road trips or that occasional drive across Australia.
While the cabin is nicely presented, it's let down by a sub-par infotainment system. Measuring 8.0-inches, the colour touchscreen looks good at first glance, but is fiddly, hard to use on the move and misses out on modern technology like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The voice recognition system is also buggy and slow, which makes for an equally frustrating experience.
The second row features ISOFIX anchor points and moves on a rail, making it easy to fit adults in the third row. Kids in the second row will also love the fold down BluRay player that comes with three wireless headsets. Parents can also keep an eye on the kids with a flip down mirror that sits in place of a sunglasses holder at the front of the cabin.
Arguably the biggest change to the 2018 Toyota Landcruiser Prado is the uprated towing capacity. The Prado can now tow a braked 3000kg (750kg unbraked) thanks to revisions made to the powertrain ECU calibration, along with additional cooling courtesy of changes to the front bumper. That's an increase from 2500kg (braked), now placing the Prado firmly within the segment with its peers, such as the Ford Everest, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, Isuzu MU-X, Holden Trailblazer and Toyota Fortuner.
We set off for a drive that would take us through the city, a stretch of highway and terminating at the Australian Automotive Research Centre (AARC) where we would tackle the extensive network of four-wheel drive tracks around the facility.
Part of the reason the Prado Kakadu is such a comfortable cruiser around the city is the suspension it rides on. Up front there's an independent, double wishbone setup with coil springs, adaptive variable rate shock absorbers with a ball-joint mounted anti-roll bar. The rear on the other hand uses a rigid live axle, five-link type trailing arms and Panhard rod, adaptive rear pneumatic cylinders with three selectable suspension heights, self-levelling and ball-joint mounted anti-roll bar.
The suspension system also utilises an Australian creation called the kinetic dynamic suspension system (KDSS). KDSS is a hydraulic system that attaches to the top end of the anti-roll bars at the front and rear.
It's able to interact with the vehicle's lateral movements to keep the body flat through corners. Anti-roll bars would normally inhibit a vehicle's ability to articulate wheels off-road, but KDSS works to allow wheel extension during off-road driving. The net benefit is a flat ride during sporty driving and more wheel articulation while off-road.
Five selectable drive modes allow the driver to switch between Eco, Comfort, Normal, Sport and Sport+. It's a strange mix of drive modes, given Comfort and Normal feel virtually identical, while Sport and Sport+ are much of the same thing.
The drive modes alter suspension damping and throttle sensitivity. Toyota has stuck with a hydraulic steering system, which means features like semi-automatic parking, variable resistivity steering and lane keeping assistant can't be implemented.
On the highway, Comfort mode offers a smooth ride that nicely soaks up kilometres of highway. One thing that became immediately obvious was a hard-edged piece of plastic portion of the door trim, which sat in the perfect spot to dig into my knee.
That meant leaning on it would become painful and required a different seat position to get comfortable. It'd be nice to see those materials feature a softer edge to make long distance drives more comfortable.
Despite missing out on electrically assisted steering, the Prado's steering is light enough for city driving and communicative enough when punted through corners, and of course when driven off-road.
While the engine's power and torque figures may seem adequate, you need to consider how much weight the Prado carries with it. The Kakadu model tips the scales at 2455kg. As a result it takes almost 15 seconds for it to accelerate from stationary to 100km/h.
That also means that overtaking requires a bit of planning, even with a solo passenger on board. We didn't get a chance to test Prado with a 3000kg load this time, but we have it planned for the coming weeks – we suspect that despite the extra capacity it won't set the world on fire in terms of pace.
Despite lacking the edge for acceleration, fuel consumption is pretty impressive. Toyota claims 8.0L/100km and we managed to get below 10L/100km after a full day of on- and off-road driving, which is excellent.
As we left the highway for a run on country and gravel roads, the Prado really felt at home. With some SUVs in this segment, moving off bitumen to make room for trucks or oncoming cars is done with trepidation, the Prado simply takes it in its stride.
It's the same story on gravel where the stability control works with you and offers an added layer of surety when travelling at speeds higher than 80km/h.
The ride is just as good on gravel and poor country roads. It takes all the hits nicely and doesn't transmit large thumps through the cabin. Despite using a rigid live axle, it doesn't suffer from acceleration moments about the opposite wheel when potholes or big bumps are collected.
Off-road is where the Prado really shines. It features a wading depth of 700mm, ground clearance of 220mm and approach/departure angles of 30.4 and 23.5 degrees respectively.
You won't be hunting for a petrol station while you're off-road either, with the Prado Kakadu featuring an 87-litre main tank and a 63-litre sub tank, offering an expected driving range of around 1200km.
Four-wheel drive equipment includes a low-range gearbox, centre and rear differential locks (centre operational in high-range), a multi-terrain select system and crawl control (both only operational in low-range).
Given how dry the terrain was, most of our driving could be tackled with the centre differential locked, but we tried out the multi-terrain select system (MTS) and crawl control on a steep descent.
For the rocky mogul section we drove across, we slid the MTS into rock mode. This mode reduces throttle sensitivity, which prevents the car surging forward and potentially crashing over rocks. There are five modes to choose from (mud and sand, loose rock, mogul, rock and dirt, and rock) and they're selected by switching the dashboard mounted knob between the settings.
Crawl control on the other hand uses the vehicle's traction control system to limit descent or ascent speed with five speed presets. It worked well through a steep loose rock descent, but the noise the system made was incredible. It sounded like distant artillery fire and while it was perfectly normal, it could put some punters off while using the system.
Testing chassis integrity with a four-wheel drive is a test we love to do, so we lined the Prado up on a set of uneven mounds causing full compression on the front right and rear left wheel. This produces a torque movement about the chassis, which in some less rigid vehicles causes the doors to either not open or not close correctly. Prado passed with flying colours, with the door catches opening and closing with no obstruction.
Our final test was a basic water wade through a deep pond. The pond measured 500mm deep on one side and around 650mm deep on the other side. It was an effortless exercise for the Prado, passing through without any water ingress or engine issues.
Toyota offers a three-year, 100,000km warranty with the Prado. Six-monthly service intervals occur every 10,000km and cost $240 each, making the Prado affordable to service and run.
The 2018 Toyota Landcruiser Prado really is a no brainer. It's a vehicle that does everything it says it will do on the box. It's comfortable, easy to drive and will go anywhere off-road.
Sure, the Prado Kakadu carries a hefty price tag, but it's the VX that's the sweet spot in the range and the vehicle most punters are likely to go for.
But if you want to keep up with the Joneses, the Prado Kakadu really is the ultimate large SUV warrior.
Click on the Gallery tab for more images of the Toyota Prado Kakadu.