It’s hard to think of a 4WD that has more adequately captured the ‘Aussie family all-rounder’ tag as quintessentially as the 2018 Toyota Prado GXL. The Holden Commodore certainly did once upon a time before SUVs conquered the earth, but in 4WD terms, it’s long been the Prado and daylight second in the large SUV stakes.
It’s the most popular large SUV. It’s the one you see around town more than any other. It’s the one you see out in the country more than any other. And it’s the one you see towing more horse floats and caravans around the highways and byways than any other. Despite increasing competition from numerous different manufacturers, the Prado just keeps soldiering on.
Plenty criticise Toyota when it comes to its catalogue of offerings, and plenty call the Japanese manufacturer boring, but if people keep buying Prados in their droves, Toyota must be doing something right. It's so common to speak to Prado owners who are on to their second, third or fourth variant too, so the odds just stay seemingly stacked in the Prado’s favour.
I reckon the GXL we’re testing here is the pick of the range as well, with the extra niceties of the more expensive variants not necessarily justifying the price hike in real-world, daily driving terms. So let’s take a closer look at why this Aussie favourite is such a well rounded, affordable, large SUV.
The price is perhaps the GXL’s most compelling discussion point – $59,990 before on-road costs for the manual. Our automatic tester here starts from $62,990 before on-road costs.
Hard to argue with a large, seven-seat SUV that just keeps chugging away for that kind of money, and it’s the odds-on reason buyers keep coming back. The most affordable Prado is the GX (manual) that starts from $53,490, then there’s our 60 grand (manual) GXL, followed by the VX (auto) from $73,990, and the Kakadu (auto) from $84,490. Once again, the auto GXL as tested here starts from $62,990.
While the VX and Kakadu obviously add kit and interior luxury to the equation to match the price rise, the GXL offers everything you need, nothing you don’t, and presents as the smartest choice – with the option of an automatic gearbox, of course.
Have a look at Dom’s tow-specific video for a closer inspection of the engine’s limitations with heavy weight hooked up, and you’ll see it’s not all sweetness and light. The Prado remains a favourite with grey nomads regardless, not to mention plenty of other buyers who need to tow a trailer of some kind with any regularity.
On that subject, the 2018 model-year tweak included an increased tow capacity from 2500kg up to a more practical 3000kg, but the now familiar 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine remains. It’s had a revised ECU calibration, and is nicely matched to the six-speed automatic, certainly around town, despite some of the power and torque shortcomings when you are hauling a heavy trailer around.
The 2.8-litre engine churns out 130kW and 450Nm, and while it’s no powerhouse with a heavy weight behind, it does the job around town quite easily. That’s where so many Prado buyers spend their time anyway, in the cut and thrust of the urban sprawl. They might be a big, capable off-roader, but not too many brand-new Prados are out bush-bashing.
There’s full-time 4WD, low-range and an ADR fuel claim of 7.9L/100km. During our week with the Prado, as Prado and HiLux test vehicles have seemingly forever, the real-world fuel usage sat below 10L/100km, in the high nines on average, and would drop down into the low eights on the freeway. Our final return was 9.8L/100km – impressive for a 4WD of this size. The whopping 150L diesel capacity will ensure extended touring runs between fuel stops on the open road.
Standard equipment highlights above the base model include: LED headlights, DRLs and fog lights, illuminated sun visors, privacy glass, roof rails, side steps, leather steering wheel trim, tri-zone climate control, and a rear diff lock for the automatic-equipped models.
There’s also lane departure warning, pre-collision safety system, pedestrian detection, automatic high-beam headlights, automatic cruise control (auto variant only), driver info screen, 17-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry and start, 8.0-inch touchscreen with rear-view camera, satellite navigation, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, USB connectivity and a nine-speaker audio system.
A Prado cabin is like a familiar old jumper, in that it feels like it always did, and you know exactly what you’re going to get. There’s still no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, which we’d love to see standard in everything now, but the system that is in play works well enough and the mapping is accurate and intuitive.
The controls themselves and the audio system are above average without being outstanding. If you’re a family buyer, though, who doesn’t have a huge budget, you won’t feel like the Prado is a let-down. If you’re cross-shopping it against the competition in this price range, in other words, it competes well.
The seating, visibility, storage and general cabin space are all excellent, which is why the Prado scores so well among family buyers. There’s a commanding height to the seating position, which means forward visibility is expansive, and there’s room across the second row for three adults as well. You won’t struggle to find storage for phones, wallets, water bottles (all four doors) or coffee cups (all three rows).
When you do employ the third row, you obviously eat into luggage space – it drops down to 120 litres – but there is room for children in those third-row seats and getting into and out of them is easy enough too. There are twin ISOFIX points in the second row and three top-tether points too. All three rows get air vents as well, which is a bonus if you use the third row often.
When you’re not towing, the Prado really is an incredibly comfortable, useful and spacious family conveyance. It wafts over any road surface, as well as speed humps and raised traffic islands, and is impervious to potholes and the like. Its handling isn’t going to threaten any race cars, but if you’re bombing around town, few SUVs will provide a more cosseted ride. It actually feels a size smaller than it is too, shrinking around you the longer you drive it. It’s not small by any means, but you won’t feel like it’s too big for the CBD confines either.
The turning circle is a decent 11.6m, and the steering action itself is beautifully tuned to the target buyer. That is, it’s light at parking speeds and spinning the wheel quickly into a three-point turn is a cinch thanks to the light action. It feels direct enough at highway speed too, and there’s certainly no floating or hesitation at 110km/h.
While the engine isn’t a powerhouse, it’s nicely matched to the six-speed auto that shifts sharply enough, and without a weight in tow, the engine works beautifully around town. The torque generation is high enough, and in the right place, to make short work of the daily grind. If you need to sneak into a side street quickly, for example, the 2.8 has enough grunt to get that job done.
There’s plenty of body roll as the speed increases on a twisty road, and you need to work the brake pedal fairly hard – harder than we’d like ideally. The brakes pull the Prado up adequately enough, you just feel like you need plenty of force to get them working. You’ll get used to the extra heft required, but it does take a bit of getting used to. Likewise, the body pitching and rolling, which only occurs when you get a little more enthusiastic than most buyers ever will.
The Prado gets Toyota’s usual three-year/100,000km warranty, which isn’t the gold standard it once was thanks to five- and seven-year warranties from competitors. You will need to have your Prado serviced every 10,000km or six months, which is a shorter period than some, but service prices are capped at $240 for the first three years or 60,000km.
It hardly matters what we say here at CarAdvice when it comes to the droves of people buying Prados. Regardless, the changes made and the improvements in standard equipment will ensure that the 2018 Prado remains at the top of the large SUV sales charts for some time yet. The Prado continues to do what it’s always done – deliver exactly what buyers in this segment want.