The Toyota Land Cruiser Prado has just been refreshed for life in 2014. The Wheel Deal flew to Namibia to put it through its paces
What is it?
Toyota has refreshed its fourth-generation Land Cruiser Prado with a host of cosmetic and mechanical improvements – like under the skin where you’ll find an all-new suspension system that is claimed to drastically improve this machine’s ride and handling characteristics.
Known as Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) in Toyota speak, it makes realtime adjustments to both the front and rear stabiliser bars to better suit the demands of a specific terrain. This ships standard on both entry-level TX and range-topping VX Prado derivatives, as does a newly devised Trailer Sway Control system.
Linked up to the traction control system, this innovative safety feature reduces the chance of your trailer jack-knifing in crosswinds, under heavy braking or other extreme driving conditions. Finally, the firm’s adaptive Multi Terrain Select system (fitted to VX models only) now benefits from a fifth driving mode that instantly sets up the Prado to cope better across rocks and dirt.
How does it look?
If you’re at all familiar with this formidable Japanese off-roader then you’ll immediately notice that it wears a more purposeful face thanks to that bold new grille and front apron design. The engineers also bolted in a new set of headlights, which have been mounted slightly higher this time around so they’re less susceptible to damage dished out by the unforgiving elements.
While the TX model makes do with new six-spoke 17-inch alloys, the VX derivative scores slightly more gangster 18-inchers distinguishable by their jaunty 12-spoke design. Both models wear revised taillight clusters as well as electrically adjustable and heated side mirrors fitted with curious finned bases. These, in conjunction with some new front and rear wheel spats, apparently make this face-lifted Cruiser more aerodynamically stable during high-speed road driving.
Now after all is said and done I’m not entirely blown away by this styling exercise. I’m not saying that the new Prado is ugly but then it certainly isn’t very aspirational either – especially when you park it next to something like a Land Rover Discovery 4. Each to their own I suppose.
Like the exterior, the interior has also received something of a makeover with both variants coming with slick black leather upholstery as standard fare. VX models further distinguish themselves with cowhide-stitched door panels and the option of swapping the seat colour palette from black to ivory – not something I’d recommend if you’re frequent off-roader. This model also ups the gadget ante with satellite navigation and a 4.2-inch TFT monitor mounted between the speedometer and tachometer. This can be used to display all sorts of useful off-road information regarding wheel traction, current steering angle and differential lock operation.
Still, LX buyers shouldn’t feel that cheated because all Prado variants come standard with USB connectivity, dual-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth audio streaming as well as a seven-inch colour screen sunk into the top of the centre console. This not only lets you customise the multimedia system to your liking but also relays what the reverse camera is seeing during backwards manoeuvring.
What is it like to drive?
To show what their face-lifted Prado is made of, Toyota flew us motoring scribes up to Walvis Bay, Namibia, for two days of intensive desert dune riding. And even though I am certainly not the world’s most experienced off-roader I found this Land Cruiser to be an incredibly competent piece of machinery. Ensconced behind the wheel of a 3.0 VX Diesel for most of the trip, it tore the teeth out of all the obstacles our fearless guides threw at us.
From inching down treacherous slip faces to negotiating the super soft sands of a beach lined with a suspicious number of rotting seal carcasses, I never felt anything but 100 percent confident in the Prado’s capabilities. Simply because, in VX trim at least, this Toyota comes loaded with all manner of off-road driving aids: centre and rear differential locks, a heavy-duty low-range transfer case, Crawl Control, Multi Terrain Select and Adaptive Variable Suspension. Even though the less expensive TX models don’t come fitted with the last three features they are certainly not any less capable.
Excellent off the beaten track, I was also impressed at how refined the Prado felt on the tar roads in between Walvis Bay and Swakopmund. Cabin insulation is top notch and there’s consequently very little wind or road noise to spoil the overland driving experience. The torquey diesel engine proved to be something of a gem too, mixing strong performance with relatively miserly fuel consumption figures.
Seriously, after two days of heavy driving my car was sipping just over 10l/100km. As such it would certainly be my motor of choice. If you’re not a fan of oil-burners then you could always opt to go with the more powerful six-cylinder petrol that gives you 82 extra kilowatts. Whichever you pick, both come mated to a five-speed automatic transmission that makes off-roading even more of a pleasure – particularly to newbies like myself.
Any special features?
Lots, actually. And one of the most welcome is the fact that all Prado models, with exception of the bottom-of-the-range 4.0 TX petrol, now come equipped with a heated rear bench seat. Nice. As I’ve already alluded, VX derivatives are packed with considerably more features. Unfortunately I don’t have the space to detail all of them but the standout ones for me included the new Blind Spot Monitoring and Multi-Terrain Monitor systems.
The latter basically uses four cameras (located at the front, rear and sides of the vehicle) to relay exactly how your Prado is engaging with the rough stuff around you. Again, this gives you a lot more confidence when crawling through challenging patches of terrain. Lastly, all of these refreshed Land Cruisers benefit from a third row of seats. Fold them up and you’ve got seating for no less than seven people.
Should you buy one?
Refreshed and reloaded for 2014, the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado is definitely a damn sound purchase. Look, it may not be quite as stylish as the Land Rover Discovery 4 but it definitely makes up for this by offering stellar on and off-road performance. I would have no qualms about taking it on safari into deepest, darkest Africa.
Also, because it’s a Toyota, you can be sure that a dealership will never be too far from your final destination – good to know if you ever need a spare part or experience any mechanical gremlins whilst on the road. Pick either the TX or VX 3.0 diesel (both standard with a three-year/100 000km warranty and five-year/90 000km service plan) and you really can’t go wrong.
The Facts: Toyota Land Cruiser Prado
Engine: 3956cc V6 (petrol); 2982cc four-cylinder turbo (diesel)*
Power: 202kW at 5600rpm; 120kW at 3400rpm*
Torque: 381Nm at 4400rpm; 400Nm at 1600rpm*
Top Speed: 180km/h; 175km/h*
0-100km/h: 10.9-seconds; 11.7-seconds*
Fuel Consumption: 11.5l/100km; 8.5l/100km*
CO2: 266g/km; 224g/km*
Pricing: TX 4.0 V6 R632 200; TX 3.0 DT R642 000; Prado VX 4.0 V6 R728 200; VX 3.0 DT R732 400; VX 4.0 V6 Sunroof R738 200; VX 3.0 DT Sunroof R742 400
Formidable off-road performance
Civilized on road
Packed with more kit than ever before
Still not blown away by the styling
V6 petrol engine is thirsty
Ivory upholstery option ain’t pretty