By Mxolisi Mhlongo
Is the Toyota Prado still relevant in today’s image-conscious SUV market? Would Afropolitans drive it? We tested the range-topping 3.0D VX-L to find out.
The Prado recently received its third design update and the new, edgy look definitely appeals to a wider audience judging from the comments from onlookers who noted that the Prado now looks urban than jungle. It’s still an imposing vehicle but somehow the new design hides its bulk better. The new repositioned LED daytime lights, grille, fog lamps, 18-inch wheels and rear light clusters are immediately noticeable. We wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s a “trendy” design but against the almost universally disliked Discovery 5 design, the Prado is growing in the image stakes.
The interior is a very nice and warm place to be in with family either over city commute or long distance traveling. The heated and cooled front seats worked a treat in our “winter morning and summer day” weather with the cooling function proving epic during midday “Durban summer” travels. The 8-inch colour touchscreen infotainment system works well also proving easy to adjust when on the move. The audio system was pleasantly surprised with its deep bass sub-woofer and clarity making the Prado the “summer songs” bula boot car in gatherings. The new centre console has a downside though with the metal-like finish looking cheap and hinting at a lack of tactile quality (which was sad as it feels good when touched).
The seven-seat layout with the last row operated electrically proved a hit with the kids and adults alike (it has enough space for adults to fit). Toyota would have hit a jackpot had they gone for a full panoramic glass roof (as seen on latest NX Lexus) instead of the normal sunroof (standard, of course).
We expected to be majorly disappointed with Toyota carrying over the “old” D4D 3.0 engine instead of the new 2.8GD-6 mill as seen on the new Hilux/Fortuner. When we started driving the new Prado, the 3.0 D-4D wasn’t a performance engine but it did enough in daily commute to not feel “old”. Its 120 kW/400 Nm proved adequate but the 5-speed automatic transmission can feel lethargic and having experienced the new 6-speed gearbox, Toyota should really consider putting that mill in the Prado.
If you compare the Prado engine to its rivals’ 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel engines, I would actually suggest Toyota put that stunning V8 Twin-Turbo diesel engine from the 200 series. Now that would light it all up. With gear ratios optimised for low-speed tractability and off-road use, the double fuel tank (87 litres + 63 litres) means your fill up easily comes close to R2, 000.00 but the range is a “dessert travel” especially at our 9.3l/100km fuel efficiency numbers (Toyota claims 8.5l/100km).
At R969, 600.00, the Prado might seem pricey until you compare its standard spec to its competitors who charge upwards of R1m plus extras, which the Prado comes with as standard. Allied to Toyota’s five-year/90 000 kilometre service plan and three-year/100 000 kilometre warranty and long-lasting quality peace of mind, its worth a consideration. If they slot that V8 Twin-Turbo diesel Toyota would ace it.