A facelift to the popular Land Cruiser Prado sees zero in the way of mechanical changes … and that’s a good thing
If there is a poster car out there for the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” maxim, it must surely be Toyota’s venerable Land Cruiser Prado. Known for its toughness and reliability, this J150-generation Prado has been around for nine years and has now undergone a second facelift. Yes, there are some who criticise Toyota for using older technology in certain of its products, but there is often good reason for that. Generally speaking, the Japanese automakers are a lot more mechanically cautious than European manufacturers and prefer to test and retest hardware before going into production. If it does a job, and does it well, they will take a lot of convincing to deviate from that winning formula.
As a buyer looking for a vehicle that will accomplish long journeys – often off-road – with impeccable reliability, the question you face is this: do you want to take a chance spending your money on something that is more efficient, probably with more power, and quieter and more comfortable, but risk something going wrong? Or, should you play it safe and opt for well-tested technology in the expectation that it will outlast all the latest design fads?
Given the Prado’s popularity, clearly enough people favour option B, which is why Toyota’s trusted D-4D engine remains the engine choice for the Prado, as does a five-speed conventional automatic gearbox. While six-, seven-, eight-, nine- or even 10-speed gearboxes are on offer these days, five are often enough if the transmission is well tuned (and, of course, that doubles to 10 with the low-range ratios).
It may not be at the sharp end of current automotive technology, but this drivetrain combination is pretty much bulletproof. Ask workshop owners and tow-truck operators about the vehicles they are asked to fix or tow, and you will find that D-4D-engined Hiluxes, Fortuners and Prados are rarely on the list. Another reason for the D-4D engine’s popularity is its ability to stomach high-sulphur-content fuel, and it’s therefore ideal to travel through countries where that is the only diesel on offer.
If the mechanicals have not changed on this flagship VX-L, what has? Well, most obvious is the new nose and headlamps. Gone is the multifaceted grille and slanted daytime-running lights, replaced with a toned-down and altogether more sophisticated treatment that includes a strengthening flute in the centre of the bonnet that adds significantly to the visual appeal. Further changes include tweaks to the rear bumper and darker cladding around the rear lights.
Inside, you get heated and cooled front seats (plus a warm-up function for the second row), and a third row that is electrically powered up and down. You remove the parcel shelf and push buttons located near the inside of the rear door handle (there’s another button behind the middle row) to unfurl those seats. Incidentally, they offer just about enough head- and legroom for adults without reducing legroom in the middle row. Sensibly, the spare wheel is mounted to the rear door for ease of access.
This derivative comes with a sunroof (or, as the media release calls it, a “moonroof”) and is a useful feature for sightseeing trips. Even at highway speeds, it is relatively quiet when fully open. Other standard features include satellite navigation, multi-terrain camera monitor, blind-spot monitors, triple-zone climate control and a reverse camera. LED headlamps and more safety features complete the package.
Rightly so, quick acceleration has never been a characteristic of the 120 kW D-4D – not vitally important when you are cruising through Africa – but, along with the 400 N.m of torque on offer, towing is easily accomplished.
Fuel consumption is acceptable for the size and weight of this large SUV. We saw between 10,0 and 11,0 L/100 km and, if you take it easy cruising in the slow lane, you can reduce this to between 8,0 and 9,0 L/100 km. Our test route returned a very respectable 10,0 L/100 km.
Our performance testing did, however, indicate less than stellar braking performance and we experienced some waywardness under emergency braking. Our average 100-0 km/h braking time was 3,18 seconds.
The steering feel is fine but, due to the vehicle’s sheer size, the Prado is affected by cross winds. The KDSS hydro-mechanical adjustment of the anti-roll bars allows for extra off-road height and ride firmness by simply twiddling the console buttons.
For more challenging off-road applications, you have the choice of locking the centre and rear diffs via buttons sited to the right of the low-range knob. Unchanged size-wise are 18-inch wheels shod with Bridgestone Duellers tyres (lesser models get 17-inchers). The Duellers aren’t the best for serious off-road work, but remain a sensible compromise, with a 265/60 profile well suited to a mix of road types.
This latest road test of a now-facelifted Land Cruiser Prado has only reinforced the rugged and reliable qualities of a vehicle we know well. You could, of course, buy a more modern, if less well-equipped, Fortuner, but there is a certain reverence for the abilities and ruggedness of an old-school Prado that inspires the confidence to go anywhere. This is a vehicle for the long haul ... and we mean that both in distance and time.
*From the April 2018 issue of CAR magazine