The Toyota Land Cruiser Prado finds itself in a peculiar corner of the pukka 4x4 SUV market, with the top-of–the-range 3,0 DT VX-L now priced uncomfortably close seven figures (R969 600, to be precise).
The equivalent spec Land Cruiser 200 with its 4,5-litre V8 turbodiesel engine will set you back some R1 345 000, although the entry-level 200 can be had for R999 900. Rather than compare the Prado with its big brother, I was more intrigued to work out whether the SUV is worth the R329 800 premium over a fully loaded Fortuner 2,8 GD-6 4x4 auto (at R639 800)?
A family weekend away in the mountainous region of Grabouw proved that the Prado is still an excellent family adventure vehicle, offering plenty of space, a comfortable ride and a generally easy-going nature. Go-anywhere ability and an almost-indestructible feeling from behind the steering wheel make up for the fact that the interior can’t hold a candle to the German competition (at the price, anyway). Africa is indeed your oyster. So, what do you get over the Fortuner?
The Prado is longer (5 010 mm vs. 4 795 mm), wider (1 885 mm vs. 1 855 mm) and taller (1 880 mm vs. 1 835 mm) than the Fortuner and does offer increased interior space. The Fortuner, however, hits back with a higher ground clearance figure of 279 mm, compared with the Prado’s 215 mm.
To some, the older-generation 3,0-litre D-4D engine with 120 kW and 400 N.m in the Prado might seem inferior to the newer 2,8 GD-6 unit delivering 130 kW and 450 N.m in the Fortuner, since the latter offers better performance with a 0-100 km/h time of 12,02 seconds versus 13,09 seconds (as tested by CAR).
Although 50 ppm is recommended for both, the trusted D-4D is the happier of the two when faced with devouring 500 ppm sulphur content diesel. The D-4D has a timing belt that needs changing at 150 000 km whereas the later unit employs a timing chain. Interestingly, Toyota claims a fuel consumption figure of 8,5 L/100 km for both.
The Prado VX-L does not have independent suspension at the rear, instead making do with a solid axle. Where it differs from the Fortuner is that the top-spec model is fitted with Toyota’s Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS). This includes electro-mechanical units on the sway bars that can stiffen the suspension to improve on-road dynamics or disengage to allow more suspension movement during off-road driving.
Meanwhile, air springs on the rear axle can raise or lower the rear depending on the mode selected. Without first sampling a lesser Prado without the system, it’s difficult to say how much of a difference the system makes. Subjectively, it does ride better than a Fortuner, but we know that the latter is also very capable off-road.
The Prado offers off-road driving modes (and low range) selected via a rotary dial on the dash, adjusting the electronic systems accordingly. As the Prado is permanently 4x4, it offers both centre and rear differential locks.
The Fortuner uses a part-time 4x4 drive system similar to that found in the Hilux, and needs only a rear diff lock as the transfer case already provides 50:50 drive when 4x4 is selected. The Prado’s hill descent (or crawl) mode can be speed adjusted via a rotary dial when going downhill, while the simpler Fortuner system is just as capable, in my opinion (although the ride is admittedly bumpier on rough terrain).
Electrically foldable third row
The Prado offers a neatly packaged third row that folds electrically into the floor area, making the Fortuner’s well-documented arrangement look rather clumsy. The fact that the Prado’s spare wheel is mounted on the rear door also allows more space in the boot of the Prado.
As you might expect, the Prado offers loads more toys than the Fortuner, including a 16-speaker audio system (the Fortuner uses six units), adaptive cruise control, headlamp washers, idle-up feature (to raise idle speed), a surround view camera system (although screen resolution is not the best), electric adjustment for the steering wheel, heated and cooled front seats, second-row seat heating and a cooler between the front seats.
Objectively, the Prado is not worth the R330k premium over the Fortuner. The former’s bullish pricing is even more evident when comparing it with the cost of a long-time rival in the form of the Mitsubishi Pajero 3,2D-ID GLS Exceed at R789 995 (although the latter is admittedly not quite as generously specced).
But, if you have the money and want to stand out from the veritable sea of Fortuners on South Africa's roads, then we wouldn’t blame you (and there’s also the fact that this price premium should carry over to the Prado’s second-hand value). Just be ready for the jealous glares from Fortuner drivers…
*Read a full test of the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado 3,0D VX-L in our April 2018 issue...