Toyota for long have been one of the go-to brands when it came to SUV's, they've dominated the market since the early days which the big hitters in the industry and proved to not only compete with them but also surpass them in sales with their products not only being cheaper but in some instances, better than that of the much pricier European counterparts. The legendary reliability of Toyota has also been a big part in the success, with consumers knowing that they're getting a good quality product and not something that will cost you an arm and a leg to maintain. Of recent the market has shifting focus with many brands bringing out a wide variety of SUV's and SAV's, which has saw the trend shift to this segment of car as the preferred choice of many, while they may have their purpose, most aren't true off road going vehicles, with at most, some offering only four wheel drive. Toyota, with the Land Cruiser models have still been one of the best on the market, for a true all round offering, and I was fortunate enough to be get behind the wheel of their new Land Cruiser Prado VX.L for a week.
Being part of the Fourth Generation of Prado's the design over the last three models haven't been very different with the overall styling remaining the same and subtle changes to the lights and interior. This latest version of the Prado is very stylish though, with a nice big front grille in chrome finish, the elongated front head lamps with LED strip below adding shape to the very bulky and edgy design. It has some hints of Lexus DNA here and there which add to the appeal of the car. The normal ride height is quite high, but this is adjustable with the automatic air suspension, the Prado being a fully fledged 4x4 comes with large tyres with high profiles and 18" rims, so you know you can really go bundu bashing with it. Moving around to the back, the styling remains the same to the pre-facelift model with some white accents on the lights. Being the top of the range L model, Toyota have added extras to make you know this is the real McCoy with added chrome finishes adding to that luxury feel. On the inside, one really can't fault anything on the design front., I love the way everything is laid out on the centre console, with a dedicated section for off-roading.
The car is powered by a 3.0 litre, inline 4 cylinder diesel motor, which produces 120kW and 400Nm of torque. Not the most exciting figures by far from such a big engine but this car is a brute and all it's power comes to fruit when taking the roads less traveled. On the dirt, coupled with the four wheel drive, the Prado makes mince meat of the terrain, move onto more rocky pastures, the torque comes into play with the engine hauling the massive frame over some of the more tricky routes. All while it barely sips the diesel in its massive 120 litre tank. On tarred surface, it does feel like a slouch especially with a full load, and the 5 speed auto gearbox does it no favours but once it gets going, it just shift nicely along. The thing that surprised me the most was the comfort, but that we'll chat about a little later. The dedicated off-road panel I was chatting about earlier in the center console has everything you need to set the car up to drive across almost any terrain, but the car does also automatically judge the response of the surface while driving and adjusts to suit.
The Prado is huge, you see it on the road but don't really take notice of really how big it is until you get into one, or for the smaller folk, try to get into one. That side step they have on there isn't just for fun as some of my passengers found out. The seats could be compared to sofa's as they're big and plush, the front passengers get the luxury of heated and cooled options for themselves while the rear three get to choose how much space they need as the rows can be moved forward and backwards if need be and there is good reason for that as neatly tucked away into the floor of the trunk are two additional seats which when raised makes the Prado a full 7 seater, which can seat 7 adults, yes, 7 adults comfortably. I put this to the test as we made a days trip exploring the KZN midlands with some friends on the last day I had it. This of course minimizes the space in the trunk but you still can squeeze in a bag and a half. Another neat feature in the Prado is the refrigerated center compartment which sits under the arm rest of the two front passengers. It's quite deep and can fit four 500ml bottles easily, and with most cooled compartments in cars whereby they just let the aircon blow in the cool air, this one is an actual fridge! Within 30 minutes of have warm beverages put inside, it was ice cold and ready to drink. Coming back to the ride quality, while the air-suspension might not be as fancy as some of the others, it does its job, no matter what surface we were travelling on, the ride remained the same and had no one spilling their cool beverage along the way.
The Prado comes packed with all the tech you expect in a modern day 4x4, keyless entry with push start, a large multi- infotainment screen for all you media purposes, unlike the Hilux, the Prado has dials for volume and tuning control which I prefer. It has bluetooth and media streaming. It comes standard with a 14 speaker sound system which includes a subwoofer in the boot. The multi function steering wheel is powered by a hydraulic/ variable flow control, making it easier to steer in difficult terrain, the car has 4 cameras, one at the front, one in the rear and two on the side, giving the driver the option to switch between them, to navigate in tight spots, or can opt to see a birds eye view of the car. The rear seats are electronically controlled by switches in the boot which fold up or out in a matter of seconds. There are three power sockets in the car, a 12V in the front and rear and a 220V in the boot. The Prado has LED high be headlights which have adaptive technology which auto adjusts when it senses oncoming cars.
While the Prado might not be the best Toyota offers in its Land Cruiser stable, it certainly is one of the favourable models from them. The price tag is more than justified when compared to what else is on the market. Its packed with technology, great finishes and looks fantastic. It's more than capable of going off-road, and will eat up almost any surface with ease. With the amount of equipment you getting in this car as standard, all for under a million, is almost a steal. Toyota really have kept the Prado legacy high on this one and certainly remains one of my favourite SUVs on the market today.
3.0litre, 4 cylinder, 16 Valve DOHC
5 Speed Automatic
Pictures and video by @YuviK Photograpy