DESPITE two areas of concern, this new Prado has a lot going for it. There’s a huge toy boxful of kit too.
It’s traditionally built on a chassis, has permanent all-wheel drive with low range, centre and rear differentials can be locked independently, it offers five-way terrain control (MTS), there’s self-levelling with height adjustment (Kinetic Dynamic Suspension or KDSS) and its all-steel underpinnings, double wishbones in front and multi- link at the back, include Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS).
That means it uses sensors and microprocessors to monitor the surface in real time while a computer analyses data and adjusts shocks accordingly. There are three settings, Comfort, Normal and Sport.
The Comfort setting does a good job of smoothing both harsh impacts and annoying vibrations set up by small, embedded stones or washboard surfaces. We experienced this while testing a Fortuner 2.8 GD in 2016. Thankfully AVS means you won’t need to consider buying expensive, aftermarket shocks for your Prado. Normal and Sport explain themselves.
KDSS, on the other hand, was invented and developed by Kinetic Pty Ltd, a small Western Australian company. It adjusts front and rear stabilisers via fluid reservoirs, hydraulic piping interconnections and a control unit. Its everyday job is to jack up the rear end slightly when carrying heavy loads and, in off-road conditions, compensate when it senses that a wheel has dropped lower than usual. It also allows you to either raise the suspension by 40 mm for increased clearance or lower the rear end by 20 mm to facilitate loading. Lift mode switches off at 50 km/h and load mode disengages at 12 km/h.
Sand dune fans will appreciate Second Start. This confusing label has nothing to do with new beginnings after personal disasters but rather that the autobox will be instructed to use second gear for take off. The reduced torque, compared with using first, makes the wheels less likely to dig in and bog down.
Our top-of-range VX-L test car boasted a boatload of up-market features including the AVS, KDSS and locking rear diff mentioned earlier, LED headlamps with automatic high beams; headlamp washers, automatic light levelling, satnav, surround cameras, rain sensing wipers, powered raising and stowage of the jump seats, warmed front and second row seats pre-crash readying with pedestrian detection, blind spot monitoring and cross traffic alert, tyre pressure monitors, adaptive cruise control and lane keeping. Tyres are 265/60R18 Bridgestone Dueller.
At entry-level, TX trim (diesel-only) provides push-button starting; lockable centre diff, LED front and rear fog lamps, automatic headlights and air conditioning, heated and retractable side mirrors, a cooler box under the central armrest, leather upholstery, seven airbags, rear PDC, ABS brakes with all the add-ons, trailer sway control, hill start and downhill assist. Tyres are 265/65R17, more reassuring if you go off-road a lot.
The inner ambience is of big space including fore-and-aft adjustment for second row seats, jump seats that can accommodate adults, wider-than-usual front chairs for those broader of beam, grab handles for all ‘outer’ passengers, climb-in handles at every door, big windows to watch game through, three courtesy lights and lots of storage. Our Tenderfoot Trail is not exactly for sissies, but was obviously no challenge for the Prado. We liked the big, wide front fenders that made “aiming” easy and, again, the large side windows are made for bush driving.
Just two things prevent the VX-L version of Toyota’s 2018 Land Cruiser Prado being almost perfect, its 3.0 litre diesel engine and its five-speed automatic transmission.
South Africa and India appear to be the only markets still offering this combination despite almost universal introduction of the new and more powerful 2.8GD engine and improved six-speed gearbox in 2015.
Even our local Hiluxes and Fortuners have them and, when you’re spending close to a million Rand, you probably won’t want the less powerful engine and old gearbox.