A big thank you to Toyota New Zealand and the team at Rutherford and Bond Toyota located at 54 Kent Terrace, Wellington for allowing us the use of a brand new Toyota Land Cruiser Prado for this Road Tested Review. Drop in anytime to check out their complete range of new and used Toyota vehicles.
Claiming to have sold more than 11,500 Prados in New Zealand, you can’t argue that Toyota know a thing or two about designing a large SUV that is large high end and comfortable, but rough and go anywhere at the same time. I do love feeling spoilt with 3 zone climate control and chrome plated door handles, but what I wanted to dig into was if the Land Cruiser Prado was as tough off road as it’s predecessors were. Choice! My first thought once experiencing it.
I was kindly offered by Toyota NZ to have a blast in their new 2014 Prado GX, it’s the entry model from the luxurious Land Cruiser range and starts off at $84,195. A few things like alloy bullbars and satellite navigation are available to add on but we’re sticking with the raw basic driving experience. Having the Prado for almost a good week, it gave me a good understanding of just what kind of SUV Toyota have put together. This is a vehicle that has the essence of an elegant juggernaut, you could survive anything while inside. The driver and passenger airbags are well covered, everything from dual stage front and side, to knee and curtain shields. Add in the sheer size and amount of steel mass between you and what’s on the outside, safe and secure were two things that crossed my mind.
Sitting for long periods, the seats in the Prado became very firm and difficult to get comfortable. For the price that the Prado starts off at, I am surprised that the seats weren’t matching. For the smaller person, the front seats are too long and make longer trips challenging. One thing toyota got right with seating is the space and comfort in the rear, even the taller folks among us has no problem fitting inside.
Despite the Prado’s large presence I had no trouble parking. The Prado has array of features such as rear parking camera and parking sensors standard.
The weight of the Prado becomes prominent when driving around corners at speed. The corners feel longer with the feeling of the weight being pulled back on my arms. The Prado is definitely not a SUV that claims to have car-like performance- its quite the opposite, the weight transfer can be harsh at times forcing you to work it harder. The wide body and large format reflect the true large SUV.
The large wheel arches on either side push up through the bonnet making it difficult to see the corners of the vehicle, contributing to a bloated feeling. Building a muscle memory for where the corners of the vehicle are takes a little while to get the hang of.
The Prado has a quiet diesel engine, unnoticeable on the motorway however a little rattly around town at slower speeds. The slick road tyres that the Prado comes with helps reduce this noise. There is not too much play on the wheel, with only a small dead zone. There is minimal feedback from the wheels due to the independent suspension smoothing out the ride. The ride is very fluid and composed, you don’t lose all sense of feeling but there is enough to understand the road.
Finally I got the white behemoth off the tarmac and onto some loose gravel, so I could finally see if the long standing Prado badge still had what it takes. All of the upper end SUVs with 4WD are now electronically controlled, the new Prado takes this into all of it’s facets and nothing is manual anymore. Being full time 4WD you can still lock the centre differential via a dial, making it easy and fast to get into more difficult terrain. Fast gravel corners and weaving descents felt easy and controlled despite the weight, with the traction control instantly adjusting. Moving onto the slower more undulated terrain, larger rocks and stone steps, the large diameter wheels and tyres coupled with a good amount of ride height, the Prado felt at home. The mild road tyres were its weak point with the risk of puncture on any of the sharp stones, I felt that this is probably as far as most owners would take it. With tougher more aggressive tyres, the Prado would definitely go much further. Think you might need more? at a lofty $94,780 for the VX model, you get the kinetic dynamic suspension system which improves off road shock absorption and control, plus the CRAWL control would make navigating large obstacles easier. Seeing the CRAWL control working is pretty amazing. It is too bad it doesn’t come standard, as a feature like that would highly sort after for people who would like to take their Prado to some of the more exciting places it can go.
The Prado’s center control panel is practically laid out, with large easy to use dials for volume, temperature controls and dual climate. However the buttons for the media centre may be too large and clumsy, but they are tied into the integrated styling of the venting/media “cube”. The touch screen interface is very responsive and laid out logically, which is a great change from experiencing less than awkward menus and badly created graphics in some other vehicle makes. Buttons on the steering wheel were easy to use and has the capacity for more, such as controls for media or driver cluster info. These options may be provided on the more expensive LX model, but on our GX it seemed a waste of available space.
Style wise the Prado is disappointingly plain: simple shapes and materials that are more for longevity rather than comfort or style. They won’t be wearing out or fading any time soon, but is that enough of a reason to skimp on good looks?
There is ample storage inside the vehicle, including a very functional deep centre console with multiple compartment trays inside to separate your items. The hatches for the drink holders are very practically designed, nothing will be spilling in these guys. The cooling fan inside the larger armrest storage was a great surprise. I can see this being a very useful compartment on the long hot drive over summer.
There is also a USB charger and a 12V plug outlet just in front of the gear shifter, conveniently placed alongside a push-open compartment. In the rear, there is also a 24V auxiliary plug- an option that isn’t as common as it should be among other large SUVs. It will be exceptionally useful for those who love to go glamping or the family picnic when you need a mini fridge.
On top of the normal front and passenger dual zone, there is also an option for front and rear dual zone. The rear passenger dual zone control is located on the back of the centre console, so the rear passenger can control their own climate. So really the options are all there if you’re willing to fork the costs, but really if you’re looking at the Prado it’s probably not much of a concern.
Storage in the trunk feels smaller than previous Toyota Land Cruisers. This could be due to the third row of seats that pop up and obviously take up floor space as well, with a maximum of 1833 litres with the all of the rear passenger seats down. Otherwise this makes it a great family vehicle with carrying capacity of up to 7 passengers.
WHAT IT’S UP AGAINST.
The 2014 Land Cruiser Prado has stiff competition, for it’s size and weight it trumps the others in fuel economy.
|Brand / Model||Engine||Power||Max Luggage Capacity||Fuel Economy||Price|
|Nissan Patrol||5.8-litre V8 Petrol||298kw / 436Nm||3710 Litres||14.5L/100km||$115,000|
|Toyota Land Cruiser Prado GX||3.0-litre Turbo Diesel||127kw / 410Nm||1833 litres||8.5L/100km||$84,195|
|Mitubishi Pajero GLS||3.2-litre Turbo Diesel||150kw / 448Nm||1789 Litres||9.2L/100km||$77,090|
|Kia Sorento R||2.2-litre Turbo Diesel||145kw / 367Nm||2052 Litres||7.3L/100km||$66,390|
|Mazda CX-9 AWD||3.7-litre V6 Petrol||240kw / 560Nm||928 Litres||9.3L/100km||$65,490|
WHAT WE THINK.
Being the top end recreational vehicle in Toyotas range, the Land Cruiser Prado punches hard for its class. Offering strong off road capabilities balanced with smooth safe highway cruising. The Land Cruiser badge has always been associated with adventure and go anywhere overlander, and traditionally the Prado offered the luxury to the name. The new 2014 Prado has held onto that heritage, though a little more on the flashy luxury side these days, but the blood still runs strong.
Rating – Chevron rating 3.5 out of 5
Toyota Land Cruiser Prado GX
Vehicle Type: Full size SUV
Starting price: $84,195
Engine: 3.0L 4 cylinder in-line Turbo Diesel 127kW / 410Nm
Transmission: 5-Speed Auto
Curb Weight: 2235kg
Length x Width x Height: 4760 x 1885 x 1890
Cargo Capacity: 1,833L (2nd and 3rd row seats down to the roof)
Fuel Tank: 87 Litres
Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 8.5L
5 Star ANCAP/ENCAP rating.