USED CAR REVIEW:: Toyota Prado an all-round adventurer
SUGGESTING Toyota's Prado is the softie of the LandCruiser range is like saying spiced tequila is tame beside 180-proof Grenadian rum. Worry not, it'll still do the job.
The Prado is marketed as a lighter duty, more on-road specific 'Cruiser but in reality it combines daily-duties comfort with solid off-road clout. Little wonder these large 4WDs not only command lofty sticker prices when new but also maintain strong resale values.
Australians desire, trust and buy Prados (almost 300,000 sold since launch in 1996). There are many hundreds of used examples for sale but don't expect to find low-ball bargains.
You can buy cheaper, plusher, safer and more economical large SUVs, so the Prado should be on your shopping list only if you need its near-indestructible bush ability.
You'll get a serene ride in town and on highways, strong family practicality and arguably all the car you'll ever need for faraway camping adventures.
The "150 Series" Prado is still current but for this guide I'll evaluate those from its November 2009 introduction up to 2017.
Options are diesel or petrol, auto or manual and how luxurious (and expensive) can you go? You can also choose between a three- or five-door Prado, but the former sold poorly and was dropped by 2013.
A well-respected 4.0-litre V6 with over 200kW is your petrol choice but better economy can be had with the turbo diesels. From 2009 that meant a 3.0-litre.
Three-door Prados - SX and ZR grades - were diesel autos only and with five seats. They could tow 3000kg; the five-doors only 2500kg.
Five-doors were seven-seaters but for the base GX diesel (an extra pair of seats was optional). All had alloy wheels, keyless entry and start, seven airbags, aircon (tri-zone for seven-seaters), cruise control, USB input, Bluetooth, ventilated coolbox and 220V rear socket.
Trim levels for the five-doors were GX, GXL, VX and Kakadu. The GXL added a rear camera, rear parking sensors, 4.2-inch screen, front fog lamps, roof rails, side steps and premium steering wheel.
The VX scored dynamic suspension, leather trim, heated seats, power folding rear seats, front park sensors and better audio.
Range-topping Kakadu - about $90K new - was the ultimate all-rounder. It added low-speed (crawl) control, four-camera terrain monitor, electronic rear diff lock, adaptive variable suspension, rear air suspension, moonroof, satnav, DVD player with rear entertainment and wood-look trim. Three-door ZRs also had much of this kit.
In November 2013 the Prado got a refreshed front bumper, lights and grille, new alloys, redesigned dashboard with new multimedia and, for the range toppers, suspension tweaks.
In August 2015, the 3.0 diesel was replaced by a more efficient 2.8-litre with more power and torque and the V6 petrol was made more powerful and efficient. A six-speed auto replaced the five-speed.
At this time, the volume-selling GXL added satnav and Kakadus got even more active safety gear.
Look out for Prado Altitude special editions. These had multimedia, tech, comfort and family-friendly bonuses on top of usual GXL inclusions. Post-2014 Altitudes relocated the spare wheel from the rear door to under the car, which meant losing the Prado's second, smaller fuel tank.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Despite their reputation for reliability, Prados aren't immune from flaws. Check the front guards; owners have reported large cracks under the bonnet, especially if a bull bar is fitted.
Numerous 3.0-litre diesel owners report annoying vibrations and droning between 1300rpm-2000rpm (a common rev range when cruising) as well as injector issues.
Owners of the 2.8-litre diesel report the particulate filter clogging - a very expensive part to replace.
If you don't travel huge miles don't discount the V6 petrol; it's thirstier but renowned as bulletproof.
Other grumbles include a low towing allowance (2500kg), a confused auto gearbox when towing, some electrical gremlins and the diesel not getting the fuel economy promised.
By all means buy a Prado if you plan regular off-roading but try to pick one that's been a strict town or city slicker.
Plenty will have handled the tough going off-road so check underneath for signs of damage, with the bash plates giving a good indication of what they've copped.
With preloved Prados commanding huge sums, a pre-purchase inspection is imperative, ideally from a specialist. there are excellent online forums such as pradopoint.com.au.
There was just one recall, in April 2014 for a cable linked to the steering wheel airbag, affecting some 2009-10 Prados.
Brilliant all-rounder for daily duties and family adventures with strong reliability. The Prado's retained high value makes it the smart choice only for those planning serious off-roading.
JASON CROOKS: We have a 2012 GXL diesel auto that the kids call "Big Daddy". I bought it with 250,000km on the clock; I work in mining and agriculture and all use Toyotas so I trust them. It's so comfy on and off-road, great for cruising and ideal for family holidays to Fraser Island. Problems have included vibrations after a bad wheel alignment; new fuel pump and the horn needed fixing, which was expensive. We have a RAV4 too and the Prado's far more pleasurable to drive.
SIMON HAGLEY: Our 2011 VX diesel has been a brilliant all-rounder though the interior is showing its age and the paint scratches too easily. It tows my two-tonne-plus boat easily and handles the beach and sandy tracks. It's certainly better off-road than on.
THE EXPERTS SAY
Toyota sold nearly 99,000 examples of this series Prado, peaking in 2013 with 20,000-plus. Revised prices and deleting the base diesel made the Prado less affordable than the more compact predecessor, from which most of the mechanicals carried over.
Among the numerous current listings, diesels account for the vast majority - 94 per cent - and nine out of 10 are autos. The mid-range GXL is the most common and there is barely a handful of ZRs.
For 2009 models, the SX three-door diesel automatic ($55,990 new) sells for $24,050 and the diesel Kakadu ($88,990 new) fetches $38,150. For 2017, the base GX diesel manual ($54,050 new) is now $50,650 and the Kakadu ($85,900 new) is valued at $80,500.
Direct competitors include the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Holden Captiva 7, Mazda CX-9 and stablemate Kluger. The Jeep, with renowned off-road ability, comes closest to matching the Prado in the bush.
The Prado has the lowest rate of depreciation, given its reputation for dependability and the reasonable cost of ownership. - Red Book
TOYOTA PRADO 2009-17
PRICE NEW $54,050-$88,990
SAFETY 5 stars
ENGINES 4.0-litre V6, 202kW-207kW)/381Nm; 3.0-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel, 127kW/410Nm; 2.8-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel, 130kW/420Nm-450Nm
TRANSMISSIONS 6-speed man, 5- or 6-speed auto; 4WD