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Review: 2018 Toyota Prado

The heavily updated Toyota LandCruiser Prado range sees some big changes for 2018, with a new look, updated interior and added equipment across most models in the range.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

The face lifted version of the Toyota LandCruiser Prado undoubtedly takes the boxy off-roader and makes it more appealing to the majority of consumers. It is, dare I say it, good looking now.

With its brilliant LED headlights and DRLs, which look so much better than the old dot-matrix numbers in the pre-facelift car. The new shape of the headlights accentuates the width of the Prado, as does the new grille treatment.

And while nothing has changed if you look at it from side-on (aside from different wheel designs), the Prado somehow looks more muscular than it did. The tail-lights have black surrounds which helps, and the rear door has been neatened up a touch, too. 

While you get a rear spoiler on all Prado models, you have to spend up on the VX-L such as ours to get side steps. And if you want a body kit, you’ll have to look up sellers.

The interior design has seen a big workover, with a new centre stack and media interface, new steering wheels and other refinements. But the interior dimensions haven’t changed, because the size hasn’t either: check out our interior images to get a better idea.

This is a facelift done right.

How practical is the space inside?

The revisions to the dashboard are really quite nice. In the lower-spec versions there is more storage space in front of the shifter, while higher-spec models, like the VX-L you see here, have a smaller little caddy (big enough for a wallet) because the stack has all the serious off-road controls – check out the Prado interior pictures attached for a better idea.

Even so, every Prado has good storage options on offer: you will find more than one cupholder to suffice – in fact, there are cupholders in the first, second and third rows, and holsters for bottles in all four doors. Our VX-L model has a cooled/refrigerated centre console area, which is great to keep your drinks chilled on longer trips. 

Because the vast majority of Prado models are seven-seaters, the measurement with seven seats in use is 120L – small by class standards. If you need more boot space, you could consider adding roof racks to the rails on GXL, VX and VX-L models.

In terms of space, adults will be able to comfortably slot in the second row seating and allow enough space behind them for smaller adults or children. The back row isn’t the roomiest place, but for adults – even taller ones – it is definitely bearable for short trips. Headroom is good throughout the cabin, and legroom in the second row is pretty good, too.

For customers with kids, there are dual ISOFIX seats in the second row, and three top-tether points as well. There are air-vents to all three rows (in seven-seat models) but entry-grade models will need those up front to control the climate for those in the back.

The 8.0-inch media system is typical Toyota – that is to say, it’s reasonably easy to use but the on-screen buttons are a bit small, and it certainly doesn’t set any new standards. There is no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto connectivity, and the Bluetooth system – while easy to connect and reasonably clever at reconnecting – requires the car to be at a standstill to search contact lists and operate the pairing function: that may sound like a safety feature, but what if your child or partner wants to connect their phone on the move? It’s a fail.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

There are no changes to specifications for power outputs of the diesel drivetrain, be it the manual gearbox with retained power and torque outputs of 130kW/420Nm, or an automatic transmission, which bumps the torque spec up to 450Nm. 

Competitor SUVs out there can be had with more power and torque.

Unlike a lot of other competitors, though, the Prado runs a permanent four-wheel drive (4WD or 4×4) set-up with 4H and 4L modes – there’s no 4×2 mode. You need to get an automatic to be able to get a rear diff lock, and even then it’s not available on the base model GX. So, manual gearbox enthusiasts need to think twice.

Some buyers may not be too impressed by the Prado’s comparatively low braked towing capacity weight of 2500kg (750kg un-braked) for manual models – but the automatic pushes that braked capacity to 3000kg, which is what you’ll likely need for a big off-road caravan. Our test vehicles didn’t have a towbar, so there’s no towing review here. . 

How much fuel does it consume?

Toyota claims diesel fuel consumption of 7.9L/100km for the manual Prado, while the automatic model uses 0.1L/100km more, claiming 8.0L/100km. 

Realistically you can expect fuel economy around 9.5L/100km in most situations, or a tad more if you’re running around with adults accompanying you in the other four seats.

If you venture off-road the fuel use number will probably rise to about 11.5L/100km, which is pretty good given the size of the Prado. Towing will likely see that figure jump a tad, but not to excessively high levels (depending on the weight of what you’re towing, of course!).

The Prado’s huge 150-litre fuel tank capacity (with an 87L main tank size and 63L sub) will assure long range mileage between visits to the pump, but expect a big bill if you run it to empty.

What’s it like to drive?

If you plan on spending the vast majority of your time on paved surfaces – be that running around town or cruising country highways – you ought to choose the VX models.

Why? It all comes down to the suspension system. It’s undeniably brilliant when it comes to scrambling up craggy hills, especially if there are heaps of offset bumpy sections because of the way it can adjust the anti-roll bars. Admittedly there is adaptive front and rear variable suspension (not air suspension) on the VX-L, but even in the most passenger-friendly Comfort setting it isn’t as comfy as it should be, with the four-link rear suspension abruptly rebounding over bumps. The front suspension is a trailing arm double-wishbone type, and it is more resolved over bumps.

It is ridiculously capable when it comes to off road ability, with the permanent 4WD system (with 4H high range and 4L low range), a locking rear diff, and the brand’s dependable drive-mode selector system allowing for assured progress on gnarly surfaces.

And while that anti-roll bar adjustment certainly makes the Prado VX-L hold itself flatter through a series of sharp corners, that’s not what this SUV is all about. Nor what this review is about. 

In the lower-spec models there is better bump absorption – the smaller alloy wheels help, though we know some buyers will be tempted to upsize to 22-inch chrome wheels…The steering response largely remains the same between the four variants – the wheel action is light and easy to twirl at lower speeds with a decent turning circle of 11.6m, and it has good weighting at highway pace, too. 

And no matter which model you choose, you’ll be getting a engine that feels suited to day-to-day life: our test unit isn’t excessively grunty, but with the clever six-speed automatic the Prado definitely offers enough punch to jump a gap or two in traffic. 

Even so, I have often thought to myself ‘there is no faster car on the road than a Prado driver who is late to drop the kids at school’ – and the performance lives up to that expectation. There’s some turbo lag to contend with from stand-still, but its roll-on acceleration is convincing below 70km/h. 

It isn’t quite as sprightly once you get above that, presumably because aerodynamics starts to play a more integral role in forward progress. But realistically if you want to know what 0-100km/h acceleration it’ll do, or what top speed it’ll hit, maybe you shouldn’t be looking at a Prado.

My biggest annoyance with the Prado is its brake pedal feel. While the response from the stoppers is good, the squelchy feel of the pedal and the fingernails-on-a-blackboard screechiness as you apply pressure is frustrating. The body of the Prado can pitch forward when you apply the brakes, too. 

The updated 2018 Toyota LandCruiser Prado might not have needed to see changes in order to remain the biggest-selling large SUV on the South African market, but the facelifted model has seen the Prado take some steps forward to keep it on the shopping lists of buyers looking for family-focused SUVs with a breadth of ability. 

It looks better and is better value – and there is one model that seemingly stands apart as the best buy of the bunch: the R 969 600 VX-L. 

Papi Mabele
Tech enthusiast at heart. Lover of all things digital. Papi is the founder of SA Vibe and has been sharing his love for gadgetry since 2010. Papi sees no need for wearable tech in his busy schedule and considers the Xbox One as non existant. He may come across as bias at times, and still holds a grudge at BlackBerry for creating the 8520.
http://www.savibeza.co.za
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