BUYERS GUIDE - WAGONS MEDIUM
The post-2010 Prado range scored upgraded diesel and petrol engines in September 2015, six-speed transmissions and additional improvements for 2018 and 2020. The next-generation is due in mid-2024.
The 2024 Toyota LandCruiser Prado made its world premiere in August 2023, incorporating mechanical upgrades, enhanced performance and polarising styling changes.
The first Prado arrived in 1996 and Outback Travel Australia’s editor Allan Whiting can well remember testing the various iterations of this mid-sized wagon concept. The Prado has been one of Australia’s most popular wagons.
Toyota Australia Vice President Sales, Marketing and Franchise Operations Sean Hanley said the new Prado provides all the hallmarks of a LandCruiser that customers love.
“Australian customers appreciate the vast capability of the LandCruiser Prado, from use as a family vehicle, to off-roading, towing and long-distance touring, which is evidenced by its huge popularity,” Mr Hanley said.
“The all-new Prado takes everything that customers love about the Prado to a new level, with even greater performance, capability and technology, as well as bold new styling inside and out.”
What Mr Hanley didn’t say is most likely to be evident when it arrives Down Under in mid-2024: a huge price increase.
A price hike is obvious when you look at the mechanical specification of the 2024 vehicle. Like the already announced Lexus GX the Prado shares its underpinnings with the LandCruiser 300 Series, riding on the TNGA-F ladder-frame chassis, which is said to be 50 percent more rigid than the current-generation Prado frame.
The new Prado bodywork is also identical to that of the Lexus GX, apart from the bonnet and front and rear styling panels.
The Prado front end is based around a rectangular grille and tri-beam headlights and, at the rear, the Prado features a vertically oriented tailgate.
Measuring 4920mm long, 1988mm wide and 1860mm tall, the 2024 Prado is 95mm longer and wider, and 10mm taller than before. Its 2850mm, 300 Series wheelbase is 60mm longer than before.
Wheel articulation is said to be improved further by Toyota’s new stabiliser-bar control system which allows the front stabiliser bar to be disconnected for greater off-road wheel articulation.
Enhanced functionality for the multi-terrain select and multi-terrain monitor systems help the Prado go even further off-road, Toyota claims.
The adoption of electric power steering is said to improve steering feel and enhance low-speed manoeuvrability on-road; to maximise control when off-roading and to allow compatibility with active safety systems, including lane keeping assistance.
In the USA LandCruiser buyers get the latest 2.4-litre, inline-four, petrol Hybrid Max powertrain used in the Toyota Tacoma, Toyota Crown and the Lexus TX. That engine puts out 243kW and 630Nm of torque in the Tacoma.
For Australia, the 2024 Prado will get the carry-over 1GD-FTV 2.8-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine, enhanced with 48-volt technology to allow the inclusion of engine stop-start.
Producing 150kW of power and 500Nm of torque, the 1GD engine drives all four wheels via a new Direct Shift-8AT eight-speed automatic transmission that replaces the existing six-speed box.
Inside, the Prado has dual digital screens for its instrument cluster and multimedia system, and switches that group basic functions together.
The Prado comes with either five- or seven-seat layouts, depending on variant and will be offered with a full suite of Toyota Safety Sense active safety technologies.
What you get
The five-variant Prado range continues the line-up of the current generation with GX, GXL, VX and flagship Kakadu grades, plus the addition of a new high-end Altitude variant.
Multimedia on all variants features a 12.3-inch multimedia system with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, embedded satellite navigation3 with cloud function, DAB+ digital radio and Toyota Connected Services.
A full suite of Toyota Safety Sense active safety technologies are available across the Prado range, including pre-collision safety system; adaptive cruise control; lane trace assist; blind spot monitor; rear parking support brake; front and rear parking sensors; panoramic view monitor; nine airbags; trailer sway control and a wiring harness for the tow hitch.
Standard driving assistance technologies on all variants include vehicle stability control with active traction control; downhill assist control and crawl control with five selectable speed settings.
The Prado five-seat GX grade has 18-inch dark grey aluminium alloy wheels; LED headlights and daytime running lights; retractable body-coloured exterior mirrors; dark front and rear bumpers, side sills and wheel arches; and a manual tailgate with glass hatch.
Inside, the GX features fabric seats with six-way manual driver adjustment; 10-speaker audio system; 7.0-inch colour MID display; automatic dual-zone climate control; all-weather rubber floor mats and a 220V power outlet in the rear.
The GXL adds roof rails, rear privacy glass, silver front and rear bumper trim and a powered tailgate.
Inside, the GXL gets seven-seat capacity, with synthetic leather-accented upholstery and 50:50 split fold seat back for the third row. Front seats have heating and ventilation with an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat; leather-accented steering wheel and shift knob; and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
Improved convenience features include rear climate control, a wireless charging pad and two additional USB-C charging ports for a total of six throughout the cabin.
The VX gets 20-inch premium dark metallic aluminium alloy wheels; body-coloured front and rear bumpers; over-fender moulding and rear guard trim; and bi-LED headlamps with dynamic auto-levelling and adaptive high-beam.
The VX has leather-accented seats with driver seat power lumbar support and memory; four-way front passenger power adjustment; power-adjustable steering wheel; carpet floor mats; a refrigerated console box and tyre pressure monitor.
Also included are a 12.3-inch colour MID display; 14-speaker JBL audio system; Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS); five-mode Drive Mode Select; Multi-Terrain Select; and a Multi-Terrain Monitor that displays a view of the vehicle’s underfloor and surrounds when off-roading.
The Altitude model scores 18-inch matt-grey aluminium alloy wheels with Toyo Open Country all-terrain tyres; a rear locking differential; and a new stabiliser disconnect mechanism (replacing AVS) that is said to provide an extra 10 per cent of wheel articulation to help maximise traction on uneven surfaces.
The Altitude variant features black door handles and tailgate garnish, black over-fender moulding, a moon roof and the option of two-tone colour.
Available exclusively in five-seat configuration, the Altitude builds on the specification of the VX and inside, adds a digital rearview mirror, heated steering wheel and head-up display.
The flagship seven-seat Kakadu adds features over the VX including a panoramic moon roof; illuminated side steps; heated and ventilated rear seats; heated steering wheel; adjustable driver’s seat thigh support; digital rearview mirror; head-up display; and a rear torque-sensing, limited-slip differential to enhance handling when cornering.
Every Prado has full-time all-wheel drive with a lockable torque-sensing Torsen centre differential and low-range gearing, with 3500kg braked towing capacity.
A total of eight exterior paint colours are offered on the Prado, including the new Altitude-exclusive Tanami Taupe and Ningaloo Blue, optionally available with a white roof.
Further details on the all-new LandCruiser Prado including pricing and full specification will be announced closer to the model’s arrival in mid-2024.
The current-shape, post-2016 Prado scored a new-generation turbo-diesel engine, an improved petrol V6 and new six-speed automatic transmission.
The Euro 5 compliant 2.8-litre four-cylinder engine was the same basic engine as the one fitted to the 2016 HiLux. It was smaller than the engine it replaced, yet produced 130kW and up to 450Nm of torque.
For the Prado this engine was fitted with an additional balance shaft, to damp out four-cylinder vibrations.
Prado’s V6 petrol engine was upgraded to produce a further 5kW of power while also lowering emissions to Euro 5 levels, but this engine was dropped from the lineup in November 2017.
The two engines could be mated to a six-speed, intelligent automatic transmission. A six-speed manual gearbox was standard with the diesel engine on GX and GXL models.
Other Prado upgrades included satellite navigation in the volume-selling GXL variant – about time – and the range-topping Kakadu gained rear cross-traffic alert, which is designed to warn of approaching traffic when reversing from a parking space.
The model line-up remained the same: diesel-only GX was available with five or seven seats and seven-seat GXL, VX and Kakadu have a choice of engines. The two higher grades are auto only.
The updated Prado range started at $52,990 for the five-seat GX manual diesel and the automatic transmission model was $2000 more. GX seven-seaters were $55,490 and $57,490.
The popular GXL was $59,990 for a diesel manual, $60,990 for a petrol auto and $61,990 for a diesel auto.
The VX was $72,990 for a petrol and $73,990 for a diesel. Those with plenty of money could shell out $83,490 or $84,490 for a Kakadu.
What you got post-2016
The post-2016 GX manual scored: five seats on GX (seven-seat option); seven airbags; display audio and rear-view camera; trailer sway control; emergency brake signal; vehicle stability control; Active traction control (A-TRC); ABS with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and brake assist (BA); air-conditioning; cruise control; smart entry and button start; tlt and telescopic steering column adjustment; 220-volt rear accessory socket; Bluetooth; SB and iPod auxiliary input; audio and phone controls on the steering wheel; side mirror-mounted indicators; aluminium wheels; maximum 2500kg towing capacity.
The auto model added: Hill-Start Assist Control (HAC) and Downhill Assist Control (DAC).
Prado GXL got: seven seats standard; satellite navigation; nine speakers; climate-control three-zone air conditioning; rear parking sensors; front fog lamps; roof rails; side steps; premium wheel, shift lever knob and handbrake lever; cargo cover; sun visor extensions; privacy glass and heated and power-retractable exterior mirrors.
The VX picked up: electronically modulated Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) suspension; 18-inch wheels; automatic on/off LED headlamps and washers; rain-sensing wipers; leather-accented seats; heated front and second-row seats; power steering column adjustment; power-folding third-row seat; front parking sensors; 17-speaker premium JBL audio; DAB+ digital radio; auto headlights; self-dipping interior mirror; luggage utility rails and a full-colour multi-information display with steering wheel switch.
The Kakadu boasted: rear cross traffic alert; blind spot monitor; pre-crash safety system; radar cruise control with steering wheel-mounted controls; Blu-ray rear-seat entertainment system; five-mode CRAWL control; four-camera Multi-Terrain Monitor; electronic rear differential lock; Adaptive Variable Suspension;
height-adjustable and auto-levelling rear air suspension; Multi-Terrain Select (MTS) traction-control switch; moonroof; refrigerated cool box; key-linked driver’s seat and steering column two-position memory pack.
After we recorded the road tests and video below we heard of hundreds of in-service complaints about the pre-2020 2.8-litre engine’s diesel particulate filter system. The fifth injector that is supposed to heat the DPF can clog and malfunction, making DPF regeneration impossible.
Toyota fitted a manual regeneration button to the dashboard, but that’s fine if the injector isn’t blocked and people understand how and when to use the ‘regen’ function.
There’s a well-publicised owners’ class action against Toyota over the 2.8-litre diesel’s DPF issues.
We’d tell you a lot more, but Toyota is busy suing anyone in the industry who makes disparaging remarks about the Big T and they’ve got a much bigger barrister fund than we have!
On and off road
We weren’t invited to the press launch, but we did evaluate two press vehicles: the top-shelf Kakadu and the popular GXL. Both were diesels, but the Kakadu had a new six-speed auto and the GXL was a six-speed manual model.
The Kakadu lacked nothing in the way of ‘fruit’ and electronic gadgetry, but we couldn’t see the value in the extra spend. Its KDSS and adjustable suspension didn’t give it much handling advantage over the GXL and a set of decent monotube dampers in the GXL would redress any difference, we think.
Off road the Kakadu’s Crawl, rear-axle diff lock and adjustable-height rear air suspension gave it an edge over the GXL, but many GXL buyers would fit after-market traction kit anyway.
Both Prados were quiet on road and four-cylinder engine harshness didn’t intrude unless revs went over the 3000rpm mark. The Kakadu’s auto was happy to cruise below 2000rpm at 110km/h, but the GXL’s manual had its engine spinning at 2400rpm at highway cruise.
Both vehicles averaged 9.7L/100km on our test.
Cargo capacity was compromised by the seven-seat layout and market-leading 150-litre fuel capacity, but few bush travellers would complain. Payload capacity was around 750kg and towing capacity, a sensible 2500kg.
The Prado had enjoyed top spot in the 4WD wagon market for several years and the 2016 models had the goods to keep things that way.
In 2016 the Prado was now edging away from its traditional medium-priced segment and doubtless lost some sales to the HiLux-based Fortuner. On the plus side, the more powerful engine and six-speed boxes helped it grab some share from the 200 Series.
Check out our video test:
In November 2017 Toyota upgraded the Prado range with a facelift and fitted active-safety technology to GX and GXL automatic models.
The recommended retail price was reduced on five model variants.
Standard equipment on all Prado auto models were pre-collision safety system (PCS) with autonomous emergency braking and pedestrian detection; active cruise control (ACC); lane departure alert and auto high beam.
Towing capacity for all automatic models was increased by 500kg to 3000kg and a rear differential lock was added to auto GXL and VX grades.
The petrol four-litre V6 was dropped, meaning that the Prado range was exclusively 2.8-litre turbo-diesel powered.
Prices started at $53,490 RRP for the GX manual that picked up satellite navigation and Toyota Link connected mobility.
The GXL was upgraded with Bi-LED head lamps, LED DRLs with ‘follow me’ function, LED fog lamps, sun-visor lamp and the auto version also scored the advanced safety equipment package, a rear differential lock, Optitron instruments and colour MID.
A $3500 option pack for GXL added leather-accented trim, ventilated and power-operated front seats, and heated front and second-row seats.
The VX gained ventilated front seats, cool box, LED fog lamps panoramic view monitor and multi-terrain monitor, blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert.
Top of the range Kakadu picked up drive mode select and panoramic view monitor and a $1121 price reduction.
Exterior changes included a grille with broad vertical bars and slit-shaped cooling openings, flanked by restyled headlamps. At the rear were new lamp clusters.
Inside was a redesigned dashboard, instrument binnacle and switchgear.
In September 2020 the Prado scored an additional 20kW of power and 50Nm of torque from the upgraded 2.8-litre turbo diesel engine that it shared with HiLux and Fortuner. The improved engine was available with only a six-speed automatic transmission.
The diesel delivered a maximum 150kW at 3400rpm, with 500Nm of torque available in the 1600-2800rpm band.
Fuel capacity was 150 litres, via an 87-litre main tank and 63-litre sub tank.
On all grades except GX, customers could choose to have the spare wheel mounted on the tailgate or located under the vehicle, where it replaced the sub-tank.
The 2020 Prado’s maximum braked towing capacity was 3000kg.
Toyota Safety Sense features were available on all grades. The pre-collision safety system, with autonomous emergency braking capability was claimed capable of detecting cyclists during the day and pedestrians, day and night.
Prado’s lane-departure alert system offersed steering assistance by applying the brakes to one side of the vehicle, to help prevent it drifting unintentionally into another lane.
Newly adopted road-sign assist advised speed-limit changes and could also be used to reset the vehicle’s cruise-control speed setting.
A new-generation multimedia system across the range incorporated a larger 225mm (9-inch) touchscreen display (previous 8-inch), enhanced voice recognition and compatibility with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and myToyota.
Finally, in 2020, the updated Prado incorporated rain-sensing windscreen wipers.
The five-seat GX came with 17-inch alloy wheels, satellite navigation, keyless entry and engine start, air-conditioning and a reversing camera.
A third row of seats was optional on GX, but standard on GXL. Additional GXL equipment included side steps, roof rails, three-zone climate control, bi-LED headlamps, LED fog lamps and daylight running lamps, and rear parking sensors.
A GXL option pack added leather-accented ventilated, heated and power-operated front seats and heated second-row seats: all of which were standard on VX.
The higher grade VXs also had 18-inch alloy wheels, 14-speaker JBL premium sound, DAB digital radio, dusk-sensing headlamps, panoramic and multi-terrain monitors, blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert.
Top-of-the-range Kakadu was fitted with paddle shifters, a moonroof, adaptive variable-rate suspension, rear air suspension with auto levelling, rear-seat entertainment, and crawl control and multi-terrain select off-road aids.
GX and GXL were fitted with rubber mats front and rear, while VX and Kakadu had carpet.
Recommended retail prices for the GX started at $59,840 and climbed to $87,030 for the Kakadu.
The 2010 engine choices were 4.0-litre, 202kW/381Nm dual VVT-i petrol and 3.0-litre, 127kW/410Nm turbocharged common-rail direct-injection diesel.
Both engines could be matched to six-speed manual or five-speed sequential-shift automatic transmissions.
Standard equipment on all Prados included seven airbags, Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), All-terrain Traction Control (A-TRC), ABS with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BA), air-conditioning, cruise control, smart entry and smart start, tilt and telescopic steering column adjustment, 220-volt rear accessory socket, Bluetooth TM mobile telephone capability, USB auxiliary input and iPod ® control, side-mirror-mounted indicators, aluminium wheels, conversation mirror, UV-cut glass, ventilated coolbox in the centre console and a minimum 2500kg towing capacity (three door Prados are rated for 3000kg).
Automatic GX had the added feature of Hill-Start Assist Control (HAC) and Downhill Assist Control (DAC), while an option pack added third-row seats and extended the side-curtain SRS airbags to the third row.
Prado GXL grade had the added features over GX of standard-fitment third-row seats and a third-row side curtain-shield airbag, climate-control three-zone air conditioning, rear-view camera, rear parking sensors, 4.2-inch multi-information display, wider alloy wheels and tyres, steering wheel audio controls, alarm system, front fog lamps, roof rails, side steps, premium steering wheel, shift lever knob and handbrake lever, roller-blind-type tonneau cover, sun visor extensions, FM diversity antenna and two additional cup holders.
VX grade had the additional features over GXL of new electronically modulated KDSS suspension, 18-inch aluminium wheels, automatic on/off HID projector headlamps with steering-linked Adaptive Front-light System (AFS) and headlamp jet washers, rain-sensing intermittent wipers, leather-accented seat and door trim, heated front seats, power adjustment for the tilt and telescopic steering column, power-folding third-row seat, front parking sensors, nine-speaker audio with CD multi-changer, privacy glass, time-delay auto-cut headlights, electro-chromatic interior mirror, illuminated entry system, illuminated step and step cover, chrome interior door handles, luggage utility rails and multi-information display with steering wheel switch.
Top-of-the-range Kakadu grade added CRAWL control, four-camera Multi-Terrain Monitor (MTM), electronic rear differential lock, Toyota Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS), height-adjustable and auto-levelling rear air suspension, Multi-Terrain Select (MTS) traction-control switch, moonroof, touch-screen satellite navigation, 14-speaker premium Pioneer audio system with DVD multi-changer, rear-seat entertainment, refrigerated cool-box, leather-accented and wood-look steering wheel, wood and metal-look instrument panel, and key-linked driver’s seat and steering column memory pack. In addition, Kakadu had a rear-seat entertainment system with three wireless headphones, two headphone jacks and AV input.
Kakadu also had the advanced safety-pack combined option of Pre-Crash safety System (PCS) and radar cruise control, with steering wheel-mounted controls. Vehicles with the Kakadu safety option pack did not have CRAWL control, electronic locking rear differential, MTS and one of the MTM cameras.
The MY 2014 exterior changes included a deeper front bumper, heritage-inspired grille and newly styled wheels.
Interior changes included new multi-media audio systems, a redesigned dashboard and new materials, detailing and features.
Refinements were made to the standard suspension and the electronically modulated Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System.
Improved safety features included trailer sway control, a system that assists the driver if a towed vehicle is unsettled by factors such as crosswinds or bumpy roads.
A rear-view camera and stability and traction control were standard across the range, as was an emergency brake signal that automatically flashed the stop lights to warn other drivers of potential danger.
Despite the advances in styling and features, the entry price for Prado was kept at $55,990 and the changes across the rest of the range averaged less than 1.2 per cent.
The forward-folding angle of the second-row seats was increased by more than 12 degrees, improving ease of entry and exit for third-row occupants. VX and Kakadu’s second-row outboard seats could be heated independently.
The revised driver’s instrument binnacle incorporated new tachometer and speedometer dials – Optitron for VX and Kakadu. Between the Optitron dials was a new 4.2-inch colour TFT multi-information display (MID) that provided significantly enhanced off-road driving assistance.
Information regarding individual wheel traction control, steering angle and differential lock operation could be displayed simultaneously for maximum driver assistance in challenging terrain.
On top-level Kakadu, Multi-Terrain Select – which gave drivers suitable guidance while automatically controlling power output and braking inputs – was operated by a dial. A fifth mode, to help negotiate rocks and dirt, was added to the previous rock, loose rock, mud and sand, and moguls modes.
In August 2014 Toyota introduced a Prado model with the spare tyre located out of sight under the vehicle rather than fitted to the rear door. Keeping supermarket shoppers happy was a glass hatch in the tailgate that allowed access to the cargo area without opening the door.
However, the Prado Altitude wasn’t a bargain-basement offering, coming with a RRP of $68,520. It was based on the GXL three-litre turbo diesel with auto box and featured seven airbags, vehicle stability and traction control, anti-skid brakes, hill-start assist control and downhill assist control, reversing camera, rear parking sensors, three-zone climate-controlled air-conditioning, audio controls on the steering wheel, remote entry and start and cruise control.
The Altitude upgrade incorporated a 14-speaker JBL audio system, DAB+ digital radio, a seven-inch display screen and satellite navigation.
Chrome side mouldings, door handles and air-conditioning surrounds distinguished the Prado Altitude, along with carbon-fibre-look details on the dash panel and gearshift surround. The model wore an Altitude badge and four premium paints – Eclipse Black, Crystal Pearl, Silver Pearl and Graphite – were offered.
The loss was the Prado’s second fuel tank, leaving total capacity at 87 litres – fine for suburbs and main roads, but not so good in the bush.
On and off road in 2010 models
The Prado’s aged four-cylinder turbo-diesel was pretty much past its use-by date, even with the more efficient positioning of the intercooler in front of the radiator rather than on top of the engine.
It felt overworked and fuel consumption on test was a disappointing 11L/100km when running solo and around 15L/100km when towing a 1500kg trailer.
Seat comfort was fine on a 2000km round trip over varying road surfaces and noise levels were commendably low.
Vision through the screen and large mirrors was excellent and the rear vision camera was a boon when reversing solo and when coupling.
We found all the controls intuitive to operate and the sound system provided good quality reproduction.
The additional gear on the very expensive Kakadu version isn’t worth it for most buyers. Much of the electronic wizardry is a copy of the system introduced by Land Rover in the Discovery 3, but the control switches for the suspension and traction variations are spread around the dashboard and on the steering wheel, so familiarisation takes quite some time.
On road, the variable damper settings had a noticeable effect on ride quality, but the air-suspended rear end is, sadly, no better than its Grande predecessor’s. The back end bottomed out easily on sharp bumps and lacked the suppleness of the cheaper SX’s coil springs. It did, however, keep ride height constant when a modest trailer was connected, but heavy ball loads caused the air spring pressures to rise, affecting ride quality.
The CRAWL function was a boon in difficult off-road conditions and the camera view of the track in front of the vehicle was useful when cresting sharp rises, but we’re not sure what happens to the camera view when a ‘roo bar is fitted.
The Toyota Prado has been with us since 1996 and has two body changes: one in 2003 and the most recent in 2009.
The Prado that was launched in Australia in 1996 had already been on sale in other markets in three-door and five-door guises since 1993.
The 90-series was launched here as a five-door, with independent semi-strut front suspension, coil-sprung live rear axle, full-time 4WD and a choice of two petrol engines.
The eight-seat (third row strictly for small children) Prado V6 came in four grades: RV, GXL, VX and Grande. Initial engines were petrol only: a 2.7-litre, four-cylinder 3RZ-FE and a 3.4 litre, V6 5VZ-FE. Although HiLux diesels were offered in overseas market Prados the Australian market was deemed to require more performance than was then available.
In August 1999 Prado V6 models were upgraded, with split-folding, 40:60 second-row seats with three head restraints, three child restraint anchorage points and a 40mm increase in cushion length.
Prado V6 RV and GXL retianed a vertical black grille, while the VX and Grande models had a horizontal-bar, chrome grille. Prado GXL, VX and Grande had front fog lamps as standard equipment.
The luxury grade VX and Grande’s additional features were six-speaker audio, increased use of wood grain look and illuminated vanity mirrors.
In March 2000 Toyota finally announced a three-litre, turbocharged and intercooled, 1KZ-TE diesel engine option in the Prado range, with 96kW of power at 3600rpm and 343Nm of torque at 2000rpm.
The three equipment grades were RV, GXL and TX, which was exclusively turbo-diesel.
In October 2000 a turbo-diesel automatic driveline was released.
Prado Turbo-diesel TX and Grande automatic models had the active safety features of vehicle stability control (VSC) and four-wheel-drive traction control (4WD-TRAC).
The 120-series Prado was launched in February 2003 as the successor to the market-leading model and racked up even more market share. Fuel tank capacity was a class leading 180 litres. The 2003 Prado was larger than its predecessor, but preserved its general mechanical layout – particularly in the case of the turbo-diesel models.
All models had SRS airbags and pre-tensioner front seat belts, eight seats with lap/sash belts and head restraints, but the front seats of GX and GXL models lacked seat height and lumbar adjustment.
Toyota made Prado customers spend more than seventy grand to get seats with height and lumbar adjustment. In 2004 Toyota added a six-speed manual and five-speed auto to the Prado range, but only behind the four-litre V6 petrol engine.
The diesels retained the existing five-speed manual and four-speed automatic transmissions until late 2006.
An anomaly was that the 2005 HiLux had a more advanced common rail diesel than the Prado, which had to make do with the older indirect-injection engine until late 2006. Also in 2004 Toyota released a new VX-grade, with V6 or turbo-diesel powertrains, between the GXL and Grande equipment grades.
Prado VX had an electronically controlled automatic transmission, front-seat mounted side airbags, front and second-row curtain airbags, Driver Assist Technology, including hill-start assist control, active traction control (TRC), vehicle stability control (VSC) and downhill assist control (DAC).
Comfort items above GXL grade included dual front zone climate control air conditioning, clean air filter and a rear cooler. Prado VX also had electrically adjustable driver’s seat lumbar support, driver’s seat vertical height adjustment, adjustable front head restraints and telescopic steering column adjustment. In addition, Prado VX had suede-look seat and door trim, wood grain-look dashboard features and door trim, roof rails, privacy glass and illuminated driver and passenger vanity mirrors with covers.
In November 2006 the HiLux’s three-litre, common-rail, 1KD-FTV direct-injection engine finally found its way into the Prado, delivering 127kW at 3400rpm (up from 96kW at 3600rpm) with peak torque of 410Nm at 1600-2800rpm (up from 343Nm at 2000rpm). Transmissions available with the new engine gained an extra ratio – a six-speed manual and an electronically controlled five-speed automatic with gated shift.
In September 2007 Toyota added a new standard-grade turbo-diesel manual or automatic transmission model to the Prado line-up and a leather-covered steering wheel with audio controls became standard across all five Prado grades.
Two option packs were available for the standard-grade model: the first one offering ABS anti-skid brakes, cruise control and a leather gearshift lever; and the second option pack for the auto model included Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction Control (TRC), climate control air conditioning and an exterior chrome package.
The 2007 Prado Grande was fitted with a rear view camera. That’s pretty much how the Prado remained until late 2009, when the re-skinned, current-shape 150-series was released.
Early Prados suffered from front end troubles – recalls were issued – and weak automatic transmissions that hated heavy towing.
Most owners haven’t used the twin fuel tanks, so check that the transfer system works and that there’s no sludge in the reserve tank.
Inner mudguard panels suffer from cracking caused by chassis flex (cured in the 2010 Prado, which had stiffening members in the chassis) – particularly in the case of hard-worked examples and those fitted with an under-bonnet second battery.
The Prado drove through a constant 4WD system, with a manually lockable centre differential. The only traction aid in the most popular GXL model was a rear axle limited slip diff centre. Top-shelf models came with traction control, which worked very effectively.
The Prado’s engine bay was well laid out, with a pre-drilled space for a second battery box and a fuel filter that was easily reached. The air intake was in the RHS mudguard space and was well protected from splashes, provided the inner mudguard fitment was intact. This plastic infill was often disturbed when front bars were fitted.
The intercooler was fed air through a double-skinned bonnet, doing away with the need for a bonnet air scoop. The Prado was basically well specified for serious bush work, given that it came with up to 180 litres of fuel capacity, had traditional chassis plus body construction, a long-travel, live rear axle and legendary bush dealer support.
The starting point for a bush-capable Prado would be a GXL, not the VX or Grande. ‘Frills’ that include leather upholstery, a sunroof, air rear suspension and variable-rate dampers are out of place in the scrub. We’d take off the side steps and fit after-market suspension that would cost a little in ride quality, but would preserve the already limited belly clearance with a load on board. We’d slot either a Detroit Soft Locker or an ARB Air Locker into the back axle.
There’s space for a second battery under the Prado’s bonnet, to power a fridge and to back up the starting battery. There are also several winches and winch bars to choose from, if self-recovery ability is needed.
Don’t fit heavy auxiliary batteries and oversized winches to the front of any Prado. Body panels and chassis crack if too much weight is placed over the front end. Auxiliary batteries need to be lightweight AGM types – expensive – and winches should be adequate, but not over-sized. You can save seven kilograms of winch weight by using plasma rope rather than wire cable.