WHAT IS IT?
If you want a seven-seater SUV that's not based on a bakkie but is still a proper 4x4 with just about every modern convenience thrown in, the Prado has to be at the top of the shopping list. Smaller than the new Land Cruiser 300, bigger and more comfortable than the Fortuner, and with legendary reliability and longevity, the Prado is many people's ultimate vehicle.
Have a look at a used car website and take careful note of the resale values of Prados – they're immense. Then visit a Toyota dealership (over 220 in the country) and inquire about servicing costs or extended warranty plans – they're affordable. While you're there, ask how many of their customers are repeat Prado buyers. All of this will give you many practical reasons why the Prado is such a great buy, even if it is expensive.
The new Prado may be a facelift of the previous generation, but it feels even bigger, probably thanks in part to the new bonnet design, where the two bulges are very visible from the driver's seat. It looks every bit like a respected member of the Land Cruiser family, a traditional design that has been made more current with a new grille and LED headlights and daytime running lights.
As mentioned, the Prado we tested was the VX-L model, which is at the very top of the line-up. It comes with a full house of safety, comfort and convenience features, including heated seats front and rear as well as cooled front seats, a bird's-eye view camera showing the entire car (useful when reversing a behemoth into a tight parking space), sat-nav and a 14-speaker audio system. The rearmost row of seats folds electrically into the floor, minimising effort and maximising space.
While luxurious, with leather seats and all that jazz, the Prado remains functional and feels built with longevity in mind rather than out and out luxury. A great feature of modern Toyotas is the My Toyota app, which offers Wi-Fi in the car and helps with mundane admin like renewing your car's licence!
While the Prado has retained the same chassis for over a decade, it now has a completely new drivetrain, which is the biggest news. A high-tech 2.8-litre GD6 turbodiesel engine has replaced the old 3-litre D4-D, giving it 150kW of power and 500Nm of torque. The extra power (30 more kW and 100 more Nm) is instantly noticeable and transforms the Prado completely – it is quicker off the mark and cruises more effortlessly, while fuel consumption has improved to a realistic claimed 7.9L/100km.
As well as having a traditional body-on-frame architecture for ruggedness, the Prado has a Multi-Terrain Select system (VX and VX-L only), operated by a centrally mounted rotary knob, allowing the driver to select the correct mode depending on the ‘road’ ahead. The system has five pre-configured modes (mud & sand, loose rock, mogul, rock & dirt, and rock) and incorporates the low-range transfer case and traction control system.
On the road, where the Prado will spend most of its time, it is comfortable and easy to live with, thanks in part to Toyota's Adaptive Variable Suspension. However, the vehicle's size is evident around town, and that huge, scalloped bonnet isn't easy to navigate into tight spaces.
To many, the Toyota Prado is the ultimate modern vehicle since it retains the true ruggedness and reliability needed to be an adventure car and blends it will all the technology and comfort expected of a new luxury vehicle. In short, it is the best Prado ever. If you can, buying one is a no-brainer.
GO GET IT
Prices for the Prado start at R997,500, while the VX-L diesel is R1,173,500. All Prado models are sold with a 9-services/90,000km service plan with 10,000km service intervals. A 3-year/100,000 km warranty is also provided.