|Photos by Ulysses Ang|
As the Land Cruiser Prado approached our garage, it’s immediately noticeable from a kilometer away. Though Toyota has taken the liberty to sprinkle its other SUVs with the same design cues found on the Prado of late, this is clearly the originator. It’s strong and masculine from just about any angle. It wears its macho styling on its shoulders with the angular lines and squared-off details. With the exception of the tires, you’ll actually be hard pressed to find anything curving on the Prado. The large, projector-type headlamps, two-tone tail lamps, and even the fender flares are all seemingly designed with a straight-line ruler as opposed to a protractor. In this day and age of sleek, rakish SUVs, the angular Prado is a breath of fresh air, even if it’s actually been around for a while. In fact, if you’re strict about it, the only thing betraying the Prado’s age is the side-swinging rear door. Though thankfully, Toyota has provided for a separate glass opening.
As it got nearer, another thing dawned on me: the girth. Although the length isn’t too much of a problem, measuring in at 4,760 mm (the Ford Explorer, for example, measures in at 5,002 mm), the Prado’s overall width at 1,885 mm may be a tight fit for some garages (including mine). Still, all that sheet metal does translate to a generously comfortable cabin with spacious room on all rows except the third. Getting into the Prado requires a huge step up, requiring the use of both the side step board and handle bar (it’s much more difficult for those entering and exiting the third row), but once inside, the accommodation is top notch. The seats are supportive and perfect for long drives. The third row seats aren’t kingly, except for children, but folding them down does do wonders for the Prado’s carrying capacity. Since the Prado accommodates its spare tire underneath (as opposed to a rear-mounted set-up), the loading bay isn’t flat but it’s big enough for almost anything from an airport run or a round of golf for five.
There may be a large ‘T’ on the steering wheel, but the Prado is dressed to impress—to levels almost befitting a Lexus (the Prado does form the basis for the GX after all). Besides having soft-touch plastics and supple beige leather, the Prado is kitted to the roof with power everything: seats for both the driver (including steering wheel adjustment and lumbar support) and front passenger, power folding third-row, tri-zone automatic climate control, USB and iPod interface with Bluetooth hands-free, front and rear proximity sensors with a back-up camera, and even a moon roof. In fact, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything missing in the Prado, except perhaps for better off-the-line acceleration.
Don’t get me wrong: with a 4.0-liter V6 under the hood, the Prado packs a punch at 275 horsepower and 385 Nm of torque. In fact, in most day-to-day driving scenarios, the Prado does feel adequately powered with good low-end pull and good gearing from its five-speed automatic. However, during sudden overtaking maneuvers or as the speeds build up, the engine reveals its less-than refined side with a boomy note above 4,000 rpm. In addition, it just feels taxed pulling the 2,370-kilogram body. Also, it must be said that the Prado’s heavy-duty ladder-on-frame construction also doesn’t do Mother Earth any justice emptying its 87-liter fuel tank to the tune of 5.7 km/L.
Employing an independent Double Wishbone and 4-Link coil spring suspension at the back, the Prado is no sports car. In fact, it doesn’t even remotely handle anywhere near the sporty spectrum within the SUV segment despite even its 265/60R18 tires and full-time all-wheel drive. Instead, it prefers to pardon the pun, cruise through road debris or imperfections. It soaks, wallows, and floats through any sort of pothole without jarring the cabin or its occupants. In terms of NVH isolation, it’s world apart from any other SUV in its price range and can even give those ultra-luxurious European ones a good run for their money. Despite the floaty ride, it’s comfortable for everyone on board and the driver will love the Prado’s planted and weighty steering wheel. Overall visibility is good even the Prado’s large size but the high seating position coupled with the long hood does obscure some front visibility. Nonetheless, thanks to front proximity sensors and even a steering wheel angle indicator on the instrument panel, the Prado is largely maneuverable through traffic. Plus, it feels planted and secure. Perhaps the only issue is with the brakes which could use better bite.
The Land Cruiser Prado also comes standard with Toyota’s Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System or KDSS. Though at first it sounds like some sort of active suspension system, KDSS simply optimizes the front and rear stabilizers (disengaging the stabilizer bars when necessary) based on a series of interconnected hydraulic cylinders. This fully-mechanical set-up is simpler and less complex than other systems, but requires no action from the driver. 99 percent of the time, KDSS remains disengaged and only activates when it detects that a wheel has dropped such as those during heavy off-road activity. Though I didn’t get the chance to try the KDSS (the Prado was driven purely in the city), I’m pretty sure this SUV can tackle any sort of terrain thrown at it.
After a week behind the wheel of the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado, all I can say is that it manages to lives up to all the hype. By all means, the Land Cruiser Prado isn’t the perfect drive, betrayed by being a veteran in the segment. Nonetheless, it remains timeless where it counts: its design and execution. It remains an unbeatable choice, especially for those wanting a much more traditional take on the luxury SUV. It must be said that given the chance to drive the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado already made me feel like a winner.