2019 Toyota Prado GXL
Prado is practically geriatric in automotive terms. In the 10 years since release, it has received the occasional attention of men in white coats.
Have the nips kept it modern?
Sort of. In 2015 the 2.8L Euro 5 diesel appeared.
This new diesel accounted for 98.8% of Prado sales and Toyota saw little reason to continue the slow and painful demise of the petrol powered models, so it was dropped like a cold pudding.
As well as engine changes, Prado got extra safety and technology updates, with one omission, Apple Carplay, which remains an object of distant desire.
Prado has 4 models: GX, GXL, VX and Kakadu. Our car is the GXL, which is 1 up from the base model, and feels it.
For safety, Prado has a full sized spare tyre, hoorah!
Prado has a chunky look that leaves no doubt as to the family association with bigger brother, the LandCruiser 200 series. Viewed in isolation, Prado still looks good. However, pictured against other, prettier SUVs, not so much.
There are Bi LED headlights and DTRLs with high beam assist. Strangely, the Auto-On function is restricted to the top 2 models. It wouldn’t have killed Toyota to spring for dusk-sensing across the range.
The top model (Kakadu) also has niftyl air suspension, but the rest have conventional springs aka passive suspension. GXL has 17” wheels which includes the aforementioned full size spare.
And, that takes us to the first of the recent upgrades.
There is an option called the Flat Tailgate Pack.
This pack moves the spare wheel off the back door to underneath the rear of the car. That’s great for access and makes opening the side- hinged door much easier, especially when facing down hill. It also allows for a glass hatch to be fitted. The glass hatch can be opened while ever the door is closed and allows small items to be placed directly into the cargo hold. This option is only available in automatic Prados.
It all comes at a price, but not the one you’re thinking of.
You see, Prado has 2 fuel tanks. The main tank is 87L and the smaller tank is 63L. This auxiliary tank is lost when the spare wheel is moved underneath. So, there are swings and roundabouts, and the buyer has to decide whether convenience or distance is the more important criterion. Serious off roaders will no doubt pick distance.
The highset Prado has 219mm of ground clearance, with an approach angle of 30.4°, a departure angle of 23.5°, and a ramp over angle of 21.1°. GXL and VX are 1890mm tall, and all models are 4995mm long. Length is reduced to 4825mm with the Flat Tailgate option. Kerb weight is 2325, and 100kg lighter in Flat Tailgate examples.
One final word on the Flat Tailgate Pack, it changes to look, neatens the rear end, and looks much less like it is an ex-army reject.
The cabin is functional, but for a car costing $59,990 plus onroads, is slightly disappointing.
Despite subtle nip-and-tucks over the years, the dash looks outdated, like its bigger LandCruiser sister. There is more than a touch of the 90’s about it. Grey plastic looks naff.
Comfortable leather seating has powered adjustments. All models have 7 seats with only the entry level car having a 5 seat option. The 3rd row is for height-challenged humans , as usual. The fold up process cleverly tucks the seat under the back. Once the seat back is up you then slide the seat bottom into place. 7 seats is a welcome option for those who need it. To those who don’t, the space could be better used for luggage.
Instruments looks particularly old fashioned.
Although it’s all within easy reach, some of it feels a bit clunky. The centre console and centre stack looks particularly old fashioned. On the upside, the large centre armrest conceals and a capacious airconditioned compartment. This is upgraded to refrigeration in the top two models. There is another small covered cubby hole under the climate controls. In Kakadu, off-roading Crawl controls replace this bin.
The spacious interior is generally of decent quality, but there are acres of cheap plastic. There is no real need to replace Prado completely, but the cabin needs a total redesign.
The boot is big enough to take my fold up electric bike and is not overly compromised by the 3rd row of seats. I would still prefer the extra space afforded by ditching the 3rd row.
Infotainment uses an 8” touch screen. All Prados get navigation, but only the top 2 models get DAB with JBL speakers.
Although the sound is decent, there is no Apple CarPlay. You can stream using Bluetooth or USB connection. Toyota and LEXUS are slowly rolling CarPlay/Android Auto out, but it is taking a very long time for them to enter the 21st century.
Tri-zone climate control is standard on GXL, but heated/cooled seats are optional. The latter should be standard.
Off-road controls include: active traction control, rear differential lock, and hill start assist. 3,000kg of towing capacity is helped with Sway Control.
LED foglamps finish off the “travelbility” of Prado. You won’t appreciate such things a cooled centre bin until you’ve been on the road for a few hours and need a tasty cold beverage.
Drive and Engine
A 2.8 turbo diesel is the only engine option.
It was introduced in 2015, and powers all 4 wheels via a 6 speed automatic. This is where Prado differs from Soft-Roading pretenders. The fulltime 4WD system shuffles power as needed, but low range gears, a clever diff, and locking hubs will leave the like of X3/X5, Q3/Q5 in the dust.
People often mistake AWD for 4WD, so expect their road-going cars to be as competent off-road as Prado. They are in for a terrible shock. Even the likes of Toyota’s own Kluger can’t match Prado’s country-crossing cred.
The 130kw performance is leisurely. You’ll only notice 450Nm of torque once you try climbing out of a steep gully. Then, it will gently walk over the most un-cooperative of terrain.
The common rail Diesel gets 8L/100k, which extends to 7L/100k on the open road. Even with a bit of a load on, you would easily make the trip from Sydney to Brisbane with lots of juice spare.
If you want the special off-roading kinetic suspension and Crawl Control, you’ll need deeper Kakadu-sized pockets.
Steering feels as floaty as the ride.
This is definitely old-school technology. Handling is best described as “approximate”. Prado is designed for off-roading unlike the AWD competitors. Most similarly sized 4WD wagons feel the same. Unless you pay many more shekels for a Range Rover, this is standard for this kind of vehicle.
Although the automatic is extremely smooth, 6 speeds is falling behind market expectation. For example, (reliability issues aside) Jeep Grand Cherokee is the same price grade-for-grade for a bigger car, with an 8 speed, Apple CarPlay, and a much nicer interior. It also has electric steering which comes with all the driver-aid bells and whistles.
ANCAP 5 star rating is from 2011.
Since then, toyota added “Toyota Safety Sense” (Lane Departure Alert, Pre-Collision Safety System with pedestrian detection (AEB),5 Automatic High Beam and Active Cruise Control) as standard.
GXL falls behind the pack with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Blind Spot Monitor, and front parking sensors being reserved only for the top model. Thankfully, a reversing camera is standard on all Prados.
An interesting observation is that most fleet and business buyers require a 5 star safety rating no older than 3 years regardless of safety features that have been added since being rated.
Prado has hydraulic power steering so cannot have any of the cool active steering features like automated parking, active lane control, or active collision avoidance. All of these features need computer controlled electric steering. Will this be added soon?
All Prados have 7 airbags.
Good Bits: (three and only three )
- Spacious cabin
- 7 seats
- Full time 4WD + low range 4X4
Not so Good Bits: (three and only three )
- 6 speed auto
- Lacking some safety features
- Missing driver aids
Despite the dated interior and absence of 21st century driver aids expected, Prado remains one of Toyota’s best sellers. It is the best-selling large SUV of any price, with 7,833 sales so far this year. That represents 17.8% of the market segment, up from 16.4% this time last year.
Toyota can’t afford to rest on its laurels though. Prado desperately needs a prune and fertilise. Mitsubishi’s4WD Pajero is in the same boat, but manages a piddling 1,386 sales for the same period.
Subaru’s AWD Outback is in place 2 behind Prado with 3,650 sales being 8.3% of the segment. It is confusing for buyers to have AWD and 4WD vehicles in the same segment. You must have a clear understanding of how and where your car can be used. Outback is not suitable for heavy off-roading but is perfect for roadtrips.
What that means is buyers want a 4WD car that is reliable, can be serviced anywhere, and can climb mountains with ease.
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Facts and Figures: 2019 Toyota GXL
- Engine: 2.8 L 4Cyl Turbo producing 130kW/450Nm
- Transmission: full time 4WD 6 speed Auto
- Warranty: 5 Yr/ Unlimited km/ 7 yr roadside assist
- Safety: Five stars (2011)
- Origin: Japan
- Price: from $59,990 MLP* (add $3,000 for automatic)
*MLP – Manufacturers List Price includes GST and LCT but excluding statutory charges, dealer costs and dealer delivery. See your dealer for RDAP. Does not include price of any options.
|Overall look and feel||4|
|Interior look and feel||4|
|Technology – cabin||4|
|Technology – driver assist||4|
1 – terrible
5 – average
The score of 49 means Prado is about average for this type of car but could certainly use improvement in some areas, specifically in technology, driver assistance, and interior design.