Refreshed 2015 Toyota Prado review
Paul Murrell’s launch-based 2015 Toyota Prado review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety, verdict and rating.
IN A NUTSHELL: Toyota’s Prado has had a facelift, a new diesel engine, a tweaked V6 petrol engine and a new six-speed auto to take on the latest challengers. Australia’s most popular SUV has just raised the stakes.
2015 TOYOTA PRADO
PRICE from $52,990 (plus ORC); WARRANTY three-year, 100,000 kilometres; SAFETY 5 star ANCAP (last tested 2014); ENGINE 4.0-litre fuel-injected four-cylinder petrol engine, 207kW @ 5600rpm, 381Nm @ 4400rpm; 2.8-litre turbocharged diesel engine, 130kW @ 3400rpm, 420Nm (manual) @ 1400-2600rpm, 450Nm (auto) @ 1600-2400rpm; TRANSMISSION six-speed manual, six-speed auto; BODY 4.93m (L, including rear-mounted spare wheel); 1.89m (W); 1.85m (H); WEIGHT 2150-2435kg; THIRST 7.9L/100km (manual diesel, combined), 8.0L/100km (auto diesel, combined), 11.6L/100km (auto petrol, combined).
THE HUGLEY POPULAR Toyota Prado was refreshed less than two years ago, but such is the speed of change in the category, the company has seen fit to deliver another upgrade. Headline changes for the latest model are a new diesel engine of slightly smaller capacity, a new six-speed automatic gearbox, slightly more equipment on some models and a slightly upgraded petrol engine.
Keeping the Prado at the top of its game is important because more Australians bought Prados than any other SUV and our relatively small overall market accounted for 8.6% of global Prado sales. As for upgrading the diesel, that’s equally important since 98.8% of Prados are now delivered with diesel power.
In fact with such a majority of Prados being delivered with diesel, some people would wonder why Toyota bothers with the V6 petrol at all, but as Toyota’s Tony Cramb explains, the Prado V6 petrol scores well with repeat buyers and that makes it important to Toyota and its dealers. Not such welcome news is that Prado prices have been increased by between 0.5% and 2.6%, although to be fair, Toyota cut prices by between $2730 and $7630 on January 1 this year following the Australia-Japan free trade agreement.
The new diesel engine is quite an achievement (and will also power the HiLux and Fortuner models). The 2.8 turbodiesel (down by 227cc) produces 130kW at 3400rpm and 450Nm between 1600 and 2400rpm (for the auto; the 6-speed manual output is reduced to 420Nm produced between 1400 and 2600rpm) with an impressive 80% of torque available from just 1200rpm. That’s a useful increase of 3kW and 40Nm over the outgoing 3-litre unit.
Internal friction has been reduced by 25% and the turbocharger is 30% smaller yet responds 50% faster. Even more importantly, fuel consumption comes down by six to ten percent to 7.9L/100km (manual) and 8.0L/100km (auto) which taking into account the 87-litre main tank and 63-litre subtank provides a useful range.
One of the most immediately noticeable changes to the diesel engine is the absence, to a major degree, of the typical diesel “clatter”. According to Toyota, this has been achieved by “designing” the engine note to remove “unpleasant sounds”. The V6 petrol engine has also come in for a few modifications, such as new injectors and modified exhaust to achieve 207kW (up 5kW) with torque unchanged at 381Nm.
The contentious issue of towing capacity means the Prado can tow 2500kg, quite a bit down on the claimed figures of some of the competitors where the benchmark is now a rubbery 3500kg. However, as Mr Cramb explained, Toyota is happy to make a conservative towing claim in the interests of durability.
The entry level Prados continue with independent front suspension and a solid rear axle, while the upper end models (VX and Kakadu) get an electronically modulated Kinetic Dynamic Suspension at the rear. The Kakadu goes one stage further with adaptive variable suspension and rear air suspension.
The model line-up continues as before with the GX (diesel only) as the entry level with five or seven seats. The GXL, VX and Kakadu are all seven-seaters and offer either petrol or diesel engines. The VX and Kakadu are auto-only. By far the majority of buyers plump for the mid-spec GXL, so the addition of sat nav to this model will be welcome news to most buyers.
We drove all versions of the new diesel models, from the manual GX to the impressive Kakadu. There’s a new level of refinement from under the bonnet that transforms the character of the diesel Prado. Even when mashing the throttle to overtake on the open road, there’s no diesel roar or protest from the turbo.
The new six-speed auto is the perfect foil for the engine with unfussed changes and a useful ability to maintain momentum (and according to Toyota, will be the choice of 95% of buyers). The manual gearbox is slightly less happy, but an easy thing to live with. The gearchange couldn’t be compared to a sedan, but it’s certainly quite easy to use and the clutch pedal, while slightly numb, wouldn’t tax a slightly built driver of either sex.
The Prado rides well, if perhaps a little softly, but body roll is more than acceptable for the class. Moving off road onto two quite challenging tracks showed the genuine ability of the Prado. The wide spread of torque and very capable auto transmission allowed us to go much further and more confidently than we imagined.
The articulation of the suspension and impressive traction certainly made me look a more accomplished off-roader than I really am. Some models get a Crawl function which maintains speed both up and down hill. Befitting a serious off-roader, the Prado gets good approach, departure and ramp-over ability. We tackled steep, loosely surfaced climbs, creek beds and a 40cm deep water crossing with absolute ease.
The Kinetic Dynamic Suspension on the VX and Kakadu grades cleverly improves wheel travel by disconnecting the sway bars. It also improves on-road handling by making sway bar response stiffer. However, all models were so capable, we were hard-pressed to see the difference.
Prado’s line-up remains the same: diesel-only GX is available with five or seven seats while seven-seat GXL, VX and Kakadu offer the choice of engines. The two higher grades are auto only.
The addition of satellite navigation to the GXL variant “brings the convenience of this technology to the vast majority of Prado buyers”. GXL – including the special-edition “Altitude” diesel based on this grade – accounts for more than three-quarters of all Prado sales. VX and Kakadu are already equipped with this feature.
Pricing starts at $52,990 (up $1000) for the GX 5-seat manual model. Auto adds $2000. The GX 7-seater is $55,490 (manual) plus a further $2000 for auto. The big-selling GXL 7-seater is $59,990 (plus $2000 for auto). The VX 7-seat auto is $73,990 while the top-line Kakadu is $84,490 (a modest increase of $390 each). Premium paint adds a further $550. Petrol models come in at $60,990 for the GXL 7-seater, $72,990 for the VX and $83,490 for the Kakadu.
Stay tuned in the next couple of weeks for an in-depth off-road test of the refreshed 2016 Toyota Prado.
Key Features by variant:
• Five seats on GX (seven-seat option)
• Seven airbags
• Display audio and rear-view camera
• Trailer Sway Control
• Emergency brake signal
• Whiplash injury lessening front seats
• Vehicle stability control
• Active traction control (A-TRC)
• ABS with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and brake assist (BA)
• Cruise control
• Smart entry and smart start
• Tilt and telescopic steering column adjustment
• 220-volt rear accessory socket
• Bluetooth hands-free mobile telephone capability
• USB auxiliary input and iPod control
• Audio and phone controls on the steering wheel
• Side mirror-mounted indicators
• Alloy wheels
• Conversation mirror
• UV-cut glass
• Maximum 2500kg towing capacity
Prado GX automatic:
• Hill-Start Assist Control (HAC)
• Downhill Assist Control (DAC)
Prado GXL (in addition to GX):
• Seven seats standard (including third row coverage of curtain-shield airbag)
• Satellite navigation2
• Toyota Link with “navigate to” function
• Nine speakers
• Climate-control three-zone air conditioning
• Rear parking sensors
• Alarm system
• Front fog lamps
• Roof rails
• Side steps
• Premium steering wheel
• Premium shift lever knob and handbrake lever
• Roller blind-type tonneau cover
• Sun visor extensions
• Privacy glass
• Two additional cup holders
• Heated and power-retractable exterior mirrors
Prado VX (in addition to GXL):
• Electronically modulated Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) suspension
• 18-inch alloy wheels
• Automatic on/off LED headlamps and headlamp jet washers
• Rain-sensing intermittent wipers
• Leather-accented seats
• Heated front and second-row seats
• Power adjustment for the tilt and telescopic steering column
• Power-folding third-row seat
• Front parking sensors
• 17-speaker premium JBL audio
• DAB+ digital radio
• Time-delay auto-cut headlights
• Electro-chromatic interior mirror
• Illuminated entry system
• Chrome interior door handles
• Luggage utility rails
• Full-colour multi-information display with steering wheel switch
Prado Kakadu (in addition to VX):
• 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
• Toyota Adaptive Variable Suspension
• Height-adjustable and auto-levelling rear air suspension
• Multi-Terrain Select (MTS) traction-control switch
• Refrigerated cool box
• Enhanced ornamentation
• Key-linked driver’s seat and steering column two-position memory pack