The fourth-generation Toyota Prado might be getting on in years with its design dating back to 2009, with an all-new replacement for it slated to launch in 2024, but that hasn’t stopped it from remaining one of the most popular SUVs on Aussie roads. In fact, it’s still the most popular large SUV in the country with 10,849 units sold between January and August 2023, over a thousand more than the second-placed Isuzu MU-X.
Given the Prado’s longstanding success throughout the current model’s lifecycle, I was keen to have one more steer of the baby LandCruiser before it’s replaced next year. The version on test here is the VX which sits one rung below the top-spec Kakadu, and comes priced at $76,348 before on-road costs. Ours is fitted with the optional flat tailgate, although pricing is identical to those with the spare tyre still mounted there.
Although the Prado’s design is old, its chassis is even older, with this 150 Series model drawing heavily upon the 120 Series that launched all the way back in 2002. Despite this, the Prado still looks surprisingly fresh courtesy of two facelifts this current model has received, the last being in 2018. Go for a higher-specified model like this VX with its 19-inch alloy wheels and it looks pretty classy, too.
The optional beige interior is a good match for it with a mix of complementary beige and brown leather trims along with some lightly-tanned wood finishing. The interior design itself is absolutely on point with as simple and ergonomic a layout as you could ever ask for, with a driving position that’s absolutely on-point.
However, it’s in here where the Prado’s age does start to show, with items such as the unsynchronised digital clock, blocky infotainment graphics, clunky shifter pattern, and some of the switchgear serving as reminders of the decade-plus-old platform the Prado is built on.
The equipment list is strong, though, with VX models featuring heated and ventilated front seats with power adjustment, heated second-row seats, three-zone climate control, a 14-speaker JBL audio system, and a 9.0-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation and wired Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. There’s even a fridge under the centre armrest.
There’s a fairly good array of active safety technology as well, with its Toyota Safety Sense system including autonomous emergency braking with day and night pedestrian detection and daytime cyclist detection, high-speed active cruise control, lane departure warning, automatic high beam, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic assist, automatic high beam, and traffic sign recognition.
All models other than the base GX come with a seven-seat layout as standard, and it’s the third row which is another area where the Prado is clearly a bit dated. The operation of the third-row seat is a two-stage process which is a bit of a faff, and it’s only really big enough for kids to be comfortable there.
It also drastically reduces the amount of boot space to a mere 120 litres with the third row in place, a big penalty over the standard 620 litres with them folded down. Fold the second row down and it expands to a cavernous 1800 litres of space. Do note that even with the flat tailgate, it’s still side-hinged so do consider that it swings out quite wide, although the rear window can be opened up if you only need to throw something back there through a smaller hatch.
What’s also somewhat surprising is that the Prado’s braked towing capacity is actually only 3000kg, which while fair at the time it first launched is off the 3500kg benchmark of today. Ground clearance is also only 219mm which is off the mark of newer rivals, although its 30.4-degree approach angle means it’s still perfectly capable off-road.
One thing that’s shared across all Prado variants is the drivetrain, with all models featuring the same 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel engine making 150kW from 3000-3400rpm and 500Nm from 1600-2800rpm. Likewise, after the deletion of a manual option, all models use the same Aisin six-speed automatic transmission and feature full-time four-wheel drive. A rear diff lock is also fitted to all variants bar the base GX.
While the Prado was known for being rather an underperformer earlier in this generation’s life cycle, a 2021 update brought the 20kW/50Nm bump to reach its current outputs. Thanks to this, its now not too bad a performer, with it feeling decently torquey when you lay on the throttle, although it’s acceleration still won’t blow you away. Neither will its handling considering the VX model’s considerable 2245kg heft – models with the standard tailgate weigh 60kg extra – although the feel of its hydraulic power steering is pleasantly relaxed yet weighty enough.
But then, large ladder-frame 4x4s like the Prado aren’t really geared towards performance but rather durability, and the Prado certainly feels like it will handle anything you throw it at in typical Toyota fashion. Even after a tough 27,500km on the press fleet, this one still felt factory fresh – the staining on the questionable beige floor mats aside.
I’m a big fan of it featuring a full-time four-wheel drive system as well since it gives the Prado a very tractable feel on sealed roads just as much as on gravel, and as many other rivals fail to offer one (the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, Ford Everest V6, and GMW Tank 300 Hybrid do, but the four-cylinder Everest, petrol-only Tank 300, and Isuzu MU-X don’t).
Ride quality is good even on the standard suspension setup, with only Kakadu models scoring the Kinetic Dynamic Suspension system with rear airbags. Whether on sealed or unsealed roads, the standard suspension irons out bumps well, and it also strikes a good balance by being dynamically competent enough as well. There’s a good amount of articulation for when you’re tackling more challenging terrain as well.
Toyota claims fuel consumption of just 7.9L/100km for all Prado variants, although we saw a verified return of 9.4L/100km over the course of 721km of testing. With the regular tailgate the Prado features a massive 150 litres of fuel capacity (consisting of an 87-litre main tank and 63-litre secondary tank) which is perfect for long-distance touring, although with the flat tailgate and the spare wheel mounted under the back of the vehicle, only the main 87-litre tank remains.
Like all Toyota models, the Prado is covered by a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty, and it’s also eligible for an additional two-year warranty on the engine and driveline so long as it’s serviced properly. Speaking of, servicing is required every six months/10,000km which is a frustratingly short interval compared to most rivals. However, servicing is quite affordable for this class with the first six visits capped at $290 each.
Despite the signs of its ageing, it’s easy to see why the Toyota Prado has continued to be so successful in Australia. With it feeling like it can tackle anything this country can throw at it and looking good while doing it, there’s no wonder it’s consistently been a chart-topper when it comes to sales.
There’s no denying, though, that the 150 Series is due for replacement and the timing of the new 250 Series’ launch is impeccable. However, part of me can’t help but wonder whether the new Prado will see the same extreme level of popularity as this old one as it’s going to be far more techy and complex, and most likely a lot more expensive to go along with that.
I think it’s actually the somewhat old-school charm of this outgoing Prado which has made it so popular. There’s no learning curve when you hop behind the wheel – everything just makes sense because there’s not a whole lot to make sense of. Luxury buyers may want more tech – and certainly, plenty of Prados out there are used as pavement princesses – but I think that for those interested in buying a Prado to use all its capabilities, it’s worth getting one of these while you can.
2023 Toyota LandCruiser Prado VX List Price: $76,348
- Performance - 7.5/107.5/10
- Ride & Handling - 8/108/10
- Tech & Features - 7.5/107.5/10
- Practicality - 8/108/10
- Value for Money - 7.5/107.5/10
Pros: Feels rugged and durable, design still looks good, cabin design is roomy and ergonomic, undeniably capable and comfortable
Cons: Cabin technology is dated, clunky integration and operation of third-row seats, pricey considering its age and rivals, soon to be replaced by an all-new model
In a nutshell: The Prado is iconic in Australia for a very good reason – it’s capable, well equipped, looks good, and drives even better. However, it’s about time for this fourth-generation model to be put out to pasture as it’s feeling its age in a few areas. Will its replacement be as popular as this model has been? Only time will tell.
Full Disclosure: The vehicle tested here was provided by Toyota Australia for one week with all fuel expenses covered.