– Solid build quality
– Large interior
– Good offroader
– Slow acceleration
– Brake feel
– Road noise
The name itself suggests that the Land Cruiser Prado is a derivative of the popular Land Cruiser that has been around for as long as anyone can remember. However, at first glance, the Prado looks totally different and since 1997, has been successful in defining its identity. It has also created its own niche where there are very few other competitors to it. With the Prado, Toyota has offered dependable off-road as well as on-road performance at a discount price. But does the Prado live up to its promises?
The 2000 Prado VX is pulled by the 3.4-liter V6 generating 180 hp at 4600 rpm and 303 Nm of torque at a low 3600rpm. Options available on this model were leather interior, electric seats, cruise control, moon roof, CD player, roof rails, keyless entry, engine immobilizer, alloys, dual zone climate control, fuel sub-tank, and ABS. Two other engines can also be found, the frugal but inadequate 150 hp 2.7-litre 4-cylinder petrol and the efficient 3-litre 6-cylinder diesel engine. Power windows, central locking and a/c are standard.
The interior of the vehicle is clean and tasteful. Wood grain can be found on the doors and center console and all the controls for the radio and A/C are laid out clearly and evenly. A luxury for the driver but not for the passenger is lumbar support that you can set to either poke you in the back, lie dormant and unobtrusive, or anywhere in between. The middle row seats are split 60/40 and these can be folded and raised to provide extra cargo space. The configuration of the third row can either be two foldable benches along either side of the car or two seats that fold up above the protruding wheel arches. There is enough seating for nine in the three rows with no luggage, provided that four of them are teenagers or younger as it can get pretty cramped in the back.
Straight-line acceleration is more lively than one would expect of a heavy 4WD, but this is not a sports car. The 0-100 kph sprint is estimated at more than 10 seconds as the tacho needle races to the 5500 rpm redline. The 4-speed auto gearbox with overdrive is smooth shifting but can give a slight jolt under hard acceleration; it is definitely not as fast as changing the gears yourself. Solid acceleration continues until 160 kph when aerodynamics come into play. The boxy shape does not help matters but some drivers have claimed to reach 190 kph.
During normal highway cruising though, the Prado is one of the smoothest running 4WDs around, when excluding wind noise. It requires very little power to maintain a speed of 120 kph, which results in high fuel economy at highway speeds. This means fewer pit stops for petrol, and the time between these stops gets even longer when the fuel sub tank is coupled with the main tank, adding 69 liters to the main’s 90 liters capacity.
With permanent 4WD, road grip is good but can be vastly improved if the stock tires are changed as they tend to start squealing when taking roundabouts, especially on smooth asphalt. The Prado is armed with a 2-speed transfer case and a locking center differential for offroad duty, which is considered standard equipment if you want to be considered as a serious off-roader. Ride quality is decent with independent suspension at the front and a live axle at the rear but some noise is transmitted into the cabin when going over irregularities. The rear suspension tends to bounce a little when going over the back roads of an industrial area, which could result in headaches for people in the third row.
The dynamics of the Prado though are surprising for a vehicle that is narrower and taller then the Landcruiser. Tyres notwithstanding, turns can be taken at high speed with confidence, albeit with a lot of body roll. The leather, height-adjustable steering wheel feels good and is a bit heavy but solid and provides some feedback from the front wheels. A separate gear is used to operate the transfer case. The dashboard layout is simple and easy to read though it may be a tad difficult to operate the controls in the central console without looking.
On the downside, although the brakes bring the Prado to a standstill in a hurry, there is a lot of brake pedal travel before the calipers really bite into the discs, which are in all four wheels. The gas pedal is also a bit sticky when pressed slowly.
Another problem, which is inherent in all big 4WDs, is the susceptibility to crosswinds, particularly at highway speeds. Moreover, the chore of getting into the third row is best suited for agile people. It is recommended to fold up the third row and use it as luggage space when going for long drives. Also, the 265/71 R16 tyres fitted on to 16″ steel wheels generate a lot of noise. There is a very irritating and loud howl emanating from the tyres which peaks at 80 kph but then subsides as you go faster or slower.
Overall, the Prado is a decent performing SUV. A few tweaks here and there by enterprising owners can improve the car. And with the build quality of Toyota, one can expect it to last a lifetime. What more do you want from a used vehicle?