Toyota tweaks Prado again for ’22. We press a VX-L straight into hard service
Not sure if you are aware, but Toyota has applied one or two upgrades to the Prado for 2022. As it continues to celebrate 70 years of Land Cruiser. To be frank, not much has changed. Did it need to? We wasted no time at all to press an uprated Prado VX-L straight into service on a 1500 km towing trek across the country.
PRADO VX-L HAS SHINY NEW WHEELS
The only way you will be able to identify the upgrades is by the stylish new 19-inch alloys fitted to the VX and our Prado VX-L models. The attractive new face-polished multi-spoke wheels get 265-55-R19 tyres. And TX models inherit convenient reverse tilt mirrors. They are on your Toyota dealer floor now. As always, you’d better be quick — these cars are hen’s teeth!
Our mission was to tow Auto’s Bullion IT Polo Cup and all our kit home from dusty Delmas after the recent Red Star racing nationals. The perfect opportunity to get to know more about any car over a short period. If you consider fifteen hours behind the wheel short, that is. Don’t worry, we shared driving duties!
These albeit slight upgrades are the latest in the long series of continual developments and improvements that continue to perfect Prado as an African King. There’s wasn’t much needed following Prado’s last, most significant step forward since it arrived in South Africa in the late 1990s. It stepped up to Toyota’s upgraded 150 kW 500 Nm 2.8-litre GD-6 turbodiesel nicked from the latest Hilux a year ago.
150 KW 500 NM 2.8 GD-6 WAS BIG NEWS
The GD-6 was big news for Prado, replacing the venerable 120 kW 400 Nm 3.0 D-4D lump for significant 30 kW and 100 Nm step up. Remember, they also tossed the previous old-world 5-speed and replaced it with the tried and tested Hilux six-speed automatic. That is of course coupled to Prado’s proven user-selectable low-range 4×4 with rear and centre diff-locks and Hill Assist Control.
That saw Prado accelerate to 100 km/h 2.2 seconds quicker than the old one did in our tests. Never mind a full 3.3 seconds quicker to 120. The old one never even got to 160 km/h on our run. This new 2.8 managed 160 in a handy in 25 seconds. In overtaking, the new one pulls from 80-120 km/h 2.4 seconds quicker. That’s a huge improvement, thanks in part to far better optimised gear ratios.
We were most impressed by that new combo when we tested it in February. So we were more than happy with this opportunity to really get to know Prado VX-L by putting it to a more extreme test this time around. The range on the dash suggested that we had 1500 km worth of fuel in the tank when swapped over for the vehicle we towed up with (watch for that test soon). Were we not towing, we’d easily get all the way home at its claimed 7.9 l/100km.
PRADO VX-L A WORTHY X5 OR GLE RIVAL
I was quickly reminded why Prado so impressed when I joined the Jozi glut to continue my Thursday afternoon pre-race chores. That engine and transmission has transformed our Prado VX-L into a worthy X5 or GLE rival. But then the Toyota is also to more than capable of taking you into the toughest, darkest African corners that those tar huggers can only dream of reaching.
We commuted to and from the track over the next tow days before hitching the Auto trailer, aided by the reverse camera and Prado’s manoeuvrability, and loading the car before a gentle tug to our digs. We were up and on the road 4 am Sunday. Prado packs all the tricks you’d need, but I did find the auto dimming headlamps a challenge when they dipped for mine floodlights at the worst possible moment. It does override on a long tug of the stalk, but still.
We stopped at the airport service station after dropping our man, to check pressures and get a little water. And joined the freeway just as dusk broke. Prado VX-L’’s muscular bonnet slopes away for best outward view and a feeling of control. But we were immediately even more impressed by its power and torque output, which was equally responsive and energetic; creamy and impressive with over two tons on tow.
FULLY LOADED WITH SPARE CAPACITY
We were fully loaded and two up in the car and the racecar was also stacked with wheels and kit inside atop the trailer, so the combo was pretty well laden. Yet Prado VXL still had a ton or so spare in its overall toting and 3-ton tugging capacity. It seemed to ignore all that as Prado chugged around up the Southern Bypass and we joined the N1. It was an easy run to Bloem and the traffic was kind, so we settled in to an easy 120-130 km/h cruise at around 12 litres per hundred.
Settling in, we found time to fiddle with and learn Prado’s larger 9-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth and USB compatible multimedia and a multi-info display. It comes with Google Maps and other interfaces. We followed our progress between its satellite map and the various dash and centre screen economy options via the shortcut buttons and simple screen dabs. It is a bit old and laggy. And a split screen would be welcome. But it works well enough.
Prado VX-L really is well equipped, but it does have one or challenges, mainly thanks to its advancing platform age. It has a power tilt-and-telescopic multifunction steering wheel, which is cool. But the telescope could do better. It could also do with a better centre console storage solution. This marginalised answer still does a pretty good job though. With a handy refrigerated centre console and three power outlets.
PRADO VX-L COMES FULLY LOADED
Prado VX-L has a really good 14-speaker Premium audio with woofer. As we discovered when Julius’ election manifesto proved a touch too much on the only radio program we could find in the middle of the Karoo. So Waze, Spotify, SoundCloud proved a godsend! Prado’s automatic dual-zone climate controlled cabin also proved a boon — we were quite shocked to find the temperature was in the mid 30s when we stopped for fuel.
Our tow tester also packed most effective illuminated keyless entry with auto door lock access to a power memory driver’s seat, and heated and ventilated front seats. Heated seating stretches to the second row and there are power-fold-down third row seats too. All under a power-operated tilt-and-slide moonroof with sun screen. We popped them all up for a seven-adult run to the city the evening after. All rather proper.
Top end safety spec includes Toyota Sense with Pre-Collision and Adaptive Cruise Control, Blind-Spot Monitoring, Lane Departure and Rear Cross Traffic alert, as well as rain-sensing wipers and Automatic High Beam. Best if all is that you can turn it off once and not have to do that every time you restart the car.
SUPER SMOOTH, QUIET ON THE ROAD
Prado VXL is super smooth and quiet on the road, it pulled our load as if it was not there, handled well and stoped solidly, trailer and all. Adaptive Variable Suspension adjusts damping to reduce body roll on the road and improve wheel articulation off it and if necessary, A-Trac actively regulates wheel-slip by individually applying braking pressure to slipping wheels, to maximise traction.
We never got to test that bit. Or its Active Traction, Hill Assist, Downhill and Crawl controls. But we did get to experiment with our Prado VX-L’s Drive Mode Select with five Comfort, Sport, Sport +, Normal and Eco driving modes.
The traffic increased as we progressed with literally hundreds of trucks mixed with homeward bound long weekend traffic in both directions. But that was not much of an issue. Prado VX-L has ample grunt to to accelerate quickly enough, load and all and pull strongly past, uphill, downhill and on the flat. All we needed were the gaps. Away from traffic it settles quickly into sixth gear and utilises its 150 kW, 500 Nm and intelligent logic to sit in sixth to chug along and save you fuel.
PRADO VX-L MOST CAPABLE, EVEN LOADED HARD
Having to continuously slow and overtake saw the economy slip to the mid 14 litres per 100 km at a point. But that came back as we slipped down the escarpment into the Cape and it was back to a right reasonable 13.1 l/100 km for the full trip when we decoupled the trailer and unpacked. The other aspect the traffic and overtaking proved, is just how good this latest 2.8 GD6 set-up is in the Prado. It’s a most capable car even when pushed hard under full load.
We averaged just under 100 km/h for the full trip. 15 hours in the saddle over just under 1500 km. To say we were impressed with the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado VX-L as a towing elixir is a considerable understatement. It’s a tow car of note. Over and above all else it masters. — Michele & Giordano Lupini
Images: Michele Lupini
ROAD TESTED: Toyota Prado 2.8 GD VX-L Engine: 150 kW 500 Nm 28-litre turbo diesel I4 Drive: 6-speed automatic 4x4 TESTED: 0-60 km/h: 4.20 sec 0-100 km/h: 9.91 sec 0-160 km/h: 25.75 sec 400m: 16.8 sec @ 135 km/h 80-120 km/h: 6.89 sec 120-160 km/h: 11.76 sec Fuel Towing: 13.1 l/100 km CLAIMED: VMax: 185 km/h Fuel: 7.9 l/100 km CO2: 209 g/km Warranty/Service: 3y 100K/9s 100K km LIST PRICE: R1.17M RATED: 9