We put the latest old faithful Toyota Prado to the test. The outcome is sensational.

Africa is a hard continent to conquer. In fact as a 60 year veteran, I’d hazard that’s it’d be risqué to even attempt such a thing. But if you’re still determined, here’s the car to do it … and even more so considering the latest improvements Toyota has just applied to the King of Africa.


If anything has ever conquered this continent, that must be the Toyota Land Cruiser in all of its many mutations. And an essential weapon in that Cruiser arsenal, this 70 Series you probably know better as the Prado. First introduced in 1984, it made it to South Africa in the late 1990s. By when Toyota had engineered in a whole lot more quality, dependability and reliability into it.

That seemingly never-ending development and improvement has continued apace through two more generations to perfect Prado to its reign as an African King. These latest enhancements to us, however, are the Prado’s most important yet. Because this time they take this supremely accomplished machine to the next level where it needs it most.

Prado’s muscular bonnet slopes away for best outward view, but it’s under it where this latest one’s biggest gains are made. We have already waxed lyrical about this upgraded 150 kW 500 Nm 2.8-litre GD-6 turbodiesel that Toyota recently introduced in the latest Hilux.


The trick in this application however, is while the new GD-6 is big news in that bakkie, it’s an even bigger step forward in the Prado. Why? Well in this application it replaces the good old 120 kW 400 Nm 3.0 D-4D lump for an even more monumental 30 kW and 100 Nm step up.

Even better is that Toyota has also tossed the previous old-world 5-speed and replaced it with the six-speed automatic transmission that’s made to suit this new engine. It comes complete with all its latest Hilux enhancements, including ratios also optimised for low-speed tractability and off-road use with user-selectable low-range, rear and centre diff-locks and Hill Assist Control.

This latest Toyota transformation has an extreme effect on Prado both on and off the road. The new engine and transmission instantaneously transform the Prado into real X5 or GLE competitor, with the advantage of the Toyota also being able to go so many places those tar huggers can only dream of. Power and torque output is creamy and impressive, to make Prado all the more responsive and energetic too.


All that just adds to Prado’s supreme off road ability — from the toughest 4×4 tests to the most challenging of corrugated dirt roads. It just has so much street cred to go with it now.

For the record, this latest Prado accelerated to 60 km/h 0.66 seconds quicker than the old one did, delivered a 2.2 second better 0-100 km/h dash and was a full 3.3 seconds quicker to 120 km/h! The old one never even made 160 km/h in out test back then — our run is not long enough. But this new 2.8 managed 160a handy in 25 seconds. In overtaking, the new one pulls from 80-120 km/h 2.4 seconds quicker. That’s huge.

And then we get to fuel consumption, which improves just as impressively over that 3-litre. This one sips 7.9 litres per hundred versus the old one’s 8.8. We think that’s optimistic. And that the new one is pessimistic following our rounds with the 2.8. That also means you will manage 1100 km on a tank in mixed conditions versus the old one’s 980 km on Prado’s 87 litre tank.


But this one also has a 63-litre sub tank for a full 150 litres and an incredible 1900 km range! So, when we handed the car back, we had driven over 1100 km and it still had a several hundred kilos on the range and just under half showing on the fuel gauge too. Africa ready? You bet! But that’s not all — Prado 2.8 GD-6 also gains a heavier braked trailer mass at a competitive 3 tons, so now it tows even better too.

By now, we are sure you’re wondering how this new car can be perform so much better than the old one, so here’s a quick review of all that’s been done to the drivetrain: The updated 2.8 gets a larger new ball-bearing turbocharger, its engine block is more rigid and cooling has been enhanced too. Add a higher fuel-injection flow rate, optimised pistons and rings and a new balance shaft for smoother running and a more refined ride.

Boasting an off-road pedigree second to none thanks to a true SUV body-on-frame construction, the Prado’s new six-speed ‘box also benefits revised torque converter lock-up mapping and a new paddle-shift function, while that low-range transfer case makes off-roading a cinch. User-selectable centre and rear diff locks remain in place.


The 4.8 metre long Prado has a tight 5.8 m turning circle and a generous 215 mm ground clearance, while 31-degree approach, 25-degree departure and 22-degree ramp break-over angles make it more than just wieldy off the beaten track.

For the rest, Prado never needed much of an intro, but there are improvements to its spec too. The new one gets larger 9-inch touchscreen a new-generation Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth and USB compatible multimedia and a multi-information display. It comes with Google Maps, Waze, Spotify, SoundCloud and other interfaces.

That, the embedded satellite navigation and a really good 14-speaker Premium audio with woofer, are all controlled by the power tilt-and-telescopic multifunction steering wheel. There’s also reverse camera to back up park distance control.


Illuminated keyless entry with auto door lock accesses the automatic dual-zone climate controlled cabin. Inside, you will find power memory driver’s seat, and heated and ventilated front seats with a refrigerated centre console and three power outlets. 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.

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.

On the road, Toyota’s Kinetic Dynamic and Adaptive Variable Suspension adjusts damping to reduce body roll on the road and improve wheel articulation off it, while A-Trac actively regulates wheel-slip by individually applying braking pressure to slipping wheels, to maximise traction. Our VX-L also packed in Active Traction, Hill Assist, Downhill and Crawl controls, as well as optional Drive Mode Select with five Comfort, Sport, Sport +, Normal and Eco driving modes.


All in all, the latest Prado is now a fantastic all rounder thats more than just comfortable both on and off road. It also now has enough power to do the job properly, it’s loaded with cool features to help with everything from improving comfort to mounting Kilimanjaro. It’s perhaps easier to find fault than parise, because there is so little wrong with Prado thses days.

The cup holders are too small for my XXL meals, the reverse camera is grainy and outdated and that Toyota infotainment system is still a bit old and laggy. But it’s otherwise rather good at everything else.

All of which has gone to transform the Toyota Prado 2.8L Diesel VX-L from an incredibly capable alternative SUV that most would pick purely because it suited their more extreme off-road lifestyle, into a car that can now rival anything its less versatile but perhaps swanker rivals can do, across the board.

And that’s made it into a top mainstream chioce too. This one really is a huge step forward — and that’s because the Toyota Prado now conquers far more than just Africa… — Giordano & Michele Lupini

Images: Giordano Lupini

ROAD TESTED: Toyota Prado 2.8L Diesel VX-L
Engine: 150 kW 500 Nm 28-litre turbo diesel I4
Drive: 6-speed automatic 4x4
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
VMax:             185 km/h
Fuel:             7.9 l/100 km
CO2:              209 g/km
Warranty/Service: 3y 100K/9s 100K km
LIST PRICE:       R1.1M
RATED:            9
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