Toyota have released the 2018 model year edition of the Prado in Oman. How different is the 2018 Toyota Prado?
Author: Raj Warrior
One feature that characterises hardcore off-roaders that use body on frame construction is that every model cycle has an inordinately long life. You may think it is because the companies behind them don’t want to disturb a surefire success. You would be right – but it’s also because there are usually so few advancements in terms of chassis and drivetrain technology to warrant frequent changes. So we end up with vehicles that run for a decade on average between model versions and the Toyota Prado is as good an example as any.
The Toyota Prado had its complete refresh almost eight years ago and this year’s upgrade could be seen as the evolution that takes it over the decade hump. To that effect the delicate balance of delivering just enough to keep the badge exciting to buy, without spoiling the surprises of the future model has been maintained.
Design and Exterior
The Prado has had no fiddling with its platform or major body panels. The visible changes to the exterior are concentrated around the front fascia, with a new grille serving as the focus of a new headlight and bumper redesign – with the bumper being pulled in ever so slightly to improve the approach angle. The hood gets a raised treatment that is meant to provide a central dip that improves forward visibility, while the side gets a shiny new strake that runs across the bottom of the doors and there are new alloy wheel designs. The rear also gets its share of changes with new taillights and numberplate surround.
Interiors and seats
The next major change visible is in the refreshed dashboard treatment that upgrades the central display to either an 8″ touch screen or at the top of the line delivers a 9″ navigation display that does away with some of the buttons of the 8″ unit. The VX also gets an Optitron instrument panel with dials flanking a 4″ display, with a refreshed steering wheel too. The dashboard looks flatter and taller, while it has actually been lowered at the top to improve visibility.
The Prado gets the seven-seater arrangement that is so popular – the VX gets the power switches that can drop the rear bench down when needed as opposed to the one touch pull arrangement.
Other than these obvious changes, the 2018 Toyota Prado gets a new comprehensive safety package that includes four elements – a dynamic adaptive cruise control that not only maintains distance in highway mode, it brakes to keep that. In addition you get forwards collision warning that uses the sensors to warn you of impending collisions and brakes to initiate the process when you get too close. The other must have element is lane departure warning. The last feature is automatic dipping headlights. The package is only being offered on the VX.
You also have to invest in the VX to get the ventilated front seats and the selectable power modes from a switch on the centre console.
Powertrain and Chassis
Any dedicated off-roader is defined by its ability to trundle into the challenging stuff at a whim – the Prado is no stranger to those demands. It comes equipped with a suspension arrangement that gives it a standard 225mm of ground clearance – it uses a combination of independent front and rigid rear – with the front using MacPherson struts and a compact four-link unit on the rear.
Depending on your needs you can get any of the existing three power units on the Prado – ranging from the 163hp 4-cylinder 2.7-litre unit, to the 271hp V6 4.0-litre. There is even a 3.0-litre turbo diesel unit, but that is reserved for fleet customers looking for PDO spec cars – the last row is given a miss and the basic trim drops down to the entry level on the 2.7-litre unit. The two petrol engines get the benefit of a 6-speed automatic gearbox, while the diesel has a 5-speed auto.
Coming back to the virtues of buying the VX grade – you get Toyota’s KDSS hydraulic dynamic damping arrangement that uses a system of valves and cross point tubing to control suspension response on individual wheel points. You get both points on one side tighten up as you turn hard in the other direction, while in slower off-road mode you are able to get much longer travel on unloaded points while the loaded points take the weight with better refinement.
The next goody that the VX gets is a limited slip differential on the rear that kicks in depending on the need of the wheel.
Frankly it is KDSS that will make all the difference in terms of driveability and we didn’t get that spec to test. We drove the 4.0-litre TX-L and while it comes close, we have enumerated the goodies it misses. But that doesn’t detract from its ability to handle the sands and water traps like it was born for the role. The torque is very useful in the lower to midrange, while the gearbox is a mix of shorter stopped lower gears with two really tall cogs at the top end. Yes, the engine does keep going into Eco mode while you cruise and that’s a good thing considering the new realities of petrol pricing.
But it is the handy torque and the selectable low range knob that really makes all the difference. The springing and NVH on this generation (the J150) of the model range are already tuned for greater creature comfort and you notice that even when flooring the engine in lower gears. There is a greater degree of muffling and just a little less harshness to the rebound on the springs. And the electromechanical steering remains just that slightly bit vague and dead centred on-road but engaging off-road. It is tuned to give a modicum of feedback while soaking up the shocks from the front axle.
As far as body on frame tough as nails vehicles go, the 2018 Toyota Prado is competing in a limited and shrinking gene pool. It definitely gives the impression of being a smaller, slightly less kitted out Land Cruiser and with this latest feature upgrade actually gives you an option of getting almost into LC mode. But the bulk of the need is from customers who occasionally take the Prado off-road or just enjoy the high ride height and inherent assuredness of the marque.
If you already own a Prado there is very little reason to upgrade, unless you are stretching yourself into the VX. That’s where the feature hotspot is in the 2018 Prado.
2018 Toyota Prado
|Length Width Height (mm)||4980 x 1885 x 1845||4980 x 1885 x 1845||4980 x 1885 x 1845|
|Engine||2.7-litre i-4 DOHC||4.0-litre V6 DOHC||3.0-litre Turbo diesel|
|Gearbox||6-speed Auto||6-speed Auto||5-speed Auto|
|Fr Suspension||Double wishbone Independent||Double wishbone Independent||Double wishbone Independent|
|Rr Suspension||4-link with beam axle||4-link with beam axle||4-link with beam axle|
|Brakes||Front: ventilated discs / rear: ventilated discs||Front: ventilated discs / rear: ventilated discs||Front: ventilated discs / rear: ventilated discs|
|Wheels||17-inch steel or aluminium||17-inch or 18-inch alloy||17-inch steel|
|Tyres||245/70 R17 or 265/65 R17||265/65 R17 or 265/60 R18||245/70 R17|