Toyota’s evergreen LandCruiser Prado received a mild update in late-2013, introducing new interior and exterior design with a useful lift in the handling department, but the same old-tech engine/transmission offerings.
Despite feeling its age in the face of newer competition – such as the Jeep Grand Cherokee, which currently heads the Prado in the large SUV sales segment – it nevertheless remains an impressive multi-purpose machine.
The special-edition Altitude arrived on the market in August. Significantly, the traditional Prado spare wheel location, on the back of the tailgate, has been changed for the first time in the model’s 18-year history; it’s now located where the usual 63-litre secondary fuel tank once was. This reduces total fuel carrying capacity to 87 litres.
While not as ideal for a trip into the hills, the relocated spare has more real-world appeal, making access to the redesigned, horizontally-split tailgate a simpler process, with a lighter action.
Toyota boasts the Altitude special edition has at least $10,000 of additional value, for only $4800 extra ask. This includes the leather-accented pews with contrasting light grey inserts. The front chairs are electronically controlled. Five seats are standard-fit, but the tested example carries a third-row, to bring total seating capacity to seven.
The Altitude equipment list also blends parts from the premium VX and near-$100k Kakadu variants. There’s a tilt and slide ‘moonroof’, auto-dim interior mirror, rain-sensing wipers and a Blu-Ray-compatible rear entertainment system that incorporates a set of three wireless headphone kits and remote control operation.
Audio is handled by a premium 14-speaker JBL system. DAB+ digital radio is included, as is the large 7.0-inch central touchscreen which doubles as a sat-nav screen. The navigation program benefits from live traffic alerts, and the full complement of Toyota Link applications, which include local searches and a useful fuel finder.
Specific interior trims, including carbon fibre-look detailing to the gearshift surround and dash, plus chrome accenting and ‘Altitude’ rear exterior badge stand the variant apart from the GXL. Of course, GXL features also remain, and include the reversing camera, tri-zone climate control and keyless entry and go, but the Altitude misses out on the ‘Kinetic Dynamic’ suspension system of the VX or the adaptive system of the Kakadu range-topper, complete with rear air suspension.
The Prado Altitude is of course covered under Toyota’s capped-price servicing program, which cements a maximum cost of $210 per standard service for the first three years or 60,000km of the vehicles life. That’s enough to cover six services, with intervals set at six months or 10,000km.
If the impressive suite of standard equipment and cleaner rear-end design are refreshing, it’s under the bonnet where the Altitude remains familiar.
Available only with the 3.0-litre turbo-diesel four-pot and five-speed automatic transmission, the figures of 127kW and a still-useful 410Nm are well-worn. Claimed combined fuel consumption remains at 8.5L/100km.
The elevated driving position instantly brings a level of command which immediately makes you understand just why SUVs are so popular on-road these days.
Starting the large-capacity four-pot, however, brings a wall of diesel vibration and sound through to the cabin. You can tell it was designed more for off-road capability than on-road smoothness; it’s a load lugger, not a smooth lover.
Similarly, the five-speed auto gearshift has a heavyweight feel to it, espousing Toyota robustness and reliability at the expense of refinement. It will generally start in second gear, to save fuel and maximise the torque of the motor, the 410Nm available on a flat plane from only 1600rpm through to 2800rpm, though the idle gruffness is never truly ironed out at speed.
Quite capable of keeping up with modern traffic, the Prado is powerful and comfortable enough as a daily driver, although its sheer size can take some adaptation. Steering response is oddly disconnected, feeling out of sync with the relatively soft, roll-exacerbating suspension tune.
Of course, it’s that pliancy that makes the Prado a highly capable off-roader. That and the constant all-wheel drive system with cockpit-lockable Torsen centre differential, two-speed transfer case and downhill assist control.
An approach angle of 32 degrees, along with 25-degree departure and 22-degree ramp-over angles, remain unchanged from the regular Prado and are competitive enough, though fall behind the Grand Cherokee’s 35.8, 29.6 and 23.5-degree measures for the same attributes. The benefits of progress…
A run through a regularly-used off-road track reveals once more the diesel’s impressive low-end torque, though it does take a moment for the torque converter of the automatic gearbox to lock-up and provide drive.
Traction is excellent, and the switch-operated centre diff lock adds further purpose, the Prado more willing to follow the driver’s steering input instantly, rather than slithering around. Furthermore, the dial used to engage low range (in favour of a traditional secondary gear-lever) adds simplicity in sticky situations.
The fact that these multi-purpose attributes can be enjoyed in relative comfort, with the kids in the back enjoying their own climate settings and a movie, makes the Prado Altitude a solid, if unspectacular, purchase .
|Vehicle Traction||4x4 Full Drive, Front Wheel Drive|
|Exterior Color||Solid Black|
|Interior Color||Jet Black|