Toyota Land Cruiser Prado VX Ltd 2011 Review

For 2011, Toyota’s Land Cruiser is celebrating 60 years of production in various rugged forms. This anniversary year has seen the introduction of the brawny FJ Cruiser, it’s seen special events and even journeys across NZ. But more importantly for Cruiser buyers are the extras you get when purchasing any new Land Cruiser before the end of the year. To mark this landmark occasion Car and SUV got reacquainted with the 2011 Land Cruiser Prado to check out the latest deals and rediscover exactly what makes this model line off roading royalty.

The special anniversary deals on the Land Cruiser range don’t include extra equipment or larger alloy wheels but concentrate on extended warranty and free servicing plans. If you buy a Land Cruiser in 2011, you’ll receive a 60-month warranty, a 60 month/75,000km service plan, 60 months worth of WOF checks and AA Roadservice for, you guessed it 60 months. So what you simply get is 5 years of guaranteed trouble-free motoring, and that’s certainly worth a lot. The offer is available on any model in the Land Cruiser range including our tested petrol-powered Prado VX Limited.

Visually, the Prado receives no changes for the anniversary year with one exception; a subtle 60th Anniversary badge on the tailgate. There are also no styling differences between the diesel-powered Prado and out tested V6 petrol model with both variants uniformed in top-spec VX Limited trim. The top shelf Prado is an agreeable mix of brawn and bling that blends a traditional square off-roader shape with plenty of contempoarary touches. A three-dimensional chrome grille, teardrop headlights and a curved bonnet line define the face. Along the flanks, pushed out wheel arches add bulk and side steps are included as standard fare. At the rear there’s more chrome trim, LED taillights and a high-mounted hatch spoiler. The luxury SUV look is finished off with privacy glass, integrated roof rails and 5-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels.

In the cabin, the Prado VX Ltd offers 7-seater convenience with a stowable third row. This rear seat can be kept under the cargo area floor and is raised with the push of a button. The back row isn’t just for the kids either and can easily accommodate sub six foot adults. Second row seating is even more generous with plenty of head and legroom and enough width to comfortably sit three across. Up front, driver and passenger have wide, well-bolstered chairs with a multitude of adjustments and excellent forward visibility. All seats are trimmed in a soft leather that’s thickly stitched and has a quality feel.

The dashboard and switchgear has a true command centre appearance with a busy mix of buttons and dials. It’s a set up that looks complex at first glance, but the controls are thoughtfully sectioned. Up top is a large 9-inch multifunction colour screen with climate controls, audio controls and off-road settings stacked underneath. Many of the key functions can also be accessed through steering wheel mounted buttons and instrumentation is clearly presented. Varied plastic surfaces are used in the Prado interior and it’s generally high quality. The mixture of black plastics with contrasting silver and wood grain trim won’t suit all tastes but contributes towards the overall luxury look and feel.

As you’d expect in a $106k SUV there is a broad range of modern technology and features included as standard. Highlights include 3-zone climate control air-con, a 14-speaker stereo system, cool box, dynamic cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, satellite navigation, rain sensing wipers, Bluetooth and an adaptive front lighting system. There’s also features above the norm like a roof-mounted DVD player for the kids a 220V power outlet for running appliances and three cameras on board which display on the main control screen.

Under the bonnet our tested Prado is powered by Toyota’s well-proven 1GR-FE 4.0-litre V6 engine, which was added to the range earlier this year. Available only in top-spec VX Ltd form the petrol-powered mill produces 202kW of power and 381Nm of peak torque. It’s an impressively strong powerplant and has no major issues moving around the fully-equipped Prado despite its burly 2365kg kerb weight. The petrol V6 is smoother in its power delivery than its diesel alternative and gives away little in terms of flexibility. At just 1200rpm, 310Nm of torque is available with the full compliment kicking in at 4400rpm, allowing the Prado to move off the line with gusto. It’s punchy through the mid range and completes open road overtaking movements with relative ease. The petrol Prado also has a higher level of refinement than the diesel models with little engine noise entering the cabin.

The only real drawback to opting for petrol power comes with fuel economy. Fuel consumption is officially rated at 11.5L/100km but most drivers will struggle to achieve that figure unless their daily driving includes long stretches of open road. If the Prado is mostly on suburban detail expect higher consumption and big bills at the pump. That said, for large SUV drivers looking to upgrade the petrol Prado could offer better economy but if running costs are a concern it would pay to look at the diesel alternative as well.

Shifting the gears is Toyota’s slick 5-speed auto box; it offers well-spaced ratios and predictable changes. Towing capacity is rated at 2500kg with a braked trailer and 750kg unbraked.

Dynamically the Prado is confident and capable on the tarmac with a very comfortable ride on offer. The suspension set up is nicely compliant and gobbles up bumps and dips in the road with absolute ease. Like most high-riding SUVs, the Prado can feel floaty at times but there is no more body roll than you would expect from a vehicle this size. There is also a lot of grip through the wide wheels and unless you attempt some Sebastian Loeb style antics on twisty roads you’ll have no trouble keeping control of the Prado. The only small compliant here is with the power-assisted rack and pinon steering, which is precise but also very light and offers little in the way of driver feedback.

Get the Prado off the tarmac and it will really bare its teeth with a range of mechanical and electronic tech to keep it moving through rugged conditions. It uses a tough ladder chassis with body-on frame construction and has an all-coil suspension set up that allows the wheels long vertical travel. The Prado’s 4WD system is a full-time set up with a Torsen limited slip differential and combined with a 220mm minimum ground clearance makes for a highly capable off road machine. Hill-start Assist and a Downhill Assist system are included as standard and can also operate in reverse. An optional off road package is available for the serious mud-slinging enthusiast, this includes a multi-terrain select feature to optimize settings for sand, mud, loose rocks, moguls and hard rock. Other special features in the package include a CRAWL control system, multi-terrain ABS and an electrically controlled rear diff lock.

When it comes to safety Prado occupants are well covered, there is a full arsenal of airbags including front, side, curtain and a driver’s knee bag. There are also side impact bars on the doors, a pre-crash warning system and stability control with active traction control. These safety features work in with the Prado’s bulky proportions and build quality to create one of the safest family vehicles on NZ roads.

So is this the Prado to get? For buyer’s who aren’t willing to give up the smoothness of a petrol engine and want all the high-end features – yes. But it comes at the cost of fuel economy. In terms of grunt the petrol is a stronger option, it has 75kW more power than the diesel and only gives away 29Nm in torque. Away from the powertrains the Prado VX Ltd is a spacious and highly practical med/large SUV. It handles competently on the tarmac but some compromises have been made so it can be an absolute mountain goat off road as well. With that in mind, you’ll need to go off the tarmac regularly to get most value. If you don’t, then a cheaper, more road-focused alternative may better suit your needs. Bottom line, the Prado VX Ltd has all the tricks, is backed by Toyota reliability, looks sharp and loves getting dirty. With the 60th Anniversary special deals currently on it’s a good time to invest in a new Land Cruiser and the petrol Prado VX Ltd is a stellar choice.

Price: $106,690

What we like:

  • High-tech useful features
  • Safety credentials
  • Smooth and strong V6 engine
  • Excellent off-road ability

What we don’t like:

  • Petrol engine is thirsty
  • Light-steering
  • High price for top-spec model

Who will buy this car: Families who require 7-seat practicality and off road prowess, it’s too pretty for a full time farm hack but will definitely have appeal for cashed-up farmers.

Cool Factor: Medium, it’s a classy SUV with solid off road chops but it’s not a particularly sexy entry into an unsexy market segment.

Words and Photos: Adam Mamo

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