Toyota LandCruiser Prado Kakadu

2021 Toyota LandCruiser Prado Kakadu long-term review: Road trip

Article from Drive.

A weekend away in the country was the perfect opportunity for Ben Zachariah to get properly acquainted with the Prado.

What we loveWhat we don’t
Build qualityThin leather won’t last
Real-world off-road capabilityDash lights dimmer not illuminated
Seat heaters are my favourite inventionRide and handling could be compromised with a bull bar
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It was a few hours of solid driving before we arrived at our destination, just on sunset, and right as a big storm was about to roll through our little corner of the state.

The very minute the Victorian premier announced the lockdown was to end – our fourth, at that stage – I jumped online and rebooked the cottage we had cancelled two months prior. Our freedom would turn out to be short-lived, but we were glad to have the opportunity to get out of our postcode, spend money in these smaller communities, and catch up on some podcasts.

We packed quickly. The third row of seats in our 2021 Toyota LandCruiser Prado Kakadu dropped down effortlessly by the simple pressing of the button at the D-pillar, giving us plenty of extra space for our weekend luggage – from 120L to 620L.

Along with the power-folding seats, the Toyota has plenty of luxury features you would expect for $87,807 plus on-road costs. A fridge mounted in the centre console allowed us to keep our drinks cool, illuminated side steps, a 9.0-inch infotainment display with Apple CarPlay (and Android Auto), parking cameras, plus ventilated and heated seats for four occupants.

Key details2021 Toyota LandCruiser Prado Kakadu
Price (MSRP)$87,807 plus on-road costs
Colour of test carPeacock Black
OptionsPremium paint ($675), flat tailgate (no cost)
Price as tested$96,562 drive-away (Melbourne)
RivalsLand Rover Defender | Nissan Patrol | Toyota LandCruiser
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The 2.8-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine rolled us up to freeway speeds without much effort, its 150kW/500Nm being sent to all four wheels through the six-speed automatic transmission.

To read more about the Kakadu’s list of features, you can read the first instalment of this long-term review by clicking here.

After a few hours of driving, with the Prado unpacked and the rain shimmering in the afternoon sun, we opened a bottle of red and ran the bath on the verandah, feeling like we were shooting a television commercial for Toyota. Or maybe living out the scene in a horror movie just before the happy couple gets murdered.

Either way, we were happy to be out of the city and breathing country air, and I was frankly surprised by the Prado after spending some proper time in the driver’s seat.

2021 Toyota LandCruiser Prado Kakadu
SeatsSeven
Boot volume120L / 620L / 1800L
Length4825mm
Width1885mm
Height1880mm
Wheelbase2790mm
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The main thing that struck me about the car was a feeling of solidity. It’s a feeling I’ve only really experienced when driving LandCruisers, so it probably shouldn’t have been a surprise that the LandCruiser Prado enjoys that same kind of solid, weighted quality. There are no creaks or weird vibrations, every component – seen and unseen – feels as if it’s built to be heavy-duty. Hardy plastics and thicker steel, all torqued down using bigger bolts.

And I don’t mean to say the Prado is overweight (those in glass houses, et cetera), because despite its nearly 2500kg of heft, it really doesn’t feel as big and heavy as it is. The Toyota is easy to drive and manoeuvre, easy to place on the road, and never a chore.

Also, unlike solid-front-axle LandCruisers of the past, the Prado didn’t feel as if it wanted to bounce vaguely down the freeway. It stays straight and true, with all wheels tracking assuredly. There’s a high level of mechanical confidence emanating from underneath.

What’s more, the suspension does a superb job of dealing with rubbish country roads. It’s easy for big cars to move too far over to the Rolls-Royce floating feeling, trading handling for the sake of refinement. In the case of the Prado, it merely takes discomfort out of the picture, without ever compromising driver feedback or on-road dynamics – to the degree you can expect from a two-and-a-half-tonne four-wheel drive closing in on its 12th birthday.

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I would be interested to know how the Prado’s ride and handling would be affected with the addition of a bull bar up front, because the vehicle seems like a good compromise for those who live in the country, or need to travel there often, but are also burdened with regular city driving.

Perhaps I’d unfairly written off the Prado as being a LandCruiser wannabe in years past. Because in these early impressions, this thing was beginning to impress me.

The following afternoon, we visited a nearby state park to walk up a hill to a bushfire watchtower. I decided we would take the main roads home, but travel there via some country back roads I identified on a map. Which predictably – and to the amusement of my partner – weren’t so much roads as they were fire tracks for forestry workers.

But we continued on, following our nose through the tall pines until we came to a large hill. On the other side of the crest on a steeper section, we quickly discovered half of the track had been washed away with recent storms.

At a glance2021 Toyota LandCruiser Prado Kakadu
ANCAP rating & year testedFive stars (tested 2011)
Safety reportLink to ANCAP
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While your typical soft-road SUV would have been facing some serious trouble, I knew the Prado had the capability to deal with the situation thanks to its KDSS system, lockable differentials, and hill descent control. Thankfully, I didn’t have to lean on anything other than a low gear and the car’s decent suspension clearance to ensure our safe journey onwards.

It was by no means the most comprehensive off-roading test, but it was a legitimate real-world scenario – coming across a section of track that could have put us in strife.

After our walk to the windy peak and back, we jumped back in the Prado, cranked the seat heaters, and hit the long and winding country road to our home for the weekend. Cruise control on, comfortable, and relaxed in our quiet cocoon.

The tan leather and light faux wood work pretty well with brushed-aluminium interior highlights, but while the car generally feels well built, elements of the cabin seem more aligned with a premium experience than a country workhorse. It’s hard to imagine a car better suited to this kind of living: capable and premium, without the added pretentiousness of a ‘special’ badge on the front grille.

At a glance2021 Toyota LandCruiser Prado Kakadu
WarrantyFive years / unlimited km
Service intervals6 months / 5000km
Fuel cons. (claimed)7.9L/100km
Fuel typeDiesel
Fuel tank size87L

But like the wear often seen on Toyota 100 Series LandCruiser Sahara and Kakadu models from 20 years ago, the leather on the Prado feels thin and soft – as if it won’t enjoy the same kind of longevity as the car’s mechanicals over the coming decades. 

Maybe this papery leather is designed to encourage owners to upgrade their car before too long, or maybe it’s the result of a focus group test and more people prefer it. Either way, I would like an interior upholstered in thicker, hardier material. Buffalo leather or a high-quality vinyl substitute would be fine – these days I can’t tell the difference between faux leather and the real thing anyway.

After the sun set and with the rain well and truly bedded in for the night, I jumped back in the fourby to grab dinner from a take-away joint some 20 minutes away. Music on low, warm, dry, and secure, driving those dark country roads. 

The headlights work a treat – even if the automatic high-beams are overly sensitive at times – and the controls are mostly easy to find and well illuminated with cool whites and blues. The only switch not illuminated? The dash lights dimmer. Still, at that moment in time, I was safe and content.

Key details2021 Toyota LandCruiser Prado Kakadu
Engine2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel
Power150kW @ 3400rpm
Torque500Nm @ 1600-2800rpm
Drive typeDual-range four-wheel drive
TransmissionSix-speed torque-converter automatic
Weight2455kg
Tow rating3000kg braked, 750kg unbraked
Turning circle11.6m

With our Prado packed the next morning, I was sad to be saying goodbye to our little Airbnb cabin, but pretty happy to be back in the captain’s chair of the Toyota. As per usual, our seat heaters cranked, podcast playing, and the GPS pointing us towards a cafe in a nearby town.

Join us next time for the final instalment of the long-term review as we say goodbye to our 2021 Toyota LandCruiser Prado Kakadu.

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Comments 1

  1. A bullbar makes no difference to the handling of a Prado unless it is steel and then you have to upgrade the suspension due to the weight of the bar. I’m on my third Prado and they just keep getting better.

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