ROB COX FINDS THE SOLUTION TO FAMILY ROAD TRIP SQUABBLES
My wife and I have been looking at seven-seater SUVs for a while. We have three kids and like the idea of family road trips, but the hell we go through getting from A to B with three screamers in the back just isn’t worth it.
So a four-hour drive north was going to test us — let alone any vehicle.
But then I was given the chance to test Toyota’s seven-seater, 2.8 litre diesel Land Cruiser Prado VX. Priced from $88,490, the four-cylinder turbo engine is paired with a six-speed auto transmission and produces 130kW of power and 450Nm of torque. Its fuel economy is 8.0litres/100km/h.
Its 19-inch tyres, height of 1890mm and width of 1885mm plus chunky headlights and monster side mirrors, make it look at first glance like an All Blacks lock who forgot to wear tape around his head. I did like the grille, though.
Packing the Prado with our kids and luggage was easy because there was so much space. The rear door opened to the side, which my wife and kids found easier to handle than a traditional lift-up boot.
The back two seats folded out by the push of a button and all seats are fully adjustable.
We had a child in each row to prevent fights. Their only complaint was that the car smelled brand new.
Don’t worry team, we’ll soon fix that.
We all felt very comfortable as we headed off. The 7-inch infotainment screen was a great size and became a split screen when needed.
Driving was enjoyable. First I thought I had the wrong vehicle because the engine was so quiet and I had requested a diesel. It was a diesel — I just wasn’t used to hearing one as smooth as this.
Those monster side mirrors I moaned about earlier were brilliant. You’re up so high in a Prado that you need as much rear vision as possible. There was also the bonus of blind spot monitoring, which I found that incredibly helpful when thinking about changing lanes and when parking.
There was also stuff we just weren’t used to — like push button starting. No key required. Well, there is a key but you keep it in your pocket.
The drive itself was so, so smooth. We fully tested the 4WD system on a 13km stretch up north, visiting the Wairere Boulders. The tyres and suspension meant we hardly noticed we were on loose metal roads; power wasn’t a problem uphill. We felt quite relaxed when we got there instead of losing fillings like we usually do.
After a couple of days driving up north and a good coating of dust, we started feeling this Prado was one of the family. The kids always enjoyed hopping into it, knowing there would be plenty of space between them and their siblings. One of our boys loved the back row so much, that became his spot for the entire trip. If they needed a vantage point to get a better view, standing on the back of the Prado was the best scenic spot around. You are so high up even the seagulls used it as a vantage point.
Even the seagulls appreciated the birds’ eye view from the high-riding Prado.
As a parent, the thing that kept entering my mind was how incredibly safe we all felt. Everything felt safe about the Prado. Sometimes the back two seats in seven-seaters feel as if they are touching the rear window and that would be the last place you would put a child. You didn’t get that feeling with the Prado; everything felt well-thought through, inside and out.
Those unattractive exterior elements all had their purpose and towards the end of our journey I was starting to become quite fond of some features that first bothered me.
Probably the defining factor for us deciding to pick the Prado over other 4WD options would be that towards the end of our trip, my wife and I started fighting over who got to drive the next leg. She loved driving the Prado and felt quite comfortable in a vehicle twice the height size of her car.
Fighting over who drives? That’s never happened before — although the alternative was sitting in the next row with the kids.