2020 Toyota Prado review: Kakadu Horizon

  • Thursday 1st January 1970

The 2020 Toyota Prado Kakadu Horizon adds some extra trim to the already highly specified Kakadu, but is it too much? James Ward takes a look on- and off-road to see if we have passed peak-Prado.

When it comes to touring, Australian families have a pretty firm favourite

At 9411 units, the Toyota LandCruiser Prado is the best-selling 4x4 wagon in Australia so far this year. Just as it was last year (2019 full-year 18,335 units), and the year before that (2018 full-year 18,553 units), and the year before that (2017 full-year 15,982 units), and so on (2016 full-year 14,730 units).

It’s capable, practical, reliable and with a range starting from $54,090 (before options and on-road costs), the Prado is relatively affordable.

But this is the 2020 Toyota LandCruiser Prado Kakadu Horizon, a special edition that sits on top of the top of the range model. And while it looks pretty slick, at $89,590 before on-roads, its $5364 more than the Kakadu ($84,226) and knocking on the door of the LandCruiser 200 Series GXL ($92,696).

The Horizon seems to simply pose the question, can you have too much of a good thing?

Arguably, the Kakadu is as well specified as you really need your Prado to be. Standard equipment includes bi-LED headlamps, heated mirrors, cooled storage cubby, roof mounted entertainment screen and a sunroof. You also score Toyota’s trick Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) and the multi-terrain select (MTS) off-road traction control function, but more on those shortly.

The woodgrain ‘look’ trim on the dash and wheel, which I quite liked, is found on the regular Kakadu too, as is the soft beige leather interior on the seven seats. There’s a good range of driver assistance and safety tech from the Toyota SmartSense system, including lane departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control, but due to the lack of electric steering assistance, there is no active lane keeping function of any kind on the MY20 Prado, not even the brake-assisted yaw-control type as found in the Fortuner. You do get a five-star ANCAP rating from 2019, though.

For your extra five grand, the Horizon adds a body kit comprising of a lower front spoiler, rear spats, chrome side trim, illuminated side steps, a rear bumper guard, clear tail-lamps and two-extra USB charge points for rear passengers.

The lovely Peacock Black Metallic paint, which is normally a $600 option, is also included on the Horizon pack as one of five choices. Our car features the ‘flat back’ tailgate (a no-cost option) which moves the spare under the car, making the door lighter but allowing only an 87-litre fuel tank in the process.

As a result, the rear door is easier to open, but the large aperture still needs about 1.5-2m behind the car to just access it, which means you’ll never reverse park a Prado at the shops again. You do get the split rear glass though, where the window opens separately, which is pretty handy for tighter spots.

In all though, and while the Horizon does look quite smart (aside from the Autosalon 2004 tail-lights), it hardly represents a worthy uplift on the Kakadu in terms of value or capability.

Underneath all that, and true for all 150 Series Prado models from GX, through GXL and VX, is the 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel engine with 130kW and 450Nm. It’s the same motor from the HiLux and Fortuner and is due to receive a modest output bump to 150kW/500Nm for the MY21 line up.

While economical for touring (we saw mid-6L/100km at 80km/h cruise, against a 7L/100km claim), the Prado weighs 2455kg, a solid 15 per cent more than a Fortuner Crusade and 20 per cent more than a HiLux SR5. This added bulk only highlights that the 2.8 isn’t a top-end performer, and with power peaking at 3400rpm and torque between 1600 and 2400rpm, any sustained acceleration or effort is going to be largely underwhelming.

I mean, Toyota quote a 0-100km/h time of 17.6 seconds. Without your family on board. Or big load out the back. Hook up the Jayco and add a bunch of bodies and equipment and you might as well buy an annual subscription to those ‘slow vehicle turn out’ lanes.

Personally, I think it is a shame Toyota dropped the petrol V6 in 2018, but I say that quite loosely as you haven’t stopped buying these things, and have actually bought more Prados since the move to the single diesel option. Insert shrugging emoji here. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

What power there is though, heads to all four wheels via a six speed automatic transmission. A manual is available in the GX and GXL, but you’ll have to move fast if you want one, as the self-shifter is being dropped from all models for the MY21 update.

The rest of the 150 Series underpinnings are pretty much as they have been for the past 10 years. There have been some technology additions and refinement changes along the way, with a facelift in 2015 and then to this ‘face’ in 2018, plus a gradual trickle-down of safety tech onto lower grades.

That said, there has been very little new upper-range kit added which doesn’t change the proven nature of the Prado, just dulls the more premium positioning.

Numbers aside, there’s no denying the Prado is a very competent tourer. The plush leather and well-built nature of the Toyota make it very quiet and comfortable on longer trips. Just ah, don’t tow anything.

Don’t plan on using all three rows on a trip away either. With all seven seats in play, there is only a tiny 120-litre parcel shelf as a boot. Fold down the rear row, which is powered in the Kakadu, and there’s a 620-litre space, which is much more useful. You also get a mains-style 220-volt power outlet, too.

If you need more room, everything folds to offer over 1800 litres of cargo capacity, but given the lovely, soft beige leather to sit in, this feels a little wasted. The Prado is a family car after all.

Reset all the seats, and access to the third row is easy. There’s a lever on the side of the rear bench and you just lift it band the seats tilt and slide in a single movement. Third row space isn’t too bad, as even at 6’3” I was able to fit with reasonable leg- and headroom. There are air vents and cupholders too.

The middle row slides on rails to adjust leg room, and even allowing for passengers in the back-back, there’s decent space for legs and heads. The bench itself is comfortable and there are bottle holders, a digital climate control interface and as noted earlier, the Horizon has a pair of additional USB points, as well as the roof-mounted disc-based entertainment screen. I’d argue you probably need those charge points more than ever as most kids have more apps than DVDs these days, so charging the iPad is more important than playing a Blue-Ray of The Princess Diaries.

Up front the combo of well-built old-tech comfort continues.

In amongst the handy items like the flip-down convex ‘check on the kids’ mirror and seven-segment display digital clock are near on 100 buttons to control everything from the media system and climate control to the multi-terrain select off-road system. In a world where clean, haptic feedback screens are taking over, the Prado is decidedly ancient.

Even the infotainment system, with its 8.0-inch touchscreen has a dated, and at times confusing, interface, with no support for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto (these are coming in the MY21 update). The resolution of the screen isn’t brilliant either, with the camera feeds looking like mid-90s VHS security footage. It’s disappointing, as the intent is good with multiple cameras and angles available, only to be let down by sub-standard delivery.

There is a fridge in the centre armrest though, which is never not cool (ba-dum-tish).

So, if not for outright performance, packaging or a modern experience, why would you opt for the Kakadu against a Prado lower in the range? Because acronyms.

Toyota’s Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) and Multi-Terrain Selection (MTS) functions are what set the Kakadu (and Horizon) apart from the rest of the Prado crew. These advanced handling and capability tools give the Prado even more flexibility on- and off-road and really should be the deciders as to which Prado you buy.

First introduced on the 2016 model-year update, KDSS adjusts the resistance of the front and rear sway bars which tighten to provide a more flat and balanced ride on road, and essentially disconnect off-road for greater wheel travel and articulation.

In both environments, the KDSS does what it says on the box, the Horizon on a high speed B-road run feeling taut and more direct, without any pronounced body roll that you would expect on a high-riding wagon. We had no trouble off-road either with the car articulating well through some deep ruts, never even hinting that it was struggling with traction or flexibility.

The other box of tricks is the MTS system, which like many other ‘terrain response’ functions allows you to dial in the type of surface you are on, and the car adjusts traction control and throttle input settings to match. It even offers a crawl function for very low speed approaches both up and down hill, and when mated to the standard centre- and rear-differential locks, allows the big Toyota to engage in some pretty technical and challenging activities.

Aside from looking like the controls on a Simpson washer-dryer, the MTS is simple to use but only comes in to play (for the most part) when low-range is already selected. There’s cool feedback on the screen to show wide-angle cameras of your path and current position of the wheels. It takes an already very competent platform and makes it even easier to explore the capabilities you have.

My only concern with the Horizon however, was damaging the new lower front spoiler and rear spats, the whole package going against the clearly separate circles of ‘off-road capability’ and ‘sportier looking stance’ in the great Venn diagram of life.

That said, the Prado is still a very solid performer off-road, and even without engaging the MTS functions, was able to walk through a series of steep and undulating obstacles without skipping a chapter on that Princess Diaries DVD.

Of course, owning a Toyota is always a low-risk proposition, with an extensive dealership network around the country and $260 capped-price services for each of the first six visits to the workshop, each due at six-monthly intervals. Year four onward does cost a bit more, with the first five years coming in at $3781.82 through your local dealer.

IntervalToyota dealer service price
6m or 10,000km$260.00
12m or 20,000km$260.00
18m or 30,000km$260.00
24m or 40,000km$260.00
30m or 50,000km$260.00
36m or 60,000km$260.00
42m or 70,000km$345.66
48m or 80,000km$851.16
54m or 90,000km$464.75
60m or 100,000km$560.25

So, is there a place for a premium Prado? I’d have to say, no.

It’s a shame Toyota dropped the KDSS package from the VX in 2018, as it is quite good both on- and off-road, but the MTS system, while feature packed and very capable, only really makes a difference when you are well and truly in the rough stuff, which as noted above, is probably going to scratch the duco.

As here then lies the positioning quandary. If you are spending $100k to drive away in a Kakadu Horizon to make a premium statement, surely a more modern platform like a Land Rover Discovery SD4 SE ($88,056 before options and on-roads) would be more sensible. If you are doing it to get the most Toyota has to offer in terms of reliability, capability and support, then a LandCruiser 200-Series GXL ($92,696) would be a better bet.

More succinctly though, if you want the best Prado to handle your family on on- and off-road adventures, spending more to get a body kit and side steps that makes the car less practical off-road just doesn’t make sense.

As a platform the 150 Series Prado is now a decade old, and even with the extra goodies added to the Kakadu, it’s still a long way from feeling modern. But, if you can get past the dated tech and adequate power, the Toyota LandCruiser Prado is still worthy of its family favourite title in the large 4x4 stakes.

We’d just suggest spending $16,000 less and opting for the Prado VX. It also has a fridge, and you can still get it in this colour, and that way you can simply head for the horizon rather than buying one.