As an off road 4WD the Prado performs very well and handles most situations with ease. In standard trim you can go most places and have a lot of fun in the great outdoors. The approach angle is OK for a long vehicle and on really steep tracks, like river crossings, it might have the occasional problem. However the factory side steps do tend to get in the way when approaching more difficult terrain.
The 2003 Prado came out with three engine options, but if you are buying one of these second hand, make sure you get a V6 petrol version. The four cylinder engines are very under-powered for such a heavy car, the Turbo Diesel is a mere 96kw of power, but luckily makes up for that in the torque department at 343nm at 2000 rpm. But the V6 engine is a ripper. It’s got almost 180kw of power and pumps out 376Nm of torque, so getting the diesel just doesn’t make any sense.
The Power in the V6 engine comes from the Variable Valve Timing and quad cam design and even though it weighs just over two tonnes, it still does zero to 100km an hour in about 11 seconds which is quite good for such a large 4wd.
The fuel consumption is only fair, averaging about 13-15 litres per 100km around town, it’s better on a trip dropping down to around 11, but take it off road for some more serious stuff or tow a caravan around Australia and that will increase significantly. But who cares about fuel consumption when you have a massive 180 litre fuel tank. You can just about go anywhere with that sort of capacity.
All the typical safety features are on the Prado. Air bags, ABS and the like are all standard. The 17 inch alloys are very attractive and the typical owner will soon have a good set of all terrain or more aggressive tyres fitted.
Now if you’re going to buy a Prado second hand, there are a few things to look out for. The obvious one is kilometres. In 2012, the earlier year models of this particular Prado are getting close to 10 years old, so most have a fair amount of kilometres on the clock. And because the V6 petrol version is the only one to buy, it’s best to try to get one with low kilometres, but that’s hard work for a ten year old car, as most have over 200,000 kilometres on them.
Prices vary considerably in the second hand market and considering the Grande Automatic was about 75 thousand dollars new, and being a Toyota, they tend to hold their value. Expect to pay about $25,000 (in 2013) for an average Grande with over 200,000 clicks. But prices do vary from about $18,000 for a V6 GXL through to $30,000 for a really good low km Grande in private sales. Expect to pay more from a dealer.
When buying, a Prado that has never been off road are still easy to find, but make sure you check carefully behind the panels for that unmistakable red outback dust. But if you do buy one that has never been off road, make sure you get it out and get it dirty as soon as you can.
The Prado is not a hard core 4wd in its standard form, but it’s a very comfortable off road machine and would make a great family tourer at an affordable second hand price. There are plenty of options available to make it better too. Fitting a Bull bar, lift kit, snorkel, roof bars, driving lights and tow bar are all pretty easy and not that expensive for the Prado. In fact many will come with all that already fitted. And if not, a trip to somewhere like ARB accessories will soon have you sorted and ready to head off on a great 4wd adventure.