The Toyota Prado ZR sacrifices a couple of doors and a bit of luggage space to offer the best ‘shortie’ on the market.

Story By Mick Matheson

The obvious question is: why? What’s the point of a short-wheelbase, three-door Prado? Many people raised their eyebrows when Toyota announced the stumpy Prado would be sold alongside the new 150 Series five-door when it debuted last year. Yet the answers are surprising in their logical simplicity.
Short-wheelbase wagons are an anomaly among four-wheel-drives, lucky to sell a tenth of the numbers their five-door variants manage. Mitsubishi gave up on its three-door Pajero last year, ironically dropping it just as Toyota came in with the short version of the Prado. There are a few others in the market, but none like the Prado.
Toyota offers the only large, thoroughly modern short-wheelbase (SWB) wagon, in two variants, the base-spec SX and luxurious ZR. SWB implies small, yet the Prado is anything but. Consider it a full-size vehicle with a few extraneous bits removed from the middle. Settle that image in your mind and you begin to understand its reason for being.
If you don’t have kids or you’ve waved them goodbye, your back seats aren’t much more than an occasional convenience. In the Toyota, you still get a second row of seats – with decent leg room, ample width for two people and sufficient space for three – but the rear doors disappear and the back end of the vehicle has been pushed forward. The seats, split 60/40, fold and tumble forward until they’re tucked up behind the front seats, freeing up generous cargo space on a large, flat floor. There’s enough room there for all the gear that two of you need for a trip away. Add to that the fact that the SWB model will tow up to 3000 kilograms – that’s 500kg more than the five-doors – and the ZR looks even more attractive.
Both SWB Prados are sold only with a 3.0-litre turbo-diesel engine and auto transmission. Performance is modest in the under-stressed engine: 127kW of power and 410Nm of torque, enough to get around very happily and reasonably efficiently, with fuel consumption averaging about 10L/100km in everyday conditions. The ZR’s list of luxuries is as long as a limo and in many ways it looks, feels and almost handles like a regular car, making it a pleasure to drive.
But point it into the rough stuff and its LandCruiser heritage comes to the fore. By retaining the ladder chassis and the live rear axle, Toyota has given it every chance to be a fair dinkum 4WD. On top of this, its electronic package, with standard traction control, is excellent, endowing it with off-road ability to match the best.

This story excerpt is from Issue #73

Outback Magazine: Oct/Nov 2010