From utilitarian to posh off-roader, the Land Cruiser Prado has become one of Toyota's well established and respected names in the range. This year is a bit of a milestone for the Land Cruiser's baby brother, as it turns 35 in 2019.
Now, the name wouldn't appear until 1990 but in 1984, Toyota would launch the vehicle that we would eventually call the Prado. It was first known as the Land Cruiser II at the time and it was essentially a light-duty version of the 70-series Land Cruiser. However, it is worth pointing out that the Land Cruiser II is where the Prado story begins. Without it, we wouldn't have the Prado today.
In 1990, the name Prado was introduced, although it was essentially a heavily facelifted version of the Land Cruiser II. It had a softer-looking front end and chassis tweaks to improve on-road ride and manners. With its boxy, upright design, it's a far cry from the Prado as we know it today.
Then in 1996, an all-new Prado had arrived. No longer based on the Land Cruiser chassis, it became its own separate model line. Now using underpinnings from the 4Runner (Hilux Surf in Japan), the Prado was much larger than before. But while it may be smaller than a Land Cruiser, the Prado still retained a high degree of off-road ability, as seen by the ones taking on trails on weekends. This was also the first Prado officially sold in the Philippines. By this time, the Prado was evolving into the plush off-roader it is now.
By the third generation (late 2002), the Prado had established itself in the luxury SUV market, commanding high prices to go along with it. It had even spawned a Lexus-badged cousin by this time, which we now call the GX. Like the previous-generation model, this one amped up on comfort levels, and offered better on-road handling, according to contemporary road testers. It was, again, larger and this era introduced the 4.0-liter V6 engine, as well our first taste of the 3.0-liter D-4D turbodiesel.
Now, we're at the fourth-generation Prado and it now stands as the longest-running model in the product's history. In fact, the current Prado celebrates its 10th year in production. Launched in 2009, it had an all-new chassis, suspension, interior, and exterior (albeit an evolutionary redesign). By this time, more luxuries have been added to the Prado, as well as more tech.
There have been three different looks for the fourth-gen Prado. From 2009 to 2012, it sported squarish headlights and a slim grill. Following that, it had a more aggressive-looking front end with its 'teardrop' headlights and much larger grill until 2017. After its most recent facelift, the Prado now has sleek, wraparound headlights, a bolder grill, and a revamped cabin.
But while the Prado is now seen more in posh villages than trails, Toyota has repeatedly shown that it can take on the rough stuff. They even kept the the three-door body, which is a rarity these days. But the current generation model is now a decade old, and the recent update could mean that it will still hang around for some time. However, an all-new Land Cruiser is coming soon, so it could also be a matter of time before the fifth-generation model arrives.