BATTLE OF THE MID-SIZE WAGONS

337 VIEWS5 MINUTE READ
ByEvan SpenceApril 25, 2016
BATTLE OF THE MID-SIZE WAGONS

What can be said about Toyota Prado 4WDs that hasn’t been said before? They are comfortable, capable and reliable. They command a premium on the second-hand market and they draw envious respect throughout suburbia and school pick-up zones in the never-ending pursuit of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’.

 

I’m going to come out and say it though: The Prado has always been a soulless four-wheel drive. The same can be said for many modern wagons really; I’ve even heard people refer to them as ‘cardigans on wheels’ or ‘a Camry with a transfer case’. Still, there is no denying the Prado has been designed for a specific task (being a practical family all-rounder), and historically this is a task it has performed exceptionally well.

 

When the Ford Everest was released last year, the Internet went wild with overwhelming positivity. Could there finally be a mid-sized family four-wheel drive that had some heart-and-soul while matching the off-road cred and dependability of the Prado? Well, why speculate? It’s time to separate fact from fiction. Sam Purcell (the Editor of Pat Callinan’s 4X4 Adventures magazine) and I spent a few days out in the bush to see which vehicle had the ace up its sleeve in terms of all-round liveability.

And to be honest, the verdict genuinely surprised us.

For images, the video, and the full Unsealed 4X4 reading experience, CLICK HERE.

 

BACKGROUND INFO

 

FORD EVEREST

Engine: 3.2L 5-Cylinder Turbo Diesel

Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic

Power: 143KW

Torque: 470Nm

Safety: Five Star ANCAP

Seating: 7 Seat Wagon

Claimed Fuel Economy: 8.5L/100KM

TOYOTA PRADO

Engine: 2.8L 4-Cylinder Turbo Diesel

Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic

Power: 130KW

Torque: 450Nm

Safety: Five Star ANCAP

Seating: 7 Seat Wagon

Claimed Fuel Economy: 8L/100KM

 

 

ON-ROAD PERFORMANCE

The reality is, both of these vehicles will spend the majority of their time driving on-road. So this component of the test was one both Sam and myself were eager to compare notes on throughout our loop on the tight and twisty roads of the Blue Mountains in NSW. First impressions revolved around just how different these vehicles are. The Prado has lovely soft supple suspension that absorbed undulations and speed bumps with confidence; yet put it on a fast and sharp corner, and it would roll and pitch like a boat. The Everest was firm and sporty, but on rough roads the suspension was harsh. The insanely low-profile tyres don’t help in this regard. The same differences existed when it came to power delivery. The Prado was somewhat doughy and linear in how it pushed forward, yet felt like it would (eventually) reach speeds no Prado should ever be driven at. The Everest pounced from the line with a sudden surge of power, which is genuinely exciting… however just like a pack-a-day smoker, it eventually ran out of puff. It was faster than the Prado though, no doubt thanks to the larger 3.2L turbo diesel engine versus the smaller 2.8L turbo diesel found in the Prado.

 

The Everest has electronically controlled steering, which was light enough to turn on firm ground with your pinkie finger; yet lacked feel at speed. The Prado was actually quite firm in steering feel, thanks to the traditional power steering which made tight manoeuvres somewhat tedious; but it had a far more ‘planted’ feel at speed.

 

While both interior layouts were modern and inoffensive, the Everest was definitely the nicer place to be … both when it came to long-distance comfort and overall design. It makes you feel special; especially the generous sunroof. As a side note, both vehicles have rather sensational stereos, but the one sound I couldn’t stand was indicator noise produced by the Ford Everest. Its BING BONG BING BONG was teeth-grindingly annoying. I know, I know, such a minor point on paper; but once it starts to annoy you there is no way to forget or change it.

 

OFF-ROAD PERFORMANCE

This is a four-wheel drive magazine, so in our eyes this component of testing would be the defining factor in which of these wagons was a winner. The Ford seems to have a more advanced traction control system with Land Rover inspired Terrain Response Modes as well as a factory-fitted rear differential lock in the rear end. There is Hill Descent Control and proper low-range gearing, too. So on paper, it should spank the Prado silly and steal its lunch money in the process.

Unfortunately… it didn’t.

 

The Everest certainly isn’t bad off-road, far from it in fact. But the Prado is just better. Put it this way: We drove the Prado in places, with its centre diff lock disengaged, where the Everest needed everything switched on to tackle the terrain. With the centre diff lock engaged, the traction control fitted to the Toyota Prado just made a mockery of any track we pointed the vehicle at – with ground clearance being the only limiting factor. The traction control system used in the Prado is just superb … quick to engage and effective; whereas the Everest crabbed and shuddered until it found traction. The Prado’s soft suspension that floated through corners on-road was in its element off-road. It has more suspension travel than the Ford, and was more compliant over washouts and ruts while the Everest bottomed out on a few occasions. This could be due to the traditional 5-link rear suspension arrangement over the less seen (in a 4WD anyway) Watts-Link found in the Everest. Toyota has a long history building four-wheel drives for Australian conditions; Ford does not (let’s not talk about the Explorer). And while Ford claims it built the Everest (and Ranger) for Aussie tracks, it certainly could learn lots from Toyota in this regard.

 

EV’S OPINION

I’m a purist I suppose, and for me the Prado looked like a people mover for those who wanted to visit wineries in National Parks…

Man, am I wiping the egg off my face now.

I have a well-modified GQ Patrol, and it is safe to say the Prado would eat it for breakfast on most tracks. And this saddens me to the rusty core. But at the same time, it excites me for the future of off-roading in this country. So to any Prado owner I have taken a cheeky jab at in the past, I apologise.

The Everest was a hoot to drive on-road, and if this is more important to you than off-road ability it would be the logical choice. But personally, I found myself disliking it more and more as the days went on. Kind of like a drunken one-night-stand where you convinced yourself early on that you had met the girl of your dreams, only to wake in the morning and discover she has an Adam’s Apple.

 

SAM’S OPINION

Comparing cars is a funny thing sometimes – normally because of the preconceptions that you might bring into the comparison. It’s important to stay as unbiased as possible before doing some testing; but staying 100% on the fence, in my experience, is 100% impossible.

Standing in front of these two cars, I thought I had my mind made up. The Prado has been around longer than Cher, and has just about as much sex appeal (none, in case you think I’m into that sort of thing…). The Everest, on the other hand, looks bright and fresh: A new model that has been designed and engineered in Australia. It’s based on the new Ranger ute, which I like; so I thought this would be a shoo-in.

Things aren’t always as they seem, however. We spent a lot of time behind the wheel of each 4X4, both on-road and off-road. And we came to a conclusion of which was better. And geez, it was a close call.

 

CONCLUSION

So the verdict? Well rather than have us spell it out here, click on the video link to watch both wagons in action… and see which vehicle we crowned the winner.