The SUV has reigned as king both on and off-road in the UAE for decades.
But what started off as an absolute necessity if you wanted to get from A to B safely in the tough desert environment has changed significantly over the years.
Today’s sophisticated and luxurious SUVs are different beasts to their predecessors of yesteryear but they still reign supreme and if you haven’t got one you almost feel as if you are missing out.
They have evolved with the nation and there are so many of them out there these days that it’s sometimes difficult to decide which one is best.
There are blindingly fast, expensive SUVs which, frankly, should never venture anywhere near anything that resembles a half decent sand dune and then there are the famously brilliant off-roaders that have become synonymous with the UAE and although it is open to debate as to who builds the best they are mainly manufactured by Nissan and Toyota, the two marques that probably have the largest affinity with the Middle East, apart from Land Rover.
They offer practicality, luxury and the versatility to be brilliant both on and off-road and they produce a range of vehicles to suit all tastes and budgets.
One of these is the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado, a vehicle that has a long tradition of success in the Middle East and continues to forge ahead as one of the best mid-sized 4x4s on the market which is not going to put a huge hole in your wallet.
You know what you are getting with this vehicle – Toyota reliability, great value, and guaranteed off-road capability.
It also offers distinctive looks, enough space to cope with a largish tribe and is just as happy dealing with the traffic in town as it is in the middle of a desert or tackling the demands of negotiating a wadi.
The latest version of the Prado VXR is an SUV that looks likes it means business, sitting on nice 18-inch alloy wheels.
It’s not designed to be overly flashy or particularly sophisticated but it does have a distinct personality with that unmistakable Toyota front grille which looks fab in chrome, stylish LED light-clusters, DRLs and spot-lights.
It’s not what you could call an aesthetic masterpiece but it’s an attractive vehicle that appears self-assured, muscular and functional.
There is not a hatch at the back but a gate-style rear door to get access to the boot. Inside, the Prado is quite luxurious with leather seats in the VXR model which are extremely comfortable and there is acres of space for up to seven passengers, although with the third row seats up there is not that much room for luggage.
There is a leather trimmed multi-functional steering wheel, the instrument panel is basic but provides all the information you need and all the controls for off-road driver assists are easily accessible for the driver.
There is also plenty of storage space for wallets, mobile phones and sunglasses.
The VXR comes with a nine-inch screen on the centre console for the infotainment system and sat-nav and there is all the usual technology you find in vehicles of this calibre these days. The air-con is also first class in this vehicle.
A sun-roof adds to the feeling of total freedom you get driving this baby Land Cruiser and overall, the cabin is a very pleasant place to be. It is the perfect combination of luxury and practicality.
The Prado VXR is powered by a four-litre V6 engine which produces 271bhp and is mated with a five-speed automatic gearbox.
This is not a light vehicle and although it is most definitely not built for speed it was a bit sluggish on the pick-up but once in the groove it barrels along quite nicely.
The biggest plus is that it is incredibly versatile. It is ideal for families and the dreaded school run, and it has proven off-road pedigree to allow you to enjoy most sensible tough-terrain motoring with confidence.
Personally, if I wanted a Toyota SUV that carried up to seven people I would probably buy the Prado’s big brother the all-singing, all dancing Land Cruiser which has just been redesigned. But if you want something less expensive you can’t go wrong with a Prado.
Many SUVs in the UAE are bought as some kind of oversized status symbol and will never see a desert landscape in their lives. The Prado is what a proper SUV is all about. It’s a solid, unpretentious vehicle with proven off-road capabilities with a Toyota heritage you can rely on. It offers practical luxury, good technology, and self-assured confidence and versatility at the right price.
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