Best 4×4 for camping — Toyota Prado or Hilux?

I am in the market for a new car. The car will primarily be used around town for business and the school/childcare run. However, we are planning to buy a four wheel drive for the few times a year we plan to go beach camping or head bush.

Our preference is to buy a Toyota. Many farmers tend to use Toyotas, so if we break down out bush, at least we know parts will be readily available. Toyota reliability is excellent, so hopefully the only time we will break down is if I do something silly … which I do not plan doing.

Toyota Prado with Rhino-Rack Pioneer Platform Alloy Rack System loaded with camping gear

We have thought about getting a Nissan Navara dual cab ute or a Patrol, but unless a super deal is presented to us, we are leaning towards the Toyotas.

You need to be fairly self sufficient when camping on a beach or in the bush, carrying all water and food. There is no dropping in at the local store for supplies when you are 20 km down a beach! That means the car has to be able to carry a decent load.

There are three vehicles in the Toyota range that would suit our needs. We need a high-clearance four wheel drive with low range for beach driving on soft sand. The Landcruiser, Prado and dual cab Hilux all fit our needs.

I ruled out a Landcruiser fairly early on because 90% of the time the vehicle will be used around town, often driven by one of our nannies. Landcruisers are just too big to be doing the school and childcare shuffle. The off road capabilities of the Landcruiser are impeccable.

The Prado is perfect for the around town duties, but I question the load carrying capacity of the vehicle. We do not plan on taking a trailer camping, so all our gear, food and water for a week needs to fit in the vehicle. The Prado is a very capable four wheel drive.

The Hilux is also a capable four wheel drive but, at its core, it is a tradesman’s vehicle. The load carrying capacity is therefore excellent! Around town the ride can be quite harsh, particularly in the rear seats.

Based on the above, I took both a Prado and Hilux for a test drive. I visited Motorama Toyota on Ipswich Road. A quick note, the salesman was very helpful and friendly. Well done.

I loved the firm feel of the Hilux. It was planted on the road and felt taught. With its load carrying capacity, this is to be expected. The leaf springs on the rear will only really come into their own with some weight in the tray. Whether the firm ride with an empty tray will be okay day-to-day is a different matter. The Hilux will mostly be used for short around town trips or long trips with a load in the tray. Either way, I think that I can live with it.

The Prado was much more car like. There is a reason that they are the choice of school mums around Australia! Although still a bulky car, it would be very easy to live with day-to-day.

The Motorama guy took the Prado over their four wheel drive test track at their Beaudesert Road site. Yeah ha! My wife was a little freaked out by how capable the Prado was. I was in my element! He indicated that the Hilux departure angle was not as good as the Prado and would scrape around the same track, particularly if the Hilux is fitted with a tow bar. However, I still think that the Hilux would be more than capable off road for our needs.

But now to the crux of the matter — load carrying. According to my calculations we currently carry around 400 kg of camping gear, people and accessories on trips to local camping grounds. With the additional gear, food and water required to be self sufficient beach camping for a week, I suspect this could easily push up around the 500+ kg mark. And that is without any accessories fitted to the vehicle such as roof racks and a bull bar.

So how much can the Prado and Hilux carry? For the sake of comparison, the figures below are from the specs of the current 2010 model vehicles, even though I will likely buy second hand.

Standard definitions are:

Kerb weight — total weight of the vehicle with standard equipment, all necessary operating consumables (such as motor oil and coolant), a full tank of fuel, while not loaded with either passengers or cargo.
Gross vehicle weight rating — maximum allowable total mass of a road vehicle or trailer when loaded – i.e including the weight of the vehicle itself plus fuel, passengers, cargo, and trailer tongue weight.
Gross trailer weight braked – the maximum weight of a braked trailer (not relevant to this discussion, but I have included for interest’s sake)
Cargo, passengers and accessories – the difference between the gross vehicle weight rating and the kerb weight is the maximum cargo, passengers and accessories able to be carried.

Landcruiser Prado 5-door GXL 4.0L Petrol automatic
Kerb weight 2220 kg
Gross vehicle weight rating 2900 kg
Gross trailer weight braked 2500 kg
Cargo, passengers and accessories 680 kg

Landcruiser Prado 5-door GXL 3.0L Turbo Diesel automatic
Kerb weight 2300 kg
Gross vehicle weight rating 2990 kg
Gross trailer weight braked 2500 kg
Cargo, passengers and accessories 690 kg

Hilux SR5 4×4 Double Cab Utility Petrol V6 5 automatic
Kerb weight 1820 kg
Gross vehicle weight rating 2810 kg
Gross trailer weight braked 2250 kg
Cargo, passengers and accessories 990 kg

Hilux SR5 4×4 Double Cab Utility Diesel 4 automatic
Kerb weight 1925 kg
Gross vehicle weight rating 2780 kg
Gross trailer weight braked 2250 kg
Cargo, passengers and accessories 855 kg

Another significant difference to consider is how the vehicles carry their cargo. The Hilux has an ample tray that should easily fit all our camping gear. That leaves the roof free for a couple of kayaks or sailboards! The Prado has a relatively small boot, which means placing cargo on the roof. Cargo on the roof is more prone to theft and can make the vehicle top heavy. I would pack the roof with bulky, light items, such as bedding and clothes bags.

I am leaning towards the Prado at this stage. It has quite a handy cargo capacity, but is much better around town than the Hilux, which is where the vehicle will spend 95% of its time. I think that a second hand late model vehicle will fit the bill perfectly – I do not plan on taking a brand new $50,000+ vehicle down a beach!

We are planning a trip to Tasmania later in the year, so we are hoping to get the vehicle before then.

Hey Toyota! How about doing me a super deal on a late model Prado?!? Or perhaps a long term test vehicle?

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