The new Toyota Prado four-wheel-drive wagon is poised to gain a US twin with retro styling and a hardcore off-road focus. But will it come to Australia?
The Toyota LandCruiser is due to return to US showrooms next year after a two-year hiatus with retro styling based on the new Toyota Prado – but come with modern petrol-electric hybrid power.
As seen in the recent Lexus twin of the upcoming Toyota Prado – which had boxy, utilitarian styling – the Japanese car giant appears to be taking some inspiration from Land Rover and celebrating the classic designs of some of its iconic and historic models.
Drive has learned the US market is in line to get a retro makeover version of the new Toyota Prado with styling cues said to be inspired by formative LandCruiser models – including the 40 Series from the 1960s, and the 70 Series introduced in 1985 and still on sale in Australia today.
Even though 10 per cent of all Toyota LandCruisers built over the nameplate’s 74-year history have been sold here – and Australia is a top market for all forms of the iconic 4WD – the retro-styled US Prado may not make it to local showrooms.
Toyota sources have told Drive the US-market model will be pitched as a hardcore off-roader with retro design cues and sold in low volumes – rather than as a high-priced luxury vehicle, such as the previous 200 Series and current 300 Series LandCruiser.
The US model is expected to adopt more retro styling cues than the international Prado – which Australia is expected to receive – including circular headlights inspired by the 1960s and 1970s LandCruiser 40 Series (FJ40), Drive has learned.
It is unclear how much of the bodywork will be shared between the US LandCruiser and global LandCruiser Prado, however they may share the same side profile but have unique front and rear-end styling.
The Prado’s luxury twin, the Lexus GX, has also historically shared the Toyota’s core structure, doors and key side panels.
The final design is yet to be revealed, however the illustration at the top of this story – created by Theottle – gives an indication of how the retro model planned for the US could look.
The US-centric LandCruiser may also be sold in Europe – based on recent teaser images – but it’s unclear if it will be marketed side-by-side with the next-generation Prado.
Drive has been told there will be at least two model grades in the US LandCruiser range – led by a flagship, hardcore off-road variant in the same vein as the TRD Pro versions of Toyota’s US pick-ups, which are half a step below the level of upgrades seen in a Ford Raptor performance ute.
Details of what will power the US LandCruiser are yet to be confirmed – but Drive has been told by Toyota sources it will be available with a 2.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol-electric hybrid from the Lexus GX.
In the related Toyota Tacoma pick-up – the US counterpart to Australia’s top-selling Toyota HiLux ute – the system quotes outputs of 243kW and 630Nm.
The US version of the LandCruiser Prado has not been ruled out for Australia – and Toyota is yet to confirm a US-focused version of the Prado is even in development.
However it is understood the vehicle has been created specifically for the North American market – and it is feared it could take sales away from the regular Prado in Australia.
As previously reported by Drive, the Toyota LandCruiser name was discontinued in the US with the end of the full-size 200 Series in 2021.
At the time, Toyota elected not to introduce the 300 Series LandCruiser in North America although the Lexus LX version of the vehicle is on sale there.
Slow sales were blamed for the decision to not sell the 300 Series LandCruiser in North America, with an average of 3200 examples of the previous 200 Series LandCruiser sold in the US annually over the past decade – compared to 100,000 of the smaller 4Runner four-wheel-drive sold in the US, which is twinned with today’s Prado and the US Tacoma pick-up.
LandCruiser sales in the US peaked in 1999 with the 100 Series, when 18,000 examples were reported as sold.
The steady sales decline the LandCruiser has experienced in recent decades has come as it has grown into a more luxurious vehicle, with a higher price tag.
Toyota insiders have told Drive the plug was pulled on plans to sell the LandCruiser 300 Series in the US late in the 2010s, as it could not build a business case for the vehicle in its current form – and elected to focus on the luxury Lexus LX for North America.
However, Drive has been told the company did not want to kill off the LandCruiser badge entirely – such is its significance as one of Toyota’s most iconic nameplates, alongside Corolla, Camry, Crown – so it began to explore an ‘Americanised’ version of the Prado.
With 200 Series production ending in early 2021 to make way for the 300 Series internationally – and low sales making it infeasible to continue 200 Series production just for the US – the LandCruiser name was placed on hiatus until the Prado-based model was ready.
Toyota sources say the US LandCruiser is being pitched as a lower-volume vehicle – compared to the 4Runner, which sold 145,000 examples in 2021, or an average of 100,000 annually over the past decade – enabling a more hardcore focus on off-road buyers.