For specifications and prices on this and all vehicles we review, Sunny Coast Feature Cars recommends REDBOOK.COM.AU <-click here for Holden Colorado7 information Click on our Directory for Local Sunshine Coast Businesses
Have you ever wondered how a new automotive product begins? Does it start with a particular brief of what it should and should not do? Is that list of functional capability based on current ability and evolved by focus group questionnaires?
The answer is probably somewhere in the middle, but no matter how extensive the list of design requirements, some qualities are beyond engineering. I get a little taste of that with the help of a Toyota Prado Kakadu, a bottle of cocheneal [?!] and the beautiful Fraser Island.
Fraser Island is a world heritage listed site recognised as the largest sand island in the world. Accessible only by boat, ferry or helicopter if you have the means, it is a location loved by the dedicated adventurer and rarely visited only once. Every year, thousands of visitors come to experience the beauty.... and occasionally leave their vehicles stranded on rocks as the tide comes in to remind them that out here, mother nature is still very much the boss.
My family of 5 approached via Inskip Point at the southern tip. It must be said that when it came to driving on the sand, I had very minimal experience, so I listened intently to advice from my father in law..... which was rather brief: "Don't stop on the soft stuff".
Sounds pretty easy.
Inskip Point was probably one of the most challenging parts of the trip. It is only a short strip and as soon as I breached the tree line, the Ferry was visible in the distance. What I couldn't see, was any hard sand. No stopping then.
With the advice echoing in the back of my mind, I just kept my foot into the 127kW 3.0 turbo diesel, which also delivers a decent 410nm and an ADR rated 8.5l/100kms. I doubt economy was quite that good as we plowed through the white powder at a confident pace, but emptying the 150L tank was unlikely and pretty far from my mind. The whole thing was over in just a minute or two and the Prado had progressed to the waiting ferry with barely a second look.
This is the top of the line Prado packed to the sunroof with every trick under the sun. From the forward vision camera which helps you place the front wheels on difficult terrain, to entertainment in the form of a roof mounted DVD player, this SUV takes some beating in the gadget department. Even the third row seats are electrically operated and can be dropped at the push (and hold) of a button in the substantial cargo area. It's safe to say that everyone was catered for and ready for a pretty comfortable trip. Up front, leather seats were about on par for support with much of the competition, but sitting in it also presented other luxuries like the electric tilt and telescoping steering wheel, which extends on your entry to the command centre, and retracts clear when you open the door. I call it the "command centre" because that is exactly how it feels. Forgetting for a moment that there is another row of people in the Prado (which you can see via a pop down convex mirror) everything forward provides vision, control and confidence over your surroundings. The steering itself is light and removed from the task, but nonetheless, acceptably accurate.
The centre console has a clear, easy to operate screen and though I'm probably more tech savvy than your average buyer, even I could feel that access to most functions was as good as it gets. That is: less buttons to press for each task. The resistance touch screen may feel old tech to people with the latest smart phones because smart phones use capacitive touch with glass like smooth screens. However, most mobile phones are replaced every two years so the accumulation of scratches is forgotten. The matte finish for the Prado multimedia screen is much more durable and should remain clear and scratch free for a longer period. Colour me surprised when I arrived on Fraser Island to find the GPS telling me that I was on a road, when clearly it was sand. 75 Mile Beach Road then, is both a literal and apt title. At first glance, it is a beautiful site but our destination at a small village called Happy Valley, is about 45 minutes up the road..... depending on experience. You quickly learn to keep your eyes up, because there are plenty of hazards you don't consider during your first time on Fraser Island.
Primarily, you need to look ahead for fresh water run offs which leave drains on the beach. Most of them are fine to run through but others can be deeper with flat faces on them. Fortunately, the magic carpet ride of the Prado sorted out most imperfections large and small, but some of those drains banged pretty hard through the suspension. Also be ready for some beeping. No, not the kind that masks profanity. I mean the ESP/Traction Control which goes off rather too often. A small price to pay considering we negotiated the aforementioned run offs and occasional rocks with no trouble at all.
Other hazards came in the form of tour buses. Big, Loud & FAST tour buses! These vehicles are obviously piloted by Fraser Island veterans whom also wear boots with lead soles. I'm sure it's a comfortable ride for those on board, but, as I said: keep your eyes up! They're on you and past you in a cloud of diesel smoke and fury. Once the traffic had left us behind (pick the beach virgin!), it was all a little too quiet. You think highways are boring? Try treed dunes on one side and ocean on the other, with no defined lanes. It sounds like fun (and was for the first 25 minutes) but eventually becomes somewhat monotonous. Our arrival at Happy Valley was a welcome end to what seemed like an infinite journey. Not only was there appropriate refreshments, but also a nice view out to the beach. The accommodation was also quite impressive with a big comfortable bed awaiting my weary head.
Unfortunately, it was also an ideal time to go worming! Fantastic; something else I had no idea how to do. This, however, was much more difficult than driving on sand. I'll spare you the details, but just know that I had a bag with old fish heads which had been "maturing" in the sun that you drag across the sand. This "stink bag" lures worms out long enough for you to see one, try to grab one, miss it, swear, then see another one appear 30 centimetres away from the last one. I missed him too. When you do actually catch one of these worms, they can reach over a metre in length and are allegedly irresistible to the mutlitude of fish that swim just off the beach of this amazing island. Oh and you colour them with cocheneal dye to make dead ones appear alive (or raspberry flavoured).
There are many other attractions to Fraser Island though, including the wreck of the 120 metre (400ft) ocean liner, the S.S. Maheno. which became stranded in 1935. The remnants of this ship once used as a hospital ship in World War I, still attracts plenty of visitors. It's an amazing sight to behold, particularly as the sun rises over the ocean and reflects through the last rusting stack. Beyond the shore line, Fraser Island offers up a surprising variation in terrain and environment. As you head inland there are over 100 lakes as well as forests that were subject to logging for over 100 years. If there is one thing I learnt, however, it's to not be overconfident. I didn't learn this through any type of misadventure either, but a lot of "adventurers" seem to like big tyres and big suspension. That means normal vehicles have to follow in their tracks and it was clear on a few occasions that neither this Prado, nor my Father in laws rig were built to do so.
That didn't stop us exploring though and there is still much to see, from the inland forests to the much more accessible Eli Creek. After the hard day of play is over, most nights we cooked our own supplies however there was a restaurant that provided appropriately sized dinners and beverages for hungry anglers/holiday makers. Since I'm not such an avid fisher as my fellow adventurers were, my days weren't driven by tide times. Sunset and sunrise were my favourite parts of the day. To stand on the eastern beach and watch the first tip of the sun rise over the waves is an impressive, deep breath kind of moment. Clear, crisp and quiet.
On the final day, we did have to abide to the tides however, as they governed access to the ferry. Knowing what we were in for, and perhaps because we knew our holiday was over, the trip back to the ferry seemed to end far too quickly. I wanted to see more....actually catch one of those blasted worms, and stay just another day...or week more. Alas, we boarded the ferry and touched back down at Inskip Point with just a few hundred metres between us and bitumen. Our trusty Silver chariot, which had seen us through inland forests, creek crossings and most of 75 Mile Beach Road, headed to the tree line with confident gusto, powering through some fairly soft sand it seemed. As we approached the exits from the beach, it became clear the sand was very soft indeed. So much so that each exit was blocked with already bogged vehicles! Snookered and with nowhere to go, the Prado rested on its belly plate, flinging powder white sand into the air. The last 100 metres of our journey and we got bogged! Seeing our predicament, a mid 20's guy, in his own slightly older Prado with a lift kit and big tyres, immediately proceeded into the powder and hooked up a snatch strap to try and pull us out. Despite our best efforts, within 5 minutes, he too was stuck. But this is really where that quality I was talking about earlier comes into play. That one quality that can't be engineered: trust.
"Don't worry mate. My mate will be here in a minute. His Cruiser will get us out". Sure enough, in very short order we were all free to go on our way. The other Cruiser and Prado headed off to the ferry and we headed off to give the truck an essential post beach treatment: a fresh water bath. After we got back onto the bitumen, I started to replay my experiences on Fraser and there was one constant. With no hazard of exaggeration, at least 80% of the vehicles I saw on the beach were Toyotas. Yes, we saw a few Nissans and a Holden Colorado or two, we even saw a Great Wall X200. However, from my father in laws Prado (his second, after a series of Hiluxes) and his mate Pagy's Hilux, to my potential and actual rescuers, and many vehicles in between, no other brand was more trusted to get you down the beach and back again. Speaking of getting back again, it's about time I thought about practicing my worm catching technique. Maybe this year we can go back for another adventure. Thanks for reading. I'll see you on the road! ~Mick For specifications and prices on this and all vehicles we review, Sunny Coast Feature Cars recommends REDBOOK.COM.AU <-click here for Prado information This trip took place in August 2013. The Toyota Prado has gone through an update since then and is available with a range of engines, features and prices. Head to Toyota.com.au to check out the range and find your nearest dealer. Click on our Directory for Local Sunshine Coast Businesses