In October I had a recce job in Morocco and unexpectedly ended up driving a Toyota Prado TX. It’s been some time since I’ve driven a 4×4 – 2008 in fact: my Mazda in Algeria. Luckily I had an off road instructor alongside to remind me what to do.
The Prado TX is a commonly rented vehicle in Morocco – a 3-litre diesel automatic at around £150/day. Auto diesels were very rare in my day but make sense as rental vehicles. The cars had around 100,000km on the clocks but were in good shape. Part of the brief was to find some challenging tracks which I expected would get too much for the well-used and softly sprung TXs.
An auto fourbie is a new thing for me, but a great idea in that there’s no clutch to fry or gearbox to hammer. The Prado feels heavy and on the road is a bit of a sluggish overtaker, but off-road that ability to concentrate on wheel placement and braking was of course a better way of doing things.
One thing I did find was that Low Range 1st was still too high while coming down Route MA6 on Jebel Timouka. It was over patches of rocky terrain more than the steepness which needed easing over, but I constantly had to dab the brakes. I think I should have tried Hill Descent Control (or some such) to slow the car down, though that may have been excruciatingly too slow. The gearbox could also be slotted across into manual – ‘S’ – which also helped with control.
I’ve never scraped or thumped a 4×4’s underside so much as I did coming down MA6 in the TX at 5kph for two hours. They were all non-damaging hits but it’s not a good sound. The dash button would also not lock the central diff the one or two times we thought we might need it; traction-wise the car managed fine thanks to the fat tyres on soft springs and dry conditions.
I heard later that a couple of months back an HZJ78 Troopy fell over at the bottom end of this route where a wash-out requires driving steeply up/down the river bank. On a few occasions I had to be marshalled over rocks; following the guide’s hand signals to inch left or right. Not done that for years but it’s a system that works very well. Taking it easy, front and rear bumper clearance were not issues.
At one point I had a ‘Specsavers’ moment when a rock jumped out of nowhere and caught the nearside front wheel while driving out along MS9’s riverbeds towards Anezal. We stumbled across that route from another direction and which I’ve also not done since 2008 on an XT660. I’m pretty sure that thump tweaked the steering wheel 5° to the left, though there seemed no damage to the linkages or subsequent vibration in the steering. We also had the age-old problem of dust playing up with the tailgate release locks.
All up, while it was fun to off-road in the Prado and the auto box make light work of the trails, it’s still a big fat, lumbering 4×4 which I’d have no use for elsewhere. I’d sooner do Morocco in a jacked up Audi estate or maybe a rented Duster.