Versatile Luxury |
Given the plethora of SUVs currently available in the market, Toyota’s Fortuner stands out from the crowd. Carrying the flag as one of the most reliable, and the country’s best selling large SUV since the launch of the first Fortuner in 2005, Toyota has now given it a facelift, including technical improvements in the engine, while maintaining the vehicle’s utility. We set out with the Fortuner 2.8GD-6 4×4 VXto find out if the Fortuner’s new appearance is enough to ensure that this Toyota stalwart remains in the lead.
Exterior enhancements are notable at the front of the car, with a more prominent appearance of the redesigned grille. Flanking the grille, the chrome inserts bridge the updated headlight clusters with an upgraded LED signature. The upgraded tail-lights on the VX model distinguishes the incumbent from its predecessor, as do the side glass, a metallic trim strip, C-pillars and tailgate screen. Exclusive of the facelift offering, our test vehicles lacked the badging on the back of this model, but the aforementioned upgrades, although restrained, undoubtedly enhance the Fortuner’s appearance.
In keeping with Toyota tradition, the interior design follows a similar restrained approach, which in part explains the success of the Fortuner over nearly two decades. There are a few minor changes, however, mostly evident in the choice of seat colour that has been changed from the previous polarising brown, to a more palatable black leather trim, and enhanced with heated seating in the front. In addition, Toyota’s workhorse SUV gains a more connected eight-inch infotainment system, now with both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality. Following the digital trend, the traditional analogue dials make way for an all-digital instrument cluster, and the euphonious JBL sound system is a welcome addition.
With no changes in physical dimensions, the remainder of the cabin retains its standard practicality. The 7-seater SUV ensures conventional seating for five adults, with two side-mounted seats in the load bay, best suited for small people. Overall, the cabin is well appointed and comfortable for all passengers. The cargo space remains among the best in class.
With technical improvements to the engine, the facelift is not strictly cosmetic. The venerable 2.8 GD-6 inline 4-cylinder turbodiesel unit features electronic and mechanical enhancements, as well as a larger turbo that boosts output to 150 kW and 500 Nm of torque. A 6-speed automatic is the only transmission on offer in the new 2.8 Fortuner. Purists may question this offering, but rest assured that the transmission partners perfectly with the powertrain
Given that our planned road trip, along with an off-road test was curtailed by traveling restrictions, on-road performance deserves a special mention. Courtesy of the upgraded engine and revised powertrain, the vehicle’s driveability is the most notable improvement when compared to the pre-facelift 2.8 GD-6. Acceleration feels eager, particularly when urgency is required in overtaking on the motorway. With a tow capacity of up to 3,300 kg, even at full occupancy. Claimed consumption is 10,5L/100km for urban application and 9.0L/100km for extra urban.
The ride comfort is sufficient, especially for an SUV that consists of a body mounted on a ladder-frame chassis. While the Fortuner is not as comfortable as its archrival, the Ford Everest, a smooth ride over road imperfections is commendable. Exhibiting a fair amount of body roll when cornering at high speeds, expected given the high centre of gravity of this tall vehicle, the Fortuner is not the type of vehicle you purchase to drive briskly. Treat it as a highway cruiser, and you will enjoy a calmer driving experience.
Cabin noise is kept at a minimum, and you can enjoy a relaxed conversation at motorway speeds, although the side-mounted third-row seats do tend to squeak and rattle when traversing over rough surfaces.
The Fortuner now includes the same new safety features previously introduced in the Hilux, including lane departure warning, pre-collision detection, road-sign recognition, EBD, ABS, brake assist, traction control and stability control. Equipped with adaptive cruise and distance control (standard on the VX), functional at speeds above 30 km/h, driving pleasure is guaranteed.
The Fortuner distinguishes itself as a well rounded vehicle, and adaptive to an array of lifestyle preferences that make this the most practical vehicle in its class. Performance may not be of the lap-record-breaking kind, but it is competitive in its class, both as an off-roader and a highway cruiser. We foresee that the new Fortuner will remain at the head of its class.
Report & Images by BRYAN KAYAVHU