New Toyota Fortuner ups the ante
Toyota’s burly Fortuner SUV has been a runaway success in South Africa, with almost 100 000 examples sold since it made its debut here a decade ago, thanks to its combination of rugged underpinnings, ample space and go-anywhere talent.
That success has made the pre-launch interest in the new, second-generation Fortuner all the more intense, fuelled also by the unusually long replacement cycle, and the emergence of more modern rivals, notably the latest Ford Everest.
Well, the good news for Fortuner fans (and anyone interested in a utility SUV) is that the new model is finally here. Based on the equally new Toyota Hilux, it features fresh looks, a range of new turbodiesel engines, a much improved interior, and big gains as far as ride comfort and refinement are concerned.
Launched last week, the eight-model Fortuner range is offered with a choice of two petrol and two turbodiesel engines, linked to six-speed manual or six-speed auto gearboxes. As before, both 4×2 and 4×4 models are on offer.
The styling will remain controversial, with the Fortuner sharing the snout-like front end with the Hilux, although a different grille and bumper assembly makes for a slightly smoother appearance. There’s a fair amount of brightwork, and the headlights are slimmer, with LED daytime running lights on the fancier models.
The engine line-up includes two turbodiesels: a 2,4-litre and a 2,8-litre, both belonging to the new GD-6 engine family, and offering outputs of 110 kW and 130 kW respectively. More importantly, the torque outputs are generous, with the smaller engine delivering 400 Nm, and up to 450 Nm in the case of the 2,8-litre mill.
Both engines are impressive as far as low-down urge and overall refinement are concerned, and we expect the 2,4-litre power unit to emerge as the somewhat unexpected star of the Fortuner show.
For those who prefer petrol power, the Fortuner is offered with a 2,7-litre four-cylinder VVT-i unit good fro 122 kW and 245 Nm, or the range-topping 4,0-litre V6, with 175 kW and 376 Nm on tap. However, we’d expect the turbodiesels to dominate demand.
As far as drivetrains are concerned, only three of the eight models feature four-wheel drive: the 4,0 V6 flagship, the 2.8 GD-6 Manual, and the 2.8 GD-6 Automatic. The turbodiesels can be linked to either a six-speed manual or a six-speed auto box, while the 2.7 VVT-I and the 4.0 V6 come with auto transmissions only.
We drove the entry-level Fortuner 2.4 GD-6 4×2 during the launch in the Western Cape and found that the newcomer offers huge gains in refinement and ride comfort. The cockpit is different to the Hilux, with a better integrated centre stack, but the basic layout and ergonomic approach is similar, and effective.
Spec levels are comprehensive for a so-called entry-grade model, and includes the likes of Bluetooth, cruise control, push-button start, remote central locking, air-con, multi-speaker sound, four airbags, ABS brakes, stability control, and more.
One disappointment, though: those dreadful third-row seats are still suspended from the sides of the cargo bay in an arrangement that looks untidy, and robs the cargo bay of luggage space when not in use. At least they are easier to use than before, but they’re still a step behind the competition’s retractable third seat row.
The 2,4-litre engine feels lusty and willing, with all that low-down torque (on tap from just 1 600 rpm) ensuring useful get-up-and-go from the outset. It certainly feels muscular enough to cope with the vehicle’s two-ton mass, even when loaded. Cruising at the legal limit was easily achieved and maintained.
The six-speed manual gearbox offers a slick enough shift, but the reverse position to the left of first is too easily engaged unintentionally. The ratios are spread quite wide, with first almost taking on a donkey role, while sixth is very much an overdrive gear economical cruising.
Engine refinement is particularly impressive, combined with a chassis and suspension combo that feels both solid and more compliant than before. NVH has been dramatically reduced, making for a much more car-like driving experience, while the spring rates and damper settings deliver a smooth, composed ride.
Pressing on, this Fortuner is a lot more confidence-inspiring than its predecessor. The tendency towards understeer when cornering hard remains, but is more controllable, and steering response is more positive. Upgraded brakes translate into better stopping power, too.
The new Fortuner faces some stiff opposition, notably from the latest Ford Everest, which will feature an expanded range with an affordable 2,2-litre turbodiesel model from the second half of this year. However, Toyota has done its homework, and come up with an impressive all-round package.
While the company expects the 2.8 GD-6 4×4 to be the most popular model, we think the 2.4 GD-6 4×2 offers a mix of affordability, comfort, spec and performance that will make it the top choice.
- Watch our full driving impressions of the Toyota Fortuner 2.4 GD-6 4×2 Manual on RPM TV next week, 13 April, at 20h30 on SuperSport 8.
2.4 GD-6 Raised Body Manual: R436 400
2.4 GD-6 Raised Body Automatic: R453 400
2.7 VVT-i Raised Body Automatic: R429 400
2.8 GD-6 Raised Body Manual: R513 400
2.8 GD-6 4×4 Manual: R571 400
2.8 GD-6 Raised Body Automatic: R531 400
2.8 GD-6 4×4 Automatic: R589 400
4.0 V6 4×4 Automatic: R633 400