I was so looking forward to driving the all new Toyota Fortuner and being probably one of the only journos not to attend the national media launch, I can assure you that I was very excited to hear that I had one coming my way really soon. First things first. The new Fortuner, which is claimed to be all new, looks very good from all angles. Toyota has gone away with bakkie turned into an SUV look and styled this thing proper; sharp angles everywhere. Man does it look stylish.
This is the top of the range 2.8 diesel model and while it shares it with the new Hilux, the engine is all new and is really an improvement in the power and consumption department. The engine is super smooth and when mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission, shifting becomes a breeze. The gearbox is so smooth, there were times where I though Toyota pulled the wool over our eyes and fitted a CVT transmission. I can, however, assure you that this is a conventional automatic box, with paddle shift on the steering.
The interior is where most of the oooh’ and aah’s are going to get you. I’d like to say well done Toyota, however, I think you made it so good that you might have turned Prado prospects into Fortuner buyers. There is soft touch material almost everywhere and the dark brown leather, instead of the beige is really a highlight. Thankfully somebody listened and they dropped it…after something like 8 years. There is now a “cooler” cubby standard and they have also slanted the multimedia screen that you can actually see it. I’ve driven so many cars where the screen is plain vertical and you really battle to see anything on the screen. I also love the design element they went with, especially the leather surrounding it. It gives it a really upmarket feeling. The gauges and onboard computer are also, all new. This is really what sets it apart from feeling like you are in a bakkie and its probably one of the best parts of this new model. There is also a fancy, push start, 6 speaker audio system with digital radio, things like USB and Bluetooth audio are obviously still there as well as their onboard “eco” drive monitor.
Driving the Fortuner is where all of it makes sense. The 130kw engine and the 450nm will handle just about anything you throw at it. I was really excited to get it out on the gravel and my first experience was a little disappointing. But after checking the tire pressures and deflating a little, I retraced my route and the lack of confidence it had shown on the corrugations was gone. It was finally ready and willing to take on anything. You have to also take into account that Toyota has done away with their all-wheel drive system. The Fortuner is now a rear wheel drive vehicle until manually switched over to 4 h, which just engages the center diff. The front and rear diffs are open, but you do have vehicle stability and traction control keeping things in check. As with the previous generation Fortuner, there is still a rear diff-lock for when things get really hairy in the bush. Approach and departure angles are 29 and 25 degrees respectfully. The Rims are still 17’s and have a set of Bridgestone Duellers All terrains fitted to them with 265-65 tires.
Another highlight of the 2.8 is the fuel economy. If driven in an eco manner, you can see figures as low as 7.7l/100km, something that I have never seen in an SUV of this size. This is partially due to the tall cruising gears of the automatic gearbox. If I recall correctly, I saw 120kph at about 1800rpm and this to me is cruising heaven. Though we tested the Fortuner on a lot of gravel, actually more than what we intended to, consumption figures were still good and we ended up with a tank range of about 700 km when the light eventually came on.
There were just 3 things I did not like on the new Fortuner. The steering was too light for my liking, the paddle shifts would downshift properly, but had a delay on upshifts and lastly, the 3rd row hanging from the windows when folded up created a very nasty blindspot. I do realise that 99% of Fortuner owners do remove them, so that does take care of it. It’s just something to take note of, though.
The new Toyota Fortuner is really that good of a vehicle. It has space, good comfort and excellent fuel economy. I can forsee Toyota going to town with this one and selling plenty. Well done.
The Toyota Fortuner 2.8 GD-6 Auto 4×4 retails for R589-400 and comes standard with Toyotas 5 year 90 000km service plan and the 3 year 100 000km warranty. For more info head on over to Toyota.co.za