The seven-seat mega-SUV has come a long way from its working class roots
The last time I drove a Toyota Fortuner was when the first generation was launched. Then, it looked like someone had grafted an SUV tailgate to a Hilux pick-up truck on which it was based.
The suspension left no doubt as to its off-roading capabilities because its was so harsh that you might as well be driving on the rough stuff anyway. If you could put up with the hard ride, the drivetrain would leave you hoarse if you attempted a conversation with your passengers at expressway speeds as the din from the engine and transmission competed with the radio to be heard.
In a word, the original Fortuner was agricultural. Amazingly, that car stayed in production for 10 years.
Enter the second generation Fortuner that you see tested here and the immediate impression is one that had us doing a double take. While its size and height still cuts a commanding presence, its styling now imparts a similar sense of sophistication as Toyota’s other popular people movers such as the Alphard and Vellfire.
When viewed from the rear, its LED tail lamps lead the eye to its flanks and would not look out of place when parked next to the current range of Lexus Sports Utility Vehicles.
At 279mm, the Fortuner offers a standard ground clearance that offers more daylight between its undercarriage and road than even a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. Other than being useful in a flood or off-roading, this generous ride height translates to offering the Toyota’s occupants with a terrific vantage point all around. The downside however, is that climbing on board can be challenging especially for the elderly with mobility issues.
One of the Fortuner’s other attractions is that it has a third row of seats. Surprisingly however, headroom in the last row comes at a premium and anyone approaching 1.8-metres tall will find their head wedged against the roof even if legroom is acceptable. This is a pity as I can think of many families that would be drawn to the rugged styling of an SUV but in truth would be better served by a proper MPV like a Previa or Alphard/Vellfire. Had the last row be available with more headroom, the Fortuner would have made
for an ideal alternative.
Where the new Fortuner has improved most however, is in the way it drives. The cacophonous clatter that greets the driver at start-up is all but banished. The build quality and that of materials have also improved to the point where they are more than a match for its up-market cousins, Lexus. The Toyota even manages some classy accoutrements like an electrically-operated tailgate and a six-speed automatic gearbox. There’s even an eco-driving indicator to help drivers eke out the best possible fuel efficiency from this massive car.
Turn the steering wheel and it responds with a reassuring level of heft that imparts a feeling of quality and stability; feels almost like a Chubb safe on wheels.
The engine refinement has also improved to the point where its occupants could be forgiven for thinking that a smooth V6 presided beneath the Fortuner’s bonnet instead of a 2.7-litre four-cylinder unit.
There was never any assumption however that the Fortuner was going to be a Cayenne beater in the performance department but within its own context, it does an admirable job of holding the driver’s chosen line through a turn. Save for a slight bobbing at low speeds, the driver can easily remedy this by adjusting his speed and driving style slightly to match the harmonic resonance of the suspension setup.
On the whole the all-new Toyota Fortuner is a massive improvement over the previous model, leaving us only wishing that
the third row had better headroom to comfortably put it head and shoulders against the likes of class competitors such as the
Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento.
by Sheldon Trollope
Engine In-line 4, 2,694cc
Power 163hp @ 5,200rpm
Torque 245Nm @ 4,000rpm
Gearbox 6-speed automatic, 4WD
Top speed 175km/h
Basic Price $193,888 with COE
Contact Borneo Motors, 6631 1188
Evo rating 3.5 stars
+ Still massive but more stylish
- Third row headroom lacking