The hardy Fortuner made a mark for itself over the past decade as the workman’s runabout – but now with an all-new look and beefed up entrails, the brand tries to take it upmarket
Author: Raj Warrior | Photography: Elvis John Ferrao
The Fortuner is one of a unique set of SUVs in the Oman market. On the one hand you have full-fledged body on frame SUVs like the Fortuner’s own bigger brothers, the Land Cruiser and Prado and on the other you have a set of crossovers that have evolved from the unitary origins of a sedan’s build – much like the RAV4. It is this segment of vehicles that sit in between the two, overlapping in terms of price and sort of trying to address all sorts of customers that stand out – often for the wrong reasons. The underlying issue is that the bulk of the volume on the body on frame platform they rise from comes from the pickup market. The SUV, like the Fortuner here, is often an aspirational move away from the pickup body.
Ten years ago, Toyota set about changing that formula when they launched the predecessor to this model. They set about rolling out the IMV platform which spawned the front-engine rear-wheel layout of the Fortuner, Innova and HiLux. The message right there was that there was nothing incremental being done – the platform was designed to serve as the underpinnings of each of these vehicles but the vehicles were holistically designed to stand apart. And they did. The Fortuner did get quite rave reviews for the job it does and it has set the benchmark in many Asian countries and even the region for an affordable, utilitarian SUV. In fact it could be the success of the Thailand manufactured trio that saw their life extend over a decade.
Now the new Fortuner has been launched and you can see that the brand has revisited the platform with some vigour.
To get the equation right, the engineers seem to have addressed some of the weaknesses of the older SUV and have reinforced many strong points. They began with a whole new look that reflects a very modern Toyota design language. Two large chrome pillars arranged in a V bracket the new grille and the headlights wouldn’t have looked out of place on the Camry, with Bi-Xenon projectors and new LED light signature. The lower airdam is arranged in a 3D manner that takes your eyes out to the chrome rimmed foglight pods. The same metallic effect is taken on to the rearview mirrors.
The profile gets a lot busier. While the body has changed marginally if at all, the panelwork has dramatically improved as has the way in which the greenhouse has been emphasised. Now the area between the C and D pillars gets a blackened out effect that enlarges the impression of glass. It isn’t quite seamless but the effect is borrowed from the newer Lexus models where it is handled with better refinement.
One of the problems with body on frame vehicles is the height of the body as it sits on the frame. This is especially true when the end result is intended for off-road use. The proportions are better handled now, with a metallic hued running board managing to lower the sightlines and the beefed up fender compensating for the height. Around the rear of the Fortuner, the emphasis is again on given an impression of width as the framing and taillights are laid out horizontally, with a nice mix of chrome inserts.
In the higher-grade car that we picked up – a 4.0-litre VX – you cannot fault the interior. It’s the sort of cabin that you would see in competition from a segment above at the very least. The leather feel seats, wooden steering wheel and inserts, instrumentation and soft-feel plastics all speak of a class of vehicle that seems a little detached from the utilitarian reality of the Fortuner. It’s going to be the single most important factor in getting new customers into the Fortuner. The IP panel is combined with a large central display and the dashboard itself is designed to maximise the legroom available. It seems a little vertical but that’s nicely compensated by the use of layering, double-stitched seams and surfaces that can be used. You don’t get caught out by any ungainly instrumentation. There are a few dummied up switch positions as you would expect in an SUV allowing you to add in some mods as required without cutting into the dash any further.
We consider ourselves a little bigger than average, but even we need to clamber aboard – the hip point is relatively high but the running board helps as does the grab handle on the A-pillar. Once on board, housekeeping features like pairing your iPhone and getting the music blasting over the Bluetooth take no time at all, handled very well by the system. It’s all touch screen interface nowadays anyway. We didn’t check the mapping out because our test car didn’t have the map SD card on-board but we would expect the high resolution of the display to generate a clear grid.
Cabin comfort is top notch, with a new colour of leather on offer, a better than expected sound system, quick release access to the third row and a power tailgate. The large display also doubles up as a rearview monitor for the camera.
The vehicle comes with two choices of engine, like before. The 2.7-litre four-pot generates 165hp and the V6 4.0-litre has an output of 235hp. And the automatic gearbox on offer is a six-speed unit with rather short gearing in the lower reaches. The part-time 4WD system uses a selector knob to engage 4WD and low range and there is a proper rear diff lock available.
Added ruggedness comes from the reworked frame, strengthened to handle greater twist and stresses while the suspension has been reworked to include coils on all of the wheel points and a better damping. The Fortuner can take on rocks like a champion, showing a good level of articulation – the benefit of all that height we spoke about.
On the straight and narrow, you can decide how noisy the Toyota Fortuner gets. Floor the accelerator and you feel the grind of the shorter ratios before the car gets it legs out and away. The Fortuner’s NVH is way better than before and the cabin is well isolated. You barely feel a speed breaker. The only time you remember the origins of the SUV is when you take turns – weight shift is apparent and the roll sets in, but this time the recovery is much quicker and the power steering handles it like a champ. There is a decided lightness to the steering’s feel, which is good in most cases. It’s only on sand that we feel there should be a little more directness of feel through the column. Low gear is well chosen, as you can literally crawl up steep inclines. You can’t really fault the drivetrain and the suspension combination – the engineers have ironed out any shortcomings of past iterations.
The new generation Fortuner takes the story of the IMV platform ahead – it’s better looking; seems better engineered and it is definitely classier than the vehicle we are used to. The price point remains in the same zone and it looks like the brand is looking at buyers who would normally be buying into crossovers.