Fam­ily road trip to north­ern NSW in Toy­ota’s For­tuner.

Toy­ota bills its For­tuner wagon as a fam­ily-friendly 4x4, so we loaded the fam­ily on board, hooked up a Pa­triot X1 camper and hit the tracks.

4 x 4 Australia - - Contents - WORDS CHAR­LIE WIL­LIAMS

The six-hour drive from Syd­ney to Warrabah Na­tional Park in North­ern NSW in­volves a mix of free­way and coun­try B-roads, as well as snaking gravel treks. Not to men­tion the myr­iad stopovers that show­case coun­try Aus­tralia. So, we sad­dled up Toy­ota’s For­tuner wagon.

The new 2.8-litre tur­bod­iesel en­gine from the Prado de­liv­ers a stout 450Nm, per­fect for tow­ing the Pa­triot X1 camper we had hitched to the back (see side­bar on page 66). Mated to the six-speed auto gear­box in our top-of-the­line Cru­sade it makes for easy tour­ing, and it com­fort­ably de­voured all but the steeper hills en route. With fuel use around 11.0L/100km it was re­spectably eco­nom­i­cal, too.

Head­ing to Warrabah Na­tional Park from Syd­ney you’ll pass through Tam­worth, best known for its an­nual coun­try mu­sic fes­ti­val, plus nu­mer­ous equine events and its 12-me­tre golden gui­tar on the south­ern edge of town. From there it’s qui­eter road north to­wards Manilla, right in the heart of cat­tle coun­try. The quaint coun­try town is the gate­way to some lo­cal sur­prises, a list of which we took note of to ex­plore dur­ing our stay.

Hav­ing a proper 4x4 – lad­der frame chas­sis, low range and full-size spare tyre – en­sured we could point the nose down any track that took our fancy.

The For­tuner is well set up for smaller fam­i­lies (the Prado and Land Cruiser cater for larger ones) with seven seats for sub­ur­ban du­ties and loads of space for lug­gage once the rear seats are folded against the sides to max­imise load space. The top-

of-the-range Cru­sade comes with plenty of crea­ture com­forts, in­clud­ing leather seats, cli­mate con­trol air­con­di­tion­ing, au­to­matic head­lights and smart key en­try, which al­lows you to leave the key in your pocket to open the doors.

A re­vers­ing cam­era makes park­ing eas­ier, and it also makes it a cinch to back the car up to the trailer.

Back on the road and the pock-marked bi­tu­men quickly turned to dirt, and within kilo­me­tres it re­vealed rolling, oc­ca­sion­ally jagged hills that pro­vide a spec­tac­u­lar in­sight into the gran­ite-strewn coun­try­side ahead. The rocks are part of the Bun­darra Gran­ites that stretch all the way to Queens­land. River glimpses add to what is a scenic drive.

The harsher rocks are also part of the rea­son Warrabah ex­ists. Be­ing dif­fi­cult to ac­cess and even more dif­fi­cult to farm meant it was largely over­looked as pro­duc­tive land, in­stead it was turned into a na­ture re­serve be­fore achiev­ing Na­tional Park sta­tus in 1984. Th­ese days it spreads across a rel­a­tively com­pact 52.16km², a land size that’s in­creased over the years as the NSW Na­tional Parks and Wildlife Ser­vice bought up avail­able sur­round­ing land.

Upon en­ter­ing the park there’s a broad smat­ter­ing of camp­sites, each with easy ac­cess to fa­cil­i­ties. We headed for the Gum Hole

site a few kilo­me­tres along what’s rec­om­mended as a four-wheel-drive-only road. A two-wheel drive on its own should han­dle the un­du­lat­ing and oc­ca­sion­ally steep track; although, with the trailer in tow it paid to have some ex­tra grunt – and abil­ity.

Once there it re­veals a spec­tac­u­lar camp­ground on a much wider sec­tion of the river. It’s the per­fect spot for a ca­noe or kayak for ex­plor­ing the edges of the river. Kids – and the oc­ca­sional adult – will love the gi­ant rope swing that makes for a more spec­tac­u­lar aquatic en­trance. The big­gest ap­peal of Warrabah is the seren­ity. Crack open a book or just sit back with a glass of wine and soak up one of the most pic­turesque wa­ter­holes in the coun­try.

We were also there to ex­plore the sur­round­ing re­gion, and while the X1 camper claims to go any­where your tow car can, we went solely in the For­tuner. First stop for us was the steep, twist­ing road to Mount Bo­rah. A four-wheel drive isn’t manda­tory, but it def­i­nitely makes life more re­as­sur­ing on the chal­leng­ing road with its sharp pinches. The For­tuner’s ac­cu­rate steer­ing and sup­ple sus­pen­sion dealt nicely with the jar­ring bumps and tight bends. Crest­ing the hill gives a spec­tac­u­lar view of the sur­round­ing area, and there’s a fair chance you’ll spot some paraglid­ers us­ing what’s re­garded as one of the best launch lo­ca­tions in Aus­tralia. If you’re game you can even book a tan­dem flight through the lo­cal paraglid­ing school.

Next it was off to Split Rock Dam, an enor­mous wa­ter sup­ply for the lo­cal re­gion. It’s great for a swim and all sorts of wa­ter sports; per­fect if you’ve got a boat.

We found some more chal­leng­ing tracks, one on a

pri­vate road where the owner al­lowed us to test the met­tle of the For­tuner. The ex­cel­lent 225mm ground clearance en­sures easy rock-hop­ping, while solid un­der­body pro­tec­tion gives con­fi­dence in tack­ling some of the more chal­leng­ing ob­sta­cles. The steep ap­proach (30 de­grees) and de­par­ture (25 de­grees) an­gles makes for a for­mi­da­ble off-roader, and one un­likely to scrape its chin.

The A-TRC ac­tive trac­tion con­trol ex­pands the For­tuner’s tal­ents and range of ter­rain. It’s beau­ti­fully cal­i­brated for se­ri­ous off-road work, to the point where the lock­ing rear dif­fer­en­tial isn’t re­quired. Even on gen­tle throt­tle ap­pli­ca­tions it cleanly de­liv­ers torque to the wheels with trac­tion, the low range gear­ing al­low­ing low speed con­trol when the go­ing gets rough.

Be­ing based on the rugged un­der­pin­nings of the Toy­ota Hilux also gives the driver re­as­sur­ance that the For­tuner can han­dle some tougher treat­ment and still get you home re­li­ably.

PHO­TOS MARK ALLEN

Even packed with a fam­ily there’s plenty of space for stor­age. The 2.8-litre turbo-diesel en­gine de­liv­ers a stout 450Nm, per­fect for tow­ing the Pa­triot X1 camper we had hitched to the back

Don’t worry, the Pa­triot X1 camper is de­signed to keep dust out!

The For­tuner’s ac­cu­rate steer­ing and sup­ple sus­pen­sion dealt nicely with the jar­ring bumps and tight bends Plenty of grunt means the For­tuner lugs the camper with ease.

Steep ap­proach and de­par­ture an­gles makes for a for­mi­da­ble off-roader

The Pa­triot X1 won the cov­eted CTA Camper Trailer Of The Year award! A-TRC ac­tive trac­tion con­trol is beau­ti­fully cal­i­brated for se­ri­ous off-road work

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.