A For­tuner life

Roam far and wide in this gen­uine off-roader based on the HiLux ute

Herald Sun - Motoring - - FIRST DRIVE - PE­TER BARN­WELL pe­ter.barn­well@news.com.au

TOY­OTA’S crowded SUV lineup gets an­other mem­ber this week with the in­tro­duc­tion of the medium-large, seven-seat For­tuner.

There are now seven SUV-style Toy­otas with the new­comer fit­ting be­tween the petrol, bi­tu­men-fo­cused Kluger and the diesel Prado.

Based on the new HiLux ute, the diesel-only For­tuner is priced from $47,990 for the sixspeed man­ual GX, with the sixspeed auto adding $2000. Fac­tor in the auto and that un­der­cuts Ford’s new Ever­est start­ing point by $5000.

The Ever­est is For­tuner’s most ob­vi­ous com­peti­tor. Among other sim­i­lar, rugged, cut-price off-road­ers are Holden’s Colorado 7, the pop­u­lar Isuzu MU-X and the soon to be up­dated Mit­subishi Chal­lenger. All are sig­nif­i­cantly cheaper but based on older un­der­pin­nings.

The For­tuner line-up ex­tends to the GXL at $52,990 for the man­ual and Cru­sade at $59,990 like­wise.

A gen­uine off-road ve­hi­cle, the For­tuner has rear-drive or se­lectable low and high-range 4WD, plus a rear dif­fer­en­tial lock for tricky con­di­tions.

Max­i­mum wad­ing depth is 700mm, ground clear­ance is 279mm and there is a rigid rear axle — the pref­er­ence for se­ri­ous off road driv­ing.

The body-on-chas­sis con­struc­tion is the time­honoured norm for “real” 4WDs and in For­tuner’s case, the rear sus­pen­sion has been ex­ten­sively re­vised to ac­com­mo­date coil-springs and mul­ti­ple links.

Thanks to the new HiLux form­ing the base, the For­tuner also had sub­stan­tial lo­cal en­gi­neer­ing in­put on the chas­sis and body en­gi­neer­ing, wiring and dy­nam­ics. Toy­ota Aus­tralia’s tech­ni­cal cen­tre worked with as­sis­tance from en­gi­neers from HQ in Ja­pan.

A few HiLux body parts cross over to For­tuner but most pan­els rear­ward of the wind­screen are unique, as are the cabin de­sign and equip­ment.

Un­der the bon­net, it’s pure

HiLux and Prado, power com­ing from a newly de­vel­oped 2.8-litre four-cylin­der turbo diesel.

It is said to be “pas­sen­ger ori­ented’’, good for 130kW and either 420Nm in the man­ual or 450Nm in the auto. Claimed con­sump­tion is 7.8L/100km (man­ual).

Smooth and quiet-run­ning, the diesel faces a tough com­peti­tor in the Ever­est, with su­pe­rior power and torque from its 3.2-litre five-cylin­der turbo diesel.

Toy­ota; s en­gine meets Euro5 emis­sion stan­dards and has a diesel par­tic­u­late fil­ter.

The For­tuner gets a five-star safety rat­ing thanks to ex­ten­sive use of high strength steel in the chas­sis, seven airbags, re­vers­ing cam­era and a front end de­signed to im­prove pedes­trian safety.

For­tuna does well in the tow­ing stakes and is rated at 3000kg — half a tonne more than its sta­ble­mate Prado.

Smaller than the Kluger, the For­tuner has an older side-seat fold­ing setup in the third row but ac­cess is aided by a one-touch, tip and tum­ble cen­tre row. The boot is ad­e­quate with all rows in place and Toy­ota has been gen­er­ous with fea­tures.

Even the base model has a seven-inch touch­screen, sixs­peaker au­dio and good con­nec­tiv­ity.

There are mul­ti­ple 12V plugs, nu­mer­ous cup-hold­ers and stor­age com­part­ments, full-size spare, LED tail-lights, sides steps and more.

Sat­nav is lim­ited to the Cru­sade, which is the only model to get an auto tail­gate. Fit­ment of driver-as­sist fea­tures such as auto brak­ing and blind spot warn­ing is min­i­mal.

In the wilds of South Aus­tralia’s Flin­ders Ranges, the mus­cu­lar-look­ing For­tuner re­ally put its best wheel for­ward.

It’s an im­pres­sive piece of kit for this en­vi­ron­ment, mak­ing easy work of high-speed cruis­ing on the black­top and then cop­ing well with rough bush tracks and steep climbs.

The For­tuner’s down­hill as­sist works well, eas­ing down steep rocky in­clines.

It is also im­pres­sive when “walk­ing” through rough and deep dry creek beds.

There’s plenty of poke from the en­gine, which per­forms well with either trans­mis­sion. Pad­dle-shifters on some mod­els are su­per­flu­ous.

Pretty much un­stop­pable and truly ac­com­plished as a rugged off-roader, the For­tuner can eas­ily back up as a city com­muter or com­fort­able fam­ily wagon, its lo­cally fet­tled sus­pen­sion and steer­ing help­ing smooth things for pas­sen­gers.

VER­DICT

With Prado nudg­ing into big­buck ter­ri­tory, For­tuner is ready to take its place as a gen­uine four-wheel-drive eas­ily ca­pa­ble of de­liv­er­ing the quin­tes­sen­tial out­back driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

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