Drives: Toy­ota For­tuner, Range Rover Evoque con­vert­ible

THIS ONE FAVOURS THE BOLD

Popular Mechanics (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - – ALAN DUG­GAN

Toy­ota has learnt not to mess with a win­ning for­mula. In the case of the best­selling For­tuner, fa­mil­iar­ity breeds… ad­mi­ra­tion.

This is prob­a­bly self-ev­i­dent, but let's say it any­way: if Toy­ota's le­gendary For­tuner were a dog, you would have heard about it by now. Still with ca­nine analo­gies: if you don't shortlist the For­tuner when shop­ping for an SUV, in­sist the faith­ful, you're bark­ing mad.

Leav­ing aside peace of mind and near-fa­nat­i­cal loy­alty, it's worth know­ing that Toy­ota has sold nearly 18 000 cur­rent-gen­er­a­tion For­tuners, of which our test ve­hi­cle, the 2.8 GD-6 4x4 Au­to­matic (R624 100) ac­counts for 3 946 sales (cor­rect at the time of writ­ing). By any­one's mea­sure, this makes it very suc­cess­ful in­deed.

Why would you choose this 7-seater over, say, a Pa­jero Sport, Ford Ever­est or Land Rover Dis­cov­ery, all of which de­serve your at­ten­tion? Ev­i­dence sug­gests the an­swer lies in a heady mix of ver­sa­til­ity, af­ford­abil­ity, off-road ca­pa­bil­ity, per­ceived re­li­a­bil­ity and that de­li­ciously il­log­i­cal fac­tor we call emo­tion. All th­ese ve­hi­cles are im­pres­sive, and a cou­ple are ar­guably more stylish, but hey, only one of them is a Toy­ota.

We cov­ered over 1 000 km dur­ing our week with the For­tuner, giv­ing us plenty of time to ex­plore its fea­tures and ca­pa­bil­i­ties and we liked it very much. It works for fam­ily hol­i­days, week­end get­aways, off-road ad­ven­tures and just about any other ap­pli­ca­tion you can imag­ine, with the pos­si­ble ex­cep­tion of a daily com­mute; un­less, of course, your work­place is some­where re­mote and rugged.

How dif­fer­ent is it from the pre­vi­ous model? Not very. It's longer, wider and a lit­tle more re­fined, with all the fea­tures that el­e­vated its pre­de­ces­sor to record­set­ting sales lev­els, but that aside, it's re­as­sur­ingly fa­mil­iar and therein, we sus­pect, lies its ap­peal.

Pow­ered by Toy­ota's new-gen­er­a­tion 2,8-litre 4- cylin­der tur­bod­iesel, the For­tuner is a plea­sure to drive at high­way speeds, when the pow­er­plant barely raises a sweat and the 6-speed auto trans­mis­sion shifts cogs with nary a hic­cup. Even in “Eco” mode, it de­liv­ers enough grunt to per­mit over­tak­ing with­out noise or drama. The pad­dles on the steer­ing col­umn are a nice if some­what puz­zling touch: you can press the down­shift pad­dle a cou­ple of times if you're in a hurry, but the re­sponse is so leisurely that you might as well use your right foot. In “Sport” mode, of course, ev­ery­thing be­comes more vig­or­ous, but at the ex­pense of econ­omy.

As spa­cious and eco­nom­i­cal fam­ily trans­porters go, the For­tuner does rather well. Our Gar­den Route ad­ven­ture oc­curred mostly on tar, with a cou­ple of short for­ays into the rough stuff, but with the 80-litre fuel tank filled to the brim and our in­ner hooli­gan reined in, we cov­ered over 850 km be­fore chick­en­ing out and pulling over for a re­fill. That's with four peo­ple on board and the rear com­part­ment packed to the rafters with suit­cases, bed­ding, cooler boxes, booze and other essentials.

Stan­dard fea­tures in­clude a diff-lock, hill de­scent con­trol, a very ef­fi­cient air­con with sep­a­rate rear-seat ad­just­ment, seven airbags, cruise con­trol, elec­tric driver's seat ad­just­ment, cup hold­ers where you need them, a dou­ble glove com­part­ment (part of which is cooled by the air­con), lots of stor­age space, and enough rearseat legroom to keep ev­ery­one happy. The mid­dle-seat row can slide, which helps.

Al­though the GD-6 4x4 Auto fea­tures a good-sized in­fo­tain­ment touch­screen and an ex­tremely use­ful re­vers­ing cam­era (a boon when ex­it­ing a park­ing space with the rear view blocked by lug­gage), we found the ab­sence of in­te­grated sat­nav and a re­mote tail­gate opener a bit weird. Th­ese fea­tures are in­cluded with the flag- ship V6, but then again, that de­riv­a­tive sells for R670 500.

For the record, this is a proper off-roader. Sim­ply by press­ing a but­ton, you can ven­ture just about any­where and be rea­son­ably cer­tain of ar­riv­ing with­out in­ci­dent. We took the For­tuner into deep sand and de­li­ciously gooey mud, climbed mildly in­tim­i­dat­ing gra­di­ents and ex­plored a few places not de­signed for SUVS (or any other ve­hi­cle, for that mat­ter). When we re­turned it to Toy­ota a week later, it was in per­fect nick and they had to prise the ig­ni­tion key from our vice-like grip. Put sim­ply, the For­tuner works.

With room for big fam­i­lies (and big ob­jects) plus a gen­er­ous list of crea­ture com­forts, the For­tuner is a long-stand­ing favourite.

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