Cockburn Gazette - - DRIVEWAY - Peter Barn­well

TOY­OTA'S crowded SUV line-up gets an­other en­trant this week with the in­tro­duc­tion of its medium-large, seven-seat For­tuner in three grades.

Diesel-only For­tuner is based on the new Hilux ute and is priced from $47,990 for the six speed man­ual GX with two-mode six-speed auto adding two grand.

Ford Ever­est is For­tuner's direct com­peti­tor with heat com­ing from Holden Colorado7, Isuzu MUX, both at less money, and oth­ers like Mit­subishi's out­dated Chal­lenger. Other mod­els in the For­tuner lineup are the GLX at $52,990 for the man­ual and Cru­sade at $59,990 for the man­ual.

For­tuner is a le­git­i­mate off-road ve­hi­cle offering (rear) 2WD and se­lectable low and high range 4WD, as well as a rear dif­fer­en­tial lock for really tricky driv­ing con­di­tions. It can wade at up to 700mm and has 279mm of ground clear­ance along with a rigid rear axle, the pre­ferred choice for se­ri­ous off-road driv­ing.

Toy­ota heav­ily lever­aged its new Hilux ute in For­tuner with a sub­stan­tial Aus­tralian engi­neer­ing in­put for the chas­sis/body, wiring and even its dy­namic cal­i­bra­tion. Toy­ota Aus­tralia's tech cen­tre did val­i­da­tion and eval­u­a­tion of For­tuner with as­sis­tance from en­gi­neers out of head of­fice in Ja­pan.

A few Hilux body parts cross over to For­tuner with most pan­els rear of the wind­screen unique to the new wagon. In­cabin de­sign and equip­ment is also For­tuner spe­cific, how­ever un­der the bon­net is pure Hilux and Prado fea­tur­ing a newly de­vel­oped 2.8-litre turbo-diesel four-cylin­der.

This twin cam unit has main­te­nance­free chain cam drive and comes with a small, vari­able noz­zle turbo. It is a new ‘pas­sen­ger ori­ented’ en­gine from Toy­ota good for 130kW and ei­ther 450Nm in the auto or 420Nm in the man­ual. The en­gine is fuel ef­fi­cient (7.8-litres/100km for the man- ual), smooth and quiet run­ning but faces a tough com­peti­tor in Ever­est, which has a 3.2-litre five cylin­der turbo diesel with su­pe­rior power and torque.

It passes Euro5 emis­sions and has a diesel par­tic­u­late fil­ter in the ex­haust. Safety rat­ing is in­di­cated at five stars thanks to ex­ten­sive use of high strength steel in the chas­sis, seven air bags, re­verse cam­era, pedes­trian safety ma­te­rial at the front, safety cell body and more.

For­tuner does well in the tow­ing stakes and is ca­pa­ble of drag­ging up to 3.0-tonnes, half a tonne more than sta­ble­mate Prado.

The boot is ad­e­quate with all rows in place ul­ti­mately ex­pand­able with rows two and three folded. And they have been gen­er­ous with kit as even the base model has a seven inch touch­screen, six speaker au­dio, Toy­otaLink con­nec­tiv­ity, in­for­ma­tion read­out, Eco me­ter, mul­ti­ple power and info plugs, nu­mer­ous cup hold­ers and stor­age com­part­ments, rake and reach steer­ing wheel ad­just, a full size spare, LED tail­lights, side­steps and more.

Higher grade mod­els ob­vi­ously get more with sat­nav lim­ited to the Cru­sade. Min­i­mal high tech driver as­sist fea­tures, such as auto brake or blind spot warn­ing, are fit­ted to any For­tuner model.

We were able to crank it up out in the wilds of South Aus­tralia's Flin­ders Ranges where it really put its best wheel for­ward.

It's an im­pres­sive piece of kit for this en­vi­ron­ment, making child's play of high speed cruis­ing on the black­top and then spear­ing off on to rough bush tracks ex­plor­ing up and down steep moun­tain climbs, us­ing down­hill as­sist to ease down steep rocky in­clines, ‘ walk­ing’ through rough and deep dry creek beds. It’s com­fort­able too . Ver­dict: With Prado nudg­ing into big buck ter­ri­tory, For­tuner is ready to take its place as a gen­uine 4WD eas­ily ca­pa­ble of de­liv­er­ing the ‘ quin­tes­sen­tial Aus­tralian driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence’.

The For­tuner is a ca­pa­ble 4WD all­rounder.

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