A RUGGED NEW PLAYER
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direct competitor with heat coming from Holden Colorado7, Isuzu MUX, both at less money, and others like Mitsubishi's outdated Challenger.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.