Believe it or not, It has already been 11 years since the Toyota Fortuner was first shown to the world and it would not be an exaggeration to say that it has already proved itself to be a worthy workhorse.
As capable as it was, the previous Fortuner wasn’t exactly the best riding or refined SUV in its class. Anyone who has sat in the SUV would agree that each bump or lump that the SUV crosses path with would remind them that it is still a Hilux underneath.
Although Toyota’s engineers tried to work their magic on the facelifted version by tweaking the ladder frame chassis to offer a more refined ride, it was still the same mechanically. So, all we got was a quieter Fortuner, with an equally bumpy and wobbly ride as before.
Yes, it was the best-seller in many markets including ours but according to Hiroki Nakajima, the chief engineer who was assigned to designing the second-generation Fortuner that you’re looking at now, the mandate given to his team required them to give the Fortuner ‘more purpose’; and take it beyond its utilitarian past.
Price: RM199,800 (OTR without insurance)
Engine: 2,694cc, 16V, in-line 4, petrol
Max power: 163hp at 5200rpm
Max torque: 245Nm at 4800rpm
Transmission: Six-speed auto
Fuel efficiency: 10.9L/100km
Safety: 7 airbags, ABS, BA, VSC, Active Traction Control (A-TRC), Hill-Start Assist, Emergency Stop Signal (ESS) and Trailer Sway Control (TSC)
Based on the eighth-generation Hilux, the new Fortuner is offered in two variants – the 2.7 SRZ 4×4 petrol and 2.4 VRZ 4×4 turbodiesel, both equipped with automatic transmissions, with the focus here being the former.
Priced at RM199,900, which is about RM13,000 more than its predecessor, the petrol-powered Fortuner has actually gone through quite a bit of updates in terms of design, the mechanicals, as well as standard features.
While the diesel variant is powered by a 2.4 litre GD turbodiesel engine producing 150PS and 400Nm, replacing the 2.5 litre unit, the petrol version here is powered by an updated version of the 2TR-FE 2.7 litre engine, which now comes with Dual VVT-i tech, bumping up the output figures from 160 to 166PS, and maximum torque from 240 to 245Nm.
The engine aside, other mechanical updates include larger frame cross-sections, updated suspensions upfront and in the rear, as well as a tweaked rear differential – all working hand-in-hand with the sole aim of offering better damping and a more composed ride.
While some would say that the big news with the new Fortuner is the updated engine and the mechanics, we feel that the SUV’s new design is what deserves the headline spot.
From something so dull and conservative which appealed only to business owners and government agencies, the Fortuner has actually transformed into something that is capable of making the eye of the average man turn towards it when it zooms past.
And thanks to the more upmarket design, some of our friends even thought that the Fortuner was a new Lexus model during our stint with it, thanks to features like the bi-LED projector headlamps, LED daytime running lights, chrome door belt mouldings and 18-inch wheels.
Design aside, the SUV is a touch longer and wider than its predecessor, measuring at 4,795 mm long, 1,855 mm wide and 1,835 mm tall, but the wheelbase length remains at 2750 mm.
Open the doors, get into the range-topping Fortuner SRZ and you will notice that the interior is just as easy on the eye as the exterior. Designed to look sportier, the Fortuner’s cabin has plenty of emphasis on horizontal lines, features an eight-inch InTouch infotainment system similar to the ones in the Alphard and Vellfire, and of course, generous amount of leather.
It’s practical as well. You get keyless entry, Bluetooth connectivity, three drive modes (Normal, Eco and Power), an electronic 4WD Transfer Dial, second and third row air-cond vents, 60:40 split-folding second-row of seats, 50:50 split-folding third row, and plenty of storage space.
In the midst of all the bells and whistles also lie an abundance of hard plastic, which were difficult to spot in the beginning, but once we started fiddling around, we noticed them cleverly hiding here and there.
Throughout our stint, the 2.7-litre engine did a good job in hauling the 1.9-tonne behemoth around town and the first thing we noticed is that how quiet it was. Not only was the four-cylinder engine quiet and smooth at idle, but also while we were navigating ourselves through city traffic at moderate speeds. Further complementing the driving experience was the six-speed automatic gearbox which shifted smoothly and rapidly in town.
Once we hit the highway however, we had to work the engine hard as the desired power was only available at high rpm. And once we went past 4,500rpm, engine note started intruding the cabin, reminding us of the predecessor. Yes, there was a power button to offer more ‘juice’, but the difference in terms of power delivery wasn’t that great to be frank.
On tarmac, it still rides like a truck but a very refined one though. There is still noticeable body-roll but it has improved a lot from before. Up front, the driver and co-driver might not complain much as it feels like a three-star hotel but passengers in the second and third row cannot escape from the vibrations and the jiggles.
Off-road, the Fortuner is still just as capable as before despite having its predecessor’s low-ratio transfer case removed, as the updated heavy-duty ladder-frame chassis and the rear differential lock are there to save the day in the presence of mud, rock, and everything in between.
Having driven the Fortuner 2.7 SRZ mostly in urban surroundings, some highway, and minimal off-roading, we observed an average fuel consumption of 11.9 litres/100km which can be considered a good figure for a 2.7-litre engine propelling a vehicle weighing close to two-tonnes. The diesel variant on the other hand, should be even more economical.
The truck-based SUV segment has evolved and competition have upped the ante. Just like how pickup trucks themselves have transformed to offer (close to) car-like refinement, these SUVs that are based on them are even plusher.
Realising the paradigm-shift, Toyota updated the Fortuner at the right time. It might not be the most capable or the most comfortable candidate in this segment but it is among the more affordable, and definitely one of the most reliable models in the segment where most models are overpriced.
There is no doubt that those who want a vehicle with nothing more than seven seats, high ground clearance, and stylish appearance are better off with cheaper models like the Mitsubishi Outlander, Kia Sorento, or the Hyundai Santa Fe but if you want something that is more rugged and have the cash to splurge, the Fortuner might appeal to you.
Coming back to the question of whether Toyota succeeded in taking the new Fortuner beyond its utilitarian past - Definitely.