To say that the Fortuner is an important product for Toyota is a massive understatement. The first generation model was hugely successful and facelifts aside, it soldered on for 10 years, being at the top of its class. The second generation Fortuner that you see here has been developed with a bigger ambition in sight and with a different agenda now. All the core elements which made the earlier Fortuner popular have been kept but along with that everything has been overhauled including its design, features, engines... you get the drift.
So when it goes on sale on the 7th of November, there is little doubt that it will again sit at the top of its class like it has always done. We could not wait that long to have a go thus here is our first drive of the new Fortuner and yes at the onset let me tell you that this new model indeed exceeded our lofty expectations.
How does it look?
This new Fortuner, based on the tough-as-nails Hilux pick-up, has a length of 4795mm, is 1855mm wide and has a wheelbase of 2745mm. The high ground clearance of 193mm means you can take it off-road as well. The body-on-frame chassis setup used in this vehicle is pure old school stuff. As is evident from the images, this new look seems to be inspired by Lexus and that is no bad thing. To our eyes, unlike the slab sided Land Cruiser the rakish, more aggressive design of the Fortuner makes it the best looking SUV wearing a Toyota badge. The headlight clusters and front grille are no longer bulbous or massive but instead, more angular and sleek.
There is a generous usage of chrome flanking the front grille and surrounding the fog lamps. The 17 inch, twin 6-spoke alloy rims look stylish and sporty. This sportiness is further accentuated on the sides by the kink in the window line. Echoing the design of the headlights, the tail lamps are also more pointy and dagger-like. It looks even better in the flesh and has tonnes of presence.
What about the interiors?
The all new cabin is leagues ahead of the current model and here the huge luxury jump is immediately evident. The cabin brings in a more premium look with a sense of occasion was lacking in its utilitarian predecessor. Quality levels have seen a big jump and it is a much more agreeable place to be in now. The design is a bit like the Innova Crysta especially the sweep of the dash.
The new vehicle is a proper 7 seater and thanks to clever design, a lot more interior space has been liberated. The cabin feels more airy overall and the seats themselves are more comfortable. The second row now in particular has more space and the seats are less firm than before- perfect for its chauffeur driven clientele. The third row is much better too with dedicated ac vents and quite a decent amount of space.
The feature list is long in the new 2016 Fortuner and it includes a reverse camera, 7 airbags, hill start assist, rear AC vents, push button engine ignition, an electrically operated tailgate and a large touchscreen for the infotainment system. Continuing with the feature list, the new vehicle also has Toyota Link connectivity, an air-conditioned compartment for keeping food items cool or warm, keyless smart entry and start, LED headlamps and LED daytime running lamps, a power back door and downhill assist control, among others.
How does it drive?
In India the new Fortuner for the first time would be offered in a petrol- the 2.7l unit. Though the 2.8 diesel would be more popular with a 2.4 diesel coming in next year. A 6-speed manual would be standard (diesel) and a 6-speed automatic would be optional. Toyota anticipates more demand for the automatic and the diesel would be offered in more variants too. The diesel would only get the 4x4 option and in manual guise also.
We had the automatic diesel and whatever limited time we had, it impressed us being a huge leap forward from its predecessor. It is so more easier to drive now with a big improvement in the refinement levels. The automatic gearbox is smooth and power comes nice and early with minimal lag. At low speeds it is effortless to drive- the only caveat being the heavy steering. Up the speed and there is a sense of urgency which was lacking in the previous Fortuner. The engine does get loud when pushed but it does deliver. What shocked me though was the way it tackled some of the bad roads- nothing it seems fazes this SUV. The ride is a massive improvement and so is the high speed stability and the brakes. It also rolls much less now and gives you a lot more confidence.
We would reserve our final judgement till we drive the India spec model but there is no doubt regarding the change that the Fortuner has gone through. In every area the new Fortuner brings in a sea change and if you like the current model, you will love this one. Highlights for me include the styling, interiors and the way it drives. Sure it would be more expensive now but that is not going to be a turn-off as it feels worth it. Thinking of buying an SUV? Wait till November 7th is all what we can say..