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 many 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 along 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... well you get the drift.
So now that it has gone on sale, there is little doubt that it will again sit at the top of its class like it has always done. We just had 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 body-on-frame chassis setup used in this vehicle is pure old school stuff but a lot has changed with more stiffness being added in. 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 18 inch alloys (17s for the 4x2) 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 decent space and the seats are less firm than before- perfect for its chauffeur driven clientele. Though here we would mention that the Innova Crysta offers more comfort and fitting three in the second row would not be comfortable for the middle passenger with a large transmission tunnel. The third row is much better too with easy access (one touch tumble) and dedicated ac vents along with good space which means for short distances it is useful.
The feature list is understandably long in the new 2016 Fortuner and it includes a reverse camera, 7 airbags, 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 a cooled upper glovebox, keyless smart entry and start, LED projector headlamps, ambient lighting and LED daytime running lamps, 8-way powered drivers seat, navigation, voice control, driving modes etc
How does it drive?
The new Fortuner for the first time would be offered in a petrol- a 2.7l unit with 164 bhp and 245Nm. Though the 2.8 diesel would be more popular with a 2.4 diesel coming in later. A 6-speed manual would be standard (diesel) and a 6-speed automatic would be optional. The petrol has a 5-speed manual as standard. 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.
At the drive we sampled the petrol and diesel automatic. The 2.8L AT 4x4 model first 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 (though less heavy than the Innova Crysta).
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. There are three driving modes with power mode being the best while Eco bogs down the engine. In terms of efficiency we got 8kmpl in the diesel 4x4 AT with hard driving. What shocked me though was the way it tackled some of the bad roads- nothing it seems fazes this SUV.
The low speed ride seemed a bit choppy (culprit being over inflated tyres on our press car) but it did get better with speed and overall the ride is a massive improvement and so is the high speed stability along with the brakes. It also rolls much less now and gives you a lot more confidence. On the twisty roads the Fortuner exhibited only a bit of roll and its handling- especially for its size was very good. We also did some token off-roading and unlike the earlier Fortuner, this is not a fulltime 4x4 system and comes with a dial to shift from 2WD to 4WD on the fly. It also has got DAC (Downhill Assist Control), A-TRC (Active Traction Control) along good approach and departure angle. The only limiation is its massive size
What about the petrol?
We swapped the diesel auto for a petrol auto and within the first few moments behind the wheel it was clear that the diesel suits the Fortuner much better. Toyota expects small sales for the petrol anyways and it is a good thing that it does not come with 4x4 as the petrol lacks the grunt which an SUV of this size needs. Unlike the diesel where we left the steering paddles untouched as it did not need them, the petrol required heavy usage of that to extract power.
Overtaking requires planning and ultimately a large 2.7 NA engine is at odds with the Fortuner. In terms of fuel efficiency we got 5 kmpl which can be stretched by 1 or 2 kmpl more with careful driving. In isolation the Fortuner petrol impresses you with its refinement but simply put buy the diesel-even if you are worried about another diesel ban in the future.
In the end 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, features and the way it drives (2.8 diesel AT). The old Fortuner had a large fan-following but the new one will only expand its customer base. Sure competition is much more fierce than what it was earlier but with the new Fortuner, Toyota has done enough to protect its territory.