Cars such as 4×4 SUVs have always been a left-field choice. A ladder frame chassis that fits seven is usually based on a pickup truck, and this formula appeals to a very niche crowd. For some reason, I can’t wrap my head around the rationale behind the purchases of these 4×4 SUVs, that is until I was given the keys to one.
Toyota was the first to introduce vehicles of this class to Malaysia with the first generation Toyota Fortuner. The rugged SUV was well received by Malaysians and Toyota went on to sell them for years, and later introduced limited-run TRD trims. Naturally, the second generation Toyota Fortuner made its way to our shores.
|Name||Toyota Fortuner 2.7 SRZ AT 4X4|
|Engine||2,694cc; DOHC, inline-4 petrol|
|Transmission||6-speed Electronically-controlled automatic transmission (ECT) with paddle shifters.|
|Max Power||164 hp @ 5,200 rpm|
|Max Torque||245 Nm @ 4,000 rpm|
|Price (OTR with insurance)||RM199,900|
Buyers have two variants to choose from, either the 2.4 VRZ turbodiesel or the 2.7 SRZ petrol. Besides the different mills, the biggest difference between the two are the safety features. Other than that, you can spec the diesel to closely match the equipment levels of the SRZ. The test unit in discussion is the top of the line 2.7 SRZ petrol with all the optional checkboxes ticked. Now, let’s see what this 4×4 SUV is all about.
If you are wondering that those sleek curves and elegant design can’t possibly be on a Toyota Fortuner, I kid you not. This is the real deal. Toyota has taken a design leap to offer more sophistication in their recent designs, as you can tell from their latest line-up from the Camry to the Hilux.
Although there are some similarities in the design cues with the Hilux (which it is based on), the Fortuner gets a massive dose of elegance injected into the mix. Previously, the Fortuner was basically a Hilux with a tailgate, but the new generation model is distinctly different from its workhorse sibling.
I akin the exterior of the Fortuner to a gentle giant. Why? Despite its large dimensions, the aura, if you will, is not menacing. Should this Fortuner pop up in your rear view mirror during the day, you’ll feel as though it’s greeting you Konichiwa. That is, until the sun goes down and the headlamps come on.
While some may comment that Toyota is a poor man’s Lexus, I beg to differ. When parked next to a Lexus, the avantgarde Bronze Metallic paint, full LED Headlamps with LED daytime running lights, chrome plated door handles with keyless entry, LED combination tail lamps, rear spoiler with integrated third brake light and shuriken-style 18-inch alloys make it hard to tell apart which is the more expensive of the lot.
Step inside the new Fortuner and you will marvel at the exclusivity of the cabin. Lex- I mean Toyota certainly did not slack off after penning its impressive exterior. At first glance, the cabin is reminiscent of the more luxurious Toyota Vellfire and Alphard.
The dark brown leather is exquisite. Smooth to the touch and soft to the butt. Finding a comfortable driving position is a fuss-free affair thanks to the eight-way powered seats with lumbar support. The four spoke steering wheel is finished in leather and wood. However, I am not too sure of the leather’s quality on the steering wheel. It feels more urethane than leather to my hands, but it’s adequately thick and comfortable.
This is forgiven with the gorgeous 4.2-inch colour TFT multi-info display and Optitron meter. Originally developed for Lexus models, the system displays a multitude of driving information such as fuel consumption, text messages (if your phone has Bluetooth linked) and an Eco indicator. This blue illuminated instrument cluster is a must-have for those who went for the lower spec variant.
The overall ergonomics of the cabin is typical of Toyota – simple and functional. From the 8-inch touch screen infotainment system to the electronic 4WD transfer dial, everything is well laid out and familiar. One little detail that needs a little getting used to is the raised dashboard that is present in all new model Toyotas. It is not obstructive in any way except it takes a day or two for the awkwardness to go away.
Passengers at the back will be more than comfortable in the middle row as overhead air vents keep them cool and the optional Roof Mounted Monitor is there to keep them entertained. Legroom and headroom is ample to fit three adults in the second row. The same can’t be said for the third row, though. While accessing the third row is a graceful affair, thanks to the one-touch fold rear seats that stows the middle row seats all the way. However, anyone above the average height of a 12-year-old will not be happy stuck back there for a balik kampung trip.
No thanks to the third row seats, boot space is rated at a mere 200 litres. The third row seats can be folded up for extra cargo space. Yes, folded up not down. Thankfully, the seats were on the lighter end of the scale, which made it easier to tuck them away. With the seats out of the way, you get a flat loading area which makes it really easy to slide things in and out from the boot. Plus, the powered tailgate on this test unit allows for easy access to the boot.
Powering the two tonne machine is an updated version of the previous generation 2.7-litre mill. The naturally aspirated engine now features Dual VVT-i (previously VVT-i) which adds an additional variable valve on the exhaust for better efficiency.
The tried and tested mill now produces 164 hp and 245 Nm of torque, paired to an all-new six speed slushbox with paddle shifters. By default, the car remains in front wheel drive with the 4WD transfer dial set to H2. Toggle the dials to H4 or L4 will put the car into four-wheel drive.
THE DRIVE – ROAD TEST
The 2.7-litre’s 164 hp and 245 Nm may seem insufficient to power the ladder frame SUV but for everyday use, it is more than capable. The gearbox can be had in three different settings: Power, Normal and Eco. After spending four days with the Fortuner, I’d say best avoid the Eco button.
While the Eco mode supposedly optimises gearshifts for maximum efficiency, it robs almost all of the power. The Fortuner instantly feels sluggish and is slow to react to your right foot’s input by a dangerous amount of time. The delay in power makes exiting junctions and lane switching manoeuvres a scary ordeal. The only time when I have the green Eco light on is during bumper to bumper traffic.
Normal or Power are the modes you want to have the car in for a more reasonable drive. With Power mode engaged the power delivery is more willing and the revs climb faster. Going back to Normal after spending some time in Power gives the impression of a sluggish car.
With the six-speed automatic transmission, gearshifts are smooth. This gets the Fortuner up to highway speeds at a reasonable and drama-free pace. You can manually override the gears with a pull on the paddle shifters – a nifty feature especially since the gearbox has an eco-friendly mind set.
Getting around in the Fortuner was surprisingly easy. Visibility out the Fortuner is simply amazing. As I was seated high up in traffic, I have a good view of what is around me. Even in tight spots, the front and rear parking sensors make it easy to gauge the surroundings. Parking is made even easier with a reverse camera that displays everything that’s going on at the rear on the large 8-inch screen.
Commuting in the Fortuner is extremely comfortable. Going through uneven surfaces does not send a jolt up your spine regardless of which row you are seated at, thanks to its new coil spring setup at the rear suspension.
Overall, as a daily commuter, the Fortuner scores well in my books. Comfortable, convenient and has a host of goodies to play with. As a family car, there really is nothing much to complain about.
THE DRIVE – OFF ROAD
Albert Einstein once said “Judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid”. Hence, it will be unfair to the Fortuner if it was not put to its paces in the great outdoors.
Driving onto gravel with H2 engaged, the Fortuner maintains its composure well. However, put it into H4 as it should be, the Fortuner cuts through gravel without so much as breaking a sweat. Grip levels are high even when you’re traversing rocky terrains at unreasonable speeds.
Even on uneven pathways, the car absorbs surface imperfections so well, my passengers were not thrown off even once. I can prod the throttle with confidence on such roads. Ascending on dirt road was also effortless, thanks to the intelligent Active Traction Control (A-TRC) which ensures all four corners of the car sticks onto the ground. With H4, the Fortuner is able to venture into most territory, with the only limitation being your guts.
However, should you find yourself stuck in a ditch, turn the dial to L4 and it should do the trick. Not something I find myself having to do, even in the rain up a rocky patch. I didn’t have the chance to put the Fortuner through extreme stages. However, our very own GC Mah did. Watch how GC puts the Fortuner through its paces here.
IS THIS CAR FOR YOU?
As a casual road car with seven seats, the Fortuner fares well. It has seven seats, handsome good looks and decent bells and whistles to play with. However, at that price point, there are many other better and more sensible options to choose from, such as the Hyundai Santa Fe, Nissan X-Trail or the Kia Sorento. Then again, these alternatives are nowhere near what the Fortuner is capable of off-road.
The Fortuner is better suited for the adventure seekers. Those whom are willing to walk down the road less travelled, who find joy in exploring the mysteries mother nature has to offer yet appreciate the taste of prestige and elegance in their vehicles; this is the car for you.
I say that because in the ladder cab SUV segment, the Fortuner’s aesthetics is simply a cut above the rest. It even has the performance to boot. Except, maybe the king himself, the Ford Everest…
Matthew’s take: In all honesty, the Fortuner’s only appeal to me is the way it looks. It’s hard to stomach the RM200k asking price, especially if it doesn’t come with a turbodiesel engine. UMW Toyota explicitly said the main reason behind this is taxation (bigger engines such as the 2.8L diesel will push the price further upwards). Despite being CKD, the Fortuner is still having a hard time convincing buyers to put their money down on this. Just how many Fortuners have you seen on the roads today?