Raymond D. Young / Raymond D. Young | July 11, 2005 00:00
Toyota's Fortune on WheelsThe Toyota Fortuner is the superlative iteration of the internationally recognized IMV (Innovative Multi-Purpose Vehicle) project of Toyota. Sharing platforms with the Hilux and Innova, the Fortuner is the expected result of the inter-marriage between a workhorse and a multipurpose vehicle. Classified as an SUV, it has the 3.0-liter D4D diesel engine, offroad capability via four-wheel drive, seating for seven, and high ground clearance. Due to a common platform and parts bin, it is a surprise to everyone that the Fortuner's price is well below its competitors, thereby adding fire to a new vehicle segment, in which it is obviously the winner.
Even though it is an IMV product, the Fortuner differentiates itself much further from the other IMV offerings by a much sleeker design, alongside default SUV amenities. Multi-reflector quad headlights with a one-piece grille comprise the front end. Together with the streamlined front bumper, the Fortuner possesses one of the most snobbish noses around. It even yearns for a little bust lift via aftermarket nudge bars or bull bars, just to complement the overall macho look. The side profile is very akin to the Lexus RX300/Toyota Harrier, but it does not pretend to be one. The rear, on the other hand is composed of a one-piece rear glass with wiper and defogger, one-piece design tailgate with larger taillights. What is missing from other SUVs is the fact that the Fortuner carries it spare underneath, and not tailgate-mounted as tradition dictates.
The interior, on the other hand, sports the default IMV dashboard scheme, complete with Optitron gauge clusters. For the Fortuner, however, air-conditioning controls are digital as opposed to the rotary type of the Hilux and Innova. This in turn, suggests that the Innova has multiple vents selection (something that is amiss on most Toyota vehicles nowadays) and climate control option. Indeed, there is.
Other than that, beige seats and interior trim adorn the cabin, which makes it more refreshing to look at, as opposed to the traditional gray and black color scheme. Every seat in the Fortuner is the best seat in the house, except for the third row seats, which may not accommodate the tall ones due to the slightly raised rearmost floor pan. Fujitsu Ten, being a longtime partner of Toyota, supplies the Fortuner's audio system via a 2-DIN CD/MP3 tuner.
Driving the V-variant Fortuner means one has command over the 3.0-liter D4D diesel engine in the guise of the 1KD-FTV. Technologies such as CRDi, dual overhead camshafts with 16 valves, and a variable nozzle turbo help this engine achieve 163 Hp of power and 341 Nm of torque between 1,400-3,200 rpm. The large torque figure was made possible thanks to the bore and stroke design of 96 x 103 mm, respectively.
Taking the Fortuner out for a week around town and in Baguio demonstrated the ages-old values Toyotas are well known for, mechanical virtues or otherwise. Steering is very responsive and sharp for an SUV of this size, thanks to the rack-and-pinion setup. As opposed to the usual practice of employing ball-and-nut steering, which was more heavy duty but lifeless, Toyota went the rack-and-pinion way on all of its commercial vehicles since the 1980s, and never looked back. Acceleration is brisk and smooth thanks to the very torquey engine and ECT automatic transmission tandem. Overtaking is a piece of cake in the Fortuner, just press a little harder on the accelerator, the transmission downshifts, and torque is poured unto the pavement, all in a matter of seconds. Even though equipped with a slushbox, the Fortuner 3.0 V returned decent fuel consumption figures of 10 km/l in mixed driving cycle. Braking is adequate in most conditions as it is coupled with ABS, but needs some improvement, as brake fade was evident on the downhill section of Marcos Highway leading to La Union on the way back to Manila.
The Fortuner's accommodation is close to perfect. Seats, although manually adjustable, are supple and supportive especially on long trips. Airconditioning is excellent, with climate control and vent selectors on board. The Optitron gauge cluster is a welcome sight vis-à-vis traditionally lit gauges; it can become as bright as it can be during night driving on a poorly lit road, but good thing there is a brightness control (rheostat) that the driver could adjust according to his preferences. As an IMV it naturally boasts a myriad of cubby holders and storage pockets.
If the above mentioned will not compel one to fall in line for the Fortuner, then its low price will. The Fortuner's selling price is well within other vehicle categories, such as midsize sedans and high-end AUVs. Check the waiting list for the Fortuner. Indeed, everyone wanted Toyota's fortune on wheels, this writer included.