Text: Vince Pornelos / Photos: | posted July 17, 2014 17:30
Solid as it should be
Nine years. That's how long the Toyota Fortuner has been in showrooms as a single generation model.
It's an impressive feat of forward-looking engineering from Toyota, particularly given how they worked to create a trio of light utility vehicles out of a single platform program in the IMV line: the Innova, the Hilux and the Fortuner. These three models are still in showrooms and still consistently top sellers in their respective segments.
The 7-seat “Asian” pick-up based SUV landscape is changing though. Mitsubishi stole the show in 2008 when they came out with the Montero Sport, capitalizing on a more comfortable ride. Chevrolet found a hot seller with their Trailblazer while its brotherly twin, the Isuzu MU-X (or will it be Alterra?), is also just being readied for it's local launch soon. What a lot of people are eager for, however, is the impending arrival of the next generation Ford Everest given it's machismo-maximum design direction and advanced tech.
Will the Fortuner still be able to weather the storm?
Looks-wise, it just might. The overall architecture of the body may not have changed, but a lot of design details have changed since the model was released to the market in 2005 and over two facelifts; one in 2009 and another one in 2012. The look has changed so many times that for this review we will refer to the 2005-mid 2009 model as the Fortuner Mk. 1A, the late 2009-2012 model as the Fortuner Mk. 1B, and the 2012-present as the Fortuner Mk. 1C. Make sense?
The front end of the Mk. I-C sports a new look far detached from the ones that preceded it. The new headlamps now taper off more stylishly from the proud chrome grill to the fenders, and the bumper now features some pretty neat creases that give the front of the Fortuner some character. Also new are the more prominent strakes, though a neat new touch to the Fortuner diesel models is the wider hood scoop mounted on the centerline of the SUV for the intercooler; in the Mk. 1A and 1B the hood scoop for the 1KD-FTV (3.0L diesel) was mounted slightly off center.
Not much has changed on the flanks of the Fortuner apart from the rims, though over at the back, the Fortuner gets a fresh set of taillamps. The garnish is also new over the old model, but apart from that, it's still essentially the same vehicle.
The cabin has also been updated over the previous 2 versions. The dashboard has been redesigned somewhat with a new center panel, the redesigned steering wheel that seems to have been lifted off the previous gen Camry/Aurion, as well as a few other cosmetic changes. Seating is still the same; seven passengers can enjoy leather wrapped seats in any of the three rows. Nothing really major in terms of changes, though the new updates do give the cabin a nicer, more upscale feel, particularly the ash wood-style accents. The DVD and GPS-equipped navigation system is nice and easy to use. The only thing I wish they changed was the way in which the 3rd row folded out of the way; it's just difficult to do so for someone 5'6” or shorter.
Unlike the 2.5-liter D-4D engine which was upgraded in 2012 with a variable nozzle (or geometry, whichever) turbo to make more power and torque, the 3.0-liter diesel in the 4x4 V variants remain the same. It's all well and good actually, because as it stands, the 1KD-FTV engine in this Fortuner makes 163 PS and 343 Newton-meters of torque. Like before, the engine is matched with a 4-speed automatic transmission.
Being a 4x4, the lever for the transfer case is located forward of the gate type automatic shifter. In the city, the Fortuner V is best kept in 4x2 for the best efficiency and ease of driving. Amidst moderate traffic, the Fortuner 3.0V can return up to 8.5 kilometers per liter if you're shrewd about getting the most mileage (22 km/h average), though a more normal figure is in the mid 7 km/l range. On the highway, that figure comes up significantly to 13.4 km/l (95 km/h average).
If you wish to get off the tarmac and onto the load far less travelled and far less paved, you can engage either 4x4 High or 4x4 Low for maximum traction via the lever for the transfer case located forward of the gate-type automatic shifter. It's best to keep in mind that the Fortuner V comes with highway tires (H/T) so it's best to keep away from the truly challenging off-road trails unless you wish to change to the more appropriate blocky mud tires (M/T) or even all-terrain tires (A/T). Also, bear in mind that the Fortuner does not come with tech like crawl control/hill descent control like the Trailblazer, D-Max, Ranger, or the upcoming Everest.
Handling is still pretty good for such a heavy vehicle, and it's still stable. Toyota has also made key improvements to the Fortuner in terms of ride; the chief complaint of the original Fortuner. The Mk. 1A was really a bit rough, though not yet at pick-up levels. We were told that the suspension was retuned beginning with the Mk. 1B and you can feel the difference, though we're talking about shades of gray (not 50, okay?) as opposed to night and day. I would still contend that the Montero Sport and current Alterra are still better in terms of comfort, but the improvement in the Fortuner's ride is a welcome update, particularly given the rougher nature of streets in the city and the trails beyond.
At PhP 1,765,000 for the 2014 Fortuner 3.0V (this one is technically a 2013), Toyota's 7-seat pick-up based SUV is still a solid performer as it should be. Even though the platform is already 9 years old, it's really hard to feel and see the IMV platform's age. Sure, new players are outdoing the Fortuner spec-for-spec, but they still have a tough time going toe-to-toe with this solid SUV.
Toyota really engineered the Hilux/Innova/Fortuner platform to a point that all they needed to do was tweak the designs every few years to give the IMV models enduring desirability and showroom longevity that very few brands and models can truly match... except maybe for the L300.