Text: Anton Andres / Photos: Anton Andres | posted September 21, 2016 18:44
Pleasing the five percent
According to Toyota, only five percent of Fortuner buyers opted for the gas-powered model towards the end of the previous generation's life cycle. Perhaps it's a bit of a surprise Toyota even bothered to offer a 2.7 VVT-i for the latest iteration of the Fortuner.
With the rest of the competition offering diesels only, what exactly is the point of offering a gas option in a pickup platform vehicle?
Still, this is the Fortuner, and five percent of a model that sells about 2000 a month is still about 100 customers. In a year, that's 1200. That's still a significant number, and perhaps that's why a gasoline model makes sense.
Sporting a rather elegant shade of Phantom Brown, the new Fortuner is a good looking SUV. It looks sharp up front with those slim headlights and creases on the lower half of the bumper. The side features an interesting window-line that kicks upwards towards the rear, giving it a coke-bottle look that highlights the rear quarter panel. As far as the rear goes, it gets slim tail lights to match its headlights, making it a cohesive design, from my point of view at least. As someone who regularly drives a previous gen model, our 2006 Fortuner looks decidedly ancient.
If you're coming from a previous generation Fortuner, you could say this new one has come leaps and bounds with its interior. No longer a sea of hard plastic, Toyota had made an effort to uplift the feel and quality of the dashboard and door panels. Seats are much improved too, now featuring softer cushion and better bolstering.
It's nice that Toyota included a touchscreen as standard but odd that they deleted automatic climate control for the G variant. Just to compare, our family's 2006 model had them standard. Instead, you get a trio of dials that control the air-conditioning which looks out of place in this otherwise well-designed interior. Manual air-conditioning aside, the 10 year gap between the old and new models is clearly seen and felt with this one.
One thing I do appreciate is the spring-loaded third-row seats. In our 2006 Fortuner, stowing away the third-row involves hopping inside, lifting the heavy seats and hooking it on the ceiling grab handle while blurting out expletives. Here, just let the springs to the lifting and latch it on the D-pillar panel.
Under the hood is the familiar 2TR-FE engine with a displacement of 2.7 liters. Power is still rated at 163 PS and 245 Nm of torque. While it sounds like a carryover of a decade old engine, Toyota did add Dual VVT-i and pair it with a six-speed automatic transmission.
Upon startup, it's quieter than the single VVT-i engine in the previous generation and smoother on acceleration. Being a gas model, there was only little intrusion from engine vibration and NVH (Noise Vibration and Harshness) levels are noticeably lower compared to the older model. On that basis, the Fortuner 2.7G feels like a solid choice but not quite enough to sway you out of the diesel.
For starters, fuel economy is significantly down from the diesel with my worst average at 5.5 kilometers per liter at an average speed of 16 km/h. It does improve marginally once metro traffic gets moving, mustering 6.4 kilometers per liter at an average speed of 18 kilometers per liter. Economy went up to 7.3 kilometers per liter when faced with moderate traffic around the city. When we tested the Fortuner 2.4V (diesel), it averaged 10.5 kilometers per liter on Normal mode and moderate traffic.
Power for the gas Fortuner could best be described as adequate for most. It somewhat struggles to carry the extra weight this new model gained, especially in Eco mode. Put it in Normal mode and response is slightly better, if still a little sluggish. Sport mode adds a bit of zip when accelerating although at the expense of poor fuel economy. Drive it like you have relatives at the back and the gas Fortuner picks up speed decently.
As for its ride, the common point of criticism for the old model, it's slightly better but still feels stiff at the rear. However, it's a much smoother ride when you're seated in front. As for steering, it feels light with a bit of slack when the wheels are pointed straight. Handling was never a Fortuner strong suit but this one feels more maneuverable and lighter on its feet. Not bad considering it gained a bit of weight. It would have been better if the engine had a little more grunt.
At Php 1,392,000, it's not exactly the value leader in its segment. In the G trim level, you get halogen lights, the aforementioned manual climate control and smaller wheels. It also lacks parking sensors, a reverse camera, traction control and stability control which are standard for some of the Fortuner's contemporaries in lower trim levels. It does have an interesting safety feature that cuts out engine power if you mash the gas and brake pedal at the same time.
So, why buy the gas Fortuner? The Fortuner 2.7G caters to a small part of the PPV market that are still averse to diesel power. Testing it back to back with the 2.4V, the 2.7G was noticeably more refined as it sent less vibrations into the cabin. For some, that may be enough who want or need a large seven seater, even if it comes at the cost of fuel economy. Plus, the Fortuner traits are kept intact such as the high ground clearance and rugged chassis. What you end up with is a sturdy, robust PPV without the clatter.