Back in 2005, Toyota came out with a vehicle that set the market: the Toyota Fortuner. As the climax of the International Innovative Multipurpose Vehicle trio along with the Innova and Hilux, the Toyota Fortuner quickly rose up the sales charts, emerging as the most dominant model in the SUV category in terms of sales.
It has, however, been 7 years now since the Fortuner's glory years. Take a look at the 7-seat Asian SUV category and you'll find plenty of new options available, some arguably better than what the Fortuner brought to the Filipino customer in 2005. The Ford Everest and Isuzu Alterra stand as viable alternatives to the Toyota, while Mitsubishi's own Montero Sport has taken the top spot in the category, as well as becoming, at one point, the second best selling car in the country behind the Vios; an impressive feat.
As a response to the challenge, Toyota has come out with a redesigned Fortuner, focusing on one key aspect: comfort.
Setting that aside for now, the new 2012 Fortuner arrives with the most thorough redesign yet. Compared to the facelift that the Fortuner got back in 2008, Toyota really went to work on the outside of their best selling SUV, giving the car a more refined, more upscale look by borrowing some styling cues from the Land Cruiser and their upmarket brand, Lexus.
From the front, Toyota has remodeled the look of the Fortuner with new headlamps, a new grille, and a newer, more modern front bumper. Towards the side, nothing much has changed, though Toyota have replaced the wheels with a new set of 12 spoke alloys. Over at the back, has also been redesigned with new taillamps and a few new touches like having the Fortuner name on the chrome garnish.
Toyota also gave the Fortuner plenty of updates and upgrades inside, with a redesigned dashboard and plenty of new touches. The steering wheel has been replaced with the same leather wrapped one found in the more upscale Camry executive sedan, and retains the user-friendly layout of the original Fortuner. All seats are also wrapped in leather for that luxurious touch.
Toyota outfitted the Fortuner with many features that can rival many executive sedans. The audio system has been upgraded, and apart from the standard AM, FM, CD, MP3 playback, auxiliary port and 6 speakers, Toyota have also installed a Bluetooth handsfree system so you can safely and easily make and receive calls while driving.
The same cabin layout assures great seating for 7 passengers (2-3-2). Of course, for cargo duties, the 3rd row folds up while the 2nd row folds and tumbles forward for maximum room at the expense of passengers. What I didn't particularly like was the system for stowing the 3rd row, as it can be quite challenging and cumbersome for those of us who are about 5'6” tall or shorter.
Powering the new Fortuner are the same range of reliable powerplants with either a 2.7 liter VVT-i gasoline engine, a 2.5 liter turbodiesel D-4D engine or the most powerful engine of the bunch, a 3.0 liter turbo intercooler D-4D diesel engine like in this Fortuner. This particular model is a 2.5 G Diesel Automatic, so it gets 102 horsepower and 260 Newton meters. Handing that engine is a 4-speed automatic transmission that sends power to the rear wheels.
As a drive, don't expect great performance out of it. We've always known the 2.5 turbo diesel has bitten off a bit more than it can chew in the heavier body of the Fortuner (as opposed to the same engine in the lighter Innova and Hilux). Personally, the 3.0 liter model is still the way to go, but all the same, the Fortuner does deliver decent fuel economy both in and out of the city, with an average consumption of 15.3 km/l on the highway (light traffic, 2 passengers) and 8.8 in city limits (moderate to heavy holiday traffic).
The real difference, however, is in comfort. When Toyota came out with the original Fortuner, numerous customers complained about the suspension; simply put, it was just too stiff. It was expected that Toyota would address the issue in 2008 when they came out with the minor model change of the Fortuner, but honestly, I couldn't feel it. This new one is different.
Everything that can transmit the road's various imperfections to the passengers seems to have received quite a bit of work. The suspension (dampers and springs) have been softened to absorb more without being floaty, while the seats have been given better cushioning to be more pliant for the passengers. The difference is quite profound, and the result is a much more comfortable ride comparable to its chief rival, the Montero Sport. Its price of PhP 1,479,000 is good value, but is a little higher compared to its Mitsu counterpart.
When it comes to model upgrades, the usual list includes the addition of a new features and revising the look to compete with the newer models in the class. With the Fortuner, Toyota has gone further than the usual, focusing on what their customers really wanted, and thus ensuring that their best selling SUV is ready to take on the competition for the years to come.