For some time, the Toyota Fortuner had been the gold standard in the 7-seater SUV category. It had a reasonable size, fit seven people easily and blended modern and rugged design cues seamlessly. It only had one kink in its armor - the ride. A mid-life refresh in 2009 gave it a more butch look but had hardly addressed the complaint. Finally, the prayers have been heard and for its 2012 model, the Fortuner seems poised to take back the crown of top-selling 7-seater SUV.
Toyota took great pains to improving this adjusting everything from the suspension (dampers and springs) to the seats to return a softer ride more without being too lumbering.
Another crowd drawer is the Fortuner’s new look. For this model year, it’s clear its stable mate, the Land Cruiser and upscale siblings at Lexus have had some influence. Upward tapering headlamps with clear projector and halogen beams have now been installed. A crown-shaped grille adds some dimension to the façade. Lower in the front, a strip that houses the lower intake and fog lights has been blacked out for a more street tuner look.
Over in the rear, clear jewel effect tail lamps draw the eyes. A chrome plate garnish with Fortuner embossed stretches in between them. The rear bumper just out more subtly while a race car-derived diffuser sits in between the reflectors.
Inside, much of the dashboard remains the same, however connections for iPods and other portable music players have now been integrated better.
Equipped in this particular variant is 2.7 liter gas engine and 4-speed automatic, it makes for a truly smooth drive around town.
For some time, I’ve had a hard time understanding why some buyers have opted for the gas variant over the diesel yet this Fortuner demonstrates why. Contrary to popular belief, fuel mileage isn’t that bad as the 2.7 gasoline engine managed to return a respectable 7-8 km/L in the city and an even higher 10-11 km/L in the highway.
In city traffic, engine pickup was quick and smooth, quickly closing gaps in traffic without that unnerving jerk that torquey diesels provide. Gear changes felt nearly seamless.
In the highway, the vehicle felt in its element, easily accelerating to overtake, quickly and smoothly, without that wait and surprising burst of acceleration that turbos usually return.
On the city’s rough streets, the ride was a lot softer. The good news is that this improvement hadn’t come at the cost of handling either as the Fortuner could still take on tight city corners, short dashes to catch stoplights and even the sweeping turns of C5 with little worry of body roll.
Off the pavement and on rocky parking lots, the ride was certainly much smoother. The only noise seemed to come from the folded 3rd row seats that I hadn’t secured that well.
All told, my few days with the Fortuner served as an excellent reminder of how this single variant ignited the segment way back in 2005 and produced waiting lists only Ferrari buyers would typically tolerate.
The gas Fortuner is one smooth operator and, now with its more pliant ride, is easily the smoothest driving and riding SUV in its category. The fuel mileage is not as bad as many would think and with its new styling could certainly make those lining up for a Montero Sport re-think their purchase.
Indeed today’s current fuel prices can certainly make one re-think the practicality of a gasoline-fed SUV. Yet the smooth power delivery, quiet operation and decent fuel consumption certainly make a good case in favour of it.