Inigo S. Roces / Inigo S. Roces | April 04, 2016 16:18
Levelling up the luxe
There hasn’t been a better time to buy midsize pick-up based SUVs (or Pick-up Passenger Vehicles [PPV] as the engineers call it) with strong, all-new contenders from Toyota, Mitsubishi, Ford, and Isuzu, and a revised Chevrolet on the way.
Not surprisingly, one of the most talked about is Toyota’s Fortuner, having turned the segment into the most fiercely competitive one in the entire auto industry. While subtle improvements throughout the years have allowed it to stay competitive, it’s this all new model that many have been anticipating.
For years, sleek and stylish were adjectives that were hard to ascribe to this class of vehicle, but the new Fortuner proves that idea wrong. The new façade integrates broad but slim bi-beam LED headlights, with a train of LED DRL’s much like the new Altis. The grille is flanked by two broad vertical chrome bars. Lower on the bumper is a large central intake, connected to triangular foglamp housings, lined with chrome.
The Fortuner eschews round wheel arch flares in favor of the more subtly sculpted variety for a more coke-bottle frame. They house massive 18-inch wheels on 265/60 series tires. Higher up, the beltline borrows cues from sports cars, curving up towards the rear window, before reclining again toward the back. On top, the tailgate spoiler connects more organically to the body than the predecessor.
Behind, broad taillights, just like the front, stretch across the tailgate, linked by a chrome plate garnish. Reflectors are mounted on the lower corners. What you’ll notice about this generation of Fortuner is the lack of badging, which makes this 2.4 4x2 practically indistinguishable from the top-of-the-line 2.8 4x4.
The most major improvement is the interior, where Toyota has added a great deal of style and color to what was typically a drab space. There’s more soft-touch material lining parts of the dash and the door cards. Brown leather seats, door panel accents and faux wood inserts give it that premium executive sedan (D-segment) feel.
The cluster is cleverly designed to mirror the front façade, with broad vertical LED bars that mirror the front grille and delineate the multi-info display from the dials. The dials themselves have a more 3D design, while the taller center LCD is able to show more trip stats. Ahead of it is the steering wheel which neatly integrates remote controls for the stereo, and LCD, as well as handsfree telephony.
Air-con vents are mounted at the top of the center stack, shaped subtly like those of the 86. The center stack is framed by aluminium and leather, with a soft-touch flush entertainment system with navigation. Below it is the automatic climate control, AUX input and power outlet. The Fortuner still retains the gated shifter with Eco and Power mode buttons. Finally, the padded leather armrest is also a nice touch for more relaxed driving.
Behind, is a 60-40 split folding bench seat with a drop-down center armrest. This bench can be slid forward or backward and even reclined to some degree. To get to the third row, simply pull the lever and the seat folds and tumbles forward. The tailgate is power assisted, needing you only to stand back (it can be tricky to work at times).
The third row seats now connect to a latch on the D-pillar instead of the grab handle. Some say this is better, but I experienced one of the seats coming loose and falling while I was driving. They’re spring-loaded, making them much easier to stow than before. Beware that occupants here will have unreasonable legroom unless the 2nd row bench is moved forward. Nonetheless, there is still useable trunk space even with the third row seats deployed.
Powering this all is the new 2.4-liter 2GD-FTV engine, which produces 150 PS and 330 Nm (400 Nm with overboost) regulated by a new 6-speed transmission. This new pairing delivers power quite smoothly, at times making you forget it’s a diesel.
Getting rolling with this new Fortuner is much easier with some caveats. For one, the cabin feels a tad higher than the predecessor, making hopping in a bit more difficult for the elderly. Nonetheless, once inside, rolling out is an effortless affair with features like the engine start button, all-around sensors and Power and Eco modes.
Unlike most new cars, the Eco mode still feels relatively responsive, without the delay that most cars have. Where it’s felt is the much slower acceleration time. Pressing the Eco mode again activates Normal mode, which barely feels any different. Finally, Power mode makes more torque available, letting you pull away much more quickly. This is aided by paddle shifters behind the wheel to change manually. Nonetheless, the added weight of all the equipment is evident, leaving the car wanting when it comes to overtaking.
Being a 4x2 model, with just one passenger, the ride can still be a tad bouncy on city roads. Nonetheless, the suspension has radically improved the vehicle’s stability, allowing you to turn into corners faster with little worry or hesitation. Brakes have been greatly improved too, biting far more crisply than the predecessor and slowing you down sooner than you expect. The body does tend to dive, but it is only most evident under hard braking. Finally, the noise isolation is also a notch up, making the car comparable once again to a D-segment sedan.
Our short test with the Fortuner yielded some high fuel economy results too. It earned 10.5 km/l in the city, with moderate traffic on Normal mode. That jumped to a higher 14.3 km/l on the highway at an average speed of 100 km/h.
As far as safety goes, there’s also little need to worry with systems like ABS, Brake Assist, EBD, stability control and a whole suite of airbags to keep passengers safe. It may be the only one in its class without a back-up camera, though the sensors do quite an adequate job already.
All told, the all-new Fortuner has been imbued with a lot of improvements, making it even easier and more comfortable to drive on a daily basis. Power delivery is smooth, the ride is quiet and the plush amenities make it feel like a tall executive sedan. The 2.4-liter engine will struggle on long highway stretches, though will be adequate for city use. Finally, many are complaining about the large price increase, yet the new, smoother engine, transmission and interior refinements go a long way to make the money feel well spent.