To say the Fortuner has been a success for Toyota is an absolute understatement. Any corner you turn, any gasoline station you stop at, any mall parking lot you visit, it's almost certain that you'll see a Fortuner.
It's strange to be able to say that an SUV like this can be as ubiquitous as a Vios or an Innova, but it's true. No, the sales numbers between the market's default passenger sedan and MPV versus Toyota's popular pick-up passenger vehicle (PPV) aren't exactly the same, but the gap isn't as big as you'd think especially considering the price.
This year though, things are different. The Montero Sport was refreshed in 2019, the Everest was updated in 2020 (even though it doesn't look like it), the Terra is due for a major update in about a month, and the mu-X will debut as a new generation model based on the all-new D-Max soon as well.
The Fortuner isn't a spring chicken anymore. Since it was launched in 2016 as a second-generation model, many rivals have come up to challenge the Fortuner any way they can. And this year all those rivals are now updated... and so is the Fortuner.
Late last year, Toyota launched an updated Fortuner with six variants, four distinct grades, and, unusually, two very different design updates. In the G, V, and Q grade models, the design update to the Fortuner is significant but somewhat milder. In the two LTD models, however, the redesign is definitely more profound. Actually, I'd say Toyota gave their designers a lot of leeway with the LTD.
For starters, the front clip is really sporty. That's not something we could say about the Fortuner in the past, but we can definitely do so now. The bumper looks almost like an aftermarket piece with the way Toyota shaped it. It looks more aerodynamic and aggressive than anything we've seen out of the Fortuner line. The details Toyota selected for the LTD model are also very distinct. Those LED headlamps are exclusive to the LTD. The turn signals are those LED strips near the bottom of the bumper, and those are sequential; it's gimmicky, but a neat one.
The rear has likewise been reworked much more than the non-LTD models; you can tell by the cutouts on the flanks of the rear bumper. Toyota also went chrome minimum with the LTD, so much so that the only polished chrome bits we can spot are the two T emblems and the door handles. Everything else is piano black, including the roof and the A, B, C, and D pillars and the tailgate garnish. This is the two-tone look, and it's exclusive to the LTD along with the taillights that also sport those sequential LED signals.
There are two things that stand out to me right away, and the first is that clearly the Fortuner was never meant to be a “two-tone” vehicle. It's really an addition or something they came up with after they engineered the model as a new generation in 2016.
I can make that assessment by looking at where the primary color ends and the black roof begins on the A-pillar; the pearlescent white (still a paid extra on this model) ends just above the trailing edge of the hood/bonnet. If you look at other two-tone models with a black roof (which is usually done to allow a glass roof to blend in) the line between the body color and the black is aligned with the hood like the Suzuki Vitara or Geely Coolray. Incidentally, many see a resemblance between the LTD and the Coolray, but it just so happens that the Geely was launched in 2019.
The other thing I don't particularly like is the wheel design. The look is actually OK, but at 18 inches it's too small. The Everest Titanium+ has handsome-looking 20” wheels. The Montero Sport has 18” wheels but the design is better. Some would argue that a 19 or a 20 isn't good for our roads, but there's also the fact that the Thai equivalent of the LTD (the Fortuner Legender) has the same design wheel but at a much more apt 20-inch diameter. Someone at Toyota's product planning held back on the wheel size for the Philippine market. Why not go all-in?
Opening the boot is easy as this Fortuner LTD has a motorized tailgate. With the third row occupied, there's not much space left; you can probably fit a few backpacks or a couple of paper bags full of groceries there, but that's it. With the third row unoccupied, it can be folded away giving the LTD more cargo space; by our tape measure, it's about 47 inches deep in there and about 51 inches at the widest point near the back of the seats. Cargo can be further extended by folding and tumbling the second row forward.
There are quite a few things I am critical about with the Fortuner line in general. The first (and perhaps the most major one) is the folding mechanism for the seats. Unlike some competitors, the Fortuner still has that fold-up to the side mechanism for the third row. Being that the seats are still there (albeit folded up) means there is a lot of cargo volume being consumed; at the widest between the folded-up third row, we were only getting about 31 inches of the total width. That's a huge limiting factor.
There is an improvement compared to first-generation Fortuner models because this second-gen model does have a spring-loaded fold-up mechanism, but was it so much to ask for a full fold-flat mechanism to be engineered into the model from the start? Ford was able to do it with the Everest and so was Nissan with the Terra. Why couldn't Toyota?
The second is somewhat more minor but no less important: the spare tire. The procedure to release that spare tire is very cumbersome: assemble a long rod, insert into that little slit, turn it many times to lower the spare tire. It's just weird, and it sounds so very wrong. And it doesn't help that the mechanism hasn't changed much from the first generation model, meaning the spare tire on the Fortuner is way too easy to steal. If you ever buy a Fortuner the first purchase you should make is a heavy-duty lock for the spare.
The interior is primarily black with the plastics, the leather, the fabrics, and even the selection of faux wood panels. The cabin looks very nice with the contrast red stitching, the maroon leather strips, and even the built-in mood lighting. While the interior or dashboard hasn't changed much, what's very clear is that Toyota tried to cram in everything -and I mean EVERYTHING- into the Fortuner LTD.
I like that the front seats have 8-way power adjustment and come with ventilation, meaning you can direct some cooling onto the cushions. Climate control is standard on this version, though oddly enough the G model has been downgraded somewhat to a standard A/C system. There's still that upper glove box with a cooler; useful for long drives.
The main infotainment system is much better than the preceding model in terms of resolution and, well, everything else. It has Bluetooth, Apple Carplay, and Android Auto. For charging you can plug in via any of the two 12-volt sockets, the USB port for the audio system, or even via the wireless charging pad. The old standard speaker system has been swapped out for a 9-speaker JBL package; definitely, a nice touch though I have to point out that the Thai Legender counterpart has an 11-speaker JBL system.
For safety, this has the usual ABS, EBD, BA, VSC, TRC, 7 SRS airbags, a 360-degree camera called PVM (more on that later), and all kinds of other acronyms denoting life-saving technology. But there's one new one: TSS, or Toyota Safety Sense. This means this LTD has a pre-collision system (preps your brakes for a full stop if it detects something), lane departure alert with the yaw assist (gently tugs on the wheel if you venture outside your lane on the highway), and the radar-controlled adaptive cruise system. The last one is the feature we like the most, especially for long drives.
The middle row is actually quite spacious with plenty of legroom to go around. The cushioning is nice, and there is a central armrest with dual cupholders. There are dual USB ports, a pocket for charging your phone, as well as two hooks on the front seatbacks.
The only real issue in the middle row is the headroom. You can see over the driver's headrest with the height of the cushion, but the trade-off is that only two inches remain and my head would be touching the ceiling. Also, the A/C vents and controls for the third row are on the ceiling which is good, but that's also what restricts Toyota from putting a panoramic glass roof there.
The third row is actually not a bad place to be in, in terms of lateral space. The MPV cousin of the Fortuner is the Innova, and the latter is intended to have a 3-seater third row. For the Fortuner, the same third row is only a 2-seater, and that means you have more lateral space to go around. The knee room is actually not bad if you adjust the middle row to grant the third-row passengers more space.
The A/C unit in the back can be a bit noisy as there's an evaporator assembly with a blower tucked in the panel beside the passenger side on the third row. You'll have to tone down the rear A/C to make your ride a little quieter. The other issue here is again the headroom. I'm not tall at 5'6” but my head was already touching the ceiling. Toyota tried to "Gurney Bubble" it by recessing the ceiling panel where a passenger's head would be, but I wouldn't recommend this seat for taller individuals.
What I won't criticize this Fortuner for is the engine. This is still the 2.8L turbodiesel that they have been offering since 2016, but it has been updated. Power is up to 204 metric horsepower, which is a 15% bump. Torque is up from 450 to 500 newton-meters which is an 11% bump. 15% and 11% may not sound like a big increase, but it really is. And Toyota also widened the max torque plateau, is it now comes in from 1600 to 2800. They gave us what we wanted: more power and more torque.
The gearbox is still a 6-speed auto, and it comes with three modes: Eco (conservative shifting), Normal, and Sport (aggressive downshifting). Acceleration is alright. The difference is definitely not night and day between the 2.8L pre-facelift and this new LTD but it's there. Fuel economy in urban driving is 8.8 kilometers per liter in Normal mode.
The handling is alright and braking is definitely better given the brake upgrade since I first reviewed this second-generation Fortuner in 2016. Back then, the stability control light would activate even under moderate braking into a turn. The reason is the huge disparity in braking power between the big vented discs in front and the weaker (but more durable) rear drums; there's just too much brake bias to the front. Now it's more balanced because there are discs on all four hubs.
The power steering system is now also a variable unit just like the one in the Hilux. The steering has some weight to it, which is nice; it actually feels better that way. The Fortuner isn't really made for handling though, but what's weird is that the Thai Legender counterpart has a different suspension set up to this one: their model has sport springs and shocks while we have regular. Or at least it feels regular.
No matter though because what is more important with the Fortuner is the ride comfort. A lot of my colleagues have characterized the ride as bumpy, and that's a fair assessment. But we have to keep in mind that the Fortuner is a vehicle that is meant to carry 7, and thus has to bear the weight of 7 without looking like the nose is pitched up and ready for take-off. If you drive alone or even with just one or two passengers, then yes it will feel bumpy.
I would have wanted to take the Fortuner LTD off-road because it is a 4x4, but nothing has really changed in terms of off-road mechanicals. The ground clearance looks to be the same; Toyota didn't put that on their official info, but it's unlikely changed at around 220 or 225 millimeters especially since the wheel diameter is the same as before. The 4x4 system is also the same; a selectable system with RWD/2WD, 4WD high for loose surfaces, and 4WD low range for crawling. This one has a locking rear differential and an auto disconnect system.
I have no doubt this will perform like any other second-generation Fortuner 4x4 before it, but the stricter quarantine has limited us from venturing out to the mountains; the days we had with the Fortuner were already making travel eastward a little tricky. The unusual thing though is that I don't think a Fortuner LTD owner would be taking it off-road anyway.
In the model strategy that Toyota has for the Fortuner, it seems they're not looking at the 4x4 enthusiast market. Yes, this LTD is a 4x4, but it's the only 4x4. There is no lower grade variant in 4x4, be it automatic or manual; that in itself limits an enthusiast's options. And also, the design of the vehicle doesn't lend it to be a true off-roader. An owner would think long and hard before unbolting those stylish front and rear bumpers to swap for more apt steel bumpers unless they had a buyer waiting for that kit. If Toyota had a lower grade 4x4 model without all the bells and whistles, maybe. But not this one.
I honestly think Toyota could have done so much more to make the Fortuner LTD -or any of the new Fortuner variants- so much better. Toyota should have worked on redesigning the dashboard to be less cluttered like what Mitsubishi did with the Montero Sport. The vehicle also doesn't feel anywhere near as spacious as its rivals, particularly the Ford Everest. Toyota should have worked on a better folding system for the third row like what Nissan has in the Terra, but they may be saving most of those major upgrades for a third-generation model in 4 or 5 years.
If you haven't noticed I'm quite critical of the Fortuner LTD. But perhaps the most glaring issue I found is the 360-degree camera system. I'm pretty sure it's an add-on feature that isn't fully integrated into the 8-inch central display or the actual vehicle. I can tell because (1) there's a separate button for it on the left of the steering wheel, (2) the rearview camera doesn't pop up when you shift to R, and (3) touching the display while the 360 system is active does not cycle through the views. I suspect it's plugged into some kind of RCA video input jack in the back as opposed to the head unit equivalent of a digital HDMI port. Basically, this 360 camera system looks and feels analog.
Good as the styling and the packaging of the Fortuner LTD 4x4 may be, everything should really be polished, especially at this price range. There are no excuses if a vehicle is priced at the head of the order like the 2021 Fortuner LTD 2.8L 4x4: PHP 2.414 million. Even if I stack it up against its already pricey primary competitor -the Montero Sport GT 4WD- this LTD is still pricey by over PHP 100,000. That's prestige pricing, and Toyota can do it because they're the market leader.
If I was to pick a Fortuner model out of the range as my favorite, it would probably be the Q; yes, you lose the 4x4 system, Toyota Safety Sense, and the JBL unit, but you do get the upgraded engine and it's cheaper by PHP 400,000.