Ask a current Fortuner owner how his ownership experience has been and he or she will reply with with a smile of satisfaction. Yes, the ride was on the pretty bouncy side but the Fortuner proved itself as a dependable, reliable car that rarely complained when driven high miles. Heck, my mother even bought one and has been a fan ever since.
After 11 years in the market, the first-generation Fortuner bows out for the second-generation model which made its debut back in January. Will the new Fortuner carry on the torch? To find out, Toyota invited us to the Clark International Speedway to take the new PPV for a quick spin.
It could be said that the new Fortuner looks a bolder than its predecessor with its large two-bar grill that dominates the front end along with its slim, wraparound headlights. Unlike the first-generation Fortuner, the all-new model features more character lines plus a rather interesting upward kink towards the rear window line.
The 2016 Fortuner measures in at 4,795 mm long, 1,855 mm wide and 1,835 mm tall. What does that mean to you and I? The new Fortuner is noticeably bigger than its predecessor by adding almost 100 mm from its length and 15 mm from its width. This means more interior space, not just for the first two rows but also for the sixth and seventh passengers.
Speaking of its interior, it could be said that the 2016 Toyota Fortuner is a quantum leap over its predecessor. For those who own the first-generation model, that interior had acres of head wearing plastic with a very utilitarian look. This one is, dare I say it, luxurious with more soft touch materials, leather trim on the dashboard, a touchscreen, piano black or wood trim and loads more design touches that boosts cabin ambiance. The seats in these new models are also much softer and quite interestingly, the front seats get extra bolsters for shoulder support. Lastly, the third row seats are much easier to stow. No longer do you have to hop in the cargo area, pull levers and tabs and hook it to the grab handle. Instead, you can just push the back rests, pull a tab and let the spring loaded mechanism do most of the work. The only thing left for you to do is hook it to a partition found in the D-pillar. Another interesting touch to the Fortuner's interior is a grab handle molded into the B-pillar's panel for easier ingress. This, along with the step bars make getting in and out of the Fortuner much easier for people of all ages and height.
Powering the all-new Fortuner are a pair of new GD series diesel first seen in the Hilux. The 2.4 liter engine, called the 2GD-FTV, replaces the old 2.5 liter and gets a significant power upgrade from its predecessor. It produces 149 PS and an impressive 400 Nm of torque thanks to a variable geometry turbo and an intercooler. For comparison basis, the old 2.5 engine put out 102 PS and 260 Nm of torque before it gained a VGT upgrade that bumped up power to 144 PS and torque to 343 Nm. Also available is a more powerful 2.8 liter model that puts out 177 PS and 450 Nm of torque. So far, so good then.
Of course, the question people are asking the most would be this: How does it ride? The first thing we did was hop in the top of the line 2.8 V and went off-roading. We drove through rutted roads, steep inclines and loose surfaces and I can honestly tell you that it's a huge improvement over the first-generation model. Gone is the stiff suspension that a lot of people experienced particularly with the first batch that came out in 2005. Try this with a first-generation Fortuner (2005-2008 version) and you'll find yourself bouncing all over the seat and making yourself dizzy in the process. Seat support was supple and the shoulder bolsters in the front were a treat as the rough terrain did its best to unsettle the car to no avail. After the off-road stint, it was now time for the moment everyone in the motoring media has been waiting for: getting behind the wheel of the all-new Fortuner. Ahead of us lay a series of tests to see how the car's brakes, handling and stability improved over its predecessor.
First thing I noticed was just how easy it was to find a comfortable driving position thanks to the telescoping steering wheel. It's a big bonus for people with short arms (ie. me) and no longer do I have to move the seat all the way forward just so I can turn the wheel comfortably and a definite improvement over the previous model.
With that set it was time to hit the track and the first test was acceleration and braking. Even with the 2.4 diesel, the new Fortuner pulled away from a full stop to 80 km/h with ease while a panic stop at that speed showed just how strong these new brakes are. Nose dive was noticeable but it got the nearly two tonne SUV stopped well before the end of the stop box. After that, we drove the Fortuner through a slalom to simulate maneuverability at low speeds. Steering the new Fortuner through the course was a breeze, easily exceeding the 40 km/h recommended speed to take on the course. Even with electronic power steering, there was enough feedback for more confidence on the move.
Up next was the corkscrew where it simulates taking on a winding road at speed. Again, the handling felt surefooted and never felt like it was tipping its toes like the first-generation did. Granted, it's no RAV4 but for a PPV, it's pretty planted.
Speaking of planted, it was now time for the emergency lane change which sounds daunting for anything with a high center of gravity. During the drive, the instructors advised us to dodge the obstacles at the last possible second at 60 km/h. Flick the wheel and Fortuner leans but not in an alarming way, gripping the road well even on all-terrain tires. Just to answer doubts that the stability control did all the work, on hand was a model equipped with the feature and another without and both tackled the course with ease. All in all, the Fortuner is a nice example of a big car that can stay composed even when pushed. Needless to say, I got down from the car impressed, knowing that it's a very safe handler which is very important as I forsee these SUVs being used on long trips.
As we wrapped up the test drive, we can already imagine these cars becoming a common sight on the road and it's not just because of the strong equity of the Fortuner brand. The folks at Toyota took note of the weaknesses previous generation as this 2016 model addresses the shortcomings its predecessor had. With all the improvements made to the second-generation Fortuner, Toyota's sale target of 2,000 units per month is realistic and surely the factory in Indonesia (not Thailand as most will believe) will have its hands full just to send units over to the country.
One question still remains. Will the new Fortuner impress on the road as it did on this short drive? Watch this space.