Toyota’s new SUV, the Fortuner, combines the best of the HiLux and the Kluger.

Story By Peter Pap

Toyota’s new Fortuner SUV is the largest single-model development undertaken by the company’s Australian technical centre. It is based on the capable HiLux chassis and new diesel engine, with a new upper body similar to the Kluger. It offers more luxury and comfort than the HiLux, plus comfortable seating for seven. A similar formula worked well 30 years ago with the 4Runner, so it is anticipated to do well. The Fortuner will also suit potential Kluger buyers in need of a diesel option with proper off-road ability and towing capacity at a lower price than a Prado.

The Fortuner is available in three models – GX, GXL and Crusade – all powered by the same 2.8-litre turbo-diesel engine, with 130kW of power and 450Nm of torque for the six-speed automatic and 420Nm for the six-speed manual transmissions. During OUTBACK’s trial, we managed an average of 10 litres per 100 kilometres for highway and 13.5L/100km for city driving in the automatic versions.
The low revving diesel masks your actual speed, which can be a lot faster than you think. While cruising, the engine ticks over at 1500rpm at 100km/h and 2000rpm at 110km/h.

The Fortuner suspension is similar to the HiLux, with double-wishbone front suspension and a new five-link coil spring live axle instead of a leaf-spring arrangement. Toyota has done a great job calibrating the suspension – the ride is refined and compliant, with no rattles or squeaks whatsoever, even though it’s a little on the firm side. Steering feels spot on and cornering is very flat, with minimal body roll and pitching, especially with the 18-inch AT tyres on the GXL. The Crusade model, with its larger diameter 19-inch HT tyres, has slightly more roll, a softer ride and better grip on bitumen and dirt, so is a better offer all-round. The brakes, including the ABS, are perfectly calibrated for both dirt and bitumen. The only negative with the Fortuner’s ride is that it can become unsettled and nervous over some corrugations, due to its live rear axle.

All models have an electronically controlled transfer case for on-the-fly changes from 4x2 to 4x4 high, using Toyota’s unique disconnecting differential at speeds under 100km/h. The Fortuner has an approach angle of 30 degrees, departure angle of 25 degrees and ramp-over angle of 23.5 degrees. Ground clearance is 225 millimetres and wading depth is 700mm. A standard rear differential lock and low-range gearing provide added tractability for rugged off-road terrain plus there’s downhill assist control and underbody protection for vital areas, all making the Fortuner very capable off-road.

Braked towing capacity is 3 tonnes for the manual and 2.8 tonnes for the auto. The towbar’s operation is specifically designed to augment the standard equipment trailer sway control fitted to all Fortuners, one of the many Toyota accessories developed and rigorously tested locally for this model.

The dash is well designed, with instruments that are easy to read and operate. The power tailgate in the Crusade has a memory function that allows owners to set the opening height – handy for low-hanging branches or garage roofs. The floor section in the third row is low, which helps to keep knees away from chests, and the seats are stowable to the sides like a Prado, instead of in the floor like the Kluger.

Air-flow controls and vents for passengers are well placed and an air-conditioned cool box above the glovebox is a nice touch, as well as the soft-touch materials around the dashboard, console and door trims. In fact, you have to constantly remind yourself of the Fortuner’s ute DNA as you sit in the comfy interior. A bumper protector on this rugged vehicle would have been on our wish list.

You can look at the Fortuner in two ways: it’s a HiLux with added comfort and seating; or a Kluger with a powerful diesel for towing and proper off-road ability. Either way, Toyota has taken the best of both and produced a very polished and refined vehicle that ticks a lot of boxes and has an impressive features list as standard. Toyota expects to sell 6000 Fortuners in the next year. That forecast may need to be increased.

GX $47,990; GXL $52,990; Crusade $59,990. Options: automatic $2,000,
premium paint $550.

This story excerpt is from Issue #106

Outback Magazine: Apr/May 2016