Normally, when a carmaker launches an all-new product, it opens not just a chapter in that vehicle’s history, but an entirely new volume. That said, Toyota didn’t get the memo with the all-new Fortuner. Granted it looks sleeker and much more sophisticated than ever before, it adheres too closely to the concept of kaizen or continuous improvement. It ends up telling pretty much the same story, remixed and retold.
If the original Fortuner were a movie, it’ll be Star Wars: A New Hope. It’s undoubtedly a Toyota magnum opus—a showcase of ingenious design and clever marketing. It brought a “gotta-have-it” element in the otherwise unsexy family SUV business and despite its flaws, people bought a ton of them. No matter what the competition did, the Fortuner gravy train couldn’t be stopped. Ten years on and a new generation later, it’s A New Hope all over again. Only this time, the Fortuner comes with better special effects.
It doesn’t take a car designer to appreciate what Toyota has done with the Fortuner’s design. While the first-generation model looked sturdy, the new one is sleek. It’s all fluid and swoopy with a strong crossover-vibe. The front is dominated by a large upper grille and Bi-LED headlights with DRLs. Along the side, a strong character line runs across the doors while the blacked out C-pillar produces that distinct “floating roof” effect. The rear is no less striking with the tapered tail lights with bold LED elements.
Climbing aboard requires a step up, but ingress/egress is easier thanks to the A-pillar grab handles for the front passengers. Once in there, it has a notch-above look and feel with the two-tone black and brown color scheme. Further elevating the tactile experience is the supple leather not just on the steering wheel, but on the seats, door trims, and center console as well. The plastics are also nicely textured and softened up too. Tastefully done piano black accents and matte wood trimmings complete the transformation. Upfront, the interior space is more or less comparable to the previous Fortuner making it roomier than another sci-fi inspired rival, but the aggressively angled A-pillar does shave off some headroom.
Greatly improved for 2016 is the ergonomics. It’s been cleaned up with logical placement of controls and switches for greater ease of use and operation. With the exception of the chintzy glowing vertical stripes in the gauges, it’s a straightforward affair. The instrument cluster presents all pertinent information clearly and concisely, while the steering wheel and seats offer a commendable driving position. The gated shifter also falls much more naturally within arm’s reach as well.
Moving to the second and third row though, the experience feels largely unchanged. Yes, it’s still quite roomy, but there’s surprisingly not a lot of head room available (especially the middle occupant in the second row and the entire third row). Apart from that, it doesn’t learn any new tricks. The second row still folds, slides, and tumbles in a 60/40 split, but a one-touch tumble mechanism allows easier access to the third row. The third row meanwhile still flips to the side, but a spring loaded mechanism and rear-mounted latch point, attached to the rearmost seatbelts, make it easier to store.
The similar seating configuration serves as a prelude to the Fortuner’s driving experience which is, in a word, familiar. With a carryover platform, piloting it just for a few hundred meters brings a strong sense of connection to the first-generation model. Everything from the sight lines, the position of the mirrors, to the way you peek slightly up the dashboard to look ahead is déjà vu. The steering, a hydraulic assisted unit is heavy, heavier than other similar steering set-ups; but suits the relaxed nature of this vehicle. Compared to before, it filters unwanted ruts and vibrations from the road although some sharp ones do still tend to shudder the steering wheel.
Apart from the steering, its on-road performance is pretty much where the previous model left off. The suspension is tuned to be quite stiff, controlling unwanted pitching through corners thereby adding a feel of stability during turns. The same setup is also largely responsible for improved high-speed stability. On the flipside, push it a tad more and it’ll understeer. Take a bend too fast, and it’ll refuse to turn. Scrubbing some speed is the only solution to get it to cooperate. The same setup is largely responsible for the jiggly ride, especially at low speeds. Improved damping removes some unwanted harshness, but it still hops up and down at even the smallest of bumps. At higher speeds though, it sorts itself out. It becomes quieter and much more compliant as the pace goes up. The brakes offer much better pedal modulation than before, but there are instances where it feels “under braked”.
As the range-topping Fortuner, the 2.8 V comes with Toyota’s next-generation diesel engine: the 1GD-FTV. The 2.8-liter 4-cylinder doesn’t pack class-leading numbers, but the 174 horsepower, 450 Nm output do well enough to push this 2,135-kilogram SUV nicely. Low-speed response is pretty quick, but there’s noticeable jerkiness. The throttle seems to penalize a heavy right foot because of its non-linear engagement. And together with a gearbox that’s eager to shift up, it results in less than refined manners. Maintaining a light pressure on the gas seems the best way to coax it to accelerate smoothly. Switching the selectable driving modes to ECO does help as well, but it also neuters the power delivery, making the 2.8-liter engine feel more like the previous non-VGS 2.5-D-4D.
After getting used to the peculiar throttle, the Fortuner does have a noticeably quieter mill, especially compared to the one it’s intended to replace. It only gets vocal as the revs climb up. Compared to other engines though, including Toyota’s very own 2.4-liter 2GD-FTV, it does sound throatier. As mentioned, the 6-speed automatic could use better refinement at low speeds, but in mid to high speed applications, it’s much better equipped than the old 4-speed ‘box. It’s also equipped with paddle shifters, only they don’t work in the conventional sense. Engaging the paddles at any time displays a gear, for example, 5. This means the gearbox is free to engage any gear from 1 to 5. If you flick it down to 3, it’s free to engage any gear from 1 to 3. It’s not a real manual override, but more of an overdrive off switch. In terms of fuel mileage, it does 7.93 km/L in the city (average speed 15 km/h), not a high number, but a large 80-liter fuel tank means fewer stops between fill-ups.
With such intense competition in the mid-sized SUV wars, Toyota decided to sing a familiar, but popular tune with the all-new Fortuner. Like how George Lucas sees Star Wars as his obra, Toyota sees the Fortuner the same way; and like Lucas, who released the same movie, tweaked and polished twenty years later, Toyota is doing the same with the second-generation Fortuner. It’s the same SUV wrapped in a sexier, bolder wrapper. Whether you believe in the proven formula or not may be the single biggest reason why you’ll be swayed or dismayed with Toyota’s efforts.
2016 Toyota Fortuner 2.8 V
|Ownership||2016 Toyota Fortuner 2.8 V 4x4|
|Vehicle Classification||Mid-sized SUV|
|Body Type||5-door SUV|
|Engine / Drive||F/4WD, Part Time, High/Low|
|Under the Hood|
|Aspiration||Common Rail, Turbo, Variable Geometry|
|Layout / # of Cylinders||I4|
|BHP @ rpm||174 @ 3,400|
|Nm @ rpm||450 @ 1,600-2,400|
|Fuel / Min. Octane||Diesel|
|Dimensions and Weights|
|Curb Weight (kg)||2,135|
|Suspension and Tires|
|Front Suspension||Independent, Double Wishbone|
|Rear Suspension||4-Link, Coil Springs|
|Front Brakes||Vented Disc|
|Tires||Bridgestone Dueler H/T II 265/60 R 18 H (f & r)|
|Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)||Yes|
|Traction / Stability Control||Yes|
|Parking Sensors||Yes, Rear|
|Fog Lamps||Yes, Front|
|Steering Wheel Adjustment||Tilt/Telescopic|
|Steering Wheel Material||Leather|
|Seating Adjustment||Electric (driver)|
|Folding Rear Seat||Yes, 60/40 (2nd row); 50/50 (3rd row)|
|Power Door Locks||Yes|
|Power Mirrors||Yes, with Fold|
|Climate Control||Yes, with Rear Controls|
|No. of Speakers||6|
|Steering Wheel Controls||Yes|