It’s been around three months since Toyota launched its updated, more powerful Fortuner — a move that is sure to further cement the versatile model’s status as South Africa’s most popular adventure vehicle.
In a market where you would expect German brands to dominate every segment, Fortuner has continued to prove the contrary — and with a raft of sound reasons to back up its success.
Having now had some months, albeit under challenging and restrictive COVID-19-related conditions, to settle into the domestic market, The South African took a fresh look at the 150KW Fortuner to discover exactly what underpins its continuing good fortune.
The first is Toyota’s proven dealer network. With a huge spread of dealers and a slick parts supply chain, if you do manage to run into trouble with your Toyota, getting going again, is easy enough.
Beyond the reliability and support benefits, Toyota knows the South African family’s vehicle requirements. Where other luxury brands offer sedans (that are useless on gravel) or crossovers (which aren’t great at exploring), Toyota builds exactly what customers want in the guise of Fortuner.
With the Fortuner you get a vehicle that is part family station wagon, with seven seats, but also part Hilux bakkie.
Adding a more sophisticated rear-suspension to the Hilux bakkie platform, turns the Fortuner into a more comfortable ride, but without sacrificing all its inherent ruggedness.
Despite having been the sales leader since its launch, way back in 2006, Toyota has never been overly complacent with its Fortuner. The latest update happened late last year and finally gave Fortuner fans the kind of power they wanted, from the proven 2.8-litre turbodiesel engine.
When modest engine improvements are made, it becomes rather difficult to quantify what the benefit is. But with this Fortuner’s engine upgrade, it is very evident.
Peak power has increased from 130kW to 150kW. Torque is up too, from 450Nm to 500Nm. What those numbers do, in reality, is a lot more impressive than they would ever appear on a screen, as mere statistics.
The Fortuner never truly lacked performance. Especially off-road. I have spent a lot of time driving the current second-generation Fortuner in low-range, and when the reduction ratio gears are running, it is impressively capable of climbing up the steepest inclines.
Where the addition power shows its value, is as speeds increase. The 150kW Fortuner is more confidence inspiring to drive at higher speeds, especially when overtaking slower traffic – mostly heavy transport trucks that one encounters on highways in the Karoo.
Aside from its swifter acceleration, the other driving environment where the additional 20kW makes a noticeable difference, is sand. A combination of momentum and traction is the successful driving strategy in sand: if you go too slow, you’ll get stuck, even with the word’s best off-road tyres.
With Fortuner now having 150kW at the driver’s disposal, it prevents an additional gearshift in tricky and tight sandy conditions. And the loss of momentum, with a gearshift, is often enough to get stuck. The upgraded Toyota 2.8-litre engine is much easier to keep in its powerband, when churning through deep sand.
Debits? The Hilux is still a more pleasing overall design, in my opinion. And the third-row seating, although impressively practical, does occupy a lot of stowage space when not used, in the Fortuner’s load area.
As a family vehicle the Fortuner travel on highways, often loaded with passengers and luggage. Weight blunts performance and acceleration – this is a law of physic that applies to all vehicles. With its increase in power, Fortuner has become a safer and more pleasant long-distance touring vehicle.
The new Fortuner 2.8 GD-6 4×4 VX six-speed automatic prices at R790 500