- About Us
2009 was an unpredictable time for the automotive industry. I remember how the financial struggle had led to job freezes, almost every business was under pressure and the auto industry world over was struggling to make ends meet. In the whole scheme of things, car launches were few and far between and expensive cars didn’t stand a chance at success. Everyone was thinking budget cars, and somewhere in between, came the Toyota Fortuner. An SUV with which Toyota was asking north of Rs 20 lakh, and getting it with very little effort. The success of the Fortuner was mind boggling. How could something in this price range sell over a thousand units every month? As of today, over one lakh Fortuners have been sold in India, which averages to about 15,000 a year, and globally the Fortuner accounts for 15 percent of Toyota’s sales. It is also sold at a considerable premium here. To give you an idea, internationally, the Fortuner costs about 30-40 per cent more than an Innova but in India, it is close to 70 per cent. It is that popular. The politicians buy it, television stars swear by it, anyone who wants to demonstrate a position of power wants a Fortuner. Most preferably in white. It doesn’t matter to most that it is a capable off-roader with built to last mechanicals. Just its styling did the trick. So naturally, most of all for the new Fortuner, it has to scare you silly in your rear view mirror. If it can tick that box, the rest of it needs to follow – reliability, ruggedness, a modern package and good quality. We flew all the way to Cochin to find out all of this and more.
What is it?
The second generation Fortuner. It is based on the new Hilux pick-up just like the old one did but this time, Toyota has worked a lot harder to differentiate the Fortuner as a more modern people hauler from its utilitarian roots of the Hilux. That has meant, more than anything, improving occupant comfort in terms of seating, features and NVH levels, improved driveability and premium design. The design as we all know, could make or break the Fortuner here. It’s predecessor’s imposing stance won the segment for Toyota and that means it was a clearly the first task at hand during development of the new Fortuner. Toyota designers gave the Fortuner an aggressive front end with a pointier nose, a lot of chrome and a muscular bonnet. While the pictures don’t show it, in the flesh, the Fortuner is big, in your face and certainly aces that power posture very well. The flanks are flared, the squared wheel arches are high set and the window sills are higher set, you climb in to the massive SUV with a bit more effort and the everything you touch and feel is chunkier and a lot more expensive than before. So, on the styling front, it may not be particularly exciting to look at, but intimidating it is.
It’s got a near-identical wheelbase as the old one, the height has reduced by 15mm and the length has gone up by 90mm. At almost 4.8 metres, the Fortuner is a lot longer now and all of it has gone to elongate that nose. That translates to a 29-degree approach angle instead of 30 degrees, something dismissed as trivial by the Toyota guys. With over 70 per cent of the previous generation owners opting for the 4×2 variants, and even among the 4×4 owners, most not knowing what to do with the low ratio transfer case, that approach angle does seem trivial. To further appease the typical Fortuner buyer who cares very less about its off-roading abilities, there’s a petrol engine too in the line-up and you can get it with a 5-speed manual or a 6-speed torque convertor ‘box. We didn’t get much time with the petrol during our drive in Cochin, but initial impressions tell us it is refined and a very relaxed drive. It comes only as a 2WD, shod with 17 inch all-terrain Bridgestone duellers, which is strangely the better tyre to the highway tyres on the 4WD Fortuners. You unfortunately don’t get these A/Ts in the 18-inch wheels. The petrol makes 164bhp and 245Nm from the 2.7-litre 4-cylinder mill and the diesel 2.75-litre churns out 174bhp and 420Nm in the manual and 450Nm in the automatic. It comes mated to a 6-speed manual (with rev-matching!) or a 6-speed torque convertor.
The new Fortuner weighs about 200kg more than the old one, which is an eye-popping number. Toyota wanted a more composed SUV this time round and that meant beefing up the ladder frame, making it a lot safer and filling it to the brim with features. That has piled up the pounds, yet on the go, the surge of torque is plenty and in its powerband, you can hustle the big beast a lot more than before. Peak torque is available from 1600rpm and it pulls neat and strong all the way to 3000rpm. It’s got longer legs but that engine begins to sound gruff as you rev it any harder so it’s best to shift up much before you redline. It comes with drive modes now like all vehicles – eco, normal and power, essentially altering throttle urgency and holding up shifts for longer (in the AT). And that makes the manual a better drive because it gives you control of that gruff diesel’s decibels. Another thing in favour of the manual is its iMT technology, which is essentially rev-matching as you shift gears. It makes for a smoother drive on the highway, and as the roads get twisty, urges you to stay in the right power band.
Fun to drive?
The manual is a lot of fun for a large SUV. It makes for an excellent tourer, rolls a lot lesser than the previous generation Fortuner, feels composed at higher speeds and rides well over bad roads. The seats are very well contoured and cushioned so it is tireless over long distances. A stronger ladder frame seems to have helped as the suspension doesn’t require as much stiffening as the predecessor required to curb its body roll. The new Fortuner as a result has struck a better balance between ride comfort and handling, and you will notice that you can do higher speeds on average without putting in as much effort now. The brakes are stronger too with discs all round and strong bite. A few things I didn’t like was the lifeless steering with its part wood-finish part leather wheel. It is something that would please customers but when you have a lot of steering to do, changing materials aren’t ideal for grip. The second thing is the high set dashboard, which is so high because the bonnet line had to be imposing. The driver’s seat is electrically adjustable so you can raise it enough to get a good view of the road but the person sitting shotgun with only get a good view of the dashboard.
It makes you crane your neck as you go off-roading, which we didn’t do much of but it was good enough to get to experience the electronically dependent new Fortuner. Now the few purists would not like the absence of a manual low ratio transfer case but the 4wd knob that lets you shift between 2H, 4H and 4L saves up a lot of space and makes the centre console look a lot neater. You get traction control, hill descent control and fairly long travel suspension to negotiate some light off-roading. Since there are deep torque reserves, crawling over rocky terrain and steep slopes is easy. We couldn’t get the chance to put it through more challenging terrain however during the media drive.
Easy on the pocket?
The Fortuner was never going to be cheap to buy. It comes loaded with features with no variant skimping on it. You get seven airbags as standard, ABS with EBD, LED projector headlamps, synthetic leather seats, a touchscreen infotainment system, seven seats, electrically operated tailgate, powered driver’s seat, paddle shifters in the automatic and drive modes. The 4WD Fortuners get stability control, hill descent control and downhill assist (that works in 4L). Prices start from Rs 25.92 lakh, ex-showroom Delhi for the 2WD petrol with the manual gearbox and goes up to Rs 31.12 lakh for the top-of-the-line 4WD AT Fortuner. While starting prices have gone up by about Rs 80,000, the top variants are costlier by about Rs 3 lakh. But for the considerable improvement seen on this new SUV over its predecessor and the demand for the Fortuner in India, the premium doesn’t seem a lot.
The Fortuner takes on the new Ford Endeavour, which is between Rs 1.5-2 lakh cheaper depending on the variant. The previous generation Endeavour was fairly archaic compared to the old Fortuner and at the time, the Fortuner faced no competition in its segment. But the new Endeavour is a competent package and is a lot more affordable. Will the Fortuner’s popularity be high enough to command the higher price? Time will tell.
Toyota has played its cards right with the new Fortuner. The styling is imposing, it looks a lot more expensive than before, quality of materials and list of features have gone up, it is more comfortable and a lot more driveable, comes a variety of powertrain combinations that has something for every Fortuner buyer and the pricing isn’t as shocking as that of the new Innova. Going by the success of the Innova, it looks like the Fortuner will in fact do equally as well if not better than its predecessor.
evo rating: 4/5