The mighty Toyota Fortuner has been given a makeover and some extra features in 2012, which do make it even more desirable. It continues to be the best-seller in its price segment, and after a road test, both on and off-road of the latest Fortuner, we can clearly see why.
One of the most popular colors you will see the Fortuner in is white, and that’s what we drove too – a burly white 2012 Toyota Fortuner 4×4 manual. This SUV is priced at Rs. 20.99 lakh ex-showroom Delhi, a bit on the expensive side when you compare it with other SUVs in its segment or even below it, but it does redeem itself.
Looks, fit and finish
The biggest draw about the Fortuner has been its looks. When it comes to big, mean SUVs, the Fortuner is right up there, with its ability to scare other road users into submission. The 2012 Fortuner has been given a makeover of sorts, which has marginally toned down the menacing look. The hood scoop has become larger, while the headlamps have become sleeker and incorporate projectors with HIDs. The headlamps also get power washers to clean themselves. In profile the Fortuner is identical to its previous model, with its tall stance and Lexus Harrier inspired body styling, riding on robust 17-inch alloys. At the rear, the Fortuner gets clear lens tail-lamps that look a little like aftermarket add-ons.
The all-beige interiors of the Fortuner look similar to its predecessor except for some distinct styling changes to the dashboard. The wood paneling is now of a darker color. Plastic quality is excellent and the fit and finish is good, giving the vehicle a built-to-last feel. The steering wheel design is different from the previous Fortuner and incorporates a phone answer and hang-up control in addition to the steering audio controls and multi-info display control. The center console now gets a touch-screen DVD-based music system that also incorporates a reverse camera.
The leather upholstery is comfortable and the seats are well-contoured, hugging you as you settle in. The driver’s seat is power adjustable for height, tilt and length, while the steering is tilt adjustable.
Comfort and features
Toyota has added a few more features to the Fortuner. It already came with power folding mirrors and climate control, optitron meters with illumination control, and remote locking. Now it also gets power headlamp washers, powered driver’s seat and most importantly, electronic traction control, which has made this burly SUV’s handling a lot more surefooted. The six-speaker, touch-screen DVD music system also incorporates a reverse camera and a Bluetooth phone pairing system to make and receive calls, as well as stream music. However, the parking sensors that were present in the previous Fortuner have been removed. Safety features such as two SRS airbags and ABS are standard on the Fortuner.
There are plenty of storage spaces. Pop-out cupholders below the AC vents allow for your drinks to be kept cool. Two small spaces below the center AC vents can be used to keep knick-knacks as well. The glove box is just average in size, but there is a deep storage bin under the center armrest that’s pretty useful. All the door pockets have bottle holders, and even the last-row gets three cupholders. Legroom is good in the second row, although the high-floor can be a bother for some, while the third row is strictly for short trips.
Each row has independent AC vents set into the roof, while there’s a separate blower control for the rear occupants set into the roof lining.
A multi-info display (MID) above the stereo shows you functions like time, temperature, compass, average fuel consumption, instant fuel consumption and range.
Performance and handling
The Fortuner is powered by a 2,982 cc, four-cylinder diesel engine that puts out a 169 bhp of power at 3,600 rpm and 343 Nm of torque at 1,400-3,600 rpm. This is mated to a five-speed manual transmission, and drives all four wheels through a full-time four-wheel drive system. The engine is nicely refined and noise does not intrude into the cabin, except at high rpm.
The Fortuner’s gear shift lever is rather long and the throw is fairly long, but precise. However, what was a bit unnerving was the way in which the whole transmission tends to swing when the engine is revved in each gear – possibly an issue with one of the gearbox mounts on our test vehicle. The Fortuner picks up well from low rpm with very little turbo lag. You get a nice surge in power through each of the gears making you aware of the massive torque the engine is pushing out under the hood. However, on corners, you can feel the vehicle roll a little, but it’s well controlled.
The tall stance gives you a good view of the road ahead and you can easily look over other traffic. All-round visibility is good, although one needs to pay attention to the front corners as the high bonnet can hide low-height obstacles on the side of the road. Reversing is easy thanks to the large mirrors and the aid of the reverse camera.
Once you get to fifth gear the Fortuner can cruise at about 80 kmph, with the engine spinning at a lazy 1500 rpm. This is good for mileage especially on the highway, making the vehicle a great long-distance cruiser. Also read: Why the new Toyota Fortuner is a great car for its features!
Fortuner owners rarely take the vehicle off-road. But when you do, it’s a very capable machine. We tested the Fortuner around the sandy and rocky slopes of the Aravallis, and the vehicle performed very well, without a fuss. We had a Mahindra Thar for company during the off-road trip, and while the occupants of the Thar were covered in dust after about 4 hours of dirt-road driving, the Fortuner just wandered through the scenery with all occupants seated in a dust-free plush, climate-controlled cabin.
For normal sandy trails, one does not even need to touch the 4×4 shifter on the Fortuner, as it is anyway a full-time four-wheel drive driving all four wheels. But once we got to deeper sand, we shifted into 4HL (four-wheel drive high mode with center differential locked). This splits power 50:50 at all times to the front and rear axle equally. And then there were a couple of sandy slopes for which we used 4LL (four-wheel drive low ratio, center differential locked). When you switch out of 4H mode the traction control is automatically switched off as well, allowing for more wheel slip (this is required to avoid damaging the transmission off-road).
The 4LL mode doubles the available torque and allows the Fortuner to climb up slopes easily and crawl down inclines so slowly that even some snails could be heard protesting.
The massive 221 mm of ground clearance make it easy for the Fortuner to just clamber over small rocks without scraping its underbelly. Of course, the Fortuner is not really meant to be a hard-core off-roader, but it can do the job when required as it has all the requisite hardware.
One would expect the Fortuner’s bulk to be detrimental to fuel economy. However, thanks to its tall fourth and fifth gears, and very useable torque in third gear (one can drive from as low as 25 kmph all the way to 80 kmph in third), the Fortuner does manage to churn out some respectable figures from its 3-litre engine. During our entire 140 km road test, which included about 35 kms of pure off-road use, the Fortuner gave an overall mileage of 10.5 kmpl, according to the multi-info display.
What we think
The Fortuner satisfies that primal instinct of customers where might is right. It has the sheer size and brute appeal of an SUV, yet is quite easy to drive on the highway and ideally suited for long-distance cruising. It also has enough grunt and plenty of ground clearance for use off-road. So whether you want to drive from Kashmir to Kanyakumari on well-tarred highways or venture off into the Thar desert across a few dunes to visit a remote hamlet, the Fortuner can get the job done without a fuss.
What we like
Excellent engine and 4×4 system
Fit and finish
What we dislike
Tall gear-lever and transmission vibrations
Feels slightly overpriced
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