If we’re being honest, Toyota didn’t really need to release a new Fortuner on our shores. The old one was still dominating its market segment after a decade-long production run, even in the face of much newer opponents, and it offered a variant to suit everyone from the budget-conscious family buyer to the off-road enthusiast. But, seeing as we received a new Hilux a few months ago, it was inevitable that its twin (they’re based on the same platform) would come in for an equally extensive redesign sooner rather than later.

But, while the old Fortuner’s Hilux genes were very easy to notice, the new Fortuner goes its own stylistic way. Gone are the old one’s blocky profile and blunt nose, making way for a much sharper visage and a curvaceous window line. It clearly also wants to attract attention from more-sophisticated buyers – people who might previously have baulked at the idea of driving a 7-seater SUV with such an obvious bakkie-derived skeleton.fortuner-28_1800x1800

While that strange “overbite” in the front bumper, first seen on the new Hilux, might look a bit odd, its tapered shape improves both aerodynamic efficiency and off-road ability – the approach angle is apparently better than on the bluff-faced old model. The new Fortuner looks a fair bit longer than the old one though, thanks to the new “floating roof” styling and longer, sharper lines in the side profile.

Fortunately, even though this Fortuner hides its utilitarian origins much better than before, it’s still every bit as tough and ready for the wilderness as its predecessor was. There’s a ladder-frame chassis underneath that sharp suit, with a solid-beam rear axle and double wishbone front suspension, albeit extensively redesigned to improve comfort and road holding. And while they were at it, the engineers make the whole shebang even stronger than before, with extra reinforcements for the chassis as well as a stronger cabin.fortuner-102_1800x1800

It’s still much the same size as the old one, growing slightly in overall length but sticking to the same wheelbase and similar width. There’s a bit more cabin space than before in all three seat rows, mainly thanks to re-positioned seats, but the old Fortuner’s vertical-storage folding arrangement for the rearmost row unfortunately carries over.

While the new model rides on fundamentally similar mechanical bits to the old one, significant changes to the suspension geometry and spring- and damper rates give a much smoother ride quality and far more predictable handling. The old sideways hop-skip-and-jump over sharp corrugations or on uneven surfaces is largely banished, and it absorbs speed bumps and potholes with much greater finesse. This newfound ride comfort, along with extra noise insulation, turns the cabin into a far more restful place than the old one could ever have hoped to be.fortuner-103_1800x1800

 The cabin is also a pretty nice place to spend time, with plush upholstery and soft-touch surfaces in strategic locations. While the switchgear and major controls will be familiar to Hilux drivers and you’ll still find the same Lexus-like colour display between the (restyled) instrument dials on high-spec variants, the layout is completely different. There’s a new dashboard with a rather swoopy appearance, a dual glove box (with air-con linked heating or cooling ducts in the top one), and a re-shaped centre console – all elevating the Fortuner’s cabin to a slightly higher plane than its sibling, and miles above its predecessor.

Additional soundproofing only partly accounts for the quieter cabin however, as equal credit for the new Fortuner’s refinement has to go to the new range of drivetrains – especially when they’re fuelled with diesel. The Hilux donates its new-generation GD engines and their matching gearboxes to the oil-burning Fortuners, giving a massive improvement on all fronts: there’s more power than before (and it’s spread over a wider rev range), they use less fuel, and they run much smoother than the old engines did.fortuner-118_1800x1800

An expanded model range caters to a wider budget spread, with a selection of four engines (two petrol and two turbo diesels), two slick-shifting 6-speed gearboxes (in manual- or automatic flavours), and either rear- or selectable four wheel drive. The range opens with a new 2.7-litre petrol engined variant (good for 122 kW and 245 Nm), which is only available with an automatic and RWD, in the most basic trim level. Basic doesn’t mean spartan however, as it still includes essentials such as stability control, front- and knee airbags, separate air-conditioning systems for the front- and rear compartments, cruise control, and a USB/Bluetooth compatible multimedia system. A rear diff lock is standard across all drivetrains, giving even rear wheel drive Fortuners a bit of off-road credibility.

This specification also applies to the smaller-engined diesel, which introduces the first of those rather nice new diesel engines. Once again only available with RWD, the 2.4 GD-6 engine adds the choice between a manual- or an automatic gearbox. It’s a really agreeable engine – smooth and comparatively lag-free, with a much wider power band than the old 2.5 D-4D had. In fact, it runs the outgoing 3.0 D-4D close, with only 10 kW less power but 57 Nm more torque than the (larger displacement) old unit.fortuner-170_1800x1800

The 2.8 GD-6 takes the performance up a notch with its output figures of 130 kW, and either 420 Nm (with a manual gearbox) or 450 Nm (with the automatic). While choosing the manual transmission with a 2.8 diesel will net you less torque, it compensates with a cool gadget named iMT. That’s Toyota-speak for a rev-matching function which syncronises engine- and road speed during gear changes to ensure an uncannily smooth gear shift every time, no matter how clumsy the driver.

This engine brings the option of four wheel drive, and marks the entry point of the higher specification level. Additional goodies include side- and curtain airbags, a multimedia system upgrade with a large colour touchscreen display, partial leather upholstery, LED headlamps and a rear-view parking camera. Unchanged from the old Fortuner, the range-topping engine is still a 4.0 V6 (175 kW/376 Nm), exclusively mated to the new automatic gearbox and only with four wheel drive. The V6 engine also brings a power-operated tailgate and satellite navigation to the spec sheet.fortuner-119_1800x1800

Pricing ranges between R 429 400 and R 633 400, once again covering a broad swathe of the 7-seater SUV market. Unless you really, really need a four-wheel drive vehicle, the frugal and punchy 2.4 GD-6 (with either gearbox) probably represents the sweet spot in the range, starting at a surprisingly reasonable R 436 400 – a very good deal, especially given its standard three-year/100 000km warranty and five-year/90 000km service plan. With the Fortuner’s firmly-entrenched loyalty added to good value, a smoother ride, very good drivetrains and generous equipment, the sales success of the new range is practically guaranteed.

  • Martin Pretorius

 Toyota Fortuner Range and Pricing:

2.7 VVT-i Raised Body Automatic:           R429 400

2.4 GD-6 Raised Body Manual:                 R436 400

2.4 GD-6 Raised Body Automatic:            R453 400

2.8 GD-6 Raised Body Manual:                 R513 400

2.8 GD-6 4×4 Manual:                                 R571 400

2.8 GD-6 Raised Body Automatic:            R531 400

2.8 GD-6 4×4 Automatic:                            R589 400

4.0 V6 4×4 Automatic:                                R633 400