Having reviewed the Toyota Fortuner before on a brief excursion, I was pretty confident that I knew all about this popular SUV. I was quite wrong though, and I recently had the opportunity to drive the Toyota Fortuner down to the coast on a long-haul test drive.

As a proud activist and supporter of women in this industry, I am always delighted to discover and work with other women who find themselves in the motoring industry. One such lady is Desiree Wiseman, the Dealer Principal at Toyota Kempton Park, who graciously released the Fortuner to me. Having been with the Toyota Kempton Park dealership right from the start, Desiree was part of the launch of this Dealership almost fifteen years ago. Now with a history that includes experience in sales, training and virtual shopping, Desiree epitomises dedication and determination, and as a result, this Dealership was awarded the title of national Toyota Dealer of the Year for 2012 (which I have to note was the first time in 38 year, that this title was awarded to a female-headed Dealership). Whilst many in the industry are finding themselves challenged by the changing face of sales and customer-relations, Desiree is motivated to grow her team and invest in them to suitably meet these challenge head on. Known for having produced numerous Dealer Principals from within her ranks, Desiree shows a charming sense of pride seeing others succeed.

The philosophy underlying the Dealership is built on the foundation that holds that in giving the best of yourself to those around you, whether this is client or colleague, the quality of service you ultimately provide is impacted in a positive way. This belief is also echoed by the positive and easy manner in which New Vehicle Sales Manager, Charlene Verburg, welcomes me. Being in the motoring industry for eleven years, Charlene tells me the story of how she got into the industry, and I am left with the clear impression that this woman knows what it means to take charge and meet challenges head on. By putting herself in her client’s shoes, Charlene is able to treat her clients the way she would want to be treated, and she attributes her success to this. At the start of her career, Charlene had a rather bland opinion of the Toyota brand to begin with. By her own admission, she has been won over by the consistent quality of the vehicles and the reliable services that accompany them. With the Fortuner as her favourite vehicle as well, Charlene summarises this incredibly popular vehicle by saying that when sitting in driver’s seat, you feel empowered, strong and capable, and that this is something woman sorely need in our society.

Friendly and warm Sales Representative Ivan van der Schyff is the one who releases the Fortuner to me. With extensive experience in sales, and fitting in with the passionate, client-focussed spirit of the dealership, Ivan is the ideal guide to this well-known SUV. Statistics have shown that the Toyota Fortuner is the most popular SUV in South Africa, and is known to be a fantastic family vehicle with great off-roading capabilities.

The sleek, streamlined body shape is still fresh and relevant, and the chocolatey-brown variant I am taking down to the coast has me suitable bedazzled. This vehicle is good-looking and with the tinted windows gives of an air of mystery that makes me grin just a little. As always, the Fortuner appears confident in its own abilities, strong, bold and yet soft enough to carry and protect a family. As a fan of the original shape Fortuner, I find it comforting that the front of the vehicle feels familiar, yet the rear has a brand new striking shape with a more refined look that – to those unfamiliar with the Fortuner and its forerunners – piques your interest as to whether this is in fact, the ideal hybrid between a traditional utility vehicle and a luxury family van.

The interior is a swath of luxury: superior finishes with intricate stitching detail is classic, and I enjoy the sense of class and elegance the interior provides. The seats, windows and mirrors are all electronically controlled and can be customised to suit you best. A multifunction steering wheel manages audio controls, communication via phone, Bluetooth links and information displays on a 7-inch touchscreen, and reverse camera, audio visual navigation systems and climate control are added features to the new generation. I also hear that the 4.0 variant has DVD capabilities which would be fantastic for families with children on the long road.

In preparation for my trip to the coast, I note that the tailgate opens and closes at the touch of a button from the drivers seat, and is cavernous to say the least. With the seats folded down (which we didn’t even need to do), there is even more space to load everything including the kitchen sink. My kids sat comfortably on the long trip, and were even able to spread out and take a nap whenever they needed, making the trip hassle free and relaxing for my hubby and I.

As we set out on our road trip, I note that the engine growling to life leads to a wonderfully smooth and responsive take-off. Going up-hill (even with a fully loaded cabin) was a breeze. A 6-speed automatic transmission transitioned smoothly and adjusted almost intuitively to my driving style, and never gave any lag or hesitation. Kicking out 175 KW of power at 5000 rpm, one would assume two things: firstly, that on harsh off-road terrain this vehicle is a beast, and two, that fuel consumption would be horrific. Whilst being right on the first count, I noted an average of around 12 litres to every 100 kilometres and even better on the open road, which was a pleasant surprise to say the least. I noticed great traction on loose terrain, and features such as Hill Assist Control to prevent roll backs came in handy as our trip progressed. The full scope of 4×4 capabilities present in the Fortuner also means that it can – and will – hold it’s own on off-road terrain. It’s reputation is well-earned, and with improved torsional and bend rigidity due a redeveloped frame, the safety of the vehicle has also been substantially improved (7 airbags and an array of vehicle stability controls and an advanced anti-theft system form part of this high safety rating).

The driving position of the Fortuner is great – sitting high with great visibility all around, I found the manoeuvring of the vehicle in and out of tough traffic to be surprisingly easy. I had thought the size of the vehicle would intimidate me, but the truth was quite the opposite. I felt confident and capable, and with the added benefit of a quiet cabin, really enjoyed the smooth drive down to the coast. I was quite reluctant to return the Fortuner to the Dealership after my trip, and have found myself quite enamoured by the vehicle since my long-haul drive with it.

The Dealership seeks to provide the local community with the best quality vehicle for each client’s unique budget. With this in mind, Toyota Kempton Park also prides itself on their Used Cars department, which strives to present used cars with new car flair and attention to detail, under the capable management of Louis Jordaan.

To check out this Dealership for yourself, here is the link to their website: Toyota Kempton Park

 

By Desh Bechan