Presence, performance, price, practicality… Toyota Fortuner has everything an SUV buyer looks for, writes Ouseph Chacko

The arrival of the Fortuner in India stirred up a frenzy. With 2,000 confirmed bookings so far, it’s clear that this SUV has enormous potential of being a hit in the big car market.

But, does the Fortuner live up to its perceived greatness? Has it really been worth the wait? This road test holds the answers.

Stationed next to an Endeavour, the Fortuner is taller and more broad shouldered. The Fortuner’s chest-level bonnet towers over you — the huge scoop on the bonnet that feeds air to the air-to-air intercooler, the skid plate that swoops into the bumper, and the terrific-looking headlights that sync into the grille demand much respect. The massive wheel arches, filled by huge Dunlop Mud and Snow tyres, a high waistline and a footboard to step into the car goes to show that this SUV means serious business. The high bumper line that shows off the massive 221-mm clearance is testament to the Fortuner’s off-roadability. The spare wheel on this car is mounted under the boot, as compared to the generic spare wheel-sporting tailgates of traditional SUVs.

A standard-fit five-speed manual gearbox delivers drive to all four wheels all the time. Independent double wishbones up front, a non-independent four-link setup at the rear and coil-springs all round keep the Fortuner’s 1,955 kilo kerbweight beautifully balanced. Brakes are discs up front and drums at the rear.

Once in the driver’s seat, the ‘high-roller’ feeling you get as you look down into other smaller cars is fantastic. The Fortuner’s seats are supportive and very comfortable. There’s good space, and it’s quite easy to get comfy behind the wheel — the seat adjusts (manually) for height and the steering for rake.

Quality of the plastics, switchgear and overall fit and finish are top notch. Equipment-wise, two airbags, ABS, 17-inch alloy wheels, a six-CD changer, climate control, remote locking and leather seats come standard.

We loved the little cubbyholes under the air-con vents and the big box between the front seats. The middle row makes enough room for six-footers to sit comfortably, and the seats offer good thigh support and adequate cushioning. The Fortuner gets a seven-seat layout, with the third row occupying most of the available boot space when in place and there’s still enough luggage space for a couple of small soft bags. Getting into the last row involves a two-step operation to get the middle row out of the way. The second-row seats can be moved forwards or backwards on runners, meaning that legroom can be sufficiently divided among rear occupants. On folding the seats (the last row splits 50:50) you get a very useable 1,000 litres of storage space.

It took the Forturner just 12.7sec to reach 100kph from still — quite stunning for a vehicle that weighs nearly two tonnes. There’s a gentle and consistent surge as the turbo starts to tug at 1500rpm and there’s power all the way to 4000rpm. The gear ratios are well-matched to the engine’s torque and the wide powerband minimises the need for gearshifts.

Aided by the variable geometry turbocharger, Toyota’s second-generation 2982cc D-4D engine makes a claimed 168bhp at 3600rpm and 35kgm of torque all the way from 1400-3400rpm. This long-stroke motor has a four-valve, twin-cam head and three-injections per cycle controlled by a 32-bit processor.

What is very Innova-like is the SUVs gearshift, with its wide gate and long throws. The transfer case ‘high-low’ is also operated with a traditional lever, which sits on the outside of the gear lever. There’s even a centre differential lock, which splits torque between the front and rear axles.

At high speeds, the Fortuner’s big wheels and the suspension humble dicey roads into submission. The SUV lolls around in corners, rolls quite a bit, and though there is plenty of grip from the four-wheel-drive system, it’s rather tiring to hustle its 1,955 kilos. The car rolls to a complete stand-still in a respectable 28 metres, but there’s serious brake fade after just a few hard stops.

The low-stressed D4-D engine returned 9.3kpl in the city and 12.9kpl on the highway, impressive figures for a car its size and weight.

Verdict

Has the Fortuner been worth the wait? The simple answer is yes. From road presence, strong performance, space and practicality, it’s got everything the prospective SUV owner is looking for.

What sweetens the deal is the security of Toyota’s reliability, and for once an attractive price of Rs 18.45 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi) for a fully loaded model.

Keywords: Toyota FortunertestdriveSUV