Automotive

Road test: Toyota Fortuner shines off the beaten track

Road test: Toyota Fortuner shi...
Built on the same base as the Toyota Hilux, the Fortuner has some serious off-road credentials
Built on the same base as the Toyota Hilux, the Fortuner has some serious off-road credentials
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The Fortuner has a big, bluff front end
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The Fortuner has a big, bluff front end
The Toyota Fortuner is a very capable off roader
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The Toyota Fortuner is a very capable off roader
The Fortuner has a switchable low-range four wheel drive system
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The Fortuner has a switchable low-range four wheel drive system
There's 225 mm of ground clearance, and the Fortuner can wade up to 700 mm
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There's 225 mm of ground clearance, and the Fortuner can wade up to 700 mm
In two wheel drive, the Fortuner can be convinced to slide around
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In two wheel drive, the Fortuner can be convinced to slide around
The car's off-road ride is very impressive, even washboard gravel is well dealt with
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The car's off-road ride is very impressive, even washboard gravel is well dealt with
With the rear seats folded, you've got 1,080 liters of load space
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With the rear seats folded, you've got 1,080 liters of load space
The Toyota Fortuner's 2.8-liter engine has 450 Nm of torque
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The Toyota Fortuner's 2.8-liter engine has 450 Nm of torque
The engine is a bit rattly, but gets the job done
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The engine is a bit rattly, but gets the job done
There's lots of chrome on the Fortuner's exterior, but there's also no hiding the fact it's a big, basic bus
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There's lots of chrome on the Fortuner's exterior, but there's also no hiding the fact it's a big, basic bus
The driver's seat is comfortable, but long legged drivers will struggle to get comfortable
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The driver's seat is comfortable, but long legged drivers will struggle to get comfortable
The Fortuner is able to tow 3,000 kg
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The Fortuner is able to tow 3,000 kg
Rear seat passengers get air vents, but legroom is very limited
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Rear seat passengers get air vents, but legroom is very limited
The Fortuner sits on coil springs instead of the Hilux's leaf-sprung rear end
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The Fortuner sits on coil springs instead of the Hilux's leaf-sprung rear end
Rear seat passengers get plenty of legroom, but headroom is average
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Rear seat passengers get plenty of legroom, but headroom is average
The steering is slow, but does mostly what you ask of it
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The steering is slow, but does mostly what you ask of it
Toyota Fortuner profile
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Toyota Fortuner profile
The car's composure is impressive on loose gravel roads
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The car's composure is impressive on loose gravel roads
Built on the same base as the Toyota Hilux, the Fortuner has some serious off-road credentials
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Built on the same base as the Toyota Hilux, the Fortuner has some serious off-road credentials
If, for some reason, the urge to get sporty with the Fortuner strikes you, there are paddles behind the steering wheel to play with
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If, for some reason, the urge to get sporty with the Fortuner strikes you, there are paddles behind the steering wheel to play with
The car and the ride is seriously impressive on deeply rutted and bumpy sections of off-road track
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The car and the ride is seriously impressive on deeply rutted and bumpy sections of off-road track
We took the car over some winding, steep four-wheel drive tracks and it handled everything with consummate ease
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We took the car over some winding, steep four-wheel drive tracks and it handled everything with consummate ease
View gallery - 22 images

The idea of building a plush, family four-wheel drive on a truck's ladder frame might seem like an odd recipe, but it's given rise to some seriously popular family four-wheel drives. The Chevrolet Suburban has been carting American families around since the 1930s, and in more recent times Asia-Pacific buyers have been treated to a glut of truck based seven seaters. The Fortuner is Toyota's latest take on the formula, and we've spent a week behind the wheel to see how it handles life on the road, as well as off it.

Built on the same base as the Toyota Hilux for the Australian and Asian markets, the Fortuner has some serious off-road credentials. It will wade to depths up to 700 mm (27.6 in), and has 225 mm (8.9 in) of ground clearance, along with impressive approach and departure angles. For the caravan set, there's also a hefty 3,000 kg (6,614 lb) towing capacity.

In other words, the Fortuner will leave a BMW X4 or Mercedes GLC for dust when it comes time to get dirty.

The car's composure is impressive on loose gravel roads
The car's composure is impressive on loose gravel roads

We took the car over some winding, steep four-wheel drive tracks and it handled everything with consummate ease. At no point did it feel like we were likely to scrape the underside of the car and the ride is seriously impressive on deeply rutted and bumpy sections of off-road track.

Equally impressive is the car's composure on loose gravel roads. Even though it can be uncomfortable on the blacktop, the Fortuner is smooth as silk on unsealed trails, even when it comes to choppy washboard surfaces. Set to two-wheel drive, it feels a little bit loose, and can even be coaxed into getting sideways. Why you'd want to powerslide a two-ton family barge is beyond us, but if that's near the top of your priorities list, the Fortuner might be for you.

Flick the little four-wheel drive mode switch across into high-range four-wheel drive and the shenanigans end, but that's no bad thing if you're carrying a carload of children. While some stability control systems struggle on gravel roads, the electronics in the Fortuner are well calibrated, providing a gentle helping hand without being too abrupt and upsetting the balance of the car.

The only real knock on the off-road fun comes down to the Fortuner's size. At 4.8 meters (15.75 ft) long and 1.85 meters (6.07 ft) wide it's can feel big on narrow tracks, and we spent a fair bit of time worrying about our tester's luminous blue paintwork and side steps.

The car's off-road ride is very impressive, even washboard gravel is well dealt with
The car's off-road ride is very impressive, even washboard gravel is well dealt with

For all its off-road prowess, the big Toyota is found wanting on the blacktop. In an attempt to civilize it for family duties, Toyota has dropped the Hilux's live rear axle for a five-link coil sprung rear, but there's no hiding its agricultural roots on uneven road surfaces.

Particularly at low speed the ride is unsettled over small bumps, and the body tends to rock from side to side long after you've gone past whatever small urban obstacle you've cleared. Here's hoping your kids don't get seasick, because every now and then the Fortuner feels decidedly boat-ish.

You'll also notice plenty of vibration from the 2.8-liter diesel engine. At idle there's no mistaking it for anything other than a diesel, and you can feel it through the steering wheel, seat and gearlever. Things improve a little bit once you're on the move, but there's very little joy to be had beyond 2,500 rpm, where the noise coming into the cabin becomes raucous and rattly.

Refinement issues aside, the Toyota's motor does a good job of hauling 2,120 kg (4,764 lb). With 130 kW (174 hp) on tap it's not what you'd call a powerhouse, but there's 450 Nm (332 lb.ft) of torque available from just 1,600 rpm, so it's got plenty of grunt to haul seven people and their luggage with a minimum of fuss.

If, for some reason, the urge to get sporty with the Fortuner strikes you, there are paddles behind the steering wheel to play with. There's also a "power mode" button on the center console, but we'd steer clear – making the throttle sharper makes the car feel jumpy and even more unrefined in traffic. Instead, we'd stick to eco mode, where the long throttle lets you make smooth progress without treating the accelerator pedal like a landmine.

The driver's seat is comfortable, but long legged drivers will struggle to get comfortable
The driver's seat is comfortable, but long legged drivers will struggle to get comfortable

Driving experience aside, there's plenty of goodies to keep you entertained in the Toyota's interior. The driver sits in a wide captain's chair that, if you're average height, is comfortable enough to sit in all day. But long-legged drivers will notice the seat doesn't go back far enough on its runners, and the steering wheel doesn't adjust far enough for reach, forcing you to sit with your legs spread uncomfortably.

My hour-long commute led to a numb right leg, and the hour-and-a-half highway cruise to the tracks where we went off-roading became very uncomfortable very quickly. Yes, 6-foot-6 isn't average height, but in a car as big as the Toyota, you'd expect range of seating comfort to cater for even my lanky frame.

The tall center console houses your climate controls, off-road buttons and switches, as well as a seven-inch touchscreen. There's nothing wrong with the touchscreen, but it feels a bit sluggish compared to the latest offerings from Subaru and Mazda. There aren't any physical buttons, and the traditional volume knob has been replaced with touch-sensitive controls, which makes for lots of awkward prodding on rough roads.

Not only is it annoying, it forces you to take your eyes off the road for way longer than is safe. Thankfully, everything from climate control to the rear differential locks are on proper buttons.

With the rear seats folded, you've got 1,080 liters of load space
With the rear seats folded, you've got 1,080 liters of load space

Rear seat passengers are treated to plenty of legroom, although the third row is only really suitable for small kids. Despite its boxy shape, taller rear seat passengers or shorties with tall haircuts are lacking in head/hair room. If you're tall AND have a well-formed quaff, you're in real trouble.

Folding the both rows of rear seats opens up a cavernous 1,080 liters (38 cu.ft) of load space, and the third-row seats can be removed altogether if you swung by the condom aisle before getting frisky. If not, they can be stowed against the side of the boot, and take just seconds to put into place.

We took the car over some winding, steep four-wheel drive tracks and it handled everything with consummate ease
We took the car over some winding, steep four-wheel drive tracks and it handled everything with consummate ease

So, where does that leave the Fortuner? If you need to tow a boat, or really enjoy taking the family to hard-to-find camping spots, then it's probably perfect for you. Mums and dads looking for a refined, civilized family hauler to tackle on road duties would be better served dropping their AUD$69,000 on a Kluger (Highlander), or even the relatively new Land Rover Discovery Sport.

Our video review, complete with some of Loz Blain's gorgeous drone photography, is below.

Video Review Toyota Fortuner 2016

Product page: Toyota

View gallery - 22 images
6 comments
Tommo
Looks nowhere near as good as a Hilux Surf.
JohnMarzich
Talk about the Honda front end look?lol
John Banister
Yet another diesel I'll never get to drive because I live in USA.
Jonathan Colvin
not available in North America of course, because no good reason
Calson
It is a replacement for the very dated 4Runner. Toyota kept putting in larger and higher output engines in the 4Runner to the point where they provide worse fuel economy than a Chevy Tahoe SUV. Diesel is a good change as it provides not only better fuel economy but even more important it provides better range on a tank of fuel for people who do go into the boonies. I have a diesel powered pickup truck and over the past 5 years the percentage of gas stations selling diesel has increased by more than four fold so finding it is no longer a problem even in less densely populated parts of the USA. The only pollution problems with diesel sold by GM, Ford, and Ram has been from owners of their trucks illegally disabling the emission controls and for some reason the federal and state EPA allows companies to sell kits to make it possible for the trucks owners to do this.
Ra'anan
My impression is that Toyota has been sitting on the laurels for too long. They should be giving more value to customers (the seating issues really irk as well as the screen). There are MANY other companies that charge less & have taken good care of issues such as comfortable & adjustable seating & steering wheel, excellent & useful screen interface AND they cost a LOT LESS than Toyota. We are seriously looking at leaving Toyota (after purchasing from them for almost 30 years) because of this insensitive approach they have towards customers. I still perceive their cars to be very reliable, but we'll simply sell our non-Toyota car within 3 years to avoid issues.