From its massive dimensions and domineering road presence to its body-on-frame construction and lofty ride height, which necessitates a bit of an effort to climb inside its cabin, the Fortuner is quite assuredly an old-school SUV. It’s the kind of big-bruiser 4×4 that looks at mere crossovers with utter disdain; indeed, it can probably chow down a stack of soft-roaders and compact SUVs for breakfast and still have room left in its belly for more.
If Indiana Jones were setting out to raid the lost ark today, I wouldn’t be surprised if he chose a Fortuner for the job. Sure, other manufacturers also build big 4x4s, but the ones that Toyota makes have a reputation for being pretty much indestructible, which helps somewhat if you happen to be 300km away from food, water and the nearest car mechanic.
The Fortuner has, of course, been around in India for more than a decade, with the first-generation vehicle having been launched here in 2009. The second-generation Fortuner arrived in India in 2016, and the facelifted version was launched in January this year. This latest version features a host of subtle styling updates, including a new front grille, redesigned bumpers, restyled headlamps and DRLs, and new 18-inch alloy wheels. It’s not dramatically different from the pre-facelift version, but the new Fortuner does enough to keep things fresh and interesting.
The new Fortuner is available with a choice of 2.7-litre petrol and 2.8-litre turbo-diesel engines. The latter has received a significant upgrade in terms of power and performance. The petrol is available with rear-wheel-drive only, while the diesel gets the option of 4WD and a 6-speed automatic transmission.
Our test car was the diesel automatic 4WD variant, with the DOHC, 16-valve inline-four pumping out 201 horsepower and an impressive 500Nm of torque. Now, the 7-seater Fortuner is almost 4.8m long and, with a full load of passengers, can weigh up to 2,700 kilos. That’s a fair bit of metal to haul around, but Toyota’s turbo-diesel produces enough grunt to be able to cope.
You can’t expect it to rev and accelerate like a hot-hatch, but as long as you’re not in a tearing rush to get somewhere, the Fortuner’s engine delivers a thick meaty slab of torque that feels like it’ll keep you going till kingdom come. The Fortuner is the Toyota for crossing mountain passes, with a full load of luggage and passengers. With its leisurely power delivery, it is happiest when driven at a relatively relaxed pace. In fact, of the three driving modes provided (Eco, Normal and Sport), I preferred Eco since upshifts seem to happen earlier, which is more in keeping with the nature of this SUV.
The Fortuner, which rides on 18-inch alloys, gets double-wishbone suspension at the front and a four-link setup at the back, with coil springs. The suspension works well on regular roads, but it comes into its own is on bad, broken roads. While you have to carefully tip-toe across terrible roads in most cars, you can afford to be a bit smug in the Fortuner; this is one SUV that steamrolls bad roads into submission, dismissing potholes, speed bumps and jagged ridges with a mere shrug. The Fortuner can take everything our roads can throw at it and then some, keeping its occupants isolated in air-conditioned comfort.
For those who intend to do some serious off-roading in the Fortuner, there’s also a host of electronic driver-aids that will help. There’s active traction control, downhill assist control, an electronic differential lock and electronic drive control that lets you switch from standard 2WD to 4WD (high) or 4WD (low), as required. With its high ground clearance, robust body-on-frame build and selectable 4WD, the Fortuner is a true go-anywhere SUV.
Toyota has also upgraded the new Fortuner’s interiors, which feature a mix of tough, hard-wearing plastics and leather/leatherette trim for an overall pleasant feel. On the 4WD diesel automatic, you get ventilated front seats, a large TFT multi-information display, an automatic climate control system, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility and a high-end sound system with 11 JBL speakers. It’s all intuitive and simple to operate, and the controls look and feel like they’re built to last.
Climbing up into the cabin can be a bit of a challenge for the not-so-tall, but once you’re in there, it’s all good; the seats are wide and comfortable, with more than enough legroom and headroom for tall passengers. As with most 7-seaters, the last row can be a bit hard to get into and is more suited for shorter journeys.
The Fortuner is equipped with ABS, electronic stability control, electronic brake-force distribution, ISOFIX child seat mounts and all seven airbags. These, along with the rugged, solid build quality, makes it one of the safest 7-seater SUVs available in the country. It’s a rugged, well-built machine that can take the rough with the smooth; the Fortuner’s equally happy being driven across hilly switchbacks and shallow mountain streams as it is doing the daily school run or going to the supermarket to pick up the week’s groceries.
The top of the range 4WD diesel automatic variant, with an on-road price of almost Rs 45 lakh, is certainly not cheap. Still, if you want a grunty do-it-all workhorse that can also function as a luxury SUV (one that’s particularly well suited to bad roads), the Fortuner certainly deserves your attention.