Good Fortuner

Toyota’s new Hilux-based Fortuner is a tough and capable seven-seat 4x4 wagon that’s cheaper than the Prado.

WORDS FRASER STRONACH

AS THE name suggests, value is a big part of what the Toyota Fortuner is all about. You won’t quite save a fortune by buying a Fortuner, but you will save a worthwhile amount of money if you buy one instead of a Prado; previously the least expensive way to get into a Toyota 4x4 wagon with genuine off-road ability.

Before on-road costs, the Fortuner starts at $47,990. That’s exactly $5000 less than an entrylevel Prado. For that money you get seven seats instead of the Prado GX’s five seats, a 500kg higher 3000kg towing capacity, and features not found in the base-model Prado, such as a rear diff lock and sidesteps.

Even more money will be saved if you move up to a mid-spec Fortuner GXL instead of an equivalent-spec Prado – some $7000, in fact.

And you still have the benefit of a rear locker and a towing capacity that’s 300kg higher (2800kg limit) than that of the Prado.

THE BACKGROUND

The Fortuner nameplate has been around overseas since 2005. However, the Fortuner you see here is all-new and is based on the justarrived eighth-generation Hilux.

Mechanical changes from the Hilux centre

on the rear of the chassis, where a five-link coilspring live axle replaces the Hilux’s leaf-spring live axle. Disc brakes also replace the Hilux’s rear drums, and the wheelbase is shorter by a significant 335mm.

Aside from the body, just about everything else is shared with the Hilux, including the 2.8- litre diesel engine, the two gearboxes, the twospeed part-time transfer case, front and final drives, and the front of the chassis, including the double-wishbone suspension and rack-and-pinion steering. And there are shared body components, too, including doors, windows (including the windscreen) and the bonnet.

Like the all-new Hilux, much of the Fortuner’s testing and development was done in Australia and both share Australian-developed suspension and underbody protection, among other locally developed features. The Fortuner is claimed to be the largest-ever single-model development undertaken by Toyota in Australia.

POWERTRAIN AND PERFORMANCE

The Fortuner comes with just one engine, Toyota’s new GD-1 2.8-litre diesel, where GD stands for ‘Global Diesel’. As well as being the core engine in the new Hilux, the GD-1 was recently transplanted into the Prado, albeit with a minor change.

Despite being 227cc smaller and running a noticeably lower compression ratio (for improved refinement and less noise) than the 3.0-litre diesel it replaces in Toyota’s wider model range, the 2.8-litre produces significantly more torque and slightly more power – this is all testament to its much improved combustion efficiency.

Mated to the six-speed auto that’s shared with the updated Prado and Hilux, the 2.8-litre claims 450Nm. That’s 40Nm more than the 3.0-litre as it appeared in the Prado and a significant 90Nm more than the 3.0-litre as it appeared in the outgoing Hilux. When mated to the six-speed manual, the 2.8-litre’s maximum torque is pegged to 420Nm, although the maximum power stays the same at 130kW regardless of the torque output.

On the road, 130kW doesn’t translate to scintillating pedal-to-the-metal performance, given the Fortuner weighs more than 2100kg, but the engine is nevertheless responsive, willing and almost effortless. Most noticeably, the 2.8-litre is much quieter, smoother and more refined than Toyota’s outgoing 3.0-litre diesel and it serves the Fortuner well.

Nice refinement, too, from the six-speed auto, which has an additional overdrive ratio rather than the closer ratio spread of the five-speed it replaces in the Prado and Hilux. In the Fortuner, the six-speed auto comes with paddle shifters for mid GXL and top-spec Crusade models.

Despite the 30Nm less maximum torque when mated to the six-speed manual, the engine feels more energetic than when it’s paired with the automatic. The manual is available on all three Fortuner models, even the top-spec Crusade, and comes with an ‘intelligent’ mode in GXL and Crusade variants.

This ‘intelligent’ mode matches engine speeds

Like the all-new Hilux, much of the Fortuner’s testing and development was done in Australia

Green and Clean

TO HELP the Fortuner meet Euro 5 exhaust emissions standards it is fitted with a diesel particulate filter, commonly referred to as a DPF.

The DPF traps and holds the soot carried by the engine’s exhaust gas and then automatically selfcleans by superheating the filter to burn off the soot periodically.

Equipment

ALL FORTUNER models come with seven seats, tilt-and-reach steering-wheel adjustment, cruise control, a seven-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, USB/AUX jacks, voice recognition, six speaker audio, a cool box, auto headlights, three 12-volt sockets, seven airbags, a reversing camera and electronic stability control incorporating trailer-sway control. All models also have off-road-specific traction control, a rear diff lock, hill-start assist, a full-size spare, a sixspeed manual as standard and an optional (plus-$2000) six-speed automatic transmission.

Prices start at $47,990 for the GX, which is distinguished by its 17.0- inch black steel wheels and bodycoloured door handles.

For $52,990 the GXL adds ‘smart key’ entry, push-button start, 17.0- inch alloys, roof rails, front fog lights, chrome door handles, rear parking sensors, privacy glass, downhill assist, paddle shifters for the auto and an ‘intelligent’ mode for the manual.

For $59,990, the Crusade then adds sat-nav, leather, climate control, electric-adjust driver’s seat, power tailgate, 220-volt socket, LED headlights and DRLs, 18.0-inch alloys and Highway- Terrain tyres instead of the All- Terrains fitted to the GX and GXL.

when shifting and helps prevent stalling at very low revs; a feature that’s particularly handy when the going gets slow off-road.

This six-speed manual is shared with the Hilux, but it’s different from the six-speed manual in the re-engined Prado. Like the new six-speed auto, the new manual has a wide-ratio spread with two overdrives, and it has similarly tall overall gearing in sixth (to the auto), thanks in part to a taller axle ratio.

RIDE AND HANDLING

In many ways the Fortuner rides and handles the way you would expect of a vehicle based on a ute, but the rear suspension is much softer and more compliant than that of an unladen Hilux, given that it doesn’t have to cope with a onetonne payload.

That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with the Fortuner’s ride and handling, but it certainly lacks the comfort and plushness of a Prado, but most things do. The upside is that the Fortuner has flatter handing than a Prado – at least, a Prado without KDSS – and has a sportier feel behind the wheel as a result.

The Fortuner’s steering calibration was done locally and is light at low speeds, but offers decent feel and feedback at higher road speeds.

The Fortuner also does a good job of isolating road and suspension noise thanks to its body-onchassis construction.

OFF-ROAD

There’s no doubting the Fortuner’s off-road credentials. It shares many features with the Hilux, including the same clearance and underbody protection, and the same approach and departure angles. It does, however, have a better ramp-over angle and a smaller turning circle, thanks to the shorter wheelbase.

It also relies on the Hilux’s basic but robust part-time dual-range 4x4 system. Via the rotarydial selector changes from 2-High to 4-High can be done easily on the move, although the shift into or out of low-range needs the vehicle to be stopped and in neutral, as you’d expect. At least the transfer case’s electromagnetic actuator appears to be balk-free, which is more than you can say of some similar arrangements where stick-shift transfer has been replaced by pushbutton or rotary-dial selectors.

At the rear, the Fortuner has 440mm of wheel travel, compared to the Hilux’s 520mm. The coilsprung rear-end of a Prado GX and GXL has

It shares many off-road features with the Hilux, including the same clearance and underbody protection

The Forerunner of Fortuner

TOYOTA could have called the Fortuner the 4Runner, as the basic concept (making a wagon from the Hilux) first saw the light of day as the 4Runner some 30 years back. The 4Runner was sold in Australia from the mid 1980s to the mid 1990s and in two distinction generations. It was replaced by the Prado 90 Series.

Toyota Fortuna

ENGINE DOHC 16-valve 4-cyl turbodiesel CAPACITY 2.8-litre (2755cc) MAX POWER 130kW @ 3400rpm MAX TORQUE (MAN) 420Nm @ 1400-2600rpm MAX TORQUE (AUTO) 450Nm @ 1600-2400rpm GEARBOX(S) 6-speed man/6-speed auto 4X4 SYSTEM part-time dual-range CRAWL RATIO MAN/AUTO 44.0:1/36.1:1 CONSTRUCTION separate chassis FRONT SUSPENSION independent/coil springs REAR SUSPENSION live axle/coil springs TYRE SIZE (GX/GLX) 265/65R17 112S TYRE SIZE (CRUSADE) 265/60 R18 110H KERB MASS 2110-2135kg GVM 2750Kg PAYLOAD 615-640kg TOW RATING MAN/AUTO 3000kg/2800kg GCM MAN/AUTO 5745kg/5545kg SEATING CAPACITY seven FUEL TANK CAPACITY 80 litres ADR FUEL USE MANUAL 7.8 litres/100km ADR FUEL USE AUTO 8.6 litres/100km

465mm of travel, while the KDSS-equipped Prado VX and Kakadu have 565mm. All Fortuner models come with a driver-switched rear diff lock, which helps when you run out of rear-wheel travel, as well as off-road-tuned ‘A-TRC’ traction control.

As expected of a Toyota 4x4, there’s solid recovery hooks, front and rear, the engine’s air intake is via the inner guard, and the wheel and tyre spec is off-road oriented. In fact, the Fortuner has identical wheel and tyre specs to those of the Hilux and Prado.

CABIN AND ACCOMMODATION

The Fortuner’s interior presentation is very passenger-car like, but the dashboard looks busy and, as ever with Toyota, some switches are placed too low and in odd places on the dash.

Better news comes in the form of tilt-andreach steering-wheel adjustment and driver’s seat height adjustment on all models, so it’s easy to get comfortable. The legroom for second-row passengers is also surprisingly good, even if putting three adults across the back seat is a bit of a squeeze, in terms of width.

The second-row seat adjusts fore and aft so the third-row legroom can be improved. With the second-row moved forward to provide sufficient third-row legroom for taller kids, there’s still good second-row legroom.

The third-row seats fold up against the side windows rather than folding down into a raised floor, as per the Prado 150. They can’t, however, be unclipped if you wish to remove them altogether.

Typically there’s not much luggage space left once the third-row seating is deployed.

The Fortuner comes with a single, top-hinged rear door, while the full-size spare wheel is mounted under the body.

SUM UP

It’s hard to see the Fortuner not going well for Toyota. It’s built tough, drives well on road and has genuine off-road capability.

Most notably it brings Toyota toughness to a 4x4 family wagon at a more affordable price than the Prado. In addition, it generally offers more features at a lower price.

It’s not as refined or as comfortable as a Prado and it lacks the Prado’s very handy 150-litre fuel tank, but it will no doubt have many buyers thinking twice about what Toyota to buy.

For the same price as the high-selling Prado GXL, for example, you can have yourself a topspec, leather-and-all Fortuner Crusade.

The Fortuner will no doubt affect the sales of existing competitor vehicles including the Isuzu MU-X, Holden Colorado 7 and Mitsubishi’s soonto- be updated Challenger.

It could also make life tougher for Ford’s justreleased Everest.

Black and rounds

THE FORTUNER comes with the same wheel and tyre sizes as the Hilux and Prado, which means 265/65R17s or 265/60R18s with Bridgestone Duelers and Dunlop Grandtreks fitted as OEM in both sizes. The 18s are a Highway-Terrain pattern with an ‘H’ (210km/h) speed rating and a 110 load rating. The 17s are an All-Terrain pattern with a lower ‘S’ (180km/h) speed rating but a slightly higher 112 load rating. Some of the Fortuners driven on the launch drive were fitted with Michelin Latitude Tour HPs, but due to supply issues these won’t be fitted in on-going production.

It’s built tough, drives well on road and has genuine off-road capability