When first introduced in 2012, the automatic version of the Fortuner got a four-speed transmission unlike most contemporaries. Five-speeders were considered entry-level while six-speed transmission was the norm. That said, the Fortuner’s four-speeder was up tothe job – it was fast-acting enough and a clever selection of ratios meant you never really missed a fifth gear. Now, to ensure it doesn’t get outdone by competition, Toyota has given a five-speed automatic transmission to the Fortuner.
Like before, the automatic isavailable only in rear-wheel-drive format. The new gearbox brings a set of more closely stacked ratios. It now has shorter first,second and third gears for better acceleration and throttle response, while the fourth and fifth gear are similar tothe top two gears on the old box.
However, this doesn’t translate into huge differences in outright acceleration – the five-speed is just 0.3sec faster to100kph than the four-speeder, and by 120kph they are pretty neck-and-neck. Even in the 20-80kph run, the newFortuner is only 0.5sec faster, and it’s actually slower than the old car in the 40-100kph run.
Where the extra ratio really makes a difference is in everyday driving – the Fortuner feels more eager and faster thanbefore and the jerky throttle response of the earlier ’box is replaced by a more linear one. The engine feels morerelaxed, while the gearbox shifts up early and keeps the motor at more comfortable engine speeds. This also helpsthe 3.0-litre 168bhp motor’s characteristics – past 3200rpm, the engine sounds rough and power tapers off, and sothese early upshifts are welcome. The auto transmission feels more eager to downshift too and gearshifts, thoughsmoother than before, engage with a slight jolt. The Rexton, for example, has more seamless gearshifts.
The rest of the car remains the same. The build quality on the inside is solid but fails still to make you feel like you’re in a premium SUV. Space is ample with comfortable first two rows. The third row, with its knees-up seating posture, is good only for short drives. Despite its tall and heavy stance, this SUV handles quite decently and there is loads of grip from the wide 265-section tyres. However, when it comes to ride comfort, this car is disappointing. The Fortuner feels lumpy, especially at low speeds,and though it gets better as you go faster, it never feels settled.
Pretty much the same car but with improved drivability and performance, the new Fortuner with a five-speed automatic gearbox, is a better buy than before for the expensive Rs. 22.33 lakh price tag.