Listen carefully and you’ll find that most cars ‘talk’ to you. No, I don’t mean the voice of the sat-nav lady that calls out directions. What I’m talking about are the little subliminal messages all cars send out. They tell you how comfortable they feel at high speeds, or how much effort they are putting in to deliver performance.
You don’t need to drop into a zen-like state to pick up these messages and, of course, the car doesn’t actually ‘speak’ to you either, but if you are really ‘listening’, what you get is loads of information.
Problem is, the ‘information’ I’m currently getting from the new Fortuner is all but believable. I’ve just run it hard across a set of deep ruts and thrashed it across an abandoned construction site; but instead of complaining, this SUV seems to want more.
More? Well, take this, I say to myself, guiding it up a steep path, the initial bit threatening to twist the body like it’s made of cardboard. But the Fortuner goes on unfazed -- its seriously beefed up suspension taking any amount of hammering meted out to it.
For sheer brute strength there’s nothing to beat the Fortuner and the latest generation which I am driving in Indonesia seems much tougher than before.
Also, the all-new design and styling is easy to notice on this sharp-looking SUV. Unlike the earlier Fortuner that was a simple, upright SUV, this new one is edgier. Toyota’s designers have used a really high bumper line, the main grille is quite severely tilted back and the sharp-looking headlamps with LED running lights provides the perfect contrast. Thick bands of chrome flank the grill in a V, which add to the edgy look of the nose. Furthermore, the muscular skinning, the distinctive ‘kick-up’ along the flanks and the wraparound rear windshield along with the beautifully cut tail-lamps make this one of Toyota’s nicest-looking SUVs.
This new SUV is longer and wider, because of which, the cabin feels airier. All-round visibility is improved as well. The space-efficient front seats are perfect for large frames and offer great shoulder, back and thigh support. There’s plenty of knee-room in the second row too. You can seat three abreast on the rear bench, thigh support is good here and those of you who want to be chauffeured around will love this.
Also, space and comfort on the third row has improved. These seats may still best for kids, but settling here isn’t difficult. And if you need additional space, the third-row seats fold up, giving you more luggage space.
The cabin looks much more attractive than the outgoing car. The leather-lined centre console is more plush and the large touchscreen adds to the overall appeal. There are, however, plenty of not-so-well-finished bits, like the cheaply put together gloveboxes and the ‘plasticky’ fake wood near the gear lever that spoil the cabin’s ambience a bit. Still, the interior is quite practical and gets plenty of storage space for things like bottles, phones and knick-knacks. The driving position is surprisingly good, a good bit thanks to the powered seats and the steering wheel that adjusts for reach and rake.
The rear-wheel-drive-only version is powered by a 150hp 2.4-litre motor that will also propel the new Innova Crysta. It’s mated to Toyota’s new six-speed automatic. The motor doesn’t have much turbo lag and a meaty slug of torque that comes in early makes it comfortable to drive at city speeds. The engine pulls pretty well till around 3,800rpm after which, performance isn’t very strong.
While driving in city traffic is easy and so is cruising on open highways, overtaking is not as effortless as we would have liked. As on the Innova, there are three driving modes; Eco, Normal and Power, and if you’re in a hurry, it’s best to use Power, that significantly improves the amount of grunt available
Thankfully, India will also get the more powerful 177hp 2.8-litre diesel, and performance with that engine will be much stronger. Only look at the 2.4-litre version if you are chauffeur driven.
What impresses is the new Fortuner’s ride and handling. The suspension is a bit more pliant which goes a long way in improving the big SUV’s ride quality. The brakes were a big issue on the previous Fortuner when it was launched but Toyota hasn’t made the same mistake twice. The new Fortuner has stronger brakes and offers enough stopping power.
With a 225mm ground clearance and 700mm of water-wading ability, the new Fortuner is a genuine off-roader and ideal for driving off the beaten path. This is the car with which to explore India
The new Fortuner feels even more indestructible but it still isn’t perfect. Some of the plastics on the inside aren’t good, the engine should have been more refined and its not the most spacious either. Still, if you’ve liked the earlier Fortuner, you’re likely to be absolutely delighted with this new one. Just be prepared to shell out close to Rs. 30 lakh for it.