The new Fortuner’s story begins with Toyota’s aspirations to give this bestselling brand the pedigree of its larger, more premium sibling, the Prado. It is based on a common platform shared between the Innova, the Hilux pick-up and the Fortuner, but it shares more of its DNA with the larger, more capable SUV. This allows the Fortuner to enjoy a more rigid, better balanced chassis along with a more rugged suspension package that is much better than its predecessor both on-road and off-road.
It still stays true to its body-on-frame architecture, which has been improved compared to the older version if your aim is to be a great package in tough off-road conditions. But what has changed dramatically is the way it feels in urban areas more than what it can do in the wild. The ride quality is improved significantly, body roll is subdued thanks to a stabiliser bar at both ends and it feels more confident when pushed hard on tarmac. Double wishbones can be found at the front and a four-link coil spring configuration at the rear (Australian models get a plusher five-link configuration). It devours potholes of all sizes and simply steamrolls them without a second thought. At the same time, the suspension feels solid, though there is slight high-speed reverb when you drive across rough surfaces which you could also feel on the older-gen SUV.
What I did not like is the amount of understeer this SUV now has and the immense lack of steering feedback. Going for a completely electric steering set-up has damped the feel considerably, and it’s hard to judge what the front end is doing in certain circumstances. Over and above, the turning radius even at 5.8 metres does not feel impressive either, something I experienced on a tight off-road course in Vagamon, a tea estate near Cochin.
A strong and much improved area now is the braking. Throw the anchors into the deep end and the Fortuner comes to a complete halt without any theatrics, but more importantly without that front-end dive! On the brakes it stays flat throughout, and that new behaviour is going to light up some faces!
The 4×4 capability has improved; by how much, I’m uncertain at this point since there are still several more tests we have to run the Fortuner through. The new Fortuner though gets an electronic shift on the fly drive selector dial which is simpler to use than the older shift lever. However, the procedure to engage 4-Low remains the same – stop, shift into neutral and then engage 4-Low.
The Fortuner’s off-road prowess is enhanced by an improved rear diff-lock. Again there is no rear LSD, instead what the new Fortuner gets is an electronic system dubbed Active Traction Control (A-TRC) that behaves in a manner similar to an LSD. A-TRC essentially uses braking control to reduce wheelspin by braking individual wheels. There’s also a host of traction and assistance features, all aimed at making the new Fortuner a highly capable vehicle in a variety of conditions. Interesting bit is that when you twist the drive selector into 4-Low, all electronic aids switch off, giving greater control of the vehicle to the driver.
In 4WD high mode, all electronic aids are enabled, but vehicle stability control is subdued to allow more slip when needed. In 4WD low, all aids except A-TRC are switched off. If you need further control, holding down the VSC button for three seconds will further switch off A-TRC.
The Fortuner has two drive modes – Eco and Power. The former is supposed to provide better efficiency when driving in urban areas while the latter is supposed to provide a complete torque blanket when you need it. However, toggling between either modes did not make the Fortuner behave differently at all! Neither did the shift point change or the manner in which she responds to throttle inputs alter. I guess only a test will reveal the differences.
Toyota is committed to safety in a big way, with all its cars now offering ABS and airbags as standard. In the Fortuner, you get seven airbags, ABS with EBD, child restraint system with ISOFIX, hill assist and downhill assist, and several active and passive safety systems.
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