January 16, 2017 @ 06:55 PM

Review: Toyota Fortuner 2.7SRZ 4X4 - A change of fortunes

“Appeal to the public and not just fleet buyers” was the decree. Gobs of refinement and plenty of cowhide went a long way in achieving that

Bearing a Toyota badge, there was no questioning the Fortuner’s capabilities in hauling seven off the beaten path without breaking a sweat or a differential. However, it’s refinement on the paved path left much to be desired which still didn’t cause sales to take a hit as it was the best-seller in many markets; ours included.

Nonetheless, that was mostly due to a lack of options rather than stellar ride and damping. That plastic fantastic interior wasn’t going to do it any favours either. In short, it was a Hilux underneath and no amount of tweaking to the ladder frame chassis could mask that.

On the other hand, those very qualities redeemed themselves by transforming it into the darling of government agencies. Toyota robustness, a roomy cabin and plastics that would take a beating and then some made it a perfect fit for the rough and tumble demands of being a utilitarian government fleet vehicle.

That was the old Fortuner though. Toyota was determined to transform the second generation of it with more appeal and refinement to bump up its mass market appeal.

The new Fortuner can be had in either a 2.7-litre SRZ 4×4 petrol or 2.4-litre VRZ 4×4 turbodiesel configuration with the former digressing from its agricultural past and packing the right kit to find some fans outside fleet use.

Starting with a sexy design is usually one way to achieve that and Toyota certainly injected some sex appeal into the new Fortuner. Granted, it wouldn’t take much to out-suave the likes of the Isuzu MU-X, Ford Everest and Mitsu’s Pajero Sport but the Fortuner has undergone quite some grooming to be dubbed the most dapper.

Borrowing heavily from the Lexus design manual, the Fortuner has taken leaps forward to project an image far more premium than the segment it occupies. Nobody would hold it against you if you mistook the Fortuner for something out of Lexus at first glance.

It definitely looks the part with a sleek front end and semi-trapezoidal grille that mimics its upper-class sister brand. As the flagship variant, the petrol SRZ gets fitted with LED DRLs and bi-LED projector headlamps as well as 18-inch wheels and some questionable use of chrome mouldings.

Aesthetics wise, the Fortuner tiptoes the fine line between premium and rugged; one that many of its peers fail to balance on and often hang precariously over one side or even tumble over completely.

The dressed to the nines theme carries on inside as well with an interior that reflects the luxurious aura Toyota is trying to achieve.

Cowhide is applied generously, coating plenty of the high-contact surfaces in a cabin that doesn’t get the melding of a black and brown dual-tone interior quite right. Shades aside though, the design is spot on.

However, in the name of cost-cutting, the soft leather has to be offset by some hard plastics and although it sullies an otherwise impressive interior, Toyota did a solid job of hiding them that you don’t come into contact so often.

Infotainment is handled by a touchscreen head unit found in all the new Toyotas with navigation and that infuriating motion safety lock that prevents the system from being used when the car is in motion. There’s a flip-down screen for the second and third row occupants as well linked to the head unit.

Speaking of the third row, Toyota is quite proud with what they claim to be the largest ingress and egress area into the last row. Flipping the middle row forward does open up quite a spacious gate into the back and legroom is sufficient too.

Being the flagship trim, the list of bells and whistles is quite comprehensive with keyless entry and start, drive modes, second and third row air-conditioning vents and an electronic transfer case.

Abiding with the preference of Malaysian buyers for petrol vehicles, the SRZ gets an updated version of the 2.7-litre engine from its predecessor. Dual VVT-i is the biggest improvement and it bumps up power to 164bhp with 245Nm of torque.

Although the ladder frame is based on the outgoing model; which explains the same wheelbase, it isn't without updates. Firming up the frame are larger cross-sections with tweaked suspension with the target being a cushier ride.

The refinement is leaps ahead of the previous one and certainly one of the best in its class. Occupants are cushioned from the jarring bumps on the road and the revised damping swallow the imperfections whole, aided by the large profile highway terrain tyres, but the middle and last row occupants can look forward to a slightly harsher ride.

Nonetheless, it’s still a ladder frame and there’s only so much you can polish off that. The two tonne behemoth still makes its body roll known although the handling has improved tremendously. This barge is now every bit as capable and refined in the concrete jungle as it is in the muddy one.

Though the new 2.4-litre turbodiesel engine would have been a better all-rounder bet getting this thing moving, Malaysians are still far behind in adopting oil-burners in their vehicles. The petrol engine isn’t any less capable and will get the Fortuner rolling without any hesitation.

That isn't to say that the weight is negligible. From a standstill, the lack of low-end torque from a petrol mill is noticeable but once on a roll it’s all smooth sailing. If you really need to make some haste, the “Power” button does add some additional oomph and fittingly, the “Eco” mode only serves to amplify the lack of low-end grunt.

Highway cruising is almost effortless although getting up to highway speed will take a bit more use of road. The Fortuner isn't in any way lethargic or underpower in petrol form but having the 400Nm of torque from 1600rpm in the diesel would be a better proposition than the 245Nm at 4000rpm in the petrol lump. The extra gear ratio in the six-speed automatic goes a long way in alleviating the lack of torque and coupled with the paddle shifters, makes the driving experience all that more hospitable.

Recently, Toyota announced that the Fortuner was granted EEV status by the government. The five-figure drop in price would go a long way in encouraging sales for what is already a promising candidate in its class. But how energy efficient is the SUV? Mostly city driving with a handful of highway miles netted an average of 12.2l/100km and a pinch over 500km from the full tank of fuel. Respectable figures for a petrol-driven, ladder-frame, two-tonne SUV.

As the continuous evolution of body-on-frame SUVs and pick-up trucks brings them closer to levels of refinement accorded to passenger vehicles, the Fortuner has been given a double roll of the dice and surged ahead of its competition.

It might not boast outright leadership in each and every aspect but none of its peers exhibit the all-roundedness the Fortuner does and look so good doing so.

Toyota Fortuner 2.7SRZ 4x4
Price: RM 183,800 OTR
Engine: 2694cc, 16V DOHC inline-four, variable valve timing, 164bhp @ 5200rpm, 245Nm @ 4000rpm
Transmission: six-speed automatic, electronically-controlled four-wheel drive
Dimensions (l/w/h): 4795mm, 1855mm, 1835mm
Weight: 2010k

 

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