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Road Test: Toyota Fortuner [2009-2012]

Arup Das, 17-Jan-2012. Car Tested: Fortuner [2009-2012]
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Introduction

Toyota finally gives the Fortuner a nip-and-tuck giving it a much needed fresh lease of life. After being launched in 2009, the Fortuner is now looking leaner and definitely more aggressive. At a first glance what stands out are the clear lens headlamps. According to Toyota, their customers had been asking for this ever since the Fortuner’s launch. It always looked like a mini Prado but now with chrome nose job it looks more like the big daddy of all SUVs the Toyota Landcruiser. The world’s number one carmaker wanted its segment leader to retain a lot of its old school SUV looks with a lot more aggression. The air duct vent or the bonnet scoop has been given a silicon job and now has the in your face menacing looks. For all those who love to flaunt their machine, no puns intended, this is another reason which adds to your showoff list. 

 

Highlights: 

- The Fortuner now comes in three trim levels – the 4x4, the 4x2 automatic and the 4x2 manual. Also, all three versions come with a 3.0 litre engine. Both 4x4 and 4x2 manual get 5-speed gearbox while the automatic is mated with a 4-speed gear. 

-  The Fortuner gets a 2DIN 6-inch LCD touch screen music system with auxiliary, Bluetooth connectivity and of course iPhone compatible

-  The old school butch looks of the Fortuner has become more aggressive with chrome, clear lens headlamps and the bonnet scoop now bigger and in your face

- The Fortuner automatic 4-speed gear box feels sluggish and being tall geared there is a huge lag. But for tackling city traffic the automatic gear box is a boon. 

- The Fortuner 4x2 manual is a lot more responsive and it definitely peppier as it is lighter than the 4x4 version by 90kg.

 

Looks and interiors

 

Toyota has finally spruced up the interiors of the Fortuner from utility cabin at best has now become quite savy. The dual gray-black cabin colour with wooden panel gives it a lot more contemporary look. The plastic quality is at best average but it is a step ahead in terms of looks from the previous generation. It now gets a 2DIN 6-inch LCD touch screen music system with auxiliary, Blutooth connectivity and the rest of the bells and whistles. The steering will is now borrowed from Corolla Altis making it lighter. It also gets steering mounted controls adding to the driver’s convenience. 

 

The drive

 

The new Fortuner is not all about going under the knife and getting a fancy plastic surgery. After tasting a lot of success and praise at this segment, the Japanese car maker has decided to get into some serious business by launching two more Fortuner variants- the 4x2 manual and 4x2 automatic. We first got our hands on the handsfree 4-speed automatic Fortuner. One has to keep in mind that this variant has been specifically made for over coming hurdles in the urban—the jam packed traffic. So when you push the pedal to the metal it whines a lot and slowly picks up pace. You have to get used to the waiting game even when you are revving engine in the region of 2500 rpm. Frustrating? Yes a bit especially when you want to over take in the city limits. You have to wait, watch and calculate the time you have to let the engine increase its jogging pace. The three-speed manual is a far cry from the manual Fortuner gear box. But yes one has to admit that in manual mode the SUV is slightly more agile but it always lets you know that this vehicle’s two-tonne weight which is a let down. The automatic feels like its 3-litre heart has been put on child lock as it just throws tantrums and whines as it is deprived of power gushing 168bhp. More than the lag is the engine howling with no go is the ultimate kill joy.

It was a completely different story when it came to the Fortuner 4x2 manual. First thing that grabs your attention and impresses you is the quick shifting gear stick which doesn’t feel heavy or a bit laborious while changing gears like in the 4x4 manual. Also with the gear ratio not being set too tall, surge of power is instantaneously felt. This avatar is definitely is the king of rollicking times. Step on the accelerator and the 4x2 manual is quick on its heels and refuses to let the engine lag, felt in the automatic, play the spoil sport. This variant lets the torque monster come out all roaring with power. But with all the positives the new variants retain old niggling problems like the ride quality which remains bumpy and with stiff suspensions you end up feeling the road more than you would like especially in high speed. Another Achilles heel has been the spongy brakes as, believe it or not, the Fortuner still doesn’t get rear disc brakes. 

 

Verdict

So is the new face lifted Fortuner as effective as “The emperor’s new clothes”, not at all. It looks a more aggressive and has been able to hide its aged wrinkles. The new variants have been launched to target different buyers in that segment. It is an impressive effort by Toyota and adding to that its legendary reliability reputation, this should help Fortuner hold its crown tighter. The automatic variant can come across as a bit dull but then it is effortless while driving in the city as you escape the painful journey of changing gears regularly. The manual avatar is a breeze to drive with its ever ready responsive gear box always happy to let you feel the actual power it can generate. It comes down to what you want a sail boat smoothly coasting through the traffic or the bad 4x2 manual which lets you be a wind talker.

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