Why would I buy it?
- Handsome looks and imposing presence
- Powerful diesel engine
- Toyota's service and reliability
Why would I avoid it?
- Single top-spec trim
- No 4x4 system
This Toyota Fortuner Legender model isn't a world apart from the standard version, and yet gets a more premium looking face and more features on the inside. Sure, the price of this new top-spec trim has shot up and isn't available with a 4x4 set-up. However, it suffices he/she who wouldn't take it off-road, and prefers a hassle-free after-sales experience. And while other rivals are downsizing on the engine capacity, it's a good step taken forward by Toyota by introducing a more powerful engine. It gives more reasons for prospective buyers to consider it, apart from its little unique look to the Fortuner, which already commands a good demand in our country.
Engine and Performance
Unlike the wide range of petrol, diesel, automatic, and 4x4 options, the Legender version is only offered with a 2.8-litre diesel engine. It's mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox sending power to the rear wheels only. Power rating is up by 26bhp as this one churns out 201bhp and 500Nm of torque. Interestingly, even though there are some vibrations at start-up and slight engine noise, it’s hardly audible inside the cabin. Toyota has not only improved this, but even the throttle response feels sharper now.
And whichever driving mode (Normal, Eco, Sport) you select from the buttons on the centre console, there's good enough differentiation in performance. You might want to stick to Eco mode, when you're inching forward in traffic, where a subdued throttle response is fine for a smoother driving experience. It still does keep up with traffic as there's adequate power delivery. Meanwhile, selecting 'Normal' mode ensures there's a good balance of both power and economy. However, you'd forget these two modes once you click on Sport and feel the immediacy with the surge in power. The sharp throttle response is impressive and it's not just all show and no go, as you can quickly feel the sprint times to be faster as well.
Thankfully, the six-speed torque converter gearbox complements the engine well. Sure, it isn't as quick as the new DCTs but offers very smooth shifts. It helps the SUV move ahead without any jerks and continues to creep ahead in traffic. This becomes quite helpful in bumper-to-bumper traffic when you can just brake without having to modulate the accelerator pedal at all. On the go, keep the throttle inputs gentle and it will continue making progress with the revs as low as 1,600rpm. The engine continues to remain fairly silent till 2,000rpm and thanks to a strong mid-range makes quicker progress. It's only post 2,500rpm when you can start to hear the engine buzz and it gets more audible as the revs build.
Floor the gas pedal and you'll feel a slight, one second or so, lag before the gearbox downshifts. Even in Sport mode, it's not very aggressive, though it holds on to the gear allowing it to rev till 4,000rpm before upshifting. You still have the option of using the paddle-shifters and taking control, especially while making a quick overtake. It does help pack a punch but it's still better to plan this move as it's a heavy and huge vehicle. Otherwise, it will continue to cruise comfortably at low revs at triple-digit speeds and keep munching miles and miles. The engine never feels strained even with a full load and all passengers on-board along with their luggage. With the abundance of torque, it continues to cruise with light or moderate throttle inputs while being in the highest gear possible.
Ride and Handling
Like the standard Fortuner, the Legender also portrays typical ladder-on-frame ride quality with that robust and 'flatten anything in its path' feel. A high ground clearance and 18-inch wheels help its case further along with its double-wishbone front suspension and the four-link solid-axle rear. Though it’s adept at taking bad roads, its slow speed ride is still not the most relaxing with continuous side-to-side movement. All the imperfections on the road can also be felt inside with that jiggle over small undulations. No there's no suspension noise, but it could have done with a little plusher ride. That said, this slight firm tuning helps over the highways as it cuts down the bounce over undulations.
And despite riding high, it does score well in straight-line stability, feels planted and composed at high speeds. Sadly, it doesn’t score well when it comes to subjecting the SUV to some corners. The body roll is immense for occupants to not complain while you chuck it into a turn, or go around a bend aggressively. Thankfully, the fat tyres do provide a good grip to stick onto the road, and brakes have a good bite to inspire confidence on panic braking. Still, its heavy steering is another deterrent even at slow speeds as more than three turns lock-to-lock demand more driver effort. This becomes an arduous task while parking this huge SUV or even making a U-turn in a narrow lane.
Interior Space and Quality
Now the layout, design, and function remain the same as the Fortuner. So, a spacious and ergonomic cabin with comfortable front and second-row seating continues with a usable third row as well. There’s adequate headroom and knee-room, while the seats are nice and firm with good under-thigh support, meaning prolonged hours over long distances will be relaxed. Your handy stuff will be easily accommodated in the two glove-boxes and many storage places like in the centre console, door bins, dashboard, etc. And, there are plenty of cup and bottle holders too. Now, the dark interior colour is still not so liberating in terms of roominess, yet the new black and red upholstery adds a little spunk. Then, the dark wooden theme is tastefully done too with the use of piano black and silver inserts.
Speaking of the downsides, there are a few with cost-cutting evident in some areas like interior plastics, shiny panels getting scratched easily, and even the quality of the camera display and audio system. These are the things I particularly didn’t like, especially this being a Rs 40 lakh-up car. Otherwise, with the updated upholstery and some nip and tuck, the Legender is a good attempt at providing some exclusivity over and above the moderate levels of luxury and plushness one gets from the Fortuner’s cabin.
Features and Safety
The Legender has its fair share of equipment from the Fortuner, and in fact, betters it with features such as the quad-LED headlamps, sequential indicators, wireless smartphone charging, powered tailgate, and many more including ventilated front seats. And though I appreciate Toyota for now adding the latter feature, I didn't like the headlamp adjuster-like controls for the same. Another thing to note is that the 12V power outlet on the centre console for rear passengers has been replaced by two USB ports. Apart from the usual features like automatic climate control, cruise control, steering mounted controls with telephony, electronically adjustable front seats and all, there’s connect car tech to add to the convenience and ambient lighting to liven up the interior feel.
Then, it’s good that the new touchscreen infotainment system supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, but it isn’t seamless and could have done with a better UI, response, and feedback. It’s appalling to know that it gets a six-speaker set-up instead of the 11-speaker JBL system on the standard Fortuner. Other features it misses include automatic wipers, dynamic camera parking guide, TPMS, lumbar support adjustment, and even a sunroof. Even SUVs from a lower segment now get a panoramic sunroof these days. I also wish the in-car technology was more refined and premium than the competition.
Thankfully, there’s top-notch safety kit including seven airbags, all three-point seatbelts, ISOFIX seats, speed auto lock, and more. Other noteworthy safety features include ESP, traction control, hill assist, ABS with EBD, VSC with brake assist, anti-theft alarm sensor, and even emergency brake signal.
A de-chromed look in the front and back, new quad-lamps with a different fascia, striking new 18-inch alloys, and different upholstery inside helps the Legender differentiate itself from the standard Fortuner. Yet, limited colour options, absence of new-age features, no 4x4 system or even a manual version, and still at a price of Rs 45 lakh on-road might make one re-think his/her choices. However, it's still backed by Toyota's outstanding after-sales service, low service costs, prolonged warranty coverage, long-term reliability, and even good resale value, adding to a hassle-free ownership experience. So, all of this with a little exclusivity thanks to this Legender version, prospective buyers might not hesitate in paying that premium.
Pictures by Kaustubh Gandhi