Way back in 2006 when Toyota first launched the Fortuner, it was pretty much a body on a bakkie but, even so, the company’s timing was perfect and it became an instant hit and has hung on as a chart-topper longer than any Kurt Darren tune.
In the intervening years, the Fortuner has evolved with improved levels of comfort, fittings, driveability and off-road capability.
In its latest format, it also introduced the range-topping 2.8 GD-6 VX where VX follows Toyota badging style on its other SUV options such as RAV4, Prado and Land Cruiser.
This means it is packed with a mix of tech and luxury, including nice-to-have’s such as autonomous braking along with its ability to get well off the beaten track.
At the front a larger, blacked-out grille with gloss wave-like mesh pattern is accompanied by a silver-accented ‘skid-plate’ underrun. Re-profiled Bi-LED headlamps provide a sleeker look and these are further enhanced by prominent chrome accent strips that bridge the grille and headlamp assemblies.
On the VX, the side profile is enhanced with a thin, chrome belt-line that extends towards the rear, effectively wrapping around the vehiclewhile new tail lamp units with integrated light guides, help deliver a more striking night-time signature.
The 2.8 GD-6 variants ride on 18-inch alloy wheels with turbine design and metallic surface treatment – employing 265-60-R18 tyres.
The original interior of the Fortuner was a kind of farm dust beige and this has now been changed to black in line with requests from the market the car serves.
The new black ‘hide’ with silver contrast stitching raises the level of sophistication (and desirability) to put it on a par with price bracket rivals such as the VW Tiguan Allspace 2.0TSI 4-Motion, the Kia Sorento 2.2 CRDi AWD and the BMW X3 sDrive.
The revised instrument cluster design has metallic-blue dial faces, white needle pointers and a simple, elegant font making them easy to read even when bounding over undulating terrain..
An all-new 8-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality now now allows navigation applications such as Google Maps and Waze and occupants can also access their music libraries and streaming accounts via apps such as Apple Music, JOOX, Spotify and SoundCloud. Wireless telephony is supported via Bluetooth with a USB input for additional media options.
The VX is also equipped with embedded Audio Visual Navigation (AVN).
More important than the aesthetics is the fact the power output of the 2.8 GD-6 engine is boosted by 20 kW to achieve 150 kW at 3 000 r/min with an extra 50 Nm on the torque to move than to 500 Nm at at 1 600 r/min.
The Tiguan has marginally more power than the Fortuner, but it is way ahead of the opposition grouping in terms of torque.
The increase in power and torque can be best felt when doing some serious donga-diving and putting the all-wheel drive system to the test. Toyota engineers improved performance and fuel economy simultaneously by adopting a larger, heavy-duty turbo-charger with a ball-bearing cartridge and a new common-rail injection system with a higher maximum fuel pressure of 250 Mpa.
On my test cycle, including the off-road element the average fuel consumption was 8,4 l/100 km. Keeping to the tarmac this average drops down to 7,9 l/100 km.
Underpinning the Fortuner execution is a double-wishbone suspension at the front with a four-link arrangement in the rear – all using coil springs.
At the end of the day it is all about balance and this suspension setup provides just that to be the best it can on or offroad. It strikes a comfortable balance between work and play modes.
All Fortuner models come with Park Distance Control (PDC) alongside full LED lighting, cruise control and touchscreen infotainment, one-touch power windows, reverse camera, steering switches, air-conditioned upper glovebox, multiple 12-volt power outlets, cup/bottle holders and a tilt and telescopic adjustable steering column.
The 2.8 GD-6 adds an electro-chromatic rear view mirror, power seat adjustment for both driver and passenger, climate control as well as rear fog lamps. A leather steering wheel, leather dashboard accents and matte wood-trim, with the VX gaining seat heating (driver & passenger), welcome lighting and the Toyota Safety Sense (TSS) system.
TSS integrates a Pre-collision system, Lane Departure Alert, Adaptive Cruise Control and road sign recognition, joining active safety aids including anti-lock braking, EBD, Brake Assist, VSC, Trailer Sway Control, Traction Control and Downhill Assist Control (DAC).
All Fortuner models come with a 3-year/100 000 km warranty. A 9-services/90 000 km service plan is standard on all models (service intervals of 10 000 km or 12-months).