Car review: Toyota Fortuner (2015 MY)

Toyota Fortuner Saudi

The Toyota Fortuner was given a major update earlier this year, with sleek new looks and a vastly improved interior. And, according to Toyota (and early reviews), the car has lost none of its go-anywhere ruggedness – instead the carmaker has simply added more luxuries and a school run-friendly image.

Impressive as the new car may be, there’s still plenty to say about the old one, of which there are plenty still floating about in dealer forecourts. And with the updated model looking so much more modern, the previous generation can now be bought for a steal. The Fortuner always offered a lot of car for the money, and now the value’s even better.

The model we have on test is the top-of-the-range 2015 car. What this means is you get the 4.0-litre V6 from the Land Cruiser Prado and full options inside – a large screen on the centre console, cruise control, sunroof, the lot. Indeed, much of the kit is taken from the last-gen Prado, and it’s aged rather well – you don’t feel like you’re sitting inside a hand-me-down cockpit. Okay, it’s not particularly luxurious, but there’s definitely an air of form following function. Everything is there, and at this price point, that’s all you really need.

Aside from the engine and the interior features, however, the Fortuner doesn’t have much in common with the Prado. Underneath, it shares its platform with the Toyota Hilux pick-up truck. This means it’s much more rugged than the class-above Prado, despite its family SUV appearance.

Still, driving this top-of-the-range model, you won’t be fooled into thinking you’re trundling along in a rackety commercial vehicle. At low speeds especially, the Fortuner is extremely civilised, thanks to the incredibly smooth gear box and light steering. It’s as easy to thread through tight streets as a medium-sized hatchback, this thing. And parking is never an issue thanks to the reversing camera and sensors. You’d have to really not be paying attention to ding something in the car park.

On top of this, you get a stellar speaker system capable of delivering strong bass notes and punchy trebles. That’s impressive in and of itself, simply because the cabin is so big and boxy – calibrating a speaker system to work well in that sort of reflective environment is no easy task.

It’s worth focusing on the size of the Fortuner for a while, too. You get three rows of seats, with ample space for adults on the middle row, and AC vents throughout. The third row, in the boot, can only really be used for children, or, if you really need to transport six adults, for a short journey. Naturally, the seats stow and fold for if you need to transport big objects. The seats don’t fold flat, but even so, we managed to get this two-seater IKEA sofa into the back with no issues.

Practical stuff out of the way, let’s talk about that 4.0-litre V6. It churns out 235 bhp and 376 Nm of torque, meaning the car can do the 0-100 km/h dash in 9.3 seconds. That’s not fast by fast-car standards, but for a large SUV like this, it feels supersonic. What’s more, with peak torque being available from 3,800 RPM, you get instant performance in any gear, whenever you put your foot down. Overtaking a slowpoke on the highway is easy work for the Fortuner, and because the car’s platform is so solid, you can pick up speed very quickly without really noticing. Good thing there’s a warning noise when you hit 120 km/h.

That power also pays dividends when you take the Fortuner out of the city and show it some desert terrain. I know of off-road driving schools that use this car for lessons, and it’s easy to see why – it’s simply a monster in the sand. Yes, it’s heavy, but that torque and power means that, if you’re even sinking into the sand, you can simply power out of the situation nine times out of 10. You also get a proper, four-wheel-drive transfer box offering low range. Add this to the Fortuner’s good ground clearance and impressive standard tyres, and you really do have a go-anywhere vehicle.

Drawbacks? Well, above 100 km/h, the cabin is quite noisy. The automatic gearbox only has five gears, meaning that, at that speed, you’re revving at quite some RPM, resulting in a lot of engine noise. There’s also a fair amount of wind noise at high speed. The car could use more sound-deadening for sure.

That said, considering the price (around AED 120,000), you still get an awful lot of car for the money, meaning it’s easy to let the small annoyances slide. Indeed, given the Fortuner’s size, power, options, and off-road ability, I doubt there’s another car on the market that could offer the same capabilities for less.

So if you’ve got your eye on the new Fortuner, but perhaps can’t afford it, the old one is still a perfectly capable car, and is well worth investigating.

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