Over the years, Toyota’s Fortuner SUV has captured the hearts and minds of Indian car buyers. It prides itself on being brilliant off the road, and extremely good on it as well. Competition like the newer Ford Endeavour and Chevrolet Trailblazer is making inroads into Toyota territory, however. The Japanese manufacturer hopes to change that with the all-new Fortuner, which is headed to India next month.
To begin with, it looks totally different. It’s more of a Lexus-inspired design, a complete break from the simple and upright look of its predecessor. The new Fortuner’s grille is angled back and the LED lights add to its futuristic look.
This new SUV is bigger than the current version, so there’s more space for passengers and luggage. Within, you will notice that the dashboard and the control layout are much more attractive, though not as upmarket as that of the Ford Endeavour. However, the centre console, with the leather-lined and chromed-over inserts, looks great and the big touch screen adds to the appeal. Some bits on the dash should have been built better; the plastic on the door-pads, for example, isn’t of high quality.
Refreshingly, the cabin feels less cramped. There’s more shoulder, head and leg room. The new seats offer great overall support. In the second row, there’s more knee room, so long drives in the Fortuner should be quite comfortable. You can now also seat three abreast on the rear bench more comfortably, and the centre passenger gets a three-point seat belt. Space and comfort in the third row have improved too. You also get a rear air-con system with dedicated blowers set into the roof as well as practical features like power sockets.
While the current Fortuner feels ponderous when you drive it fast, the new one feels more agile. It remains unfazed in a straight line, even at speeds above 120 kmph, and it’s much nicer to drive in city traffic as well. The steering, however, is still a bit heavy at low speeds, and you need to use a bit of effort when parking or taking a U-turn.
The ride is much improved, however. There’s a lot less up and down movement and the ride in general is more cushioned too.
Toyota will sell the Fortuner in India with two diesel-engine options—a 150hp 2.4-litre unit, and a more powerful 177hp 2.8-litre motor. There might be a petrol engine too, the same 2.7-litre unit that was recently introduced in the Innova Crysta.
The smaller diesel motor is now more refined. But it doesn’t quite deliver the punch most SUV buyers are looking for. It is effortless to drive in the city, but quick overtakes will require advance planning. Clearly, if you want performance, the more powerful 177hp 2.8-litre diesel is the better option.
If you liked the previous-generation Fortuner, you’ll love this new one. The 2.4 engine may need a bit more performance, but the new Fortuner feels like an improvement in every way. It is more refined, nicer to drive, and the cabin too is better. Prices are expected to start at around Rs28 lakh (estimated ex-showroom), and a fully loaded variant is likely to cost upwards of Rs35 lakh.
While it has some serious competition from the Ford Endeavour, it is worth keeping on your shortlist.