20121 Toyota Fortuner 2.8 GD-6 4×4 VX Review

20121 Toyota Fortuner 2.8 GD-6 4×4 VX Review

The recently-refreshed Fortuner has been a Zimabwean stalwart since this name plate’s first introduction in 2006, finding more homes each month than any other large SUV on the local market. And, with each facelift it undergoes, more premium features from Lexus filter down into it. We drove the flagship VX model over the December holidays to get a feel for the new-and-improved ‘Tuner.

The newly-enhanced Fortuner and Prado were at the top of my wish list for a December car, not just because I’m a mom, but also because I’m a stepmom to no fewer than four kids, aged 10, 11, 13, and 14. I knew it was going to be chaotic with all four children for at least two weeks, and I knew I would need a tough, durable, and well-specified SUV to meet the 21st-century kids’ needs. Toyota obliged and I took delivery of the Fortuner 2.8 GD-6 VX AT at the beginning of December.

Styling

The Fortuner’s overall shape stays the same: why mess with a recipe that clearly works with consumers? But, as time goes by, manufacturers must make technological-, styling-, or design adjustments to keep the vehicle fresh, and so Toyota enhanced the Fortuner with a light, yet effective hand.

The bling on the front grille has been replaced with a wavy black mesh design, and looks more toned-down than the triple chrome-bars from before. The grille is also slightly larger, making the Fortuner look less suburban and more off-the-beaten-track, also due in part to the skid-plate on the lower bumper area. The Bi-LED headlamps have been re-profiled too, but my favourite new design feature is the strip-lights on either side of the lower bumper that also double as turn signals and also supply additional puddle lighting in the dark. The VX-grade model features a wraparound chrome belt-line, while new tail lights with integrated light guides make for a more interesting appearance in low-light conditions.

Interior layout and design

The chocolate brown faux-leather seats and inserts are now a thing of the past and have been replaced with black “hide” with silver topstitching. I didn’t think there was anything wrong with the brown, but many people didn’t fancy it, so out it went.

All in all, the new Fortuner looks and feels quite luxurious, and is still very ergonomic. Soft-touch surfaces, chrome brightwork, and wooden inlays create a premium ambience, while the new addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto also contributed to our driving comfort, enabling us to switch seamlessly between all 6 occupants’ playlist on Spotify (or entering addresses into Google Maps via Siri). The VX-model’s 9-speaker JBL sound system is very decent and the little ones right at the back were satisfied once we adjusted the balance, so they too could listen to their favourite tunes.

Interior space and comfort

I knew there was going to be in-car conflict and I braced myself for it – it’s just human nature when kids are that close to one another in age.

Getting in and out of the Fortuner didn’t require much energy. The two little ones (age 10 and 11) easily scrambled to the rearmost seats, with the help of the side steps and the second-row seats, that tumble completely forward on both sides of the vehicle for fuss-free access.

The big kids (aka Child 1 and Child 2) required significantly more legroom, so naturally they called the second-row home. But we knew that Child 3 and Child 4 would also want to ride in the second row from time to time, so we were all grateful that the second row of seats can slide, in order to make room for the older kids’ longer legs when they were “forced” to ride in row three.

Whoever had the pleasure of sitting in the second row, could also make use of the centrally-located two-point plug when a laptop, phone or tablet needed to be charged. Should you need to charge multiple devices simultaneously, you can always plug a multi-USB hub into the above-mentioned power outlet. All Toyotas are now sold with in-car Wi-Fi to keep everyone entertained on board, and data can be topped up as needed. There are 12-Volt charging points on board as well, and the central armrest has pop-out cupholders.

Cupholders are available for all seats, and cleverly-placed air vents kept everyone cool. The little ones often moaned that they were too cold in the third row, while the older kids in the second row were pleased as punch to have their own set of controls in the middle, which also allowed them to control the rearmost air-vents, much to the dismay of Child 3 and Child 4.

As for the unimportant adults in front who had to keep everyone fed, watered, and in one piece, we entertained ourselves by trying to switch each other’s front seat-heaters on without the other person noticing. This game never gets old, especially in summer. The heated front seats are a standard feature in the VX derivative. For the full list of features and improvements in the 2021 Fortuner range, read New vs used Toyota Fortuner: What are the top differences?

Drive, power, and performance

The new Fortuner benefits from a slightly larger turbocharger as well as a new common-rail injection system, and a 20kW / 50Nm power boost. It’s not a massive increase, but you are aware that there’s more pulling power. We didn’t happen to tow anything but the new Fortuner is capable of towing up to 3300 kg braked, which is 300 kg more than before.

As always, the Fortuner’s body-on-frame IMV platform (with double-wishbone suspension up front and a four-link setup at the rear, all coil-springs) gives it the uncanny ability to simply float over gravel and dirt roads while staying exceptionally stable and focused, as we experienced on our road trip via the back roads of Marondera and Seke.

Ample suspension travel and comparatively high-profile tyres also help make mincemeat of potholes and corrugated surfaces. At low speed the steering is well-assisted to feel light and easy, but less so as the speedometer reading increases, for more-stable highway driving. I would have preferred a little less steering assistance between 60 and 70 km/h, though.

Safety

Toyota’s updated Fortuner (VX trim only) is fitted with Toyota’s Safety Sense package. This is the first time that semi-autonomous driving tech can be found in the Fortuner and plays a huge part in preventing driver fatigue. Comprising adaptive cruise control, lane departure alert, pre-collision intervention and road-sign recognition, Safety Sense reduces the amount of driver effort required, allowing Dad or Mom to have more patience behind the wheel, and to be less prone to road rage.

The system itself is user-friendly enough, and just sitting back to let the cameras and radar do their thing while all you do is a bit of steering, is a rather luxurious way to travel.

With regards to other safety features, the Fortuner’s equipment includes 7 airbags, stability and traction control, ABS, EBD, hill-start assist, hill- descent control, fog lamps, PDC (front and back) and a rearview camera. Sat-nav is integrated.

Fuel consumption

The power mode button (to be found between the diff lock button and gear lever) was depressed on the odd occasion for overtaking manoeuvres, but in order to keep fuel usage to a minimum, the Eco mode button was employed more often. The fully-laden Fortuner consumed around 10 – 11 litres per 100 km on the combined cycle, which is more or less what we expected, and required a visit to the pumps every 800 km or so.

Pricing

According to DRIVEtorque price guide The Fortuner 2.8 GD-6 4×4 VX will set you back close to US$79000, getting increasingly close to Prado territory, where pricing starts at US$80000. In the same breath, the Ford Everest 2.0Bi-Turbo 4WD Limited is even pricier than the Flagship Fortuner at US$86000. Other contenders in this segment include the Isuzu mu-X 3.0 4WD at US$61000 and the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport 2.4 DI-D 4×4 Exceed at US$65000, but neither of them have the semi-autonomous features found in the Ford and the Toyota. (Please confirm with the local dealerships for the exact price)

Verdict

Up until now, we never dreamed of having these semi-self-driving features in our body-on-frame leisure vehicles; so, you have to ask yourself if it’s all really necessary. If this were my money, I would opt for a more affordable variant. The entry-level derivatives are now better equipped than ever, and driving comfort (especially off-road) is exemplary on all Fortuners.

Be that as it may, the Fortuner is getting considerably more sophisticated with each refresh, and if you have that kind of money to drop on a brand new seven-seater SUV, you’ll get all the luxury that goes along with it.

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