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Toyota Fortuner – At Home Off Road

Written by  Naveen Arul
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Toyota Kirloskar Motor (TKM) is organising its Fortuner Experiential Drive Camp, a first for the company, in the cities of Bangalore, Delhi and Mumbai over ten days. This camp is focussed on showcasing the newly-launched Toyota Fortuner’s off-roading capabilities, which it carries out with the assistance of a number of technology features. The Fortuner has been known for its commanding presence and comfortable drive on tarmac, but the company has now offered the vehicle with a range of equipment and technologies to tackle the open. Let’s look at how the new Fortuner performed on a purpose-built track to showcase its off-roading skills.
 
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VEHICLE SPECIFICATION
 
While the new Fortuner was launched with both petrol and diesel engine options, the diesel variant was the one on offer at the event. This version is powered by the 2.8 l, four-cylinder, Global Diesel (GD) engine with variable nozzle turbocharger and intercooler, and is available with both manual and automatic transmissions. The engine puts out maximum power of 174 hp at 3,400 rpm, with 420 Nm and 450 Nm of peak torque from 1,600-2,400 rpm, for the manual and automatic versions, respectively.
 
The SUV features a new six-speed gearbox with iMT (Intelligent Manual Transmission) for the manual, and a six speed automatic transmission with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Both the manual and automatic versions of the Fortuner are offered with two-wheel drive (2WD) as well as four-wheel drive (2WD) options. A major difference inside the cabin of the second-generation Fortuner is the change from a secondary gear level to a centrally-located dial-type knob to active 4WD, placed below the air-conditioning controls.
 
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The new Fortuner is equipped with a range of new technology features for safety, assistance, comfort and convenience. We will focus on those features that were of most use in helping the vehicle tackle the off-road course that was presented. These include Sigma-4 concept high and low range 4WD with Electronic Drive Control, Active Traction Control (A-TRC), Hill Assist Control (HAC) and Downhill Assist Control (DAC).
 
TRACK & PERFORMANCE
 
The track for this off-road event had a combination of surfaces that could be faced either on rare occasions of off-roading, or even those presented on regular driving conditions. It consisted of zones for acceleration and braking, deep ditch, large mound, chicken holes, rumbler, water wading area, articulation/axle twister, side incline, slush and gravel trap. This track made the new Fortuner use all its safety and assistance systems to help the vehicle take on every obstacle created.
 
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The acceleration and braking zones showed the vehicles ABS kicking in to offer complete control while slamming the brakes, which have disc setup on all four wheels. The deep ditch tested the vehicles departure and approach angles, which were pretty well-cleared by the Fortuner, despite the visual effect of it having large overhangs front and rear. We did not scrape any part of the bumpers or their cladding throughput the entire course. Even in the case that something comes under the vehicle, its underbody protector would take care of mild impacts.
 
The big mound came in the form of a 40° incline, which was mainly designed to showcase the HAC and DAC features of the vehicle. The HAC holds the vehicle from rolling back when stopped in an incline. It holds for six seconds from the time the brake pedal is released, giving enough time for the driver to accelerate forward smoothly. While this feature worked in gear, as well as in neutral in the manual transmission, it kicked in only in the drive mode in the automatic version.
 
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DAC on the other hand is focused on helping a driver come downhill in a controlled manner, with sensors limiting the speed of vehicle when turned on to 5 km/h. This system uses a combination of engine braking and brake fluid pressure to ensure that no wheel locking takes place while descending. However, while this feature worked seamlessly in the manual version, its operation in the automatic transmission comes in after a slight jerk with the speed being between 5-10 km/h. Apart from these minor variations of DAC in the two transmissions, the system works well in ensuring the speed is limited in a decline, even when the accelerator pedal is forcefully depressed.
 
The next obstacle on the track was the water wading section, wherein the water is flied up to a height of 700 mm. This level increases slightly as the vehicle enters the area, but that makes no difference to the Fortuner, given its high ground clearance and adequate sealing of the doors. Additionally, the 20-year corrosion resistance that TKM offers on the chassis gives a sense of relief when taking the vehicle into watery paths.
 
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Obstacles like the chicken holes and rumblers give a sense of the tweaked suspension setup of the new Fortuner. While the suspension has been set up a little firmer than the outgoing model – mainly for to achieve stability, it adequately soaks up bumps without much body roll due to its advanced damping technology. The occupants don’t end up moving around sideways in these kinds of situations. The SUV’s independent suspension setup, with double wishbone in front and four-link coil springs in the rear provide a smooth yet stable ride while off-roading.
 
The obstacles of articulation and side incline also continued to demonstrate the features of the strengthened chassis, as well as traction control (A-TRC). The newly-developed frame structure features increased side rails and cross members for higher torsional and bending rigidity. While TKM did not have an exact figure to the level of increase in strength of the chassis, it did say that the stabiliser bars are 30 % larger than the outgoing model. Meanwhile A-TRC offers a high level of traction while off-roading by achieving Limited Slip Differential (LSD) performance. This mechanism detects a wheel slip when low on traction and applies braking on the slipping wheel, while feeding the opposite wheel with more torque. This feature worked without a fuss on these obstacles, as well as in the slush pit, in addition to the low range 4WD.
 
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WRAP-UP
 
The new Fortuner continues to be based on Toyota’s Innovative Multi-Purpose Vehicle (IMV) platform, which was designed specifically to develop vehicles for emerging markets in Asia and South America. But that is all that it shares with the previous-generation Fortuner. This new model, with all the electronic assistance and technologies is in a new league, at least when it comes down to off-road capability. The new Fortuner, with its OEM-fitted radial tyres likes to take on obstacles and seems to rise above them in a relatively calm manner. This may just be one of Toyota’s best off-roading vehicles for India, which still offers a good level of luxury and comfort that the Fortuner has been known for.
 
Text & Photo: Naveen Arul
 
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