Fortuner turned out to be a runaway success in India from the moment it went on sale. Such was the demand that Toyota had to stop bookings as waiting period at one point of time was close to six months. Over a period of time the vehicle successfully retained its demand and became one of the most successful models in Toyota’s Indian portfolio.
Primary reasons for the instant success were the aggressive and muscular styling, large exterior dimensions and Toyota’s brand value. However, all wasn’t right and there were issues about the inadequate braking efficiency and lack of features in respect to the competition. Despite these problems the Fortuner continued to post strong sales in the market. In order to improve the product offering and to tackle the rapidly strengthening competition Toyota has now launched facelifted versions of the Fortuner.
The new Fortuner now gets a new driveline option, new exteriors & interiors and some new features. The model range now gets a 2wd variant in order to lower the entry cost into the model range. We drove the Fortuner and bring to you details about the new technologies and how well they work.
Fortuner is based on Toyota’s Innovative Multi-Purpose Vehicle (IMV) platform, designed specifically to develop vehicles for emerging markets in Asia and South America. The IMV platform was developed to create an optimised global manufacturing and supply system for MPVs and pick-up trucks in order to meet the specific demands of about 140 countries. IMV project was headed by Executive Chief Engineer, Toyota, Kaoru Hosokawa and according to him with the IMV Toyota had to go beyond “Global Best” to achieve “Local Best”.
Toyota realised the potential of Asian markets a long time back and knew it was crucial to have products, which cater to local requirements, offer the best quality and are priced at par with the competition. The best possible way to do this was to develop a common platform for a range of vehicles. The project was planned to encompass variants of Fortuner, Innova and the Hilux depending on local requirements. The vehicles and body-types were decided on the basis of the data collected from multiple emerging markets by the IMV development team.
The next obvious step for implementation of the IMV was to establish local sourcing in the desired countries of manufacturing and assembly. This step was critical for competing with companies such as Hyundai, which in a short span of time had expanded its manufacturing operations in multiple countries and was offering products suited for local requirements at competitive prices. IMV hence had to have steps such as sourcing, manufacturing and logistics carried out locally with almost no material participation from Japan. Six countries were selected to carry out component & vehicles manufacturing including Thailand, Indonesia, Argentina, South Africa, India and Philippines.
Since everything had to be done locally Toyota developed new petrol and diesel engines for the platform including a VVT-I petrol (TR-FE) and Common Rail Direct Injection diesel engines (KD-FTV), which could be offered in different configurations if required. Toyota selected a ladder-frame chassis for the IMV and not the monocoque type since the planned vehicles included were of SUV, MPV and pick-up body types and didn’t necessarily call for a monocoque. Using a common chassis and powertrain for multiple vehicles in various countries has resulted in substantial savings for the company and has helped increase its market share in new and existing regions. This platform now not only caters to local demands but exports as well.
IMV without doubt is a masterstroke by Toyota for a long-term future and that shows through the success achieved in nearly all regions it has been launched in. IMV clearly proves that Toyota put in a lot of planning and engineering efforts into this program and as of 31 March 2011, Toyota had at least one vehicle from the this platform in every market it operates in except Japan and North America and has registered successful sales numbers in more or less every market.
One look at the Fortuner’s front fascia and you can’t help but think about the Land Cruiser. The entire front fascia has been redesigned to resemble the Land Cruiser and the changes do look good in both paper and flesh. The trapezoidal grill neatly integrating into the front design adds to the muscular and imposing look of the Fortuner. Adding further to the looks are new alloy wheels and clear-lens tail-lamps along with a wider rear garnish, which has “Fortuner” embossed on it.
Fortuner hasn’t gone through a radical change in design but has got a well-designed treatment in some crucial spots. The main advantage of the new design is that while the Fortuner retains its imposing character it looks a bit more sober and up-market.
The new Fortuner retains the same 1KD-FTV 3.0 l D-4D engine, displacing 2982 cc and produces a power output of 171 ps and a torque of 343 Nm @ 1,400 – 3,400 rpm. The engine is equipped with a Variable Geometry Turbocharger (VGT) and features a Dual Overhead Camshaft (DOHC) setup. The highlights of the new Fortuner range however are new transmission and driveline options. The vehicle is now offered with a two-wheel driveline mated to a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. The 4wd version though is offered only with a five-speed manual gearbox. The new options are primarily aimed at lowering the prices for consumers who drive mostly within cities but prefer SUVs.
The KD-FTV engine’s ECU calculates the optimum turbocharger boost based on throttle opening, engine speed, atmospheric pressure and temperature. Using the data values the unit operates 11 variable vanes in the turbo inlet manifold to use the optimal intake pressure. The result of this is that there is very little turbo lag and the Fortuner pulls cleanly from low rpm in any gear. The power delivery is linear and frequent gearshifts aren’t needed in traffic. Overall, the engine performs very well in diverse conditions and it’s only the transmission that acts as a broken link in the chain of what one could term as a spot-on powertrain. The gears do not slot smoothly and the shifts aren’t precise therefore taking away some of the driving pleasure.
Toyota made improvements to the Exhaust Gas recirculation (EGR) to reduce tail-pipe emissions and make the engine BS IV compliant. A step motor (device to convert electrical pulses into mechanical movement) on the EGR valve enables better control over managing the gas quantities. A water cooling system at the EGR passage lowers the gas temperature so that more gases can be recirculated. A drive-by-wire throttle position sensor improves fuel-injection precision and hence helps reduce emissions further.
The fuel-injection system also needs to be noted here as it is the core for all other technologies working towards efficiency and throttle response. D-4D engine uses piezoelectric technology wherein conventional solenoid injectors are replaced by piezoelectric injectors. The new injectors are claimed to control the fuel-volume and injection timing three times better than the solenoid counterparts. Another highlight is the combined usage of high injection pressures of upto 2,000 bar with piezoelectric injectors, which results in better atomisation of fuel and hence better fuel-efficiency. The fuel-efficiency registered by the on-board computer during our test was about 10 kmpl with most of the driving carried out on city roads.
The new Fortuner now gets a black-wooden finish in the cabin, which along with the beige interiors offers an airy and modern-looking cabin. Taking centrestage in the centre console is a new 6” 2-Din colour touch-screen entertainment system compatible with DVD, USB, Aux & Bluetooth. The screen also serves as a display for the camera at the rear while reversing the vehicles. Bluetooth connectivity with mobile is very easy to carry out and hardly takes any time to carry out the pairing. Steering controls provide control over the audio, phone and Multi-Information Display (MID) functions. Controls are ergonomically placed and the material quality of most buttons is acceptable.
A major addition to the cabin is a six-way electrically-adjustable driver seat, adding to the value-offering of the vehicle. Going by the segment standards though the passenger seat too should’ve featured electric-adjustability.
Overall, the Fortuner’s cabin is spacious and legroom in the middle-row is very good along with comfortable and supportive seats. The third-row surprisingly offers decent legroom in comparison with some other SUVs in the same price bracket but lack of thigh-support can be a problem on longer journeys. In we had to describe it in a nutshell; the Fortuner is a genuine 7-seater SUV.
Safety & Suspension
The safety offering of the Fortuner is acceptable for its price but not a benchmark. It features dual-front airbags and ABS with EBD & Brake Assist along with Electronic Stability Control (ESC). Suspension setup at the front includes a double-wishbone arrangement and at the rear it’s a 4-link with lateral beam. Speed retardation is carried out by ventilated discs upfront and drums at the rear and although the braking performance is acceptable, discs all-round would add significantly to the safety-offering.
The first thing many might notice after a short drive is how easy the Fortuner is to drive despite its exterior dimensions. The seating position along with good all-round visibility and a fairly direct steering (for its segment) make the Fortuner very easy to drive even in dense traffic. The handling is neutral in nature and better than what one would expect from a ladder-frame chassis and a vehicle riding as high as the Fortuner.
Over bad surfaces and undulating roads the Fortuner is a very comfortable vehicle to be in and very little vibrations are transferred to the front and middle-row. It would be unfair to expect the same from the last-row due to its placement and the difference in intensity of the laws of physics working on it. At triple-digit speeds the stability is appreciable and NVH levels too are very refined.
Toyota has made more than just an attempt to provide a cosmetic change and has worked upon improving the value-offering of the Fortuner. Addition of many new features and two new variants will bring in new customers to the brand and help strengthen the Fortuner’s leading position. While the addition of new technologies has certainly improved the VFM factor of the Fortuner it’s still not the best-equipped in most areas in its segment. This however shouldn’t affect sales of the Fortuner as it features a lot of strengths, which are appealing to the SUV buyers in emerging markets and one has to credit Toyota for checking most of those boxes.
Model Price (ex-showroom Delhi)4X2 MT Rs 19, 99,000/-
4X2 AT Rs 20, 69,000/-
4X4 MT Rs 20, 99,000/-
Text: Arpit Mahendra
Photos: Noushad Ali