Toyota’s flagship Fortuner VX is an impressive 4×4, a conclusion I came to after a two-day journey through the Western Cape which afforded the opportunity to get down to the nitty-gritty details of the latest evolution of the seven-seater.
While it’s not perfect, the balance of positives far outweighs the negatives and it’s not hard to see why South Africans love it so much.
The Fortuner range can be had with a 2.4-litre or 2.8-litre turbo-diesel engine, the latter being equipped to the top-end model provided at launch.
The six-speed automatic driveline produces 150kW and 500Nm and the way in which it delivers power is different from rivals with similar outputs.
It’s not that fuel efficient or quiet, but it’s smooth as silk and eager to please, and since it’s a Toyota, it’ll probably last until your grandkids are allowed to drive it.
Build quality is one of the top priorities for customers of the Fortuner, according to a survey by Toyota South Africa which found that 73% of owners consider this attribute as being the most important aspect in their purchasing decision alongside reliability.
The Fortuner lives up to the high expectations as not one part or panel on the vehicle seems like it was cutting corners on cost or assembly time.
From the very first pull of the door handle, to the buttons on the infotainment system, to the leather on the seats, to the wood on the steering wheel, to the patterned plastics used to decorate the centre console, everything feels high quality and like it’s going to last for a long time.
In the VX grade, the Fortuner’s touchscreen infotainment system is hooked up to a JBL stereo with a total of 11 speakers dotted around the passenger compartment.
This is one of the best speaker systems to be fitted to any car on the market regardless of price, and I was immensely impressed with the directional audio it is capable of which is akin to the performance of a set of high-end earbuds.
The second-generation Fortuner hit the proverbial shelf in 2016 and as always, the manufacturer has tweaked and updated it since then, but the basic architecture of the vehicle has remained the same all this time.
Consequently, the SUV does not provide the smoothest ride in its segment and is noticeably bumpier than a few of its rivals.
Thankfully, Toyota is aware of this and we were assured that when the next-generation Fortuner comesit will be capable of competing with the best of the best in the comfort category.
Black plastic buttons epitomise the Fortuner’s interior and while they function perfectly and are reassuring to the touch, they aren’t nice to look at and seem like an afterthought in a vehicle whose price is slowly edging towards a million rand.
A bit of chrome edging on this switch and subtle knurling on that dial goes a long way in supplying a premium ambience, and the Fortuner VX selling for between R837,800 and R915,400 could certainly do more in this area.
There are also heaps of blank buttons for the most enthusiastic of buyers to install switches for their own accessories such as floodlights and fridges, but do you really need more than a half-dozen of them placed all around the cabin?
Another consequence of the now-outdated foundation is the fact that there is no space for the sixth and seventh seats to fold beneath the floorboards.
As such, they are mounted and folded up to the sides of the boot which eats up a considerable amount of room with the result being that the large SUV isn’t capable of swallowing much more cargo than your average family sedan.
This configuration also shows off anything and everything you have back there to the world, as the seats have the added disadvantage of not being able to install a parcel cover.
Again, Toyota hinted that the new model that’s landing in a few years will take care of this, and in the meantime, owners can head to their local dealer and request them to remove the rear-most seats if they do not have a need for them.
The more daring of Fortuner drivers can also climb in there with their own set of spanners if they feel up to the task, but be warned, someone who already did this themselves told me that it removed patches of the boot’s paintwork where the bolts were fastened.
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