The opportunity for a family trip to the Kruger National Park worked out perfectly as it also presented a chance to do more kilometres on the road with a test vehicle than schedules normally allow – in this case the Fortuner 2.8 GD6 4x4 VX; the flagship of the revised range.

Impressions reinforced

Never mind the styling upgrades and interior aesthetics. What grabbed our attention at the launch of the revised range was the significantly improved ride. The suspension setup has been reworked along with Noise, Vibration and Harshness (NVH) characteristics to produce a much more stable and quieter journey and the trip into the bush simply reinforced this.

While Toyota was not revealing exactly what the suspension tweaks were, the Fortuner feels more connected to the road with little of the rear wheel shudder that often is present on rippled dirt roads. Equally, road, wind and tyre noise are reduced to the absolute minimum.

However, looks remain an important element in the process of choice for a new car and Toyota has modernised the Fortuner in line with its current design language seen on the like of the Corolla Cross and this means the sharp-edge nose styling said to resemble a catamaran hull.

Lighting has also been improved with split-quad LEDs in combination with L-shaped LED daytime running lights and LED indicator lamps. Additionally, the entire range now has two-tone black and metal 18-inch wheels.

Leather upholstery is standard on all variants but our VX had the dual-tone pairing of black and maroon leather to set it apart – and, befitting its flagship status, has two Type C USB ports for rear passengers as well as a 220V plug socket.

Strangely though, the front compartment gets only one standard USB slot, although there is the 12V charging option from the lighter socket. The instrument cluster has also been revised and now features new graphics and black background ornamentation.

Safety

The latest iteration of the Fortuner is not an entirely new vehicle, but rather part of an ongoing upgrade plan and last year the 2.8 models gained a safety upgrade with Lane Keeping Assist, Lane Departure Alert, Blind Sport Monitor, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Adaptive Cruise Control and a Pre-Crash System added to the package.

In the latest version, these remain unchanged and feature as standard with the usual set of safety features such as a full set of crash bags including driver knee and curtain bags along with anti-lock braking with EBD (Electronic Brakeforce Distribution), Vehicle Stability Control and Traction Control (electronic Active Traction Control in the case of VX models). 

Driving Dynamics

Fortuner has truly stepped up and no longer can be passed off as a ‘body on a Hilux bakkie’ and the new version puts it firmly into play against some of the more usual suspects in the upper end of the mid-size luxury SUV sandpit.

The 2,8-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine under the bonnet develops 150 kW of power and 500 Nm of torque and is mated exclusively with the six-speed automatic transmission. Given a week of touring including plenty of dirt roads within the Kruger Park, freeways and some city traffic coming away with an overall fuel economy of 8,2 l/100 km is not too shabby.

The initial impressions formed at the launch did not disappoint and the VX is a sturdy, comfortable and obliging partner on the road. Part of the suspension improvements means there is less body roll when pressed into corners along with less intent to ‘push on’ into understeer.

The (adult) passengers in the second-row seats were more than happy with the amount of legroom they had – the third-row seats remaining folded for the duration of this test. However, we would love to see Toyota change that in favour of a fold-flat third row as some loading space is compromised in the current configuration.

Price 

The flagship VX version is priced at R915 400 and all Fortuner models are covered by a 3-year/100 000 km warranty and a 9-services/90 000 km service plan. Service intervals are set at 10 000 km.

Colin Windell – proudly CHANGECARS