Toyota’s first SUV in India, the Fortuner has tasted success like none in this segment

It’s a case of better late than never for Toyota. The Fortuner was launched in 2009 and every market research analyst would have told you that a butch looking diesel-propelled proper SUV priced around 20lakhs is sure to bring in the money. This segment was earlier the preserve of soft-roaders in either all wheel drive or front wheel drive variants and enthusiasts were crying out loud for a quality substitute to theChevrolet Captiva and Honda CR-V. The Fortuner has probably been one of the most anticipated launches in the last few years and priced at Rs20, 31,142 ex-showroom New Delhi, Toyota has put the cat amongst the pigeons.

2009 Toyota Fortuner

Such has been the demand for the Fortuner that even after Toyota had suspended taking bookings, they still had a backlog of around 5000 vehicles despite having increased the production. The key we think why the Fortuner had stamped its presence is because of its ability to work both is India and Bharat.

Design

The Fortuner’s don’t-mess-with-me styling is the first thing you notice. What makes the front imposing is the chest level high set bonnet and the Fortuner simply towers over you and demands respect. The huge scoop on the bonnet for the intercooler, the skid plate under the bumper, ski rails on the roof and the double ringed headlights make it look like a thoroughbred SUV. The bumper too is set high which shows the Fortuner’s off-road capability. Built on the IMV platform which is the same as the Innova, looking at this superstructure from the side you notice the high waistline and the massive wheel arches which are filled by the stylish six-spoke 17-inch alloys that come fitted with 265/65-radials. Breaking the boxiness is the rear screen and rear quarter-glasses fused together and unlike traditional SUV styling, the spare wheel is mounted under the boot and not on the tailgate.

Interiors

2009 Toyota Fortuner
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Step inside and there is a sense of déjà vu about the interiors. The dashboard and steering wheel are exactly like the Innova. The climate control, air con vents, wooden trim and switches are all also lifted from the Innova. Unique to the Fortuner is the smart looking hooded instrument cluster above the center console. The driver position gives you that ‘master-of-all’ feeling and the ergonomic too are perfect. The layout of the cabin is practical and you get cubbyholes under the air-con vents and a big console box between the front seats.

The Fortuner is a genuine 7-seater unlike the Ford Endeavour and passengers in all three rows get good space. The seats are supportive and comfortable and front and middle row passengers get good leg and headroom. Because of the high roof line even six-footers get good space. With the seven-seat layout boot space is limited when all three rows are in place but the 50:50 splitting third row provides you with flexibility.

Standard features include roof rails, front fog lamps, rear spoiler and defogger, indicators on out-side-rear-view mirrors, climate control, leather seats, steering mounted controls, 6-CD changer, ABS and airbags.

Engine and performance

2009 Toyota Fortuner
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The Fortuner’s 3.0-litre four cylinder turbocharged and intercooled D-4D common rail injection engine produces 171PS@3600rpm and 343Nm of torque between 1400-3400rpm. The 16-valve twin cam engine produces an excellent torque spread and the variable geometry turbocharger provides smooth power delivery. The engine is noisy at low revs but it smoothens out later in the rev band.100kmph is reached in under 14seconds and a top speed of over 180kmph is achievable. For a SUV with mammoth proportions these are respectable times indeed and though this is the same motor as the Toyota Parado, it is not as refined as the smaller D4-D in the Innova. Mated to a five-speed manual gearbox, the gearshift isn’t as slick as we’d have liked it to be and the throws are long. Power delivery is smooth and linear, and gear ratios are well matched to the engine’s torque. The claimed ARAI fuel efficiency of 12.55kmpl is above average considering the size of the Fortuner.

The vehicle has full time all wheel drive and it comes with lockable differential in addition to a two-speed low ratio gearbox for engaging high and low ranges. There’s no doubting its ability to lug this large SUV effortlessly in low traction conditions.

Ride

2009 Toyota Fortuner
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The Innova, Hilux pick-up and the Fortuner all share the same body-on-chassis construction unlike the typical soft roader monocoque construction. The Fortuner comes with double wishbone front suspension and at the rear is a four-link set-up with coil springs and gas-charged shock absorbers with an additional control rod included to correct pitching. Despite its body-on-ladder chassis antecedents, the Fortuner like the Innova is car-like in its manners which cannot be said about the likes of the Mitsubishi Pajero and Ford Endeavour.

The ride quality is pretty good on unblemished surfaces but it is a little jerky over broken tarmac. At high speeds the suspension absorbs everything you throw at it and the steering is direct and well weighed and there is no torque steer since its AWD. The handling though isn’t one of its strong points which is not surprising considering its traditional SUV layout. It rolls around corners and while there is plenty of grip from the 4WD system and wide tyres, you need to know when to lift off from the pedal. The Fortuner however makes up for its handling shortcomings with excellent off-road capabilities.

Competition

The Ford Endeavour was the segment leader before the launch of Fortuner. Its 3-litre engine offers sufficient performance for the road and good torque for your off road adventures and ride and handling too has improved over the years. The Mitsubishi Pajero is a dated model but it’s off road heritage can’t be ignored nor can India’s love with the Pajero brand.

Verdict

2009 Toyota Fortuner
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The Fortuner is a genuinely competent SUV, it appeals to both the ’hardcore’ 4x4 enthusiasts and to those who are looking for an alternative to a soft roader. Its road presence can’t be matched by others and it’s got everything you are looking for – strong performance, space and practicality. While the engine isn’t as quiet as the Innova’s and the ride and handling can’t match the CR-V’s, it boasts of go-anywhere ability and the price tag only sweetens the deal.

Karanbir