This new Fortuner comes with a 2.8-litre diesel engine similar to the one in the recently launched Innova Crysta. Although it makes similar power of 174bhp as the Innova, the torque rating of 420Nm for the manual and 450Nm for the automatic are significantly higher than the latter.
The extra torque is welcome because the Fortuner is an 185kg heavier than its MPV sibling. We drove the manual transmission first and came away very impressed. This motor feels better in every way than in the older car and outright performance and refinement has improved drastically. But, it’s not the outright performance, but rather the manner in which the engine delivers its power that is at the heart of the new Fortuner’s appeal.
The torquey motor is so responsive that it makes the heavy Toyota feel light on its feet and the engine pulls without fuss from as low as 1,500rpm with a stronger surge coming in post 2000rpm. The mid-range punch of this motor is superb and you feel there’s always surplus power. Overtaking is effortless and the Fortuner sails past slow-moving vehicles with utmost ease.
It’s not an engine that likes to be revved though and it’s best to shift up before 4,000rpm to land back in the meat of the powerband. Toyota is offering driving modes too and all of them are usable in any given condition. In Eco mode there is a slight hesitation from the motor at low revs as you can feel a step in power around 2000rpm. Switch to normal mode and the power delivery becomes linear and in Sport mode the motor feels very responsive and eager.
The gearshifts on the 6-speed manual transmission aren’t the most precise and have long throws. But, the iMT feature completely changes the driving experience for the better. iMT basically smoothens the gear selection by automatically setting the optimal engine revs to allow the smoothest possible gear changes. Although there will be a fuel efficiency penalty, it is well worth the compromise and you can always switch it off when not needed.
The automatic gearbox on the other hand is bit of a mixed bag. The gearbox is best left to its own device as there’s not much point in you hurrying it through the gears in tiptronic mode. It’s slow to respond to taps on the gear lever and slow to upshift. Also the automatic Fortuner tends to free wheel as soon as you go off throttle, which makes driving downhill a stressful affair. Yes, you can have some engine braking when in manual mode, but here too its lasts for about a few seconds before it loses resistance in favour of free-wheeling; also read as increased fuel efficiency.
Like the old car you still get a ride that is compromised thanks to the non-independent rear suspension and stiff springs. Its centre of gravity remains high too. As a result, the new Fortuner feels lumpy over uneven tarmac and there’s pronounced up and down motion, especially at low speeds. At higher speeds, the big wheels and the suspension do a better job, but the ride still remains jiggly and borderline uncomfortable.
Except for the steering, which has good weight and is rather direct, the handling is quite old school off-roader like. It rolls around in corners, but it surprisingly feels manageable and most importantly it doesn’t feel massive from behind the wheel. There is plenty of grip from the wide tyres and the upgraded all round ventilated disc setup gives it good stopping power.
The new Toyota Fortuner in the 4×4 guise still gets low range for the occasional mud plugging duties. But, unlike the old permanent AWD system, the new one also has a 2WD mode. The new 4×4 hardware though isn’t as sophisticated as the old system. Where the old car had the ability of splitting torque between the front and the rear wheels depending on traction, the new one gets a fixed 50:50 split and relies on braking the wheel with less traction and continuing to send power to the wheels with most traction. We will be able to tell you how well this simpler system works only after taking it for a proper off-road drive.