For a sedan driver all my life, test driving the Toyota Fortuner is quite an experience that will not come by frequently.
The Toyota Fortuner 2.7L dual VVT-i is the much-needed refresh of the line since 2005 – 11 years later. I had a shock when I was brought to the car by the Toyota Singapore rep. It literally stood out among the rows of cars at the parking lots. The Fortuner shares the same vehicle platform as the Hilux truck, with an impressive road presence, all-terrain capability, and tough heavy-duty ladder-frame structure.
My test drive, like all previous cars, lasted just 3 days and 2 nights. It took me much courage to drive off this behemoth, as I attempted to re-orientate the vehicle size to make sure I manoeuvre through the traffic without hitting any expensive object. After all, the Fortuner only comes with reverse parking sensor and camera but no front parking sensors. Thanks to my decade of driving experience, I managed to get past the initial jitters rather quick so that I can truly assess the experience of the Toyota Fortuner.
Roomy Seats and Compartments
Being a huge car, Toyota is able to offer liberal space on the seats and plenty of compartments to store stuff. There are 2 glove compartments in front of the passenger seats, compartments at the doors, cup holders at the front that can be hidden, even compartments at the sides of the last row.
Unlike most MPVs or coupe, the last row is accessed by folding up the middle row, which I thought was great. Potentially I could fold away the middle row and sit at the last row, pretending the Fortuner was a limousine. I could fold just one section of the middle row if I needed a balance, like a mini-van configuration. With this config, rear passengers can work on things that require huge legroom, like using laptops.
On top of that, the middle row can shift back and forth to adjust leg room, or tilt the backrest for additional comfort. The last row can also be folded – not to the floor, but to the sides – to give room for storage.
The backdoor is electric-powered for ultimate ease of access. Just make sure you leave ample room at the parking lot and not too close to the other cars or the wall. I do have the tendency to park all the way since the Fortuner has super-high ground clearance so I never had no fear scratching the rear bumper against the curb.
While the Fortuner has a seating capacity of 7 (2-3-2), there is no problem squeezing one more head at the last row. 8 adults can be seated comfortably, and the Fortuner does not feel a drag at all when driving with full load. Check out the 360 photo below (click the bottom right of the pic for full-screen view).
Toyota made sure every passenger gets their fair share of air-conditioning, as air vents are available above every seat, with adjustable fan speed and temperature setting.
All passengers are well-protected with 7 SRS airbags, vehicle stability control, anti-lock braking, electronic brake force distribution with brake assist. The interior trims come with charmois (light brown, review unit) or brown (dark, almost black).
The very first comment from all my passengers, after the fact that the Fortuner is high up above the roads, is that the ride is bouncy. Indeed, every bump and uneven road condition is amplified on the Fortuner. It is not as painful as the hard suspension tunings on sporty cars, but it could get rocky. There is no reason to handle the Fortuner like a sports car, though, and one shouldn’t, with its 12.47-sec acceleration to 100kmh. The steering wheel is not exactly light, but I’m quite used to the weight compared to my VW Jetta.
The Fortuner, running on 6-speed Super ECT gearbox, has a few ways and modes to drive. There is the normal default drive mode, the Eco mode and the Power mode which can be selected behind the gear shift stick, out of driver’s sight, requiring my fingers to feel around before getting them. There is the “S” mode by pushing the gear stick to the right while at the “D” mode, and under the “S” mode, I can manually select the gear by nudging the gear stick up or down the + and – positions. Finally, the paddle shift behind the wheel offers similar manual override in any drive modes.
My drive experience tells me that there isn’t much difference among the numerous drive modes, especially when it all boils down to how hard I step on the accelerator and my choice of gear shift through overriding either on the gear stick at “S” mode or on the paddle shift during any drive mode. Ultimately, there is just 2 modes that you just need to use. The “Eco mode” is good when you feel like going in a leisure drive, when you are driving in a speed-control zone, when you are running low on fuel. In this mode, the car takes the auto gear shift easy, and does not rev too aggressively when you floor the pedal. The other mode to use is the normal mode. Why I do not recommend the Power mode or “S” mode is because these modes lack the aggressive gear response that I would associate to a sporty drive. It still lacks that sporty shift, so I find it better to shift manually using the paddle shift.
Now comes the other part of the gear system feature on the Fortuner. The A.I. gear shift control is unlike other conventional gears. The gear number displayed on the dashboard indicates the highest gear to go to, but not necessarily the current gear. When I select a higher gear that is outside the speed range (e.g. D5 when stationary), instead of preventing the selection, the Fortuner will display the target gear number, and automatically shift until it reaches the selected gear. When I decelerate, the gearbox will automatically shift down but the gear display on the dashboard remains as the user-selected number. Hence, to make the car down-shift, the driver selects the gear number lower than the current gear, which may be unknown to the driver. So for instance, the engine is at D3, the gear number displays D5, so if I want to downshift, I have to paddle shift down 3 notches to get to “D2”. But if the current gear is “D”, tapping the paddle shift down once will change to D2.
This also explains why when I change from D to S, the dashboard would display S4 as default, indicating the gear number that the car will automatically shift up to, but not necessarily mean the current gear the car is running on. From there, I can decide to change the maximum gear shift to S6, but the car will not immediately shift to S6. This also explains why when I manually shift the gear up to D6, the dashboard would change to D, since setting D6 is no different from an automatic D mode.
I feel that this A.I. gear shift control only benefits users who needed to manually down-shift to increase the torque for the aggressive acceleration during challenging traffic conditions. It does not behave any where close to a manual gearbox, hence depriving the fun that I sometimes get out of my VW Jetta. Imagine the scenario on the Fortuner: at the stop sign, I switch the gear level from P to S, the gear number displays “S4”, I downshift 3 times to “S1”. These are the steps it takes to go into full manual. As I drive, I shift to S2, the car may or may not shift for me immediately until it feels “ya this is the right moment”. I shift to S3, the car says “wait a moment… ok good time to shift up”.
On the whole, do not expect it to achieve a sporty torque or fun with the gear shifts, but putting aside the engine sound at above 2000 rpm, the car is actually nimble enough to overtake most other non-turbo sedans. The engine can get vocal during such petrol-guzzling moments, but the beast quietens down during cruising or light throttling. And considering the cushy suspension, it is highly recommended to take it easy on the ride, and you will get a car load of appreciative passengers. The Fortuner is speced to achieve 10.7 l/100 km, and my test drive got me about 14.
The geek in me spent quite a fair bit of time playing with the 8-inch InTouch Telematic system. Running on iAuto OS, it resembles Android OS: a home screen with multiple pages, resizable widgets, a dropdown notification bar, downloadable apps from the iAuto Store.
The types of features that you can have on the system is limited by the apps. For now, there are social apps like Facebook, Instagram, web browser, among others. To get data connectivity, connect via Wi-Fi through any mobile device. The navigation system traces the route that you currently take, and also provides traffic information.
The disc tray is hidden behind the panel, which tilts upwards to reveal the slot.
There is a micro-HDMI port and a full-size USB port at the bottom right. There are capacitive touch buttons along the right side of the display to control volume, back and home. The display supports multi-finger gestures for ease of navigating the system.
What excites me is that the infotainment system supports Miracast, which means I can mirror my smartphone to the display and interact with it, albeit slight lag and occasional pixelation. The system also plays video from multiple sources. And if you prefer a more direct video input, plug your video source via the HDMI port.
Like many in-car systems, certain features are disabled from accessing while the car is in motion. For instance, I cannot access the phone keypad to dial a number while driving. I also cannot configure destination on the navigation map while driving but I can zoom and pan the map. Another inconvenience with the infotainment system is that there is this mandatory warning message that the user must press “OK” before the home screen appears.
The speakers are better enjoyed when I turn up the volume, with the pair of tweeters next to the side mirror to deliver clear treble, rounded mids and good bass. I do miss having a volume knob so that I can adjust the volume quicker than multiple taps on the volume buttons.
Below the Telematics System is the air-con control panel. The left knob adjusts the fan power while the right adjusts the temperature. Pressing the left button enables the rear air-con, but adjusting the rear air-con is done separately at the rear control panel.
Dashboard and Steering Controls
Compared to the Toyota Prius, the Toyota Fortuner has far fewer in-car information. From what I have gathered, the full-colour multi-information display in between the 2 analogue dashboard meters provides information like average fuel consumption, distance, average speed.
The steering controls to the left allow me to navigate the infotainment system without distractions, like changing audio source, adjusting volume, changing tracks, activating voice control, answering calls. The right controls are to navigate the dashboard display exclusively. There is a programmable button that lets the driver access the driving information quickly at one touch.
What My Daughter Likes About the New Fortuner
This is my daughter’s fifth car review – after the VW Jetta (my own), Volvo S60 T5, VW Sportsvan, and Toyota Prius. She always claims the latest car is her favourite. Here’s why she now likes the Toyota Fortuner:
- It’s big.
- It’s tall – she even googled if the Fortuner is the tallest car.
- Sits up to 8 people – 7 according to Toyota, but there is room for 1 more.
- Middle row seats can be folded away to make more room for her to feel like a princess.
- Steps to enter the car – she probably feels like she is entering a horse carriage.
- The Telematic system has large display which she can see clearly even from the back.
- She can see the boot just by turning her head behind.
- The boot door can be opened and closed automatically.
What do I like about the Toyota Fortuner? I love the generous space, the ability to sit 7 to 8 persons, the ability to fold up the seats neatly for a limousine-like comfort, with air-con vents for every row. I love the adequate engine performance even with a full load, the relatively-efficient fuel performance when driving with a light foot, the smooth gear shifts. I find that even if I won’t take the car for off-road use, I will benefit if I need to frequently load up with all sorts of stuff. Just need to be wary of the huge car space required when parking, as well as the height clearance of almost 1.9m. Finally, despite the over-intelligent gear shift system, I like that I can easily down-shift the gear with the paddle shift behind the wheel, and I can promptly revert to full auto by up-shifting the gear to the max – my way of working around the system. What can I say? I’m an adaptable guy.
It would be even better if the Fortuner comes with more parking sensors to aid the new owners who are first-time SUV owners of such huge size. The car height might also be a challenge for the elderly to access. Even I have a challenge trying to get in and out graciously. Finally, the car is not the most environmentally friendly, producing 253 grams of CO2 per km.
Thank you Toyota Singapore for the opportunity to try a vehicle that I would never in my wildest dream have gone for a test drive. Now that I have, I think I can get used to the imposing height that oversees all other cars on the roads. Go test drive and experience the heightened driving sensation the roads, and check out the interior configuration to determine if it is your fortune to own it.