The opportunity of visiting a farm nestled in the foothills of the Langeberg that boasts a number of gravel tracks climbing into the mountains with varying degrees of surface and gradient, does not come often and offers the chance to test a real SUV. I realised just this recently when the new Toyota Fortuner 2.4GD-6 4×4 Automatic arrived on my doorstep.
Due to meet the family, it was necessary to pack more than the usual equipment and refreshments required for a long weekend away. The load area held more than I had expected without having to fold the rear seats, a plus in a vehicle destined to become family transport. It was then I discovered a feature I did not like on the Fortuner. The two extra seats that convert the vehicle into a seven seater are stowed in a very strange manner. Most seven seater SUV’s fold these rear seats into the rear floor, not the Toyota, they fold up against the load space side walls which somewhat reduces the load capability. Not a major issue but a rather odd system.
Our route was to take us from the Overstrand to Riviersonderend in the Overberg and then Stormsvlei on route for the Cape Winelands town of Bonnievale and our final destination just off the road to Swellendam. Varied road surfaces including freeways, secondary roads and gravel, provided a nice mix to challenge the Fortuner’s prowess as a good all rounder.
Driving on provincial tarred roads the Fortuner showed its merits as an excellent form of everyday family transport. A significant change is the suspension and the use of a four-link, coil spring rear suspension removes that feel of a bakkie based SUV and affords a much smoother sedan like ride. The interior is well appointed and has a high quality finish, controls are ergonomically positioned and intuitive. The leather covered seats are comfortable and provide good support for all occupants and that large cargo space ensures the Fortuner will even cope with a school run when all the children insist on bringing every item they own. Noise levels, both wind and road, have been significantly reduced due to good acoustic design, providing a low ambient noise level in the cabin
The chassis provided very respectable driving dynamics, the Fortuner handled impressively well for a vehicle of its type and size.
The 2.4 litre four cylinder, turbo diesel delivers110kW @ 3,400 r/min and more importantly a very healthy 400Nm of torque between 1600 and 2000 r/min. Coupled to a six speed automatic transmission with ratios well matched to the power output it provides an easy, effortless driving experience. . Claimed fuel consumption is 8.2 litres/100km, but we were closer to the10 litres/100km mark, still very acceptable when you consider the varied conditions we traversed
Reaching our destination we unpacked and wasted no time in heading for the hills.
Four of us on board and 4H selected we explored the natural beauty of this area from points that the average visitor never sees. No matter how challenging the tracks the Fortuner climbed effortlessly ever higher to even more spectacular scenery. It’s comforting to know on roads like this that there is 279mm of ground clearance and 4L and differential lock if the going gets very tough. Stopping and starting on steep gradients for photo opportunities presented no problems, the standard hill-start assist and hill holder made life very easy.
The 2.4 version does not offer a hill descent system, but that is no problem, engage 4L shift into Sport mode select third gear and take your foot off the brake, the Fortuner does the rest, while you just keep it pointed in the right direction.
Admittedly the Toyota Fortuner 2.4GD-6 4×4 Auto does not offer all the features of its larger engined sibling, but do you actually need them, will they make your specific form of motoring that much better? Consider the cost and you may think twice, big brother will set you back another R133,100. I would opt for the 2.4 and use the price differential to put diesel in the tank so that the Fortuner could spend many more hours exploring our beautiful region. This one is a definite all round winner and is sure to bolster Toyota’s already strong position in this segment.
Toyota Fortuner 2.4GD-6 4×4 Auto – R531,800
Price includes a 3 year/100,000km warranty and a 5 year/90,000km service plan.