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Why the Toyota Fortuner is still South Africa’s most loved SUV

By Graeme Lund - Dec 5, 2016
Why the Toyota Fortuner is still South Africa’s most loved SUV

In mid-2006, the seven-seat Fortuner SUV made its debut in South Africa and turned the new vehicle market completely on its head. With sales regularly exceeding 1 000 units a month, the Hilux-based Fortuner became the country’s best selling SUV month after month and year after year – a position it still holds today thanks to the all-new 2016 edition.

A mid-life facelift in 2012 saw it receiving a range of cosmetic tweaks, and now, in 2016, along with the introduction of the new eighth generation Hilux, we have a completely new Fortuner.

Being a long time, two generation, Fortuner owner, I was very happy to be given the opportunity to test drive the latest model.  It turned out to be an Arctic White 2.8 GD-6 4x4 with manual transmission. 

I, along with many other Toyota Fortuner/Hilux fans, have been somewhat nervous and somewhat excited to see how the new 2.8 GD-6 engine performed relative to the tried and tested 3 D4-D and to see if the latest models had the same tough and rugged yet very comfortable and ergonomic interior.

The 2.8 GD offers up 130kW and 420Nm with the manual transmission.  Despite the engine being smaller than the D4-D predecessor, the GD-6 produces slightly more kW-ten to be precise, and 73 more Nm.

My first trip was up Mount Road, in Port Elizabeth, and, with the street name being perfectly descriptive of the incline; I was able to give the performance of this new vehicle its first test.  In short, I was impressed – the additional power was clearly evident and the responsiveness to depressions of the accelerator was noticeably quicker than the previous model.

Making up a big part of the GD-6’s performance are the six gears found in both automatic and manual derivatives. This represents a quantum leap over the D4-D’s four-speed self-shifter and five speed stick and offers a smooth and precise shift.

In addition to its new heart, the GD-6 also comes fitted with an industry first Drive Mode Selector that is aimed at neither improving fuel economy (ECO) and/or boosting performance (PWR). With ECO selected, throttle response is dulled with the box going about its business unfazed. Press the PWR button, however, and everything changes; throttle response is more immediate while the box responds quicker with each shift.

Other new features include Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Active Traction Control (ATC), Trailer Sway Control (TSC), Hill-start Assist Control (HAC) and Drive Mode Select. Downhill Assist Control (DAC) is available on the 4x4 derivatives only. There are big 338mm brakes at the front, with 312mm anchors on stopping duty at the rear. Under heavy braking, the hazard lamps will flash to provide an emergency signal to other road users. There are a large number of airbags too, depending on the derivative.

The interior is far more sophisticated than the older model. The interior of the pre-2016 models where clearly first designed for the bakkie versions, being simple and robust while the 2016 model I tested was more like a smart sedan interior being made more robust for a bakkie.

The layout not only looks modern and smart, but feels upmarket with the newly designed concave dash finished in a mix of soft touch materials, leather, metallic inserts and piano-key black detailing.

The standard specification is substantial. Audio systems with four to six speakers, an auxiliary/USB port, AM/FM radio and a CD player all come standard. The radio on the 2.8 GD and 4.0 V6 come with DAB+ digital radio and a 7” screen with DVD compatibility, as well as a reversing camera display. The flagship 4.0 V6 comes with satellite navigation. There's also Bluetooth connectivity, steering-wheel audio and telephone controls, as well as power door locks, windows and mirrors. Air conditioning is also standard and there are ventilation controls for the second-row passengers. The glovebox is air-cooled, meaning you can store two 500ml bottles. For those, who require additional power, all models feature three 12-volt accessory sockets.

As I am sure any Fortuner fan has noticed, the exterior look is also more sophisticated. 

“The new Fortuner has a long, wider stance versus the previous model, and its capabilities to adapt into every environment like a chameleon have been reinforced,” says Calvyn Hamman, Sales and Marketing Senior Vice President of Toyota South Africa Motors.

Gone is the old smiley frontal appearance in place of a more muscular and striking appearance, characterised by a smaller wraparound chrome grille, angular swept back headlights, flared wheel arches, and rear window that looks more galactic than gravel.

Once you’ve test driven the new Fortuner, it is easy to see why it remains the top SUV in the country.  Without a doubt I would buy the new Fortuner!

To book a test drive, visit Algoa Toyota Newton Park at 347 Cape Road, Port Elizabeth, or contact them on 041 393 2000.