With the new Toyota Fortuner, you’re primed and ready to explore our great country

The South African landscape offers many diverse ecosystems – from desert, semi-desert and savannah, to sub-tropical, forests and fynbos – and many of these are within a few hours’ drive from the Cape, especially if you have the key to Toyota’s latest family SUV, the Fortuner. Equipped with the new 2,4 GD-6 four-cylinder turbodiesel engine, it delivers 110 kW and 400 N.m to carry four adults and their luggage to any remote location. The adventure begins the moment the last door is shut and the engine stop/start button is pressed.

Leaving a silhouetted Table Mountain and the expanse of the Cape Flats behind, we point the Fortuner’s nose east and head up a mist-enshrouded Sir Lowry’s Pass. Over the top, the dissipating grey reveals a carpet of canola flowers common in the Overberg region at this time of the year and, although the temperature is still chilly on this winter’s morning, ensconced inside the Fortuner, the climate control system keeps an even temperature for both front and rear passengers. The seats are comfortable and supportive, giving all occupants on board a perfect view over the landscape, and the cooled glove compartment chills our drinks.

Keeping a constant speed via the short indicator stalk that controls the cruise control, the engine makes light work of maintaining the national speed limit, while the Bluetooth connection allows us to play our desired audio entertainment, or make phone calls. Not that we’ll need this capability for too long; there’s no cellphone reception where we’re going. Our quest for adventure takes us along a road that twists and turns through the Elgin Valley, into the small town of Kleinmond with its harbour area, shops and restaurants, and across the mineral-rich-tea-coloured Palmiet River a kilometre further on. A right turn leads to a partially paved gravel road and into Cape Nature’s Kogelberg Nature Reserve. For the next three kilometres, the Fortuner threads through the surrounding mountains to the six Oudebosch eco cabins.

Such is their seclusion that standing on the deck of one of these cabins feels like you’ve travelled back a 100 years. There’s a breathtakingly beautiful view over the valley and the soft and peaceful sound of the river is a soundtrack to this wonderful example of nature’s splendour and tranquillity. Although there are no 4x4 trails on offer, you can unload mountain bikes and cycle the trails, go hiking and even kayaking – all equipment that Fortuner owners around South Africa will no doubt be very familiar with.

The next morning, though, it’s time to stow away the adventure toys and put the Fortuner to the test. The Honingklip 4x4 Trail on the other side of Kleinmond is only a 15-minute drive from the town centre. It’s a working farm that boasts a combination of surfaces for the off-road enthusiast and his steed. The course is set up to offer a mixture of green and red challenges, aimed at both the novice off-road driver as well as the more experienced one. A simple turn of the electronic switch engages 4H (four-wheel drive, high range), but soon the obstacles and trail gets trickier and the dial gets turned another click to the right and 4L mode (four-wheel drive, low-range) is activated. By also pressing the button to activate the electronic rear-differential lock, the Fortuner is now primed to conquer any of Honingklip’s obstacles.

Soon the trail changes from gravel sections into a beautiful sand arena where we quickly disengage the ESP (electronic stability programme) to allow the Fortuner’s more playful side to come to the fore. Apart from kicking up long rooster tails of sand, it’s the ideal surface to see the SUV’s various systems work, sending the available torque to the wheel with the most traction. The six-speed automatic transmission is a boon in these loose conditions, allowing the driver to fully focus on throttle and steering inputs, as the transmission seamlessly shifts gears. Should the unexpected happen, the Fortuner also comes equipped with a full-size spare alloy.

Back on the tarmac and heading home from our brief adventure, there are few more beautiful coastal roads than the R44 from Betty’s Bay back to the Mother City. Equipped with a 265/65 R17 wheel-and-tyre combination, the Fortuner’s on-road manners are impressive for a vehicle of this type. The asphalt stretches offer a relaxing return journey, with road undulations and irregularities kept well enough under control, as is fuel consumption with a claimed average consumption of 7,9 L/100 km (an 80-litre fuel tank means conveniently long gaps between fuel stops). It’s been a fun-filled few days for us in a vehicle perfectly designed for a spontaneous adventure getaway. With enough space for all our kit and equipment, and bulletproof ability to tackle any off-road terrain, the Fortuner truly inspires you to pack your bags and go exploring.