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KNYSNA, Southern Cape – The Toyota Fortuner is a significant seller in our market. Not only is it the clear leader in its bakkie-based SUV segment, but with around 1 000 monthly sales, it is one of the most popular vehicles overall.

Considering this, it might not come as surprise that Toyota South Africa Motors has decided to add another derivative to its Fortuner line-up. For the first time in the Fortuner, the 2,4 GD-6 engine has been combined with 4x4. And, at a price of R506 000, this newcomer undercuts its 2,8 GD-6 4x4 AT sibling by R118 100.

In addition, the firm has made a handful of specification changes across the range (including the addition of airbags), which you can read about here.

Behind the wheel

During and after the launch of this updated range (which also included the revised Hilux line-up), I was able to cover around 700 km on the open roads of the Southern and Western Cape.

In addition, I briefly sampled the Fortuner away from the tarmac. It's no secret how capable these vehicles are off the beaten track, something emphasised by our experience on a short level-three off-road sand course. Thanks to some light rain, the sand was fairly compact and the Fortuner had no problems completing the course.

Only the top specification models are fitted with downhill assist control (DAC), but this feature's absence has little effect its ability since sensitive brake pedal applications can do a similar job during steep downhill sections.

Gaining a 4x4 drivetrain obviously adds weight to the Fortuner. However, when off-roading, the 110 kW and 400 N.m will generally be enough for most scenarios, bar perhaps climbing big dunes.

On the road heading back to Cape Town, the Fortuner displayed a similar breadth of ability. Driving at an indicated 120 km/h (with the rev counter settling at a pleasingly low 1 800 to 1 900 r/min), the six-speed automatic transmission at times shifted to fifth or even fourth gear heading up hills to maintain momentum. However, I never felt that the engine was working too hard. That said, if you plan on towing heavy leisure equipment, it might be wise to consider one of the more powerful derivatives.

I was also surprised by just how quiet the vehicle was from the driver's seat. I currently run a (more expensive) Honda CR-V as my daily commuter, but the Fortuner was on the same level in terms of interior noise suppression.

Summary

Before the addition of this new variant, the only diesel 4x4 automatic in the range was the 2,8 GD-6 4x4 AT mentioned above. As Toyota pointed out during this launch, this segment (like most) is moving towards automatic transmissions, and that is part of the reason this derivative has been added.

Not only is it significantly more affordable, but you'll likely seldom need the additional 20 kW and 50 N.m from the 2,8-litre engine. For everyday driving and most off-road conditions, this new derivative tick all the boxes...

DRIVEN: Toyota Fortuner 2,4 GD-6... the sweetspot in the new range?          

 

Toyota Fortuner… Hilux-based SUV… sells like hot cakes in South Africa… this is the new generation… you’ve already tested it in your current issue… why then this online review?
Correct on all accounts. The new generation Fortuner is indeed the scoop test in our April issue, now available on shelves. However. That exclusive road test was of the top-of-the-range turbodiesel – the 2,8 GD-6 4x4 auto – but the national launch earlier this week gave me the opportunity to drive some of the other models, including the considerably cheaper 2,4 GD 4x2 manual turbodiesel.

How much cheaper?
R153 000 cheaper. A lot, right? And given these current state of our economy, I think this just might be the derivative that sells the most. Sure, it’s not a 4x4 and doesn’t quite have the spec of that 2,8 but not every Fortuner owner is a.) going to be tackling serious off-road terrain and b.) is able to afford the 2,8 GD-6 4x4’s asking price of R589 400. For the full Fortuner price list, click here.

Okay, so tell me what I’ll be getting for my R436 400?
Let’s talk drivetrain first and start off by mentioning that there is also an auto version at R453 400. Like all have in the new Fortuner range, it’s a 6-speed auto and, having tested that transmission in the above-mentioned road test, the unit does the job though is a tad sluggish. I have, on the other hand, no criticisms of the 6-speed manual – it felt precise and slick, and I think it's able to best take advantage of what’s surprisingly good 2,4 diesel power unit.

Really? Are you saying it can do the job that the 2,8 can?
I am… it’s like you’re reading my mind. On paper, the 2.4 GD-6’s 110kW (at 3 400 r/min) and 400 N.m of torque between 1 600 and 2 000 r/min (the auto version delivers 450 N.m), might seem a little off the boil up against the 2,8 auto’s 130 kW/450 N.m. On the road though, the difference feels a lot less. Sure, above 2 000 r/min the torque does fall away compared to the 2,8, but unless you're really gunning it on the highway during overtaking you're not going to notice the shortfall too much.

Our drive from Klipbbokkop nature reserve through Villiersdorp, Grabouw and back to Cape Town – with three in the car and accompanying luggage – involved some gravel road, a mountain pass, and plenty of over-taking thanks to it being apple-picking season with the roads occupied by many Granny Smith-bearing freight trucks. Even with our manual derivative's 50 N.m handicap, this 2,4 handled these conditions without breaking a sweat. There’s more than enough grunt to handle the demands of everyday driving and, as mentioned, I suspect the manual ‘box may be best suited to get the best out the engine.

And the interior spec? Because that 2,8 GD-6 4x4 really looks the business.
As the new Hiux’s interior is a big step up from the previous generation, the same applies to the Fortuner. And whereas the previous Fortuner’s dashboard mimicked the Hilux, this new one gets its own specific design.

The 2,4’s interior isn’t quite as fancy as the 2,8’s Prado-like treatment, but the basic design is same with an attractive vertical arrangement as opposed to the Hilux’s more traditional horizontal execution.

The main differences are the harder plastics and rubber on top of the dash and door panels, the absence of the touch screen infotainment system, and fabric (as opposed to leather) seats. These seats were my least favourite part of the car. They’re comfortable but the the centres of the squab, back rest, and the headrest are covered in a shiny, almost neoprene-like, fabric that maybe hardwearing, but is a bit chintzy for my taste.

The list of standard features remain impressive though and includes: push start; tilt and telescopic steering column; cruise control; speed sensing auto door lock; front and knee airbags; vehicle stability control; active traction control; trailer sway control; hill-start assist control; drive mode select; illuminated entry; chilled glovebox; front fog lamps; rear spoiler; roof rails; side steps; 17” alloys; and a full alloy spare wheel.

Sounds like this might be the sweet spot in the range then?
I certainly think it is. I was very impressed with this engine’s abilities and the interior might not be as luxurious as its much more expensive sibling’s, but it has all the grunt, interior comfort, and safety spec required of a family vehicle. While it might not offer the refined ride of a unibody SUV, with the Fortuner’s multi-link coil spring suspension, the ride is none-the-less impressive for a ladder chassis-based vehicle.

As highlighted in our road test, the third row of seats that fold to the sides of the cabin remain an irritation. Toyota claim their customer research shows this is the preferred stowaway solution as it allows you to remove them altogether. That, however is a cumbersome, operation that requires a spanner and we would’ve preferred them to stow away into the floor space like the Ford Everest and Chevrolet Trailblazer.

If you can live with that though – and judging by the amount of Fortuners sold in this country, many can – I think this 2,4 GD-6 is where the smart money is.

 

 

 

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