Firstly, let’s look at where the Fortuner concept was born. The SUV derivative of the Hilux began life in 1998 with the introduction of the Hilux Sport Rider, which was built in Thailand and initially sold only in selected Southeast Asian countries. In 2005, however, this model went global and it started distancing itself stylistically from its Hilux stable mate. This is when it became known as the Fortuner, earning admiration around the world for its impressive quality, durability, reliability and off-road ability.
When it comes to the all-new Fortuner, the brief set by Toyota South Africa was simple: “Design a Fortuner than can compete in terms of style and aesthetics, while staying true to its authentic SUV characteristics and genuine 4WD performance.” The new Toyota Fortuner sure does have some big boots to fill as the current generation is still selling like hotcakes. Toyota has focused on four key areas where the new Fortuner needs to excel:
The first is the element of design. Toyota has created a new Solid Fluidity design language for the Fortuner, which expresses toughness and wideness through the high body axis, the bulging wheel- arch flares as well as the chunky trapezoidal front bumper. This prominent three-dimensional trapezoidal front bumper produces a sense of depth while deeply recessed fog lamps emphasise the vehicle's width. Along the side, a bold character line runs across the doors between the flared front and rear fenders, which feature sculpted surfaces to express refinement in the midst of toughness.
From the back, Fortuner's rounded upper body is highlighted by a chrome-plated moulding that wraps around from the sides to the back glass - a distinct contrast to the rear bumper, which has protruding corners. The sleek rear combination lamps add extra flair to the rear-end of the Fortuner.
The second key aspect of the new Fortuner is combining utility and luxury. Its interior exhibits the toughness of an SUV, tempered with the elegance of a sedan. A focal point of the dashboard architecture is the vertical centre cluster flanked by columns of soft simulated leather upholstery that offer leg support from both sides. Soft-touch textures and attractive chrome detailing can be found throughout the cabin, all harmonising with the clear blue interior illumination, as well as with the ambient lighting function.
Other new touches (model dependent) include a tablet-inspired multi-media, touch-screen display that allows easy operation of functions, a Smart Entry and Start system, an electronic 4WD switch and second-row seats with one-touch operation for ease of folding. The third row of seats is equipped with a fixed hook attachment for simple and convenient stowage. There are no fewer than 15 storage areas in the new Fortuner.
When it comes to the driving side of things, Toyota has developed a new six-speed manual gearbox, which includes intelligent technology to ensure smoother shifting by matching engine speed to transmission speed. A newly developed six-speed automatic transmission is now also available with optimised gear ratios to maximise engine performance.
As for the Utility aspects, a part-time 4x4 is active during day-to-day driving; owners can turn a dial to access the Fortuner's impressive four-wheel-drive ability in high or low range.
The suspension package was developed and tuned by local engineers to meet Australia's harsh conditions, with double wishbones at the front and a five-link, coil-spring configuration at the rear for impressive handling stability and ride comfort on all surfaces. Front and rear stabiliser bars suppress body roll.
The vehicle's off-road prowess is enhanced by a rear differential lock with the componentry placed within the differential housing for greater off-road protection.
The third key feature of the new Fortuner is performance. Customers can expect two newly developed engines. New 2.4 and 2.8-litre diesels are highlights of the new Fortuner engine range. These units will be supplementing the petrol variants (details to be disclosed closer to launch). Low-speed torque has been greatly improved. In addition to achieving higher power at all engine speeds, the new units boast improved fuel efficiency and cruising range as well as reduced engine noise. Maximum braked towing capacity will be three tonnes for the manual and 2.8 tonnes for the auto.
And finally the fourth key element is safety. The new model comes with a full suite of safety technology including both active and preventative systems such as knee bags and Hill Start Assist, to mention just two of the safety extras on offer.
Please note: the all-new Fortuner launches in South Africa during the second quarter of 2016. Full local range and specs will be disclosed closer to launch timing.