Toyota Fortuner Off-Road Review: We Put The SUV To The Ultimate Test To See If It's Mud-Happy

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The new Toyota Fortuner was introduced in India very recently, and without doubt was a very anticipated launch for enthusiasts. Promoted as a very capable SUV, the Fortuner boasts of tons of creature comfort that an average customer would look out for.

But being an SUV, and equipped with four-wheel drive, there are a set of customers who would love the other side of the newly launched SUV - off-roading capabilities. Toyota was kind enough to invite us and let us put the SUV through some tricky terrain and we were very eager to find out if the SUV was ‘Mud-Happy'.

To begin, let us first look at the engine specs of the new Fortuner. The new SUV from the Japanese manufacturer is available with a petrol and diesel engine. The 2.7-litre petrol engine makes 164bhp and 245 Nm of peak torque while the 2.8-litre diesel engine makes 174bhp and 420Nm of torque.

Both variants come with an optional automatic and a manual gearbox, while the hardcore 4X4 option is limited to the diesel variants only.

Changes are not limited to the mechanicals alone. On the design front, the new Fortuner has shed its boxy, butch design to take on a sleeker, sporty design. Toyota has tapered the front and rear overhangs, and has also kept them to a minimum, so that the new Fortuner has better approach and departure angles.

The course was setup in a way that there was a section to test the acceleration and braking of the vehicle on loose gravel, where traction is minimum. The Fortuner did it without breaking a sweat. The traction control system, or the Active Traction Control as Toyota calls it proved to be a very useful feature, along with the ABS.

The Active Traction Control (ATC) comes into help primarily while off-roading, or on slippery surface like when driving on snow or mud. Power from the engine is only sent to those wheels that really need it. If one wheel is in the air, power is cut off from that wheel, sending it to the other wheels that are on the ground, which helps the vehicle forward, without getting stuck.

The next part of the course involved two parts. A trench to show the Fortuner's Hill Descent Control, a feature that engages only when the SUV is in the Four-Wheel Low (L4) option. The driver need not touch the brakes at all, instead, the electronics take over, applying brakes to those wheels that need it.

This feature makes sure that the Fortuner makes it down steep descents safely, at low speeds, while the driver is concentrating only on steering the vehicle. Once safely down, the next part was to climb up the trench and with the L4 option selected, just feathering the throttle helps the Fortuner crawl over with ease.

The second part of the Hill Descent Control course was to climb up a ramp at 45 degrees. It may not sound much, but if a SUV can climb over a ramp at that angle, it can practically overcome any obstacle in everyday life.

While making the way up, the Hill Hold Assist function was explained. This feature comes into play when making uphill starts after a stop. What happens is the electronics keep all four brakes engaged for 6 seconds, and will release only when the driver gets on the gas. This is to ensure the SUV does not roll backwards, and when it can be done at such an angle (45 degrees), it will be a breeze on day to day conditions.

As the saying goes, what goes up, must come down, and doing so, the Hill Descent control is what helps, applying brakes electronically and safely guiding the SUV down while the driver only has to steer the vehicle.

The Hill Descent Control works very effectively with a manual gearbox, since the time taken to engage is very short. On the automatic, there is a lag for the Hill Descent Control to engage, which is enough to scare the daylights out of a amature. There needs to a be a lot of trust between the driver and and the vehicle.

Once through the gravity defying exercise, it was time to test the water wading capability of the new Fortuner. Toyota claims 700mm is the limit, but the Fortuner did manage to go through 800mm of water comfortably. Water is channeled through dedicated passages and is directed away from the interior, keeping the cabin dry.

Next challenge, putting the ATC to the ultimate test. Specially designed ramps were placed to test the Fortuner's axle twisting capabilities, where one of the wheels is high in the air. This is where the ATC comes into play, by sending power to three wheels, helping the SUV overcome obstacles in tricky situations.

Past the ‘axle twisters' was the ‘Positive Side Incline' which proves the well balanced and low centre of gravity of the Fortuner. Being built on the Toyota Hilux platform, the Fortuner stayed composed even at a side angle of 45 degrees.

Coming to the last section of the course - mud, every off-roader's first love. The four-wheel low mode (L4) helped get past the twisty mud section like a cakewalk. The automatic did need a bit of acceleration to get past, but the manual variant only had to be put in second gear and crawled its way through without even the slightest of acceleration.

In the end, should you get a Fortuner if your life involves equal amount of off-roading and tarmac travel? The answer is yes, you should get the manual version. Options such as the Hill Hold Assist, Hill Descent Control, and the Active Traction Control are equipped in the manual variant as well.

You could end up burning your clutch plates at frequent intervals compared to the automatic variant of the Fortuner, but like mentioned earlier in the review, the Hill Descent Control feature works better (without lag) on the manual gearbox variant, and so does the SUV have the ability to tackle mud like the Fortuner was built for it.

New Toyota Fortuner Pricing

  • Petrol 2WD (manual) Rs 25.92 lakh
  • Petrol 2WD (automatic) Rs 27.61 lakh
  • Diesel 2WD (manual) Rs. 27.52 lakh
  • Diesel 2WD (automatic) Rs 29.14 lakh
  • Diesel 4WD (manual) Rs 30.05 lakh
  • Diesel 4WD (automatic) Rs 31.12 lakh

Note: Prices are ex-showroom (Delhi)

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