Built for life

2011-09-24 08:57

Model: Toyota Fortuner
Engine: 2.5 / 3.0 / 4.0
Power: 106kW / 120kW / 175kW
Torque : 343Nm / 343Nm / 376Nm
Pricing: From R325 500 to R466 900

Toyota South Africa recently launched the face-lifted Fortuner in Zambia’s capital Lusaka. So some serious off-roading and challenging tar roads followed soon after.

There is something striking about this Southern African nation – I swear 90% of the cars on its roads are Toyotas.

The Japanese manufacturer assured us that they chose the country purely for its rugged off-roading and terrible road conditions that will sure test the Fortuner’s beefcake skills.

The 4x4 was first introduced to the South African market in March 2006 as a small- to medium- SUV. To date, 51 500 units have been sold.

The latest model adds styling tweaks to the two-year-old as part of the face-lift and a new engine in the range. The range now consists of seven models with three engines and three gearbox options. First is the brand new 2.5 D-4D VNT turbo diesel engine; the 3.0 D-4D turbo diesel; and then the top-of-the-range 4.0 V6 petrol engine.

The two wheel-drive models feature a lockable rear differential while 4x4 models have a heavy-duty transfer case and a lockable rear diff with a Torsen limited slip centre differential.

The 3.0-litre is available in either five-speed manual or four-speed auto gearboxes, while the 2.5-litre only has a manual gearbox and the V6 comes in an auto five-speed transmission.

Driving in Zambia is rather intense and one needs to constantly be aware of other motorists. The roads are eroded with potholes the sizes of craters – no surprise with the amount of trucks speeding like motorbikes towards the borders.

We drove the 2.5-litre 4x2 cars on “tarred” roads. Luckily the quick engine and handling responses helped us to easily navigate and steer away from sticky situations such as oil-slick roads and trucks lying on their sides at tight corners; and also cars lying on their roofs also left on the sides of the road.

And no, this wasn’t an obstacle course left for us by the manufacturer.

But then when you have to dodge non-indicating motorists or those who indicate left but turn right, you can understand the amount of accidents on the roads; and the fact that every motorist seems to be in a constant hurry to get somewhere.

The six-hour off-road route was far less daunting in the 4.0 V6 model because it’s a full-on 4x4. The rocky terrain intercepted by streams and controlled bushfires was beautiful, with lots of green foliage lending a freshness to
the vista the way only mother nature can.

We passed many small villages with people living contently in their man-made huts, smiling children on their way to school in the middle of nowhere and women walking long distances for a tin can of water. For a city slicker,
the whole rural vibe was quite something to behold.

Back to the SUV – almost everything has been redesigned to give it a fresh look. Most noticeable is the striking grille and front bumper with bold lines and more chrome details.

It has a wider opening with new headlight clusters, a distinct bonnet with a defined bulge and a different air intake on the diesel models. Under the bumper is an additional engine cover to help air-flow that also improves steering responses and driving stability.

Front and rear fenders have been nipped to give the car an even bolder stance to go with its body-colour mirrors and black side- steps with surface grooves.

The rear square-shaped bumper sits below the light cluster which is linked by a chromed number plate garnish that neatly hides the reverse camera on the higher-spec models.

The entry level models have tinted windows while the higher spec has dark grey privacy glass.

Inside, the cabin features a fresh dashboard and instrument cluster as well as a steering wheel with silver accents. The 3.0 D-4D and 4.0 V6 models also have added leather and dark wooden trim.

The only disappointing factor is the tacky beige interior trim which is the only option for the range-topper models.

Toyota South Africa is planning to sell about 950 units of the new Fortuner a month, and looking at their previous sales and the consistent brand loyalty, will probably achieve that with ease.

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