DRIVEN | Toyota's updated Fortuner arrives in SA, complete with 150kW diesel engine

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• Toyota launched its updated Fortuner in South Africa earlier in November 2020.

• The new model features Toyota's updated 150kW 2.8-litre turbodiesel engine.

• The new Fortuner features all-round updates.

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For the last 14 years, the Toyota Fortuner has been ruling the roost as the best-selling SUV in South Africa. Slotting in between the smaller Rav4 and bigger Prado in Toyota's SUV hierarchy, the Fortuner found favour among thousands of owners and those seeking the best of both worlds.

Believe it or not, though, but the Fortuner is only in its second generation, but Toyota had it planned to give the SUV a much-needed facelift in 2020. Covid-19 derailed the planned launch somewhat, but the automaker could still manage to set its updated Fortuner free in the South African market.

Following a few days behind the wheel of the new model, it isn't difficult to see why this new model will not follow in its predecessor's footsteps. Perhaps even carve out a more significant piece of the pie it already enjoys.

The 2021 Fortuner sees a raft of changes that's been brought about, all in terms of the exterior design, interior comfort, and upgrades to the mechanicals. The most striking differences can be seen at the SUV's front, with a revised grille and new a new headlight design.

Our steed was the new top model in the Fortuner lineup, the 2.8 GD-6 4x4 VX. It is distinguished a chrome strip, just underneath the side windows, that runs across the length of the vehicle. More chrome embellishments are found on the grille, the door handles, and tailgate. The exterior look is rounded off with a set of 18-inch all-terrain tyres.

READ: Toyota's popular Fortuner receives facelift, extra grunt and new flagship model

Toyota says that with the new updated model, they listened to customers' requests and updated the cabin as per these wishes. The interior is decked in black and the seats, too, are now covered in black leather with silver stitching. Glancing over the centre console and information display in front of the driver, it becomes clear that Toyota wanted to make the cabin as ergonomically friendly as possible. From a driver's point of view, they've done just that and navigating through the dials and menus is an easy task.

The entire Fortuner lineup, including the VX models, now boast with an all-new eight-inch infotainment system that's compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The system also features satellite navigation, but the 2.8 GD-6 models have the option for the system to read your navigation commands out loud. The two seats in the loading area, when not in use, are still latched onto the side of the boot or folded down on the floor.

Toyota Fortuner
2021 Toyota Fortuner (MotorPress)

Increased power, improved dynamics

The biggest news regarding the new Fortuner is the increase in power on the 2.8-litre turbodiesel model. This engine is the same unit as used in the Hilux and sees an increase of power and torque to 150kW and 500Nm. That's an increase of 20kW/50Nm over the previous model. Bar the entry-level 2.4 GD-6 Raised Body (RB) Fortuner, all the derivatives are fitted with a six-speed automatic gearbox. 

In the VX, drivers have paddles behind the steering wheel to change gears with if they so choose. During our stint with the SUV, we found the gearbox ignoring manual inputs, even with both the gear lever and drive mode selector flicked into 'Sport'. Left to its own devices, the gearbox will glide through its cogs and hook the next gear timeously.

Toyota said that while the Fortuner's suspension has been slightly adjusted, it did not receive as significant an overhaul as the Hilux (on which it is based). Yet, the small updates Toyota brought on to the SUV gave it far better on-road dynamics than the model it replaces. Even on gravel, the Fortuner will comfortably run at 120 or 130km/h in 4x2 mode, without a sense that it's out of its depth on the loose, stone surfaces.

Three driving modes - Eco, Normal, Sport - each bring out a different character in the Fortuner, but all compliments the revisions made to the SUV's drive- and powertrain.

Toyota Fortuner
2021 Toyota Fortuner (MotorPress)

In summary

Following a few days with the Fortuner (as part of its South African launch program), it was refreshing to be reintroduced to South Africa's favourite SUV. The vehicle has come a long way since 2006, and Toyota has managed to keep it fresh and relevant with every update and upgrade. We do not think that there will be anything stopping Toyota from raking in even more success with its updated Fortuner.

The new SUV addressed several issues slightly amiss in the previous model, and this should appease many a customer who is looking to trade-in their Fortuners for a new one.

Price: Toyota Fortuner 2.8 GD-6 4x4 VX 6AT - R790 500

Likes and Dislikes

We like: Increased power and improved dynamics | Exterior design | Spacious cabin

We don't like: Heavy steering at low speed | Gearbox not reacting to manual inputs | Two most rear seats not folding away into boot floor

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