2021 Toyota Fortuner with 500 Nm is the torque of the town

by Mayank Dhingra 11 Sep 2021


Think of the Toyota Fortuner and what jumps into mind is the  tough-as-nails, body-on-frame, full-size hardy machine that has loads of muscular street presence, practicality, reliability and unbeatable resale value too.

Launched in August 2009, the Fortuner has completed 12 years of unrivalled domination of the sub-Rs 30 lakh price SUV segment in India, overshadowing competition of the likes of the Honda CR-V and the Ford Endeavour. Since launch through to end-August 2021, the Fortuner has sold a total of  180,980 units – comprising 178,097 diesel and 2,883 petrol. No guessing why the diesel-engined Fortuner has been the torque of the town all these years – a meaty 2.8-litre diesel engine which develops 204bhp and a humungous 500 Nm of torque

In January, Toyota Kirloskar Motor (TKM) introduced the face-lifted model which gets some comprehensive updates including those to the suspension, engine as well as interior to enhance the overall premium quotient of this true-blue SUV. Not surprisingly, these enhancements have given a boost to its price tag that now breaches the Rs 37 lakh (ex-showroom) mark.

In January, Toyota Kirloskar Motor (TKM) introduced the face-lifted model which gets some comprehensive updates including those to the suspension, engine as well as interior to enhance the overall premium quotient of this true-blue SUV, and also launched the snazzier Legender variant (pictured below) as well.

Fortuner favours the brave
This butch Toyota is for the big-hearted. Look at the refreshed Fortuner and you know why. There is a new grille with the big ‘T’ badge taking centre-stage and new integrated DRLs inside the quad-LED headlamps. The 18-inch alloy wheels display new design and come shod with 265-section highway-terrain tyres even in this 4x4 variant on test.

The rear now sports sleek LED tail-lamps that enhance the style quotient and give this ageing SUV modern appeal. The build quality is in tune with the massive silhouette and resonates toughness with tight shut lines and close tolerances maintained across the panel gaps. The chrome surround running across the base of the window line lends a shade of contrast and finesse.

While Toyota has added a powered tailgate, the hefty bonnet misses on pneumatic struts and opening the hood to access the neatly laid-out engine bay is a job for strong arms. The bonnet carries sound-deadening insulation on its underside too.

Spacious but utilitarian
Step inside the wide cabin and one cannot miss the 8-inch touch-screen surrounded by piano-black finishing on the centre console. Despite touches of soft-touch leather on either side of the centre console, above the instrument cluster and glove box, the dashboard design speaks more of utility than any major premium feel.

While the materials are high on durability, this Toyota’s interior falls short on the plushness quotient, especially considering the Rs 37 lakh pricing and the intensifying competition in the marketplace. The front seats are electronically adjustable and ventilated too, and offer a commanding view out of the Fortuner’s high-perched cabin. The infotainment comes mated to a 10-speaker JBL audio setup and offers good sound quality.

The rear bench is adjustable for recline as well as travel, and with the high-mounted centre armrest, one can easily fit into a relaxed seating posture to be comfortable for a long journey. There is ample legroom and headroom as well, with individual AC controls for second-row occupants.

The seats in the third row, however, offer limited usability, and can be best occupied by small kids on mid- to long-distance journeys. Even after the three rows are up, the Fortuner offers reasonable boot space with the spare tyre mounted on the chassis below.

However, lack of sunroof, ambient lighting, features such as a 360-degree camera, electronic parking brake and even auto-folding ORVMs make this SUV more utilitarian than luxurious.

Turbocharged drive
The 2021 Toyota Fortuner sees revisions to the 2.8-litre turbo-diesel engine that now produces 204hp (+15%) and 500 Nm of peak torque. It gets a variable-geometry turbocharger and Toyota has utilised a diesel particulate filter (DPF) to meet the stringent BS VI emission norms. The DPF gets into a self-regeneration mode while on the go, or gets a dedicated switch to turn on the ‘dynamic regeneration’ if the filter is clogged beyond threshold due to continuous low-speed driving.

The Fortuner comes mated to a six-speed torque-convertor automatic transmission and gets an idle-start-stop system too. While the engine is coarse at start-up, it settles down quickly into a murmur on warming up. Driving this bulky SUV with a light foot in the ‘Normal’ mode, sees the gearbox making quick progress through the gears and upshifting around the 2200-2500rpm mark. The engine response feels adequate for day-to-day city travel, albeit, Toyota could improve the bottom-end turbo-lag which hampers overtaking to grab the small gaps in city traffic.

While the ‘Eco’ mode restricts power delivery and pushes the gearbox to upshift below the 2000rpm mark, it is the ‘Sport’ mode which makes driving this bulky SUV a cinch. The difference is immediately evident in the throttle response with the gearbox holding gears beyond the 3000rpm mark as well before shifting up. This mode becomes useful during overtaking manoeuvres on the highway, especially when the vehicle is running full load.

One could also put the gearbox into the sport mode and use the paddle shifters behind the steering wheel to unravel the full potential of this powerful diesel engine.

As regards the driving dynamics, while the hydraulic steering wheel offers good feedback from the road, the body-on-frame construction has its downsides. The ride quality is good, but not plush, as there are constant sideways movements felt inside the cabin and body roll is also evident on fast cornering. The meaty tyres, however, make ruts and potholes non-existent, with the Fortuner feeling indestructible on bad roads.

Born tough . . . to take on the rough
The ladder-on-frame construction of the Fortuner is one of its key highlights, giving it the right strength to go off-road, which is further enhanced in this ‘Sigma 4’ 4x4 variant, replete with a low-ratio gearbox, differential lock and assist functions such as downhill assist control. The SUV’s high ground clearance helps going places too.

Aids such as a steering-direction monitor, as well as front parking sensors help in tight situations and spotting rocks and curbs. While we didn’t put the on-demand 4x4 system to an extensive test, the Fortuner has had a proven history of conquering tough and tricky situations such as slush and steep ascends with its capabilities.

With cumulative sales of the Fortuner driving towards the 200,000 units mark in India, this SUV  continues to be a key offering in TKM’s product portfolio, keeping its assembly line buzzing. And, despite the shortcomings on the feel-good factor, the Fortuner’s strengths lie in being completely suitable to trudge the broken path and also take charge of highway duties as a long-distance mile-muncher. In the city, though, its sheer size and dominating presence is a double-edged sword – either puts the driver in a spot when it comes finding a parking spot, or makes other pseudo-SUVs steer clear when they seem it looming in their rearview mirror.