We drive Toyota's thriftier Fortuner
South Africa's most popular SUV had just been given its most significant upgrade to date and the big news is the new 2.5-litre entry-level 4x2 version that's a cool R70 000 cheaper than the next most affordable 3-litre derivative.
The new engine has not taken much of a knock in the output stakes, boasting the same 343Nm torque figure and power is only down from 120kW at 3400rpm to 106kW at 3400rpm. The 2.5-litre D-4D motor is equipped with an electrically actuated variable nozzle turbo, intercooler, a common rail direct diesel injection system and double overhead cam shafts.
But does it feel like a compromise in the real world? Not according to our launch correspondent, Denis Droppa of Star Motoring:
"It's no under-powered, under-specced derivative that'll make you wish you'd somehow found the extra money. I drove the new 2.5 D-4D 4x2 quite extensively on its media launch in Zambia last week and it proved to be a very capable engine in terms of both performance and refinement. It cruised effortlessly, accelerated without noticeable turbo lag, and was decidedly quiet.
"The fact that this maximum twist is available from as low as 1600rpm was very apparent in the engine's easygoing nature, which required minimal revving, and suggests that it'll make a decent tow vehicle too."
"The five-speed gearshift, the only transmission available in the 2.5 D-4D, shifts smoothly and adds to the vehicle's overall relaxed driving experience," Denis concluded.
Besides the aforementioned diesel models, which will no doubt continue to be the most popular, Toyota still offers the option of its brawny 4-litre V6 petrol powerplant, which delivers 175kW at 5200rpm and 376Nm of twist at 3800rpm.
As before, the Fortuner is offered with a mix of rear-wheel drive and 4x4 models. The 4x2s still have some off-road capability though, being fitted with a lockable rear differential, while the 4x4s get a heavy duty transfer case and Torsen limited slip centre diff. Both diesel models are available with a five-speed manual gearbox, but only the 3.0 D-4D gets an automatic option (four-speed) while all versions of the 4.0 V6 are fitted with a five-speed autobox.
The new Fortuners also receive the same towing upgrade that was implemented on the new Hilux line-up, the result being that towing capacity ranges from 1715kg on the 2.5 D-4D to 2075kg on the 3.0 D-4D.
Of course, the Fortuner's upgrade is also skin deep and you'll see the biggest changes in the redesigned front end, which receives new headlights and a bolder trapezoidal-shaped grille with prominent chrome detailing. All models barring the 2.5 D-4D also get high-intensity discharge (HID) bulbs with auto levelling.
In profile, the Fortuner features new overfenders with rear-flowing character lines and the rear end is set apart by shapelier taillight units, featuring clear glass. Finally, all models are fitted with 17-inch alloy wheels and there are seven exterior colours on offer, including new ones like Silky Golf and Dark Steel Mica (the latter available from early next year).
Subtle design changes also abound inside the cabin, where you'll spot a new instrument cluster with chrome detailing and a redesigned centre console.
On the spec front, the new 2.5 D-4D model gets all the basics like air conditioning with rear ventilation outlet, electric windows and mirrors, a CD/USB/Aux sound system linked to steering wheel controls and an on-board computer.
However, if you want luxuries like cruise control, leather trim, automatic climate control, automatic headlights, electrically-adjustable driver's seat and the new 15.5cm TFT touch screen for the audio system then you'll have to opt for one of the 3.0 D-4D or 4.0 V6 models.
On the safety front, all versions of the Fortuner are fitted with dual front airbags (with side and curtain bags on all but the 2.5 D-4D) as well as ABS brakes and vehicle stability control. All models are also sold with a five-year/90 000km service plan.
2.5 D-4D - R325 500
3.0 D-4D - R395 000
3.0 D-4D AT - R406 300
3.0 D-4D 4x4 - R439 800
3.0 D-4D 4x4 AT - R451 200
4.0 V6 AT - R422 300
4.0 V6 4x4 AT - R466 900