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Alturas G4 vs Endeavour vs Fortuner vs MU-X comparison

13th Apr 2019 12:00 pm

SUVs might come in all shapes and sizes, but to many, knowingly or unknowingly, only a tough ladder-frame one fits the bill. We brought together the four most enticing models to find the best.

First off, apologies for taking time with this comparison. In an ideal scenario, you’d have read the Autocar India verdict on the best of the ladder-frame SUVs to buy soon after the Mahindra Alturas G4’s launch in November last year. But with info on the imminent arrival of the updated Ford Endeavour, it wouldn’t have been right to rush into a time-bound result. The updated Endy is finally out and so it’s all systems go.

The centre point of this comparison is the Mahindra Alturas G4. First impressions of Mahindra’s grandest SUV yet were exceedingly positive but we’re just as curious as you to know if it can rub shoulders with the toughest and best of its rivals. Competition for the Alturas G4 comes from the Ford Endeavour that’s fresh from a nip and tuck, the Isuzu MU-X that received a makeover of its own a few months back and, of course, the Toyota Fortuner that is the default choice in the segment.

To maintain a level playing field, we’ve considered the top-of-the-line versions of each of these SUVs. In these avatars, each of these SUVs comes powered by a big diesel engine, gets the convenience of an automatic transmission and also the added ability of a proper four-wheel-drive system. Driving experience and off-road ability aside, we’ll be talking looks, interiors and comfort. Enough of the introduction. Let’s get to the main event.

The big show

Let’s face it. In India, the size of your vehicle determines right of way. And when you are behind the wheel of any of these hulking SUVs, you’ll find traffic parting to let you through. Seeing these four in a convoy is sure to have made some road users a bit uneasy.

The Alturas G4 is the newest SUV here and it looks unlike anything we’ve seen from Mahindra before. There’s a reason for that. The Alturas is, in essence, a Mahindra-badged version of the fourth-gen (hence the G4 in the name) SsangYong Rexton. Yes, the toothy grille is classic Mahindra but the rest of the design is new-age SsangYong. The Alturas G4 is smart and well turned out but it’s not quite got the road presence of an Endeavour or Fortuner. Of the other things, the massive wheel arches make the 18-inch rims look smaller than they are, and the chunky D-pillar also has implications for third-row passengers. We’ll get to those in a bit.

At first glance, the updated Ford Endeavour’s Diffused Silver paint and slick diamond-cut alloy wheels are all that’s new about it. But if you really study photos of the Endys old and new, you’ll find a marginally revised front bumper and grille too. The styling tweaks might be subtle but there’s nothing subtle about the design. The high bonnet and block-like shape make the Endeavour look bold and armour-protected, almost.

Kinked glasshouse is one of Fortuner’s stylistic flourishes.

The Isuzu MU-X doesn’t have the same visual mass as the Endy but the Japanese SUV stands more confident than before on its larger 18-inch wheels. The 2018 update also brought with it reshaped bumpers and more detailed lights at the front and rear, which have done their bit to add some glamour to the Isuzu’s design. In all, the MU-X is a neat SUV but one that’s perhaps a bit too conservative in looks too.

‘Conservative’ is not a word you’d use to describe the Toyota Fortuner’s look. The second-gen Fortuner is quite rad as Toyota SUVs go and the beak-like nose, slim headlights and kinked glasshouse give it a unique visual identity. It stands out in this company but with so many Fortuners on Indian roads, it doesn’t feel exclusive enough, in case that matters to you.

Dimensions
Mahindra Alturas G4 4x4 ATFord Endeavour 3.2 TDCi Titanium+Isuzu MU-X 4x4 ATToyota Fortuner 2.8 4x4 AT
Length4850mm4903mm4825mm4795mm
Width1960mm1869mm1860mm1855mm
Height1845mm1837mm1860mm1835mm
Wheelbase2865mm2850mm2845mm2745mm
Tyre size255/60 R18265/60 R18255/60 R18265/60 R18

From the captain’s chair

All four SUVs sit high off the ground and it’s a step up into their cabins. Oddly enough, a footboard is not standard fit but a must-have paid accessory on the Alturas G4. Open the Mahindra’s driver door and the seat will automatically slide back to ease ingress. This welcome gesture is one among many elements that make the Alturas feel properly luxurious. There’s quilted leather on the neat dash and well-cushioned seats, the window switches are rich in look and even the multi-info display in the instruments with its switchable themes does its bit to up the ambience. If you poke around, you will find hard plastics and some less special materials but the overall sensation is of being in an expensive SUV.

Alturas' dash is neat. Quilted leather finish adds richness to cabin.

The Endeavour’s cabin might not be as plush as the Alturas’ but its forte lies in making you feel cocooned from the outside world. You just can’t tire of that reassuring thunk on door shut, and everything on the inside has a built-to-last look to it. Front seat comfort is really good and there are also enough soft-touch materials to make you feel that your money’s been well spent. The dash is user-friendly and the part-digital instrument cluster is cool too. Just wish the tachometer wasn’t relegated to one of the small screens.

It’s disappointing to know Isuzu passed up on the opportunity to jazz up the updated MU-X’s cabin to bring it in line with the international model’s dual-tone dash, which would have given the cabin some much needed colour. As is, the neat and well-finished dash stands out for its circular climate control console, and its low height also aids visibility. Seat comfort is fair but you will find yourself reaching out for the lumbar adjust (which isn’t offered) on long drives. Also, the driver’s seat is a touch too high, even at its lowest setting. 

MU-X's circular climate control cluster is unique.

Drivers sit comfortably in the Fortuner but the feeling is of being in a hardy SUV rather than a luxurious one. There are lots of average plastics in plain sight, many buttons feel like they belong to the 1990s and even the roof lining is basic. Sure, it’s not all bad news but you’d expect much more, given the Fortuner is the most expensive SUV here. Then again, with this being a Toyota, what you don’t get in perceived quality you get by way of longevity.

Table for seven

Shifting focus to the middle row, the Alturas starts off strong with the widest cabin and excellent legroom, and that too without the flexibility of a sliding seat. The seats are well-padded as well but you sit low and the resulting seating position is a bit knees-up. Not ideal. In comparison, it’s the Endeavour with the nicer middle row seats. While the Endy’s seats are also low set, the seating position is better and cushioning is really well judged. However, its interior doesn’t give the same sense of space as the Alturas and headroom can be an issue for taller occupants as well; accommodating the mechanism for the panoramic sunroof has resulted in a lower headliner.

Endy middle row comfy but headroom could be an issue for tall passengers.

Like the Alturas, the Isuzu MU-X’s middle-row seats don’t slide back. Still, space is reasonable and the seats are nice enough, though the Isuzu is not class-best on either count. The Fortuner sneaks in a few points in this area. Its middle seats are a touch firm but the seating position is actually the best. Also, with the seats pushed all the way back, there’s more than ample legroom. Occupants taller than 6ft could find their heads touching the roof lining, however.

And what of the third-row seats? Long story short, buyers looking for a comfortable seven-seater might find that an MPV fulfils their needs better. That’s because the third row of each of these SUVs have their own set of idiosyncrasies. In the Alturas, for instance, you are virtually sat on the floor with your knees pointed skywards. The thick D-pillar also means outside visibility is strictly limited, which makes you feel cooped-in. The Endeavour has relatively larger windows but the seating position is awkward and ingress-egress is outright cumbersome – the middle-row seats merely slide forward and don’t tumble forward as on the others, in effect, leaving a small aperture that you have to work your way through. Relatively speaking, third-row occupants have it good in the Isuzu and Toyota. There’s a one-touch mechanism to tumble their middle-row seats out of the way, and the rearmost sections don’t feel like punishment postings either. That said, the option to free up legroom (thanks to the sliding seats) and adjust the backrest for the third row tips the scales in the Toyota’s favour.

Fortuner third row is the most welcoming for adults.

You will be able to fit in some, but not much, luggage into these SUVs, with all seats up. All come with the option to fold the third-row seats to free up more luggage room but the Endeavour makes
the task easier with its power fold/raise function.

Feature presentation

As you’d imagine, it’s quite an assortment when talking features and equipment. In a nutshell, it’s a close match between the Alturas and Endeavour – they offer the most goodies. The Fortuner and MU-X are significantly down on frills.

The Alturas distinguishes itself with its class-leading nine airbags, driver’s seat memory, ventilated front seats, electronic parking brake and a useful 360-degree parking camera. While the Ford misses out on the last feature, it’s the only one with auto parking that can steer the SUV into a detected parking spot. Gesture-controlled boot release is common to the Mahindra and Ford SUVs, as is a sunroof, though the Endeavour goes one-up with its larger panoramic unit. Configurable ambient lighting is also unique to the Ford.

Panoramic sunroof a highlight of the Ford.

The Fortuner and Endeavour are the only ones with auto-dimming inside mirrors and also the only ones to offer power adjust for both front seats, as opposed to the Alturas and MU-X that get only powered driver’s seats. Of the other things, the Fortuner and MU-X feature LED headlights, while the Alturas and Endeavour use HID units.

In the battle of the touchscreens, once again it’s a close match between the Alturas and Endeavour’s 8.0-inch units. Both offer Android Auto and Apple CarPlay support, but if asked to pick, it’s the Endeavour’s system that’s nicer to use. The Fortuner’s touchscreen looks aftermarket, while the MU-X’s monochrome display is simply outdated.

Features
Mahindra Alturas G4 4x4 ATFord Endeavour 3.2 TDCi Titanium+Isuzu MU-X 4x4 ATToyota Fortuner 2.8 4x4 AT
HeadlightsHIDHIDLEDLED
Tyre pressure monitorYesYesNANA
Cruise controlYesYesYesYes
Touchscreen8-inch8-inch7-inch7-inch
Android Auto/Apple CarPlayYes/YesYes/YesNA/NANA/NA
Powered driver's seatYesYesYesYes
Ventilated front seatsYesNANANA
SunroofSinglePanoramicNANA
Auto-dimming mirrorNAYesNAYes
Front/rear parking sensorsYes/YesYes/YesNA/YesNA/Yes
Camera360-degreeRearRearRear
Auto parkingNAYesNANA
Handsfree boot openYesYesNANA
Airbags9667

Might is right

A quick look at the specifications will probably lead you to believe the Mahindra Alturas’ relatively small 2.2-litre diesel engine won’t be up to scratch. But here’s the big surprise. The Mahindra is just milliseconds slower than the Endeavour 3.2’s class-best 0-100kph, 20-80kph and 40-100kph times. Sure, the Alturas is a good deal lighter but even so, we didn’t expect it to be this quick. What makes the numbers harder to believe is that the Mahindra Alturas never feels as quick as it is. The engine delivers its 181hp and 420Nm of torque in such a linear manner that the sense of urgency is almost missing. What also masks the Alturas’ performance is the engine’s terrific refinement. It’s the quietest at idle and makes the least noise under load too. The Alturas’ engine does sound its protest if you rev it hard but given that the unit gives its best by the mid-range, you won’t be tempted to extend it in any case. The Mercedes-sourced 7-speed automatic gearbox is also not the quickest on the draw (manual shifts are possible via buttons on the gear lever) so it’s best to drive the Alturas in a relaxed manner.

The Alturas is faster than it feels while the Endeavour is powerful and feels it too.

The Ford Endeavour 3.2 (a lower-priced 2.2-litre albeit 4x2 version is also available) is unique for its five-cylinder engine and also shines for its class-leading 200hp and 470Nm figures. And as mentioned, it is also the quickest of these SUVs. The fact is, the Endeavour feels powerful from the moment you press down on the accelerator. Power comes in quickly and there’s a strong sustained thrust until the latter part of the mid-range, after which power tapers off. The 6-speed auto isn’t super quick but overall performance is good and makes the Endeavour feel particularly comfortable on the highway. The Ford also cruises rather silently, recording the lowest decibels at a steady 80kph. Its unique active noise cancellation feature does its bit for the most part but can’t quite silence the 3.2 engine’s roar under load.

In engine displacement, the Isuzu MU-X’s 3.0-litre engine is second only to the Ford Endeavour’s 3.2 unit. But for its size, the engine isn’t particularly strong. Its 177hp power figure is at par with the smaller-engined Fortuner’s while the Isuzu’s 380Nm peak torque output is the least here. To top it all, the MU-X’s 5-speed gearbox also gives the fewest ratios to work with. In town and in easy-going driving, however, you won’t be left wanting for power and will also find the gearbox to do its work smoothly. It’s when you want to overtake that the MU-X’s powertrain gets caught out. The gearbox becomes indecisive and the engine bellows without a corresponding increase in speed. It all feels a bit last-gen to be honest.

First impressions of the Toyota Fortuner’s engine aren’t strong either. The 2.8-litre engine clatters to life and is the noisiest at idle. The din fades into the ambient noise at part-throttle but makes a loud comeback every time you press down hard on the accelerator. And that is a shame because the 177hp and 450Nm engine is otherwise quite likeable. There’s ready access to power (especially in, well, Power mode) and it helps make the heavy Fortuner feel light on its feet. The Toyota is not the quickest but sure feels so. It is also the only SUV here with paddleshifters, which help make the driving experience that little bit more involving. In full auto mode, the shifts are pleasant and timely.

Specifications and performance
Mahindra Alturas G4 4x4 ATFord Endeavour 3.2 TDCi Titanium+Isuzu MU-X 4x4 ATToyota Fortuner 2.8 4x4 AT
Engine4 cyl, 2157cc, diesel5 cyl, 3198cc, diesel4 cyl, 2999cc, diesel4 cyl, 2755cc, diesel
Power181hp at 4000rpm200hp at 3000rpm177hp at 3600rpm177hp at 3400rpm
Torque420Nm at 1600-2600rpm470Nm at 1750-2500rpm380Nm at 1800-2800rpm450Nm at 1600-2400rpm
Gearbox7-speed auto6-speed auto5-speed auto6-speed auto
0-20kph1.04 sec0.77 sec1.08 sec0.98 sec
0-40kph2.48 sec2.33 sec2.76 sec2.59 sec
0-60kph4.67 sec4.66 sec5.08 sec4.85 sec
0-80kph7.49 sec7.32 sec8.25 sec7.94 sec
0-100kph11.24 sec11.22 sec12.57 sec12.02 sec
0-120kph16.05 sec16.20 sec18.38 sec16.90 sec
0-140kph23.01 sec23.06 sec28.67 sec24.26 sec
20-80kph (in kickdown)6.41 sec6.34 sec7.30 sec7.49 sec
40-80kph (in kickdown)8.62 sec8.58 sec9.54 sec9.06 sec

Ain’t no mountain high enough

Over to other facets of the driving experience. In the everyday grind, you’ll like how light and easy
it is to twirl the Alturas G4’s steering but, sadly, the lightness stays even at higher speeds. Bump absorption is decent but there’s that trademark body-on-frame lumpiness to the ride at low speeds. Really bad stretches taken at higher speeds also highlight that the Alturas is not built quite as tough as the others.

The updated Endeavour, on the other hand, feels solid and is simply in a class of its own when talking bump absorption. You get none of the judder in the cabin that you would expect from a body-on-frame SUV, and you really don’t need to slow down for potholes and the like. But at high speeds, the Endy feels softer than we remember it to and doesn’t feel as settled as it did either. The steering too is lighter now; great in town, but a bit lacking in feel for the highway.

A heavy steering makes life with the MU-X a bit taxing in the city and the vagueness at the straight-ahead position isn’t ideal at high speeds either. Ride comfort is a mixed bag too. At low speeds, the soft ride is a (distant) second to the Endeavour’s. But at higher speeds, the MU-X moves about more than you’d like.

Where the Fortuner feels light on its feet, the MU-X doesn’t like being rushed.

It comes as a bit of a surprise that the Toyota Fortuner is the most engaging at high speeds, given that there’s a Ford in this mix. The Fortuner feels the most composed, with well-contained body movements, and it’s got the most direct steering too. The relatively firm setup does make the Fortuner feel stiff-kneed at low speeds, however, and the heavy steering (hydraulic, like the MU-X’s) makes the Toyota feel its size in town.

And how are they off-road? That’s a pertinent question to the small breed of buyers who intend to use these SUVs as SUVs. All four models come with hill descent control, four-wheel drive and low-range for the more hardcore stuff. The Endeavour goes one-up on the others with a lockable rear differential and its Terrain Management System that alters throttle and transmission responses, traction control setting and four-wheel-drive characteristics, depending on the mode (namely Normal, Sand, Rock and Snow/ Mud/Grass) selected.

We’ll have to put the four through our annual 4x4 torture test for a full report but we did get enough of an idea of their capabilities on the rocky trail we attempted. While all four SUVs managed the trail in 4-Low, there were some points of difference. On paper, the Alturas has the best ground clearance but the optional footboard takes its toll (it particularly impacts the ramp breakover), and the departure angle is not great either. The Endeavour uses its electronics to great effect and the rear diff lock is a boon in really low-traction conditions, but the soft suspension means the Ford also rocks about when you don’t want it to, say on a boulder-laden path. The Isuzu MU-X might not have the Endy’s electronic aids but crawls its way out of danger with ease. But it’s the Fortuner that is the mountain goat here. It’s the most capable SUV in the wild and that reassurance translates into a lot of confidence.

Cheque please

The Isuzu MU-X was the underdog in this contest but couldn’t quite come together to spring a surprise on its rivals. It’s a rugged SUV that does many things well but simply lacks the flash, features and refinement to be thought of as a viable alternative. The Rs 29.31 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) makes the MU-X the most affordable SUV here but even on value-for-money, it’s been upstaged.

At Rs 33.60 lakh, the Fortuner is the most expensive SUV here. However, factor in the Fortuner’s strong resale value and things even out. Fact is, you can’t go wrong with a Fortuner. As a product, it has its strengths in a relatively comfy third row, good high-speed manners and genuine off-road ability. At the same time, it’s hard to overlook its lesser points of a loud engine and average cabin quality.

Ford’s Endeavour has been our pick in the past and it’s put up a strong show this time around as well. It’s built tough, ride quality is excellent and the powerful engine also makes it enjoyable to drive. It’s pricey at Rs 32.97 lakh, but its extensive feature set helps justify the outlay to an extent. A quieter engine and better third row would have made the Endy hard to beat.

If third row comfort is a deciding factor, the Alturas G4 might not be the SUV for you. And fact is, it’s not the most hardcore of SUV options either. But to the typical large SUV buyer looking for a luxurious experience, with the added versatility of some off-road ability, the Alturas is an easy sell. Its rich cabin, excellent overall refinement and lengthy features list give it a decidedly premium air. Sure, there will be many who will scoff at the idea of spending Rs 30.70 lakh on a Mahindra, but see the Alturas G4 for what it is, and it’s hard not to see it for the great value proposition it is. And if there’s one thing Indian buyers like across the board, it’s good value.

Verdict and price
Mahindra Alturas G4 4x4 ATFord Endeavour 3.2 TDCi Titanium+Isuzu MU-X 4x4 ATToyota Fortuner 2.8 4x4 AT
VerdictNot hardcore but wins for its combo of luxury and value.Strong and comfy Ford is the choice for self-drive buyers.Once the VFM choice, it is outdone by the Alturas.An SUV you can’t go wrong with but not special enough.
Rating8/108/106/107/10
PriceRs 30.70 lakhRs 32.97 lakhRs 29.31 lakhRs 33.60 lakh
Mahindra Alturas G4

Rs 32.08 lakh * on road price (New Delhi)

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