What is it?
The Fortuner is Toyota's hardy body-on-frame SUV. A car that has always been at the top of its class, the original was introduced in 2009, with a facelift appearing in 2011. But while the Fortuner was sold in both four-wheel-drive guise and later as an automatic, the combination of the two, a four-wheel-drive auto, hasn't been put on sale: until now.
New bits on the exterior that help identify it as a 4X4 automatic include semi 'blacked out' parts like the alloys, and Toyota has added some aftermarket 'smoked' headlights and tail-lights for a more 'custom' look.
It also gets a few changes on the inside. Now finished in black to match the exteriors, with double stitched black leather seats, the new insides look sportier. The Innova-based steering wheel, dials and air-con controls, however, are still carried over, and the touchscreen audio/navigation system still looks like an aftermarket fitting. Otherwise, the cabin remains the same. You are sat a bit high, but the seats are comfortable and space is good. What's also nice is that the third row, though cramped, is useable as well.
Under the skin, the Fortuner gets a five-speed torque convertor-equipped automatic gearbox and full-time four-wheel-drive system. More serious off road kit like a low range gearbox and lockable differentials are carried over. But there is no shift-on-the-fly system, and instead, the manual four-wheel-drive mode selector lever is carried over. This Fortuner uses the168bhp 3.0-litre diesel engine, and it needs all that power; kerb weight is now up to two tonnes.
What's it like to drive?
Take off from rest in the automatic 4X4 Fortuner and you can feel the slurring torque converter working hard against all that mass. As a result, the automatic feels a bit more sluggish off the line than the manual gearbox-equipped car, the auto 'box sapping a bit of the power here. Acceleration doesn't feel particularly slow, its 0-100kph time of 12.32seconds is actually quite okay.
The 3.0-litre unit is a gruff, gravelly diesel. It does feel much more relaxed when cruising at between 2000 and 3000rpm and the gearbox is reasonably quick to downshift too. What makes the Fortuner nice to drive is that there isn't any discernable turbo lag, so it is quick to respond and snaps up overtaking opportunities nicely.
Low speed ride, as on earlier Fortuners, is a bit lumpy. And there's also a bit of shuddering from all the unsprung mass being thrown around. The ride, however, improves as you go faster and the suspension does a good job over really bad patches of road. Stability is also decent and the weighty steering has a good amount of feel as well. The brakes, however, aren't up to scratch. They work fine for regular driving, but don't quite deliver the stopping power needed when you need to stop in a hurry.
When driven off road, the Fortuner is its capable self even with the automatic. Locking the differentials in high is good enough for most situations, and if conditions become even more arduous you can always drop the gearbox down into low. Control is easy to maintain as the gearbox can be held in each gear manually via the slotted gear selector. Unfortunately, there is no tip-tronic function and there are no paddles behind the steering wheel either.
Should you buy one?
The Fortuner 4X4 automatic scores well in almost all areas. Yes, the automatic gearbox saps a bit of power, the brakes should have been given an upgrade for this version and at Rs 26.49 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi), it is expensive. Still, it drives well, both on and off road, the engine is responsive and the five-speed automatic adds greatly to convenience. If you liked the manual gearbox-equipped version, you are likely to take to this one as well; just don't expect too much from the old-school automatic gearbox.\