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Durban South Toyota

The Facelift Toyota Fortuner

In days gone by the VW Beetle apparently developed a reputation for rolling over easily in a corner, earning it the nickname "German Roller".

The problem was apparently solved by replacing the swing-arm rear suspension with a trailing-arm set up similar to that of later-model Kombis - I say apparently because this happened well before my car consciousness and I only know about it because I listened when the old men spoke.

Since then there have been a few other vehicles that developed a similar reputation. One was the Mercedes-Benz A-Class, which apparently failed the moose test, also known as the Scandinavian Flick, that rapid tugging of the steering wheel associated with a motorist trying to avoid an animal that has jumped into the road in front of the car.

Mercedes-Benz had to do all kinds of technical gymnastics to get that one sorted out.

But I always wondered whether it really had as much to do with the suspension components as with the single biological component that fits between the steering wheel and the driver's seat.

Surely one didn't expect a Beetle to corner like an MG - and one should surely not expect a pukka all-wheel drive to corner like an Audi TT either, should one?

UNPRETENTIOUS BUT COMFORTABLE: The Toyota Fortuner is based on the Hilux bakkie.
Recently Toyota has had to recall a large number of its otherwise excellent Fortuner off-road wagons because it appeared the vehicle had a tendency to roll over too easily.

So when I got the opportunity to drive one I grabbed it - I wanted to see what the fuss was all about. Veteran motoring journalist and off-road fundi Geoff Dalgleish is known to be a huge fan of the Fortuner, especially after an expedition to Timbuktu a few years back. No, really.

Dalgleish praised the vehicle's great off-road capabilities, comfort and durability. Not once did he mention anything about stability problems. If Dalgleish was that impressed it had to be good.

I wasn't disappointed. OK, it's true that this is no Range Rover. It is, to a large extent, a Toyota Hilux with a station wagon body - but that is exactly the point.

There are a great many Fortuners running around on South African roads that have never see the African bush. Many are driven by attractive soccer mommies, complete with boutique rags, facial chemicals and half the under-13 soccer team.

The worst these cars have to tackle is climbing kerbstones during misjudged three-point turns and fighting off supermarket trolleys.

Continued below......

Toyota Fortuner
Toyota Fortuner Toyota Fortuner
Toyota Fortuner Toyota Fortuner

A HORSE FOR (ROUGH) COURSES: The Toyota Fortuner made it to Timbuktu - a Winelands farm road should pose no problems.
But so what? If the lady in question prefers to view the road from a high vantage point and feels safe when snugly ensconced inside a large vehicle, so be it. But it's irritating when they start off complaining about the vehicle's handling.


Said handling, I discovered, is not at all bad for an all-wheel drive with big, high-profile tyres and high, long-travel suspension designed for clambering over off-road obstacles.

Yes, you slow down for corners if you have any real driving sense. And you drive with a light right foot in traffic because you want to take it easy with the brakes on a big four-wheel drive - with those big wheels, they don't brake quite as well as a small sedan.

All these things are natural and understandable.

The Fortuner I reviewed had Toyota's lovely three-litre D-4D diesel engine, the bigger sister of the two-litre that is so smooth and pleasant in their Corolla and Auris cars.

This engine has ample torque at 343Nm, quite sufficient power at 120kW and fuel consumption sufficiently frugal to make a long-distance drive enjoyable in all respects, including the financial department.


It's not as well-endowed in either torque or power as Nissan's 2.5-litre Pathfinder or the Jeep Cherokee 2.8-litre CRD but beats the Land Rover Defender station wagon's 2.4-litre unit and is slightly cheaper than the Nissan or the Landy.

During our review the Fortuner averaged 11.8 litres/100km in city traffic and 10.8 on the open road. No complaints there.

Taking the Fortuner off-road is fun - the gear ratios seem to suit the engine perfectly and not once did I get the feeling that another ratio should have been stuck in somewhere.

Toyota's seats have improved markedly over the years. As a former proud owner of a Hilux single cab all-wheel drive pick-up of early 1990's vintage, I can attest to the fact that the seats are now far kinder to the spine.

The all-wheel drive Fortuner is reasonably well-equipped for its R375 600 price tag but might be a bit expensive compared to, say, the Jeep Cherokee 2.8 CRD. However, it has off-road attributes the Cherokee might find tough to beat, such as decent ground clearance and short overhangs.


Despite its fancy looks the Fortuner is a real expedition wagon and those owners able to head out to Namibia, Botswana and points north may very well count their blessings.