After spending some time acclimatising to the Toyota Fortuner, it was time to subject the seven-seater to a proper road trip.
While long trips are not as trendy as they were in years gone by, a car remains the best way to experience our regional and rural communities.
Lucky for us, the Fortuner has a strong Australian influence. In fact, the company repeatedly made the point this was the “most Australian car Toyota has ever imported to this country.” So a significant part of the Fortuner’s remit is to comfortably traverse long sections of Australian roads.
When the Fortuner was first released Toyota executives boasted getting the Fortuner market-ready was “the largest single development program ever undertaken by the company's local engineers.”
In the process of talking up the Fortuner’s Australian accent, the statement that resonated most was the "Fortuner is the turbo-diesel alternative to the similar-size petrol-only Kluger and offers an affordable choice for those who aspire to own a LandCruiser."
Could this be true? Is the Fortuner an affordable take on the iconic LandCruiser? There’s no better way to find the answer than undertaking a road trip from the Goulburn Valley in north-east Victoria to the mining towns of Central Queensland and back. Google tells us the whole trip will nudge 4000 kilometres.
On a long run across dreadfully maintained country roads, refinement and cushy suspension are the non-negotiables.
Wind noise and tyre roar are nicely suppressed meaning the cabin atmosphere is quiet and comfortable. Pleasingly, the overall levels of noise, vibration and harshness are low.
The suspension is firmer than Toyota’s other large SUVs, corrugated sections of outback roads will see it bouncing around trying to absorb the impact. The act of balancing the off-road aspect of Fortuner ownership is on show here. It’s a compromise you can live with, especially when you consider the cost against the Prado and 200 Series LandCruiser.
After eight hours behind the wheel, the seats become the highlight of the cabin. The two front seats are nicely shaped and offer plenty of support.
For some strange reason, the centre armrest doesn’t get any padding which seems like an oversight. It’s like resting your arm on concrete.
On a trip of this length, front passengers will discover some additional storage for snacks and the like would be helpful. The dash-mounted cup holders are great, as is the top section of the split glovebox which has a cooling function.
Toyota has started to roll out Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but the Fortuner is still waiting. The inhouse infotainment system does the job with a very quick plug and play USB option. It’s also worth noting, the standard satellite navigation performed perfectly.
Arriving in Central Queensland, the Fortuner struggled for attention amongst the hordes of LandCrusier wagons and utes. Even the Prado was well represented. Most of the LandCruiser lovers we spoke to hadn’t come across too many Fortuners, for many in these parts, it’s a LandCruiser or nothing. There’s no room for compromise.
The Fortuner stands a better chance back in Victoria. When we arrived back in the GV, the trip computer came to rest at 3960km with an average consumption figure of 9.0L/100km. For a car of this size, the fuel consumption is competitive when compared to its rivals.
Another observation, if long journeys away from the most used highways are part of your world, opting for a Toyota ensures you’re never far from a dealer should problems arise.
Back to the original purpose of this trip, is the Fortuner a legitimate substitute for a LandCruiser? Unfortunately, the answer doesn’t come in the form of a simple yes or no.
While a strong long-range performer in its own right, the Fortuner can’t match the Prado or 200 Series when it comes to covering this amount of road. Both of Toyota's larger SUVs offer more comfort, refinement and driving range. Most notably, the suspension of the Fortuner’s bigger brothers is better at dealing with the kinds of roads that run through rural Australia.
Better suspension and ride quality comes at a price. Stepping up to an equivalent Prado requires an additional $13,500 spend while moving to the V8 GXL LandCruiser 200 adds an extra $40,000. Icons aren't cheap.
Value is in the eye of the purchaser, though we agree with the suits at Toyota, the Fortuner is an affordable option for those who want an off-road capable, turbo-diesel powered, seven-seat family SUV that wears a Toyota badge.
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