THERE WAS A TIME WHEN THE LIKES OF THE 2017 TOYOTA FORTUNER STRUGGLED TO PLAY THE ROLE OF ‘FAMILY CAR’.
Like the other pickup-based 4WD wagons, the Fortuner’s predecessors (such as the Toyota 4Runner) were simply a wagon body slapped onto a ute platform.
That meant the kids were uncomfortable in the back, they felt like a truck to drive, and the ride was somewhat forgettable.
While the plan is still the same - wagon body on ute platform - carmakers now are getting the recipe right, and a bunch of newcomers and updates (Ford’s Everest and Holden’s Trailblazer being two examples) have made competition in the segment tight.
So how does Toyota’s offering, the Fortuner, stack up?
Vehicle Style: Large 4WD / SUV Wagon
Price: $56,990 (plus on-road costs)
Engine/trans: 130kW/450Nm 2.8 4cyl turbo-diesel | 6sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 8.6 l/100km | Tested: 10.0 l/100km
The 2017 Toyota Fortuner Crusade sits atop the Fortuner range, ahead of the mid-spec GXL and entry-spec GX.
A recent update from Toyota means the Crusade now comes standard with a six-speed automatic, and all Fortuner models have been granted huge price-cuts.
The range-topping Crusade used to have a trump card over its rivals, with the availability of a six-speed manual gearbox, but this model has been deleted with the update.
The price cuts may also breathe life into Fortuner's sales figures more generally (assuming supply can keep up with demand), as the Fortuner currently sits last in the sales race for 2017 against its four key rivals.
- Standard equipment: leather trim, climate control air-conditioning front and rear, paddle shifters, push-button start, keyless entry, heated and electric front seats, 11-speaker premium audio system, electric tailgate, chilled glovebox, cruise control
- Infotainment: seven-inch touchscreen, Toyota Link connectivity, USB, auxiliary input, Bluetooth, satellite navigation
- Cargo Volume: 252 litres (rear seats in place), 654 litres (rear seats not required), 716 litres (rear seats not required, second row seats in foremost position), 1080 litres (second row seats tumbled forward).
The Fortuner Crusade’s interior is a mixture of work and play.
For the former, there’s (albeit optional) chunky rubber floor mats, a rubber floor protector for the boot, relatively hardy leather trim and more.
For the latter, there’s the usual climate control air conditioning, touchscreen infotainment, electrically-adjustable heated seats and other features one might expect on the higher side of $50,000.
Interior positives include numerous storage options, a great driving position, useful and clear steering wheel controls and clear interior lighting.
While the driving position is positive, the ‘triangular’ styled centre console surround is an unwelcome dig-in-the-leg for some drivers.
Some will find the operation of Toyota’s infotainment system a bit basic, but the trip computer is quite useful.
Features include a fuel price monitor and an ‘eco’ graph, showing the driver’s efforts at economical driving over an adjustable period of time along with a simple and surprisingly usable ‘Eco’ light in the instrument cluster.
Also on the ‘basic’ side is the climate control, as front seat passengers have to agree on a setting (no front dual zone), and the driver’s seat doesn’t have adjustable lumbar support.
The boot is enormous. So big, in fact, that considerable effort may be required to restrain small loads.
Those of shorter stature may struggle to comfortably reach the furthest depths of the cargo area (and expect to get dust on your clothes while you’re leaning on the bumper).
A cargo barrier may be a worthwhile investment should you never need the two seats at the rear (seven seats in total), and with one in place, it’s hard to fathom that the average family could ever run out of boot space.
Those rear seats offer enough room for most under 14s, and the second row seat will hold three adults in comfort.
Finally, Toyota proves that ‘everything old is new again’ with a special shade of chocolate brown for the interior trim, straight out of the ‘70s.
The chocolate is sure to be a hit with those looking for something a bit different. For others, a fawn trim is also available.
ON AND OFF ROAD
- Engine: 130kW/450Nm 2.8 litre 4cyl turbo-diesel
- Transmission: 6-speed automatic, AWD
- Suspension: Independent double wishbone front, multi-link rear
- Brakes: ventilated disc brakes front and rear
- Steering: power assisted rack and pinion
- Towing: 2800kg gross braked, 750kg unbraked
The question every aspiring pickup-based 4WD wagon owner must ask is: “can I tolerate the ride?”
If ‘no’, a step up to the Prado or LandCruiser Wagon range will be required if the Toyota badge is a must along with proper off-road ability.
If ‘yes’, financial savings can be had over the aforementioned models without sacrificing space or drivability.
Thankfully, carmakers have come a long way in this regard and the Fortuner Crusade’s ride quality is more than acceptable.
This is no luxury long-wheelbase sedan - remember, it’s a ute underneath - but it’s also no bone-breaking truck with little regard for passenger comfort.
Over a selection of typical Australian back roads, highways, dirt roads, freeways and city streets, the Fortuner’s ride satisfied.
Stepping off the bitumen only increased the comfort factor, as the Fortuner easily eats up dirt roads, fire trails through national parks and even more extreme 4WD-ing assuming the driver has the appropriate knowledge, skill and preparation (keep it safe, people).
We didn’t stretch the Fortuner’s off-roading prowess to the limit, but everything we asked it handled with absolute ease.
And therein lays the appeal of this and other similar wagons as family cars. The back road is always an option, the scenic route beckons and a family camping trip is limited only by your available time. It’s why you might choose the Fortuner over an SUV.
For those that need to know, the Fortuner’s maximum wading depth is 700mm, while the approach and departure angles are 30 and 25 degrees respectively.
Off-road goodies include a diff lock, hill decent control and the all-important transfer case with low-range. Options include a snorkel, side steps (fitted to our test car), along with a bull bar with winch and driving light mounting points.
The standard tyres are Dunlop Grandtrek (typical for Toyota 4WDs) wrapped around 18-inch alloy wheels. They’re smooth on the black top, but as more of a ‘highway terrain’ tyre, buyers will perhaps need to upgrade if frequent off-road trips are on the menu.
At 8.6 l/100km, the official fuel figure wasn’t too far away from our average test figure of 10.0 l/100km measured over a wide range of driving conditions. For a large 4WD with a gross vehicle mass of more than 2.7 tonnes, any reasonable owner would be happy with such fuel figures.
The engine plays to its strengths with a torque figure of 450Nm, but there are more willing engines in the class.
The six-speed auto is a peach, with crisp shift points and quick to downshift when required. The steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters are also useful.
The big body is cut down to size with rear parking sensors and a reversing camera, but the big bonnet is heavy and has no gas struts to assist.
The brakes are up to the task and, more importantly, feel as though they could handle the 2800kg gross braked tow rating. This is one area where the auto falls short, as the manual model lifts that figure to 3000kg, but with the recent update the manual is now restricted to the GX and GXL models.
ANCAP rating: 5-stars. The Fortuner scored 33.95 out of 37 points when tested in 2015.
Safety Features: dual front airbags, side and curtain airbags with a driver knee airbag, anti-lock brakes with brake-force distribution and brake assist, stability control, traction control, hill start assist, reverse camera, trailer sway control
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km kilometres
Servicing: Toyota recommends six-monthly servicing, or every 10,000km (whichever comes first). Capped-price servicing starts from $240 per service regardless of the odometer reading.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
It’s tight at the top of this particular 4WD segment, with the current sales king of the ute-based off-roader wagons being the Isuzu MU-X.
The MU-X previously undercut the Crusade on price in the top-spec LS-T model at $56,100 plus on-roads, but Toyota's aggressive new pricing structure sees this advantage virtually eliminated.
Next in line for sales is the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, which in the top-spec Exceed variant was nearly nine grand cheaper than the Fortuner, has a pinch of extra power (but down 20Nm), is slightly more economical and comes with an eight-speed auto. Again, Toyota's new pricing has cut the Pajero Sport's price avantage by more than half.
We’ve already compared the Exceed and the Crusade, which you can read about here.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The 2017 Toyota Fortuner Crusade Automatic sets out to fill a hole in Toyota’s large family car line-up.
But the hole is a small one, with the Kluger leading the segment for large SUVs and the Prado dominating the 4WD class.
You could consider the Fortuner as a cut-price Prado, and Toyota says the Fortuner is "an affordable choice for those who aspire to own a LandCruiser" (remember, Prado's full name is LandCruiser Prado). With the new pricing, some Prado buyers may just be swayed back to the Fortuner.
If not, Toyota won’t mind as long as other Toyotas are its main competition but the Fortuner may be destined to remain a low-volume seller for its duration.
And that’s a shame, because the Fortuner is a solid 4-star car, and it’s one you should consider.
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