A capable but expensive medium wagon offering from the 4WD market leader.

Toyota has released a new seven-seat Fortuner that's based on the 2016 HiLux platform. Part-time-4WD is the only driveline available.

toyota fortunerAlthough the nameplate is new Down Under the Fortuner has been sold in some countries since 2005. Global sales have grown from 50,000 in the first year to around 200,000 annually now.

The 2016 Fortuner is based on the 2016 HiLux platform and is certainly a much better looking vehicle than the original model.

Fortuner is being sold Australia in three grades - GX, GXL and Crusade.

A new six-speed manual gearbox includes 'intelligent' technology on GXL and Crusade grades, to ensure smoother shifting by matching engine speed to transmission speed. A newly developed six-speed automatic transmission is also available.

All variants are fitted with trailer sway control, which is designed to assist if a towed vehicle becomes unsettled by crosswinds, bumpy roads or sharp turns of the steering wheel. Maximum braked towing capacity is three tonnes for the manual and 2.8 tonnes for the auto.

A part-time 4WD system is fitted; with high or low range selection by a dial switch.

toyota fortunerThe double-wishbone front and five-link, coil-spring rear suspensions were tuned by local engineers to suit Australia's harsh conditions, Toyota claims. Front and rear stabiliser bars are fittedl.

Local development included tuning of the stability and active traction control electronics for local conditions, particularly gravel roads. Drivers can disable the stability control electronics for off-road situations such as driving in mud or sand.

The vehicle's off-road ability is enhanced by a rear differential lock, with its actuator within the differential housing for off-road protection.

A reversing camera is standard across the range, as are seven airbags, hill-start assist control and an emergency stop signal.

All variants feature front and rear air-conditioning, touchscreen audio displays, Toyota Link connected mobility, side steps, 17- or 18-inch wheels, disc brakes front and rear, and an air-conditioned compartment that helps keep drinks and food warm or cold.

The two higher grades are fitted with roof rails, fog lamps, reverse parking sensors, keyless smart entry and start, and downhill assist control.

The Crusade model has bi-LED headlamps and LED daytime running lamps, a power back door and 18-inch wheels with highway tyres.

toyota fortunerToyota's latest 2.8-litre direct-injection turbo-diesel engine raises the bar for fuel efficiency, performance and quietness.

Maximum torque of 450Nm, when coupled to the new six-speed automatic transmission, is available from 1600 to 2400rpm. Manual transmission Fortuners are limited to 420Nm, because the box can't handle more torque.

We'd love to have given you some early driving impressions, but Toyota didn't invite us to the launch, so we had to wait until Decmber for a test vehicle.

Toyota expects the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating, as all variants are equipped with stability and active traction control, seven airbags, reversing camera, trailer sway control, hill-start assist control and rake-and-reach adjustments for the steering column. It includes three top-tether anchors and two ISOFIX child-seat mounts.

The GX grade, which is expected to account for just over half of Fortuner's sales, has a starting price of $47,990 for the manual and $2000 more for the auto.

Standard equipment includes fabric seat-coverings with contrast stitching, projector-style headlamps, LED tail-lamps, an air-conditioned cool box, Bluetooth connectivity, six speakers, three 12V accessory sockets, audio and phone controls mounted on the steering wheel, eco and power drive modes and a multi-information display (MID) in the instrument cluster.

Mid-range GXL gains alloy wheels, keyless entry and start, roof rails, reverse parking sensors, fog lamps, colour MID, privacy glass and downhill assist control. Manual versions have Toyota's innovative 'intelligent' system that matches engine revolutions to transmission speed for smooth shifting. Auto variants have paddle shifters. Pricing starts at $52,990.

Top-of-the range Crusade has a leather-accented interior, satellite navigation, power tailgate, climate-control air-conditioning, bi-LED headlamps, 18-inch alloy wheels (including the spare), 220V socket and a power-operated driver's seat. It is priced from $59,990.

If you've got any money left, a range of Toyota Genuine accessories is available, including airbag-compatible bull bars, towbar and load distribution hitch.


On and off road

toyota fortunerOur Fortuner test vehicle was a 50-grand GX auto model. Being based on the new HiLux platform that we've tested the Fortuner has inbuilt strength. The principal mechanical difference bewteen the HiLux and the Fortuner is the use of coil rear springs in place of leaves.

Ride quality was better than the HiLux's bouncy progress, but the rear end seemed to hit the bump stops all too readily on large bumps. It felt like it need longer rear coils and better dampers, with improved bump valving.

Handling was flat and predictable and any wayward tendencies on loose gravel were kept in check by the stability control system. Unlike the Prado the Fortuner doesn't have full-time 4WD.

Performance wasn't an issue and the wagon returned 9L/100km on our on and off road test.

Off road the Fortuner was very capable and drivers have the choice of letting traction control do the wheelspin limiting function, or they can use the rear diff lock. However, there's no front axle traction control when the diff is locked.

Check out our video of the test:

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