The Toyota Fortuner is SUV royalty in South Africa, with the second-generation model launched locally in 2016.
It has now received a refresh, with the biggest enhancement being the addition of a top-spec VX model to the line-up.
Only those with a keen eye will be able to spot the exterior enhancements, while on the inside Toyota have really stepped up their game.
I spent a week with it to find out more.
The Fortuner offers seven seats, updated exterior styling, and in 4×4 form as we have here, good off-road prowess.
It’s easy to understand why families who live the “outdoor” life have flocked to it.
The silhouette has remained with changes limited to a new front-end design, slightly updated grill and bumpers, and elegant Bi-LED headlamps and LED tail lights.
It looks a lot more “premium” now thanks to these updates.
Inside the chocolate brown interior that caused many discussions around the braai is gone.
In its place is an all-black design, putting it in line with interior trends more suited to the South African market.
Gone is the old infotainment system and in its place is the Toyota 8-inch touchscreen infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality.
This allows you to use your preferred music streaming, mapping, and other online services.
The VX gets pre-installed maps, but generally Waze and Google Maps are far more convenient – especially as they integrate perfectly with voice commands.
The Fortuner also gains Toyota Connect, which provides in-car Wi-Fi, app-controlled vehicle monitoring, online service bookings, and roadside assistance.
The premium-car-like feel is then supplemented with additional safety features – including a pre-collision alert, radar-based cruise control, lane departure warnings, and blind-spot alert.
That is where the car-like feel ends, however, as underneath it retains its bakkie underpinnings and a high-centre of gravity thanks to its ladder-frame chassis.
This means that unlike many unibody-constructed premium SUVs, the Fortuner is high, which amplifies physics when cornering and braking.
Perhaps the handling characteristics are favoured by some, but it’s not something I was keen on.
This is sad because the 2.8-litre GD6 is a really good engine. The four-cylinder, turbo-diesel produces 150kW and 500Nm of torque, making it an effortless cruiser and caravan-tower.
The new GD6 engine is also smoother and quieter, providing a more refined driving experience. With cruise control set at highway speeds, it’s silent inside the cabin – road noise insulation is excellent.
When the circumstances then allow, there’s a rugged all-wheel drive system complete with dial-selectable low range and a host of off-road features to make tackling most terrain simple.
Toyotas are renowned for their reliability and it’s not uncommon to see Fortuners for sale with hundreds of thousands of kilometres on them.
This is a factor contributing to their popularity.
They’re also more rugged than the other SUVs from the premium brands, which adds to the allure of long-term ownership.
Having chatted to a few owners of older models, they enjoy the high seating position, too – whether it be in traffic or for a spot of game viewing.
In terms of the Fortuner VX’s rivals, Ford has the closest challenger to this in the Everest 2.0 Bi-turbo Limited – but it’s R32,000 more expensive.
If outright engine size is less of a factor and you want a car with as much off-road credibility, then the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport 2.4 MIVEC 4×4 Auto Exceed offers most of what the Toyota does, but for R100,000 less.
This segment is a popular one with many choices, leaving little but brand preference and proximity to a dealership to sway your purchasing decision.