Fri | Aug 18, 2017

Fortuner moves up in class

Published:Sunday | June 5, 2016 | 6:00 AM
Toyota Fortuner’s hindquarters.
A closer look at the four-wheel drive 2016 Toyota Fortuner with the Port Royal lighthouse in the background.
The 2016 Toyota Fortuner, with the two-wheel drive model on the left.
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So there I am driving on the dual carriageway in Rockfort St Andrew, the pipes of the Jamaica Private Power Company (JPPC) having disappeared from the 2016 Toyota Fortuner's rear view mirrors and a wide look at Carib Cement on both sides of the road over ahead. No SUV all-round visibility issues here. There is leather seating under my backside (chair set just right through accurate electronic adjustment), the air conditioning is definitely adding to my sense of cool; 2.7 litres of gas engine power is at the bidding of my restrained right foot; and Toyota Jamaica's Howard Foster is enduring my Ms Daisy driving.

All is well with a Wednesday afternoon, and to make it better for review purposes, I get a reference point for the new Fortuner ó an older one. We purr past a blue model taking life at a slower pace in the left lane, and I am instantly enveloped in a sense of superiority. It is not personal ó a man is still a manó but a Fortuner is not still a Fortuner as even in the few seconds of approaching, going past, and flicking a look back at the former generation model, the change in personality is vivid.

They both have the third row of seats which ups carrying capacity, but the 2016 Fortuner has stepped up many notches from hosting many people to cradling many people in style. It is not only the leather seats standard on both the two and four wheel models, the wood trim, third row air conditioning, full digital stereo with decent speakers and oodles of controls at the fingertips mounted on and around the steering wheel (I regret not trying the paddle shifters on the way out to Palisadoes).

It is the little things that help make the upscale statement, like the inset Fortuner logo that is depressed to open up the upper part of the glove compartment. Plus, there are the not so little things, like the LED daytime running lights, Foster later explaining that the LED is for both low and high beam.

Foster told Automotives that in its previous life, the Fortuner was between the Rav4 and the Prado in the Toyota line-up. Now, the Prado does not have that much on the Fortuner. There are three in the Toyota Jamaica line-up: 2.7 litre gas two and four-wheel drive and a 3.0 litre diesel, the last expected in shortly.

Having cleared the Harbour View Roundabout, it is all systems go for Port Royal.

I put enough pressure on the gas pedal to finally get the eco light (which indicates optimal fuel consumption, which is different from the eco mode that puts the Fortuner in gas conservation setting) off.

Plus, I drop the fingers of my left hand from the armest to the power mode button mounted in the console. The Eco-mode button is right beside it, but I suspect if had chosen that one. Foster would have queried the pedestrian attitude because we would have been practically walking.

Power mode

Power mode brings out a different side of the Fortuner, and we surge past a lesser metal or two. With the wide curves, despite its weight, the Fortuner handles very well. However, I had to wait until Port Royal to see how nimble it is.

A church's parking lot was pressed into service for a couple circles and I had a big grin on my noggin as I went around a couple of times, a few residents eyeing this strange round and round manoeuvre. Also in Port Royal, I take a little patch of rough road and the Fortuner makes smooth sailing of it.

A bit earlier, I had occasion to engage the four-wheel drive in a little spot of sand. It was an easy flick of a knob and an easy move out of the spot. The Fortuner is ready for serious off-road action, too, with four low and locking differentials, not that I used it. Neither did I have occasion to use the hill, descent assist feature. The reverse camera comes up in the rear view mirror.

The new Fortuner comes with a three-year/100,000 km warranty and a two-year service package covering parts and labour. The 2.7 litre two- wheel drive starts at $8.412 million, while the 2.7 litre four-wheel drive starts at $8.971 million. The 3.0 litre diesel four-wheel drive starts at $9.210 million.

Foster says that a few new Fortuners have already been moved out of Toyota Jamaica's gates. Speaking of moving, on the return journey, I get a handle of the two-wheel drive model and I feel the weight difference from the four-wheel drive in the vehicle's response to my right foot.

Speaking of upscale, there is a response at Portia Sampson Miller Square, which emphasises the raised bar. The windshield wipers walk on by.