2016 Fortuna Crusade Review
By STUART MARTIN
Price: $59,990 plus options and on-road costs
Engine/Trans: 130kW/420Nm 2.8-litre DT Diesel / 6-speed auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 8.6 l/100km combined
Construction: Body on chassis
Suspension: Independent front / Live rear axle
Towing: 750kg unbraked / 3000kg braked
Vehicle class: off-road passenger vehicle (MC)
Toyota’s dominance with the HiLux is motoring folklore and the dominant brand on the Australian market is looking to grab even more of the 4WD market with the wagon version.
The HiLux-based Fortuner shares the powerplant – a 2.8-litre four-cylinder common-rail direct-injection turbodiesel engine (minus the balance shafts it gets in the Prado) that produces 130kW of power and 420Nm of torque from 1400 to 2600rpm.
That’s 13kW and 50Nm shy of the 200-odd kg heavier auto-only Everest, but it delivers decent forward progress and flexible, if not startling, in-gear acceleration.
The Fortuner range is available in both six-speed manual and auto right through the three model range, which starts from $47,990 for the GX, but we’re in the top-spec $59,990 Crusade, plus $2000 for the auto.
It’s a seven-seater that boasts serious off-road and towing prowess – ground clearance is now listed at 225mm (it was 279mm) after a revision of the specifications by Toyota, without explanation; it’s also claiming a 700mm wading depth.
A dual range transfer case – that runs RWD, 4WD high and low, but no on-road 4WD – and locally-developed underbody protection and bull bar packages are also among the Fortuner’s arsenal.
It shares the HiLux double-wishbone front suspension but gets its own multi-link rear end (and rear brake discs), a set-up that delivers a solid road feel and decent ride quality, only let down by the jiggle of body-on-frame over little road niggles.
It can be hustled on the open road without undue noise or unruly cornering behaviour – it still leans a bit and that’s to be expected given it’s off-road ability, but more on that later.
A fuel economy lab-derived claim of 8.6 litres per 100km for the auto wasn’t quite replicated on road (it rarely is) where the numbers were hovering between 10 and 11 litres from the 80-litre tank every 100km, which included cruising, suburban and off-road work.
The auto also claims a 2800kg braked towing capacity (the manual’s rating is 3000kg but it has less torque with which to do it), but both beat the Prado’s unchanged 2500kg rating.
The underpinnings impress when the road surface changes, where the cabin remains quiet but the suspension seems to prefer unsealed surfaces; it’s only let down by the on-centre vagueness of the hydraulically-assisted power steering, but it’s less apparent on the dirt.
In automatic guise, the powerplant was smooth and flexible, with the broad torque curve lending itself to solid – if not stunning – in-gear acceleration.
But once up to cruise, engine noise is well-quelled and wind noise is minimal, even around the large and useful exterior mirrors.
Bush tracks failed to deter the Fortuner, with good engine braking and a suspension set-up at home in the rough; hill descent control is largely surplus to requirements.
Traction is well maintained by good travel for the 18-inch alloy wheels and the standard rear diff lock, which was also an unnecessary but welcome back-up on the steep and rocky terrain.
It measures just under 4.8m long, 1.9m wide, 1.8m tall and weighs in at just over 2.1 tonnes – making it taller but not quite as long or as wide as the Kluger.
The seven-seater has a sliding and folding second and folding row, as well as a third row that folds to the side.
While that does interfere with rear three quarter vision, it is a more flexible interior than the MU-X and Colorado 7 – a 200-litre cargo space is available with seven aboard, rising to between 654 and 716 when five-up (depending on legroom needs) and a maximum of 1702 litres with two up and loaded to the roofline.
The leather-trimmed seating is comfortable and supportive, with rear passengers getting good leg and acceptable headroom (thanks to a receded headlining with air vents) as well as good forward vision.
The front pair might hanker for a little more width in the footwell, as well the removal of the naff fake wood trim.
The two third-row occupants are also kept well ventilated by ceiling-mounted outlets and can access their seats via the flip-fold function of both sides of the second row.
Unfortunately the third row is destined to remain unmoved without considerable effort; Toyota has not seen fit to return to a removable third row set-up.
At least the middle row fold-forward function allows for a large load area if required, something the Colorado7 and MU-X can’t achieve.
The Crusade features list gets a satnav infotainment system with digital radio reception, Bluetooth and USB inputs, a power tailgate, single-zone climate-control, a leather/wood steering wheel, useful bi-LED headlights and a power-adjustable driver’s seat.
There’s also keyless entry and ignition, fog lights, privacy rear window tint, 12-volt outlets (in front, the middle row and the boot) as well as a 220-volt power plug, reach and rake adjustable steering, cruise control and side steps.
The standard safety features list includes stability (including trailer sway control) and traction control, seven airbags (dual front, side, curtain and a driver’s knee airbag), four-wheel disc brakes, a reversing camera, rear parking sensors and hill-start assist control.
There’s also room for a second battery and the electrical system has additional accessory wiring facilities.
Given it can out-tow the Prado, use half as much fuel as a Kluger while going a lot further off the beaten track, and has more refined road manners than the Isuzu and Holden, it’s not hard to see why Toyota is confident it will sell all it can get.