More finesse than your average

Published June 17, 2021, 9:41 AM

by Inigo Roces

2021 Toyota Fortuner 2.8 4×4 LTD A/T

Text and photos by Eric Tipan

This isn’t a totally fresh model, nor is it the next-generation but after driving the new Fortuner in LTD grade for a week, I can conclude that the additions Toyota gave it took this SUV to the next level in terms of looks, performance, comfort, and safety.

The body is essentially the same, but having some exclusive bling makes it look just a notch better than your regular Fortuner. The mesh-type, blacked-out front grille seems plain but paired with a couple of split-type LED headlamps and a redesigned bumper, and voila, a sleeker and more stylish façade.

The two-tone (White Pearl Crystal Shine/Attitude Black Mica) color doesn’t stand out as much until seen in profile view with its 18-inch alloy wheels in machine cut finish. Taking a cue from its well-heeled Lexus counterparts, it now gets sequential LED front turn signal lamps and sequential LED rear combination lamps. Not bad at all for just a mid-cycle update.

It comes with a rather chunky keyfob that I thankfully didn’t have to keep bringing out. With a ‘smart’ entry system, keeping the key in my pocket and just grabbing the door handle unlocks the vehicle.

With all the tech it had (more on that later), I half expected the cabin to be cramped so you can understand my surprise. Headroom was great even with the leather seats adjusted higher for a better view of the road. Even with a large center console, it didn’t affect the amount of elbow room along the front row.

Whoever picked the color scheme in the cabin should get a huge pat on the back. Not only do the black and maroon blend nicely, it also has a certain elegance to it that previous models of the Fortuner didn’t have.

Fronts seats have a ventilation system so no need to worry about how hot leather is in the summer. Plus, both are eight-way power adjustable. Like the other grades, the second-row seats come with a 60/40 split feature, slide and recline, a one-touch tumble system, and a center armrest. The third row can split 50/50 but only folds up when stowed, which takes away some space especially if loaded with tall cargo.

Its eight-inch touchscreen isn’t as vibrant as others, but being JBL-branded, not to mention hooked up to nine speakers, it delivers audio that will do justice to your Spotify playlist.

The best cabin feature for me though is the wireless charger that works even if your phone has a thick case.

In order to lug around its 2.61-metric ton body (with a 4×4 drivetrain), it uses a 2.8L turbocharged diesel engine with an air-cooled intercooler that’s mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.

Amazingly, the 500-Nm of torque feel sedate. Acceleration, even when rushed, is calm yet purposeful — the same kind of firm and steady pace you get from big displacement engines. This, though, can get you as much as 8.7-kilometers per liter in mixed driving conditions.

Wireless charging just below the 4WD dial and seat ventilation controls.

The 204-PS doesn’t sound like much but it does wonders on the highway. Not only can it maintain 100 km/h without even straining, it can get there (and way beyond that) quickly without the need to floor the throttle.

Except for the diesel clatter, it is so much more crossover-like in cabin comfort than ever before. Toyota has done a great job lowering noise, harshness, and vibration levels. The only giveaway that you’re still in a truck is its body roll, so slow down around bends and corners.

Steering feedback is just right, which gave me a good feel of the vehicle’s weight while driving. It has variable flow control that automatically adjusts steering wheel stiffness depending on the speed to help reduce stress and fatigue, especially on long drives.

If you like what you’re reading, I haven’t even gotten to the best part yet: Toyota Safety Sense. Having that gives this variant Pre-Collision System (PCS), Lane Departure Alert (LDA), and Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC). I like the latter the best. Hit the highway, set it, and forget it, knowing it’ll adjust depending on the distance from the vehicle in front. LDA is a little intrusive and highly sensitive, as it should be, but it will get irritating if you’re on roads with messed-up markings.

It’s a whole lot of SUV for someone who just wants a vehicle with high ground clearance, not to mention the fact that it’s priced at P2.414 million. But if you want to get a feel for the future of this nameplate, the 2021 Toyota Fortuner 2.8 4×4 LTD A/T is the best example of where Toyota is taking this SUV next.