Home Lifestyle Motoring Tackling Swartberg Pass in the newly updated 2023 Toyota Fortuner

Tackling Swartberg Pass in the newly updated 2023 Toyota Fortuner

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The Toyota Fortuner has been freshened up on the outside and beneath the skin. Colin Windell recently spent some quality time with it in the Karoo.

By: Colin Windell

THE latest set of updates to Toyota’s Fortuner – first launched here in 2005 – sees the mid-level SUV take a significant step up as an on- and off-road performer.

At the same time, the exterior has been freshened up and the front end with its sharp creases and revised lighting signature now bring the range into line with the current Toyota design seen on the likes of the Corolla Cross.

The Swartberg Pass is a majestic 23.8km of unmatched scenery designed by Thomas Bain and built by convicts. It was first opened in 1888 and remains as pristine as the old and grainy 8mm film footage I have of my late father, his twin brother and their wives reversing an Austin A40 up the inclines.

Although it is well maintained enough to allow almost any modern car to traverse this winding road, taking the revised Toyota Fortuner – in top-spec VX trim – on this route highlighted the changes made to the suspension and to the noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) characteristics.

Although Toyota is keeping mum about the actual engineering involved in the suspension tweaks, the results can be quickly felt as it sits more solidly on the road, exhibiting little rear wheel shudder on the rippled gravel surface.

Equally, on the tarmac, the whole road feel is more confident, while the NVH adjustment means the cabin stays quiet with minimal intrusion from road, tyre and wind noise.

Those changes are not the domain of the VX-level version, they apply across the board.

The sleek, catamaran-inspired front fascia and newly styled 18-inch alloy wheels also get a bi-tone exterior on selected models. Mid and high-grade models have also been enhanced with black and maroon-detailed leather seats and next-gen advanced active safety upgrades.

This is a model update and not a ‘new’ vehicle and, given the timeline of previous Hilux/Fortuner model cycles, it would seem any truly new vehicle is at least three years away.

While Toyota will not confirm likely changes, that may be the point when it moves up from the current six-speed automatic gearbox to eight or even 10 cogs and redesigns the rear end completely to accept flat-folding rear seats. Mzo Witbooi, manager of Product Communication & Marketing, is quick to point out: “Toyota listens to its customers and most changes are driven by what these buyers are asking for.”

Thus, for this iteration, the engine options remain the same, being the 2.4 GD-6 and 2.8 GD-6 mills offering 110kW at 3 400 r/min and 400Nm of torque from 1,600 r/min for the smaller unit, with 150kW at 3,000 r/min and 500Nm from 1,600 r/min for the top level.

Fuel consumption is quoted at 6.8 litres/100km for the 2.4-litre version and 7.9 litres/100km for the 2.8-litre and, on the launch route I came quite close to that steady speed figure, achieving 8.5 litres/100km, including the Swartberg Pass.

As befits its flagship status, the VX version gets an upgraded sound system and has two Type C USB ports in the rear along with the older type in the front.

Throughout the range, safety specification is comprehensive, including seven airbags, anti-lock braking, adaptive cruise control (VX), multiple camera views, hill descent control and all the things one would expect from a vehicle at this level – with very few differences between the base model and the VX itself.

But then, driving a SUV is all about the ride – and the new Toyota Fortuner has answered that question.

Colin-on-Cars

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