Car Reviews

2016 Toyota Fortuner GX manual review onroad and offroad

Robert Pepper’s 2016 Toyota Fortuner GX manual review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety, verdict and rating.

In a nutshell: The fortuner is a classic toyota 4WD that should be on anyone’s shortlist for a touring wagon offroader.

2016 Toyota Fortuner

Price : From $47,990 (+ORC) GX Manual Warranty : 3 year / 100,000km Safety : 5 star ancap (33.95/37) tested in 2015 Engine : 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel Power : 130kW @ 3400RPM Torque : manual – 420Nm @ 1400-2600RPM, auto – 450Nm @ 1600-2400rpm Transmission : six-speed manual / six-speed AUTOMATIC Body : 4795mm (L); 1855mm (W); 1790mm (H) WHEELBASE: 2750MM Wading : 700mm approach/ramp/departure: 30 / 25 / 23.5 Ground clearance : 225mm (measured, 279mm claimed) tyres : 265/65/17 (265/60/18 on Crusade) TARE Weight : 2120-2135Kg Towing: 750kg unbraked; manual – 3000KG braked / 300kg tbm, auto – 2800kg / 280kg tbm, tsc gcm : 5745kg manual, 5545kg auto brakes : 4 discs turning circle: 11.6m suspension : independent front with coils, rear live axle with coils SPARE : FULL SIZE Thirst : manual 7.8/100km, auto 8.6L/100km ADR81/02 combined TANK SIZE: 80L FUEL : DIESEL

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Editor's Rating

How we rated the Toyota Fortuner GX 93%
The Fortuner is one of the best offroad touring wagons on the market, combining reasonable on-road manners, superb offroad capability plus Toyota's trademark practical bushability, and we can see it stealing a lot of Prado sales. But if you don't need the offroad ability there are cheaper and better suburban SUV alternatives, and some buyers will want a more highly-specified vehicle than Fortuner range can offer.
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Our Fortuner GX manual test was over ten days and 5000km from Melbourne to Coraki and back, through state forests, back roads and over sand dunes, camping every night.

We also have a comparison of the different Toyota 4WDs, including Fortuner vs Prado and Fortuner vs Kluger, and a guide to the Fortuner’s 4WD systems.

Some updates on 8-9/01/2016 as a result of Toyota’s responses to queries.

Design

Toyota 4WD owners like their tradition so the Fortuner’s long “overbite” snout was never going to win a lot of instant fans. But like all new designs it’ll be accepted over time, and it’s at least a clean modern look at the front which continues at the rear with a stepped window line, and minimal use of so-last-year chrome. It’s all practical too, with very good clearance and angles.

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The Fortuner is essentially a wagon-based Hilux, which is good as it means robust, workmanlike engineering and lots of aftermarket support. It also runs a part-time 4WD system with low range and the usual electronics — more on that here.

Toyota have only got 6000 to sell for the year and you can expect them to be quickly snapped up.

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Room & practicality

The interior is like a 2015 take on a 1990s Hilux which means it works pretty well, and you wouldn’t call it dated.  All the controls are easy to use dials and switches except for the volume control which is an annoying touchscreen… please carmarkers, just use dials, they’re so much easier.
 
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The front storage is above average. There is an excellent dual glovebox, capacious centre storage bin and sidepockets that aren’t massive but are good enough to store the likes of UHF handhelds, small shifters and Leathermen. There is a cubby pocket with a rubber lining in front of the gear shifter for phones and coins. A nice touch is the pop-out coffee cup holders for driver and passenger under the outermost vents. There are no central drinks holders, which was a minor hassle when changing drivers as we needed to change drink bottle locations too. 
 
At the front there’s one 12v socket and one USB, plus an AUX in. The infotainment unit is good — clear, easy to use and responsive, has all the basics but isn’t exactly feature rich beyond phone and Bluetooth audio. There’s a fair bit of fuel consumption data, because obviously the target market for Fortuners really care about that sort of thing. Of more interest is the text messaging read function, and voice control which work well.  There’s no split cycle aircon on the GX. 
 

The second row is basic, with a 40/60 percent split and the 60 is on the wrong side, the kerb side, although the seats are comfortable and spacious. The second row seats can be moved backwards and forwards a little, or tumbled forwards with a single release. Once forward there’s not a lot of space left. A nice touch is the 12v socket easily accessible to the rear passengers, and not easily damaged, plus a little ledge to hold a phone. More cars should be like this.
 

The third row is cramped in every way. This is definitely kids-only territory.  Even worse, the seats are the old fold-up type so they not only reduce storage space but rear visibility. Then the story gets worse again. We decided to pull the seats out for extra storage room. That’s quite easy, just two 14mm bolts. But then you find the springload is retained on the seat mount point, and it’s a right pain to put the seat back — there are two big springs to lift the seat up, and one small one to bring it down, and lining the three up is very hard work. There’s also an ugly gap with no trim panel to hide it, and the springs are prone to catching on things. With another three bolts you could remove the mount, but that won’t fix the gap, and one of the three bolts you need to undo to remove the seat mount is inaccessible behind the seat itself. Basically, don’t expect to be popping the rear seats in and out every five minutes.
 
 

UPDATE: Toyota have responded to our query and said:
 
The third row seats have been designed to remain fixed within the vehicle. The seats feature a hinge that allows operators to easily fold them down and stow them.
 

 
Which is all well and good, but lots of people are going to want to pull them out. So we did.
 

Otherwise, storage space in the rear is not bad, quite usable although as with all modern cars there’s a fair bit of room lost either side. There is at least a 12v socket. A huge disappointment is the total lack of tiedowns, something that is entirely unforgiveable in any SUV let alone one meant to be a touring 4WD. You’ll need to use the third-row seat hooks built into the floor, or disconnect the rear seatbelts. The middle seat in the second row has its seatbelt roof-mounted which is never good as it gets in the way of storage space. At least in the Fortuner the positioning is not too bad, but the second centre seat has its child restraint in the roof, way towards the back, and that will definitely get in the way once you fill the cargo area.
 
On the GX Toyota have thoughtfully provided some quality rubber mats throughout, so this is one of the few cars I didn’t put in my spare set of aftermaket mats. The cargo bay is carpet, I would prefer it to be plastic or at least a mat supplied. Driver’s seat adjustment in the GX is forwards/backwards, height and back tilt. Steering wheel is reach and tilt.

 
The cargo area has a one-piece lift-up tailgate. It is fairly capacious, with a little ledge towards the back near the second-row seats that can be used for stashing little-used items such as tyre repair gear, spares and the like.  There’s under-seat storage and we even found that tent poles slide under the second row.  It is not the easiest of tailgates to operate being quite heavy so kids and smaller adults will struggle a bit, particularly if the car is lifted.  The Crusade has a power tailgate — more on those here.
 

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Space for a second battery, not overly cramped by modern standards. Battery and air filer easily accessible. No gas struts here…

Overall, the Fortuner is practical and roomy, with most of what it lacks fairly easy to rectify aftermarket, but it isn’t class-leading and the 7-seat system is below par.

Performance, ride and handling

On road: The Fortuner can move along nicely enough, but it’s no sporting SUV. The engine is not particularly powerful, and there’s no point taking it beyond 3500rpm; instead, change early and let the torquey motor do its work, which it does in a nicely unhurried manner. 
 
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The ride isn’t great for a coil-sprung rear end, and it reminded me of some of the better leaf-sprung utes, with a slightly fiddly rear end that’s a fair way off plush, even with a bit of a load. There’s more bump steer than there should be in a wagon of this nature, and the steering is tight but a little indistinct. At cruise the rather tall sixth gear means life is relaxed and quiet, and the vehicle will pull steadily but slowly up inclines in top gear. At 100km/h the engine sits happily on 1500rpm and will pull from there without any drama — that’s at the start of the max torque rev range. At 110km/h you’re looking at a cruisy 1700rpm.
 
Pick up the pace and the Fortuner reluctantly responds, able to hustle along country roads with as much speed as anyone would ever need. Push further and there are no vices, just a very progressive tendency to understeer as a gentle indicator the Fortuner is not best pleased.
 
There’s an ECO mode. This is completely pointless and should be labelled Placebo Mode because all it does is deaden the throttle and fiddle with the aircon, and you’d just use more of both to compensate anyway. The car will also pop up an Eco icon on the dash when you’re just cruising in a highish gear, just in case you wanted to know you weren’t using much fuel and couldn’t work it out for yourself. That feature can be turned off.
 
The Power Mode button doesn’t give you any extra power, it just sharpens the throttle response. You can achieve the same effect by pressing the pedal quicker, but some drivers may like the feel.
 
The cruise control is easy to use, but doesn’t do a great job of maintaining speed downhills where it will let the car run away.
 
Around town the Fortuner is acceptable but no standout. The diesel doesn’t leap off the line, and rear visibility is not the best thanks to the small third-row windows which are pretty much obscured anyway once the third-row seats are lifted up.  Forward visibility is good, and the turning circle is average for the class of vehicle.
 
GXL and Crusade Fortuners have i-MT which matches the revs on downshift.  Our test GX didn’t have this feature, but given the Fortuner’s ability to pull from low gears I’d say i-MT is definitely in the “nice to have” rather than “must have” basket. 
 
The Fortuner is a relaxed and comfortable cruiser, very quiet, stable and easy to while away the long kilometers in, but lacks the sort of effortless waftability you find in the best long-distance 4WDs, albeit all of which are much more expensive.
 

Dirt roads: The Fortuner is a part-time 4WD so if you run it in 2WD on dirt roads there will be the odd bit of traction loss from the rear end around corrugated uphill corners, but the stability control (VSC) smoothly stops anything exciting without being overly intrusive or slowing the car to any great degree. Switch into 4WD — as you should — and Fortuner is much more composed.  It is no rally car — the suspension is too soft and the handling insufficiently sharp — but progress can be made and it is not readily upset by bumps, holes or anything else you find on rough dirt roads, and there is next to no noise from the suspension or other parts of the car even over rough ground. A true Toyota 4WD.

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In general, the rougher the road, the better the Fortuner becomes relative to its peers.

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Offroad: The Fortuner is an offroad-oriented 4X4 from Toyota so you expect it’s going to be good, and it does not disappoint — in fact, I would say that experienced drivers would know they’re in a Toyota if they drove it with their eyes shut. The chunky steering wheel, gruff and grunty engine, shifter feel… it’s all reassuringly Toyota. 

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Rutted hill – traction control worked better than lockers this time around. Fortuner disables ETC on the front axle when the rear locker is engaged.
 
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Excellent rear suspension flex, and not bad on the front either for an independently sprung vehicle.
 
Clearances are excellent (once we pulled off the sidesteps which was just 6 x 12mm bolts per side). Everything is tucked up and well protected. The engine is superb, strong at low revs with a measured response to throttle that is just perfect for bouncing over rough ground.  There’s a pretty decent amount of flex for an independent front vehicle, and the suspension is soft enough to handle rocky terrain but not so soft it’s a stability problem. 
 
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Lots of traction on the rear wheels, so this is where you can crawl with a locker, first low, not touching the throttle and the car just idles up.
 
The steering wheel is big and easy to grip, and the gearing is nicely low. You can leave the car in first low, feet off pedals and it’ll just keep rotating the wheels unless it hits a big bump or runs out of traction. Visibility is pretty good too, as is the seating, and no complaints about brake power or feel when we had the car up on three wheels downhill. There’s no hill descent control (DAC in Toyota-speak) on the GX model, just a low crawl ratio which is all you need. The rear locker helps on rutted downhills too. 
 
UPDATE: Specs just in – the transfer case ratio is the usual 2.566:1, so now we can calculate the crawl ratios which are 36:1 auto, 44:1 manual.
 
The traction control is very good, if not the best of the 2015 pick (watch for a video of it in action on the forthcoming Traction Control vs Lockers) article. The rear locker cannot be engaged in high range, and only when moving very slowly. Once in it’ll stay in, and it sadly disables traction control on the front axle and if DAC (downhill assist control) is fitted then it too is disabled, unfortunately. Given how good the traction control is you’d often want the locker out and have traction control working over all four wheels (video coming to show that in action).

 
The Fortuner cannot be keystarted even in low range — you need to dip the clutch to start.  Even the GX has HSA (hill start assist), where the car is automatically held on the brakes on a hill for three seconds or so, time for you to get your foot from brake to acclerator.  This just gets in the way when offroad as often you’ll be trying to pull away against the brakes, only for the brakes to release and the car to jerk which is not good for traction. In low range HSA really should be disabled as there’s no need for it, but there’s no way to switch it off.
 
The Fortuner goes well on sand with adequate but not outstanding power.  You do need to switch VSC entirely off (three-second press and hold).  In some ways the car is better driven on sand in low range as then you get A-TRC and no VSC – all this is explained here.
 
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There are front and rear recovery points, plus exposed chassis rails for you to add some more. The spare is underslung, and does protrude a bit too much for comfort. Just like the Hilux and most utes, the winch for the spare is operated by using the jack handle inserted through a hole above the bumper — this means you do not need to unload the car at all to get at the spare, and the spare can’t be stolen as the hole is hidden when the tailgate is down. We’ll call that a win for the Fortuner.
 
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The rear locker can take its own sweet time coming in and out too, and we need to disagree with Toyota’s range change advice. You’re better off switching from 4H to 4Lo with the clutch up, then dip the clutch to complete the change. Toyota reckon do it all with the clutch down… well, you can do it that way but you need a few extra swear words.
 
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On occasion when on steep hills the engine oil level low indicator text came up on the dash.  There was sufficient oil in the car, so it clearly doesn’t like being on hills for extended periods of time.   There is an idle up button, but that doesn’t increase the idle speed, it is used to heat engine coolant and warm the cabin in cold weather.   And sometimes the car’s idle will increase at odd intervals – that’s to sort out the DPF (particulate filter).
 
One clarification – the Toyota specs list ground clearance as 279mm, yet it’s a rear live-axle car with 265/65/17 tyres which didn’t seem right.  So we measured it and guess what, it’s more like 225mm.  Here’s a photo as proof:
 
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UPDATE: Toyota got back to us and confirmed that the specification of 279mm was an error, our figure of 225mm is correct and that they will be advising other media of the change.
 
Overall the Fortuner is a very good offroad vehicle, not just in pure capability but also due to the fact that no bits of trim came to close scraping or breaking in the rough and it drives with the assured air of capable robustness Toyota is well known for. It’s as bushable as cars in 2015 get, and is easily one of the best offroad-capable wagons on the market today.
 
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Fortuner with and without sidesteps.  Usually we’d leave them on, but this was a longer test so off they came.  They do significantly decrease clearance and offer no protection so offroaders should do the same. 
 

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Touring:

We managed around 9L/100km in the stock Fortuner, loaded with camping gear for two people including 50L of water over 5000km that included some offroad work and across rural roads. That’s pretty good. The 80L fuel tank is a good size, and seems to have around 18L left when the fuel light comes on. After 10 days of camping out of the Fortuner there’s nothing bad to say, it just works. Even the tailgate is handy to hang camping lights on, and offers some rain protection.
 
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Towing
We did not have the chance to tow with the Fortuner, so this section is written using analysis of the specifications which are below:
 

Fortuner weights  
AutomaticManual
Tare21302125
GVM27502750
Payload620625
GCM55455745
Braked tow28003000
TBM280300
GVM + max braked55505750
Difference to GCM55
Front/rear axle loads1420/1460
Combined axle loads28802880
Difference to GVM130130

 
 
All this towing jargon is fully explained here, but in brief the manual tows 200kg more than the auto. It is pretty much possible to tow the maximum braked weight when at GVM, and the front/rear axle loads can vary by up to 130kg which is about average. Toyota recommends use of a sway control system when you are towing something heavier than the Fortuner itself, and a weight distribution hitch for larger trailers such as caravans. All Fortuners have TSC or trailer sway control which is a sub-programme of stability control designed specifically to prevent trailer sway.
 
Toyota says that to maintain engine braking do not tow in 5th and 6th gear for either automatic or manual. This is not the same as “do not tow in 5th and 6th”.  What it does mean is avoid those gears for heavy loads particularly up and down hills.
 
Overall, it looks like the Fortuner will be a reasonable but not outstanding towcar, although we’ll need to drag a trailer or two for a final opinion.  As ever, if you really want to tow then you need to look at the LC200. If you ever drive even a 1500kg trailer back-to-back with a Prado you’ll see why the bigger car is favoured for towing.
 
We have another blog post on the subject of towing in response to a reader’s query.

Safety

There are three child restraint points on the outer second-row seats, and the outer ones are right down very low towards the back of the seat base. This will not be easy to get to at the best of times, let alone when loaded. The centre second-row restraint is in the ceiling right at the back, not easy to get to and will interfere with a load.
 
It is these little things that lead me to say the Fortuner is no diesel Kluger. At least the Fortuner has two ISOFIX points on the outer second row seats. The spare is full-size, and there is a reversing camera.  The Fortuner has rated 5 stars on ANCAP testing in 2015, with a score of 33.95/37.
 
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There is no option for advanced safety features such as blind spot detection, lane departure warning or AEB.  For that you need to look at a Prado.

Pricing & Equipment

All Fortuners are seven-seater diesels with the same engine. Both the automatic and manual offer 130kW at 3400rpm, but the auto peaks higher at 450Nm from 1600-2400rpm, vs the manual’s wider spread of less torque 420Nm between 1400-2600rpm (although it is likely that the auto would have a similar 420Nm spread). Importantly, the automatic tows 2800kg braked, compared to the manual’s 3000kg.
 
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There are three trim levels:

  • GX  
  • GXL 
  • Crusade 

Kerb weight doesn’t change much, from 2110kg to 2135kg, which makes Fortuner lightweight compared to Prado and especially the heavy Everest.
 
Here are the key differences between the trim levels:
 
GX-specific features – $47,990 (+ORC)
Urethane steering wheel and gear-shift knob
17-inch black steel wheels (all-terrain tyres)
Projector halogen headlamps
Driver seat: six-way adjustable
Front passenger seat: four-way adjustable
Brown fabric seat trim
Body-coloured door handles
Power windows with driver auto up/down
Reversing camera
 
GXL (in addition to GX) – $52,990 (+ORC)
17-inch alloy wheels (all-terrain tyres, steel spare)
Downhill Assist Control
Paddle shifters (auto)
Intelligent manual transmission
Rear parking sensors
4.2-inch colour infotainment unit
Keyless smart entry and start
Premium steering wheel and gear-shift knob
Privacy glass
Roof rails
Front fog lamps
Chrome exterior handles, grille, back-door garnish
Meter illumination control
Power windows – all auto up/down

Crusade (in addition to GXL) – $59,990 (+ORC)
18-inch alloy wheels (full-size alloy spare, highway tyres)
Auto air-conditioning
Satellite navigation, Toyota Link, DAB+ digital radio
Driver’s seat: 8-way power-adjustable
Power tailgate
Projector LED headlamps
Auto headlamp levelling
LED daytime running lamps
Leather-accented seat and door trim
220V/100W accessory socket
Soft-touch console box lid
 
Out of that lot I think the GX is actually the pick, provided you get a set of GXL wheels or aftermarkets as those steels are heavy and ugly, and will be no stronger than good alloys. The GXL is another $5000 which will go a long way towards kitting the Fortuner out for offroad touring, let alone the extra $7000 on top of that (total $12,000) for the Crusade. I predict you will rarely see a Crusade on the road. The GX has all the basics — cruise control, power windows, height-adjustable driver’s seat, Bluetooth audio streaming… yesterday’s luxo-barge is today’s entry level.
 
In any case, touring offroaders definitely do not want the Crusade’s 18-inch wheels, and everything else on the upper trim levels many people could easily live without. The only want-it item for me would be the 220V/100W socket, but there are 12v inverters instead.
 
The “all terrain” tyres are Dunlop Grandtreks, as per usual for Toyota.  Not a bad tyre for a stock car, but most owners will want to swap them for a light-truck construction tyre.
 
The auto transmission is another $2000 and may not be worth it considering the manual is an easy drive, uses less fuel and tows more. Premium paint is $500. 
 
A Toyota spokesman said “It’s a great choice for people who aspire to a luxury SUV”, and presumably he had to struggle to keep a straight face.  Nope, Fortuner is a great choice for people who want to go offroad touring.  If you want to cruise around in luxury SUV look at Lexus, BMW, Audi and the like.  If you actually want to get out there – anywhere – then look at Fortuner.
 
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Here is a friendly 4-Runner, an earlier wagon version of an older Hilux.
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Just for fun..

 

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Stockton beach, before the hordes from Sydney arrive to clutter it up.

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Want to meet fellow Fortuner owners?  Check out these links -> http://www.fortunerforum.com.au/ & https://www.facebook.com/fortunerclubcom/


Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper is a motoring journalist, offroad driver trainer and photographer interested in anything with wings, sails or wheels. He is the author of four books on offroading, and owns a modified Ford Ranger PX which he uses for offroad touring. His other car is a Toyota 86 which exists purely to drive in circles on racetracks, and that's when he isn't racing his Nissan Pulsar. Visit his website: www.l2sfbc.com or follow him on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/RobertPepperJourno/ or buy his new ebook!