Toyota Fortuner: Competition Check
- by Priyadarshan Bawikar
- Aug 24, 2009
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Brilliant as it might be, Toyota's brand new SUV, the Fortuner has a lot of stiff competition in the market. We take a look at the motley group of off-roaders and soft-roaders that the Fortuner goes up against
So finally Toyota has entered the SUV market in India. First, just a month back, it was the massive, elitist yet extremely capable, Land Cruiser V8. And now the Jap giant has just launched the Land Cruiser's younger sister, the Fortuner. While the bigger car's competition is rather limited, the Fortuner lands smack dab in the middle of some of the most competent off-roaders and soft-roaders available in the country. We take a look at its rivals.
Ford Endeavour Thunder +
The Endeavour is probably the closest to the Fortuner in terms of origins and abilities. Like the Fortuner, the Endeavour is based on a pick-up truck platform, and comes with the inherent abilities of the same, namely ruggedness and its ability to take punishment. But its ancestry has its own downside as well, namely lower ride quality than the rest of its class. The Endeavour also sports classic SUV butch looks and therefore has massive road presence. While the older powerplant was a bit of a letdown, the new 3.0-litre TCDi diesel unit is refined and torquey and offers decent performance for a car that tips the scales at nearly 1.9 tonnes. While the Endeavour does offer oodles of interior space, the rear bench is rather cramped, thanks to high floor which also makes climbing in and out of this big car a cumbersome activity. The Endeavour performs rather well off road thanks to its simple ladder chassis underneath, but certain off road situations manage to stump this car thanks to its 'longest-in-class' wheelbase.
The Pajero comes with an illustrious off-road pedigree that includes the Dakar Rally and this shines through clearly in its excellent ability to take on the rough stuff. While many love its classic design, it is certainly a dated car and this causes its own set of problems. One thing to remember is that the Pajero comes from a time when the distinction between cars and SUVs was rather stark. This means while its off-road performance is brilliant, it takes a severe hit on the smooth tarmac as compared to its more modern rivals. The 2.8-litre diesel mill under the hood is rather dated as well and lacks refinement. While the interiors space is plentiful, the design of the interiors is pretty much dated and stepping into the Pajero gives an immediate feeling of stepping into an automobile from the 1980s. While there nothing wrong with the interiors per se, and might even invoke a sense of nostalgia in some, the bottom line is that for that price, there are quite a few capable and modern off-roaders.
The CR-V is the king of the soft-roaders here in India, mainly because it was the first vehicle of its type to be launched here. The CR-V is based on Honda's legendary Accord platform and this gives the car some unique abilities. Mainly, while the CR-V might look like an SUV from the outside, it drives absolutely like a large family saloon thanks to its powerful 2.4-litre iVTEC engine and (relatively) low 1535kg kerb weight. In fact, in terms of on-road performance, it even beats some of the large sedans available in the country. But the same ability leads to its undoing when the going gets rough. It has adequate ride height and give in its suspension to make short work of broken and gravelly roads, but when the road ends and the real off-road begins, the CR-V doesn't really stand a chance as its permanent all-wheel drive system really limits off-road performance. But it was never really intended as a real off-roader and it makes its mark as an excellent, jacked-up, crossover family station wagon, with a great refined engine, a fair amount of space, up-market interiors and all the practicality of a regular car.
A new player in the soft-roader market, the Outlander takes the Honda CR-V head on. The Outlander has brilliant dynamics and an equally great 2.4-litre MIVEC petrol engine that gives the car on-road performance that is easily comparable to the CR-V. In fact, coupled with a fantastic 6-speed automatic gearbox, the Outlander's engine offers much better drivability as compared to the CR-V's peaky mill. The interiors too are extremely brilliant and feel fresher than any of its immediate rivals. While the Outlander does come with permanent all-wheel drive like the CR-V, it does feature lockable differentials which at the flick of a switch can split the engine's torque equally to all four wheels, like a true SUV. While this feature might make it more capable than the CR-V whilst off-roading, the Outlander, just like its rivals is only good for the occasional blast on the loose-surface - great for the trip to one's farmhouse, but not in contention for climbing mountains. While it's a close call between the CR-V and the Outlander, we think, and we're all pretty unanimous about this, that the Outlander is certainly the best looking soft-roader in its class.
This large Chevy is GM's contender in the buddying soft-roader market in India. What makes the Captiva an interesting prospect against its rival soft-roaders is a brilliant 2.0-litre diesel engine that offers tons of torque. In fact, the Captiva is the only soft-roader that offers a diesel option. While the manual gearbox version skimped on the four-wheel drive option, thankfully Chevy made up for it by providing a permanent all-wheel drive system in the new automatic version of the Captiva Plus. The Captiva is larger than both the CR-V and the Outlander and also offers better interior space than the two. The overall build quality is excellent and the design of the interiors is extremely modern and classy too, with a two-tone beige and black theme adorned with aluminium and fake-wood trim. The Captiva's larger size also offers more of an SUV feel and also a really commanding driving position in the soft-roader segment.