CALL it the new HiLux Surf, call it the reborn 4Runner - but only under your breath.
Eschewing names familiar to we Aussies, Toyota's new HiLux-based seven-seat turbo-diesel SUV will be called Fortuner when it lands in our showrooms this October.
The rather glitzily-named 4x4 is an all-new model for our market, and will be the sixth SUV on Toyota Australia's menu, joining RAV4, Kluger, FJ Cruiser, LandCruiser Prado and LandCruiser 200 Series.
SUV saturation? Only in a good way, Toyota Australia said at the new car's Sydney reveal, where it was a case of look but don't touch its pre-production model on show with its blacked out windows and locked doors.
The Fortuner SUV has proved a sales success for Toyota in markets such as Asia and the Middle East, and will fit in the range above RAV4 (from $27,490), under Prado (from $51,990) and as a diesel alternative to the petrol-only Kluger (from $40,990) offering, albeit a touch smaller.
Prices and full specifications for Australian Fortuners are yet to be revealed, but Toyota emphasised it was here to snare buyers perhaps put off by Kluger not having a diesel variant, so expect a cost starting around the mid $40k mark, but of course under Prado.
Three grades will be offered at launch - GX, GXL and Crusade. All will be part-time 4x4s, all will come with seven seats and the only powerplant offered is the 130kW/450Nm 2.8-litre turbo-diesel coming in the next-gen HiLux, which also hits Aussie showrooms this October.
Why's it here?
Diesel is why.
Business, government and fleet buyers love their diesel SUVs, and so, increasingly, do private shoppers.
The family-favourite Kluger is petrol only, and while Prado and LandCruiser 200 Series feature oil burners, they can be pricey things, out of reach to many.
The Fortuner gives the diesel option - plus seven seats and the genuine 4x4 ability we expect from a HiLux - with an in vogue SUV body: "off-road prowess and refinement," Toyota explained.
Also, rivals have had sales success in the segment; the Aussie market keen on large seven-seat ute-based SUVs that can carry seven that are as rugged and capable as the modern work ute.
Engine and chassis
Toyota's newly developed 2.8-litre turbo-diesel is the only engine offered, and its maximum torque of 450Nm available from a low 1600rpm shows why these modern oil burners are so in demand.
Such torque shove is ideal for real-world driving - be it the school run, towing or rugged bush trails.
Potential Kluger shoppers may also be drawn to Fortuner's better fuel economy; Toyota saying manual variants should see below 8-litres/100km.
Toyota's new six-speed auto - also set for the new HiLux - features, while higher grade Fortuners will also be offered with a six-speed manual, although peak torque drops to 420Nm with the three pedals.
Underneath, the Fortuner has the same underpinnings and body-on-frame chassis as the HiLux ute, but with a new suspension package developed and tuned by local engineers to be more Australia specific.
Featuring a five-link coil spring configuration at the rear rather than the HiLux's leaf sprung setup, the Fortuner will be far more relevant to on-bitumen family duties.
But with a mechanical rear diff lock, towing capacity of 3000kg for manuals and 2800kg for autos and a ground clearance of 225mm (5mm more than a Prado, incidentally), means it'll be at home on the rough stuff.
What do you get?
Toyota Australia couldn't give full final specifications, but did say all Fortuners will have a reversing camera, seven airbags, emergency stop signal, hill-start assist and trailer sway control as standard. A top five-star safety rating is also expected.
The three variants will also have front and rear air conditioning, Toyota Link connected mobility, side steps, disc brakes all round, 17-inch or 18-inch wheels and a cooler/heater box.
The two higher grades are fitted with roof rails, fog lamps, reverse parking sensors, keyless smart entry and start, and downhill assist control.
Range-topping Crusade's goodies include bi-LED headlamps and LED daytime running lamps, a power back door and 18-inch alloys with highway tyres.
SUVs based on utes are popular things these days, so Fortuner's rivals include the Mitsubishi Challenger ($42,490), Isuzu MU-X AWD ($45,600), Holden Colorado7 ($47,490), the incoming Ford Everest ($54,990) and Toyota's own stable of large SUVs are also rivals.
Of bold design with a heavy dose of chunky chrome work, Fortuner does have the style we know Asian and Middle Eastern countries get excited for, but its chunkiness and lofty ride height give it a purposeful, go-anywhere look.
It's not the prettiest of things, with its kicked-up chrome moulding at the rear window and mighty front overhang, but its sleek lights fore and aft should appeal to many modern SUV buyers.
With Fortuner's arrival, Toyota truly has every base covered in the large SUV stakes, a market it already dominates here.
The Japanese giant shifted over 56,000 SUVs in Australia last year so knows its onions, and the new car plugs the hole left by Kluger being petrol only.
The Fortuner will be a more affordable off-road diesel SUV in Toyota's line-up, so will be of huge interest to private buyers and we look forward to eventually getting behind the wheel.
Its looks may polarise, but expect excellent off-road ability, familiar comfort and - realistically thinking - decent sales.
Model: Toyota Fortuner.
Details: Seven-seat, five-door, four-wheel-drive large SUV.
Engine: 2.8-litre Vital statisticsfour-cylinder turbo-diesel generating maximum power of 130kW @ 3400rpm and 450Nm @ 1600rpm (auto) and 420Nm @ 1400rpm (manual).
Transmissions: Six-speed manual or six-speed automatic.
4x4 system: Part-time with shift-on-the-fly dial change.
Towing: 3000kg (manual) or 2800kg (auto) braked; 750kg unbraked.
Bottom line: TBA (expect prices starting from $45,000).
On sale: October 2015.
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