No task too difficult

The sweltering dunes of Namibia are not the only place to appreciate your Mitchums deodorant — it’s where the expertise and mechanical integrity of a great 4×4 can be showcased.

It’s an environment that barely provides you with stable footing, yet 12 facelifted Toyota Fortuners had no problem taking our convoy out to a sandy nowhere and getting us back.

The Fortuner has independent double wishbones at the front, but aside from that, it shaped up nicely. The things that appear relevant in the city seemed irrelevant once the pioneering spirit was unleashed.

Over three days, across adventurous terrain in Namibia, our new Fortuners displayed an automotive pragmatism aligned with that spirit. No task was too difficult and no 4×4 novice too foolish to suffer.

It has new headlight and brake light clusters, bigger 17-inch wheels, new wood panelling for the interior and new steering wheel controls for the stereo, a darker shade of beige for the seats, electrically operated driver’s chair and new rear air conditioning. This seemed rather irrelevant when you’re ploughing through kilometres of beach sand in low range.

Aside from the aesthetic changes, the enlarged 80-litre fuel tank can provide even further range. Chugging down the beach in low range in our D-4Ds used 33,3 litres/100km, so you’re going to need every drop the tank can spare. Fuel consumption on the open road levelled out at 10 litres/100km.

The 4,0-litre V6 petrol still develops 175kW at 5200rpm, the 3,0-litre D-4D 120kW at 3 400rpm and both offer peak torque of 343Nm between 1 400rpm and 3 200rpm, for that piece of mind-pulling power. The 4×2 manual, 4,0-litre V6 petrol has been replaced with an automatic and the 4×4 manual, 4,0-litre V6 petrol has been discontinued.

The 3,0-litre D-4D range has been expanded by one model to include a 4×2 with four-speed automatic transmission. The rest of the 4×4, 3,0-litre D-4Ds make do with manual transmissions. All 3,0-litre D-4D derivates get a driver aid package that includes VSC, ABS, EBD and brake assist, whereas the 4,0-litre V6 petrol derivates come only with ABS.

Consensus among the more experienced 4×4 drivers in our group was that the increased tank capacity was a necessary improvement, while the enlarged 17-inch wheels might prove a hassle when travelling up north into Africa, where 16-inch wheels are the predominant currency.

Talk also touched on the nasty reputation Fortuners have for rolling. It was suggested at one point that the 17-inch wheels were introduced to help with that, but Toyota technical manager Leon Theron was quick to quash any speculation, saying: “The handful of reported incidents has been investigated by Toyota South Africa and could not be attributed to vehicle deficiency.” He suggests that in the few reported incidents the blame lay with inexperienced 4×4 drivers, who used incorrect tyre pressures on inappropriate terrain.

Over three days in Namibia we rarely travelled with more than 1,2 bar in the tyres and not once did the Fortuner show signs of instability, even at speed on gravel. It raises the question: when BMW sell you an M3, it comes with high-performance driving training. Should the highly capable Toyota Fortuner not come packaged with a 4×4 equivalent? Toyota South Africa is taking it under advisement but consumer response doesn’t suggest that demand for the Fortuner will slow any time soon.

And when you’re outselling the competition 3,5:1, that would be a lot of 4×4 training to organise.

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