The bestselling full-size SUV ups the ante for 2021 with a more powerful motor and a bunch of features
The full-size SUV market is a tough nut to crack and Toyota got it right the first time with the Fortuner. Since its launch in 2009, the SUV has been quite successful in leaving its rivals to struggle when it comes to the sales numbers. It has undergone several facelifts as well, the latest one bringing in a new ‘Legender’ moniker that fills the void when it comes to the features. Toyota’s gourmet dish has been finally served then, but does it live up to the expectations? Let’s find out.To start with, Toyota has done a bang up job when it comes to the styling. From afar, you could mistake it for a Lexus thanks to the sharp-looking headlamps and a beefier bumper. The roof and pillars are painted in a matte black shade and that, when paired with those large 18-inch machine-cut alloys, give it a more premium and sportier stance. The rear is similar to the predecessor save for the bumper that gets sharper lines and large air vents.
Step inside the cabin and you’re greeted with a tone of familiarity with the exception of the new 8-inch touchscreen instrument console that supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The instrument console gets a mild update too, but continues to use large analogue dials. Surprisingly, the Legender does not get the top-spec Fortuner variant’s 11-speaker JBL setup and makes do with a 6-speaker setup. Overall, the dashboard layout seems dated while the panels feel plasticky, giving the impression of a budget SUV. However, the features list is long and includes six-position parking sensors, electrically adjustable front row seats, wireless charging, connected car technology and a kick sensor for the rear tailgate which comes in handy if you need to access the boot when your hands are full. In an age where almost all the compact SUVs come with a panoramic sunroof, the Legender feels left out as it does not even get a sunroof. There is no dearth of cabin space although the third row seating isn’t one for long-distance trips. Even getting into the high set cabin can be a task. Thankfully, it gets grab handles mounted on the A-pillars for easier ingress.
On the flipside, the updated diesel powerplant that puts out a healthy 204PS and an impressive 500Nm of peak torque feels a lot quicker than earlier. The healthy figures are thanks to the new variable geometry turbocharger whose vanes (outer fins) are adjusted via an electric motor. This allows the motor to offer the duality of spooling up quickly without compromising on the boost. As a result, it is quite easy to hustle the 2.6-tonne SUV to triple-digit speeds in a fairly quick time. Toyota has chosen to stick with the automatic gearbox variant for the Legender and we reckon it is fair given the road-biased approach. That said, the 6-speed torque converter is a dampener. In terms of shift logic and speed, the gearbox falls a tad short. In fact, Sport was the preferred mode of choice for the most part of our drive and that took a toll on the fuel economy. During the drive, the onboard computer displayed an average fuel efficiency figure of 8kmpl. With a light foot, it should be able to offer close to 10kmpl in city driving conditions. That isn’t too bad for a mansion-sized SUV running a large motor. The cabin is well insulated and filters out engine noise well within city limits. It is only close to triple-digit speeds when the diesel motor’s drone becomes intrusive.
For 2021, the traditional ladder-frame chassis has received minor updates to make the ride more pliant. Even with the updates, ride quality still isn’t as good as its closest competitor – the Ford Endeavour which even handles better than the Fortuner. The bouncy ride is somewhat offset by the larger wheels but there is a lot of body roll too. This trait does not inspire confidence in pushing the SUV to high speeds which is a shame given the highly capable motor. That said, the occupants will not be wincing in pain every time you go over a pothole or fail to notice that small speed breaker. The tyres scream for mercy when you push it around corners but then that’s what you expect from a ladder-frame SUV, don’t you? While the hydraulic steering gets a variable flow valve to make it more effortless at low speeds, it still feels heavy and entails a workout while manoeuvring in the city. The brakes offer a strong bite and help the Legender shed speed rapidly.
Despite being available only in two-wheel drive layout, the Legender is decently capable off road. Its high-set bumpers, good ground clearance and large wheels allow it to clamber over rocks while a large metal skid plate protects the engine sump. It even gets hill assist control that makes going up or coming down a hill a controlled affair. Despite the limitations, the Fortuner Legender should be able to take you to Ladakh and back with ease.
The Fortuner has carved a niche for itself as a rugged and reliable SUV and these traits have earned it a cult following as well. The Legender continues with those strengths and adds premium looks and a few features in the mix. Think of it as Old Monk in a more stylish bottle. However, at Rs 38.30 lakh, the Legender costs almost the same as the top-spec Fortuner 4X4 automatic variant. If you are planning to stick to blacktop, we suggest you go for the Legender.
Toyota Fortuner Legender
Engine: 2,755cc four-cylinder, diesel
Power: 204PS @ 3,000-3,400rpm
Torque: 500Nm @ 1,600-2,800rpm
Price: Rs 38.30 lakh ex-showroom, New Delhi