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At this point, all the Toyota Fortuner has to do is show up
by Dinzo Tabamo | Oct 17, 2020

“When you trust a brand, all that’s left to consider is how the car looks”

Thirty thousand, two hundred and twelve. As of October 16, that’s how many people clicked on our story of the 2021 Toyota Fortuner’s tentative prices, according to Google Analytics. As anyone who browses the Internet regularly would know, clicking signifies intent and purpose. More than 30,000 souls want to know how much the new Fortuner might cost because they are either interested in buying soon, or buying in the future.

That many potential buyers sounds like a lot. Maybe they were just curious? But if you look at Toyota Motor Philippines’ (TMP) unit sales breakdown in 2019, you will see that it sold 19,865 Fortuners last year. So, 30k potential customers doesn’t seem that implausible now.

What’s the enduring appeal of this midsize SUV in a time when competition has never been so stiff? I can easily name three things: Its design, cabin, and badge. The Fortuner has a design with just enough angas that relatives will notice when you arrive at the family reunion. The cabin has an upmarket vibe, as if sprinkled with some Lexus magic dust. But the biggest reason for this model’s success could be the Toyota logo on the grille.

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PHOTO: Sharleen Banzon

That badge represents reliability, after-sales service, and peace of mind. Not all buyers want to visit half a dozen dealerships and weigh all the pros and cons in their mind for weeks, all the while being pestered by sales agents. Many motorists want a no-brainer choice that just gets them moving. The Fortuner is the automotive equivalent of the iPhone—it looks good, it has good specs, and it just works every time.

Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the refreshed 2021 Fortuner is introduced almost a week after Apple revealed its latest iPhone. And while you should be prepared to wait for more than a month until you can get your hands on the hottest smartphone this holiday season, your nearby Toyota dealer should already have stocks of the new Fortuner. Which, thanks to the generosity of TMP, we were able to see before its public reveal.

If you have low EQ and you’ve already browsed the photos on this page, it’s obvious what the biggest change to the Fortuner is this year: This top-spec LTD variant gets a radical facelift—a new grille that echoes the spindle design seen on Lexus vehicles. This should please those owners who modified their Fortuners to look like the LX series. The new grille is accompanied by a black roof, a new design for both front and rear bumpers, and machine-cut 18-inch alloys. And those new split-type LED headlights are stunning.

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PHOTO: Sharleen Banzon

The Q and V mid variants also get styling tweaks in the form of new LED foglamps, redesigned LED rear combination lamps, bi-beam LED headlights, and new DRLs. Visual improvements are subtle, but enough to show that this is a solid update.

Those who like to complain about a lack of mechanical improvements might be glad to know the engines have been tweaked. The bigger 2.8-liter turbodiesel gets a power bump from 174hp to 201hp and 450Nm to 500Nm. Owners of the second-generation Fortuner with the same engine should notice a difference if they upgrade to this one. The smaller 2.4-liter turbodiesel gets no power and torque increase, although TMP says it is now 5% more fuel-efficient.

Inside, the LTD variant gets the bulk of upgrades again. There’s new maroon leather trim that pops out the minute you see the cabin, plus glossy black accents that look nice but will compel you to keep a microfiber cloth nearby. Hallelujah for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto now standard across the line. Never go back to that awful T-Link system, Toyota. Leave it in 2020 where it belongs.

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PHOTO: Elaine Lara

Audio buffs will be glad to know that the LTD gets a nine-speaker JBL audio system. The Supra also gets JBL speakers, so there must be an ongoing agreement between Toyota and this audio brand. All but the G variants get built-in wireless charging. The cubbyhole under the A/C controls, just in front of the shift knob, has a Qi wireless charging coil. It’s recessed a bit, to better hold your smartphone in place. There’s also front-seat ventilation and it works oh so well, but only the LTD boys get those.

Last but not the least for improvements is the incorporation of Toyota Safety Sense (TSS) in all variants with a 2.8-liter engine, although it’s not as complete as the TSS present in the Corolla fam. The Fortuner’s TSS has a pre-collision system (that brakes if an obstacle is detected), lane departure alert, and adaptive cruise control.

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What did I miss? There’s a panoramic view of all sides of the SUV thanks to additional cameras. And the taillights have that cool sequential turn-signal sequence to boot.

PHOTO: Sharleen Banzon

Are you excited? Is your brain doing the math and computing if you can afford one? Are all the new features slowly overpowering your EQ? Or, do you feel a sense of déjà vu? As if you’ve seen all these new features elsewhere? Well, you’re right. To continue the Fortuner and iPhone comparison, local competitors have had these features for years.

The Nissan Terra had CarPlay functionality when it launched in 2018. And the Ford Everest has had adaptive cruise control for several years now—that thing can even parallel-park itself. In Apple’s case, the iPhone has been mocked for new features like 5G, picture-in-picture functionality, and customizable widgets that have been with Android smartphones for years.

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But does it matter? Hell, no. People will take one look at the Fortuner LTD’s handsome face and place a down payment. When you trust a brand, all that’s left to consider is how the car looks.

PHOTO: Sharleen Banzon

Chinese brand Xiaomi bundled an electric kick scooter with its new flagship smartphone. Apple removed the free charger and earphones in all the new iPhones—including the older iPhone XR and 11 that are still on sale—and there are already resellers offering units to be delivered in the first week of November. Other carmakers offered buy one, take one promos and deep discounts. Well, Toyota raised the price of the top-spec Fortuner by six figures: The 4x4 LTD now goes for P2,404,000, up from P2,286,000 pre-facelift. “How do you like them apples?” TMP seems to be saying.

Should you get the 2021 Fortuner? If you bought the current-gen model in 2016, it will be tough justifying an upgrade since most of the powertrain is the same. No, the ride doesn’t seem to have improved. But if you still have the OG first-gen Fortuner, you will be shocked by how roomy and different the new one is, so an upgrade makes more sense.

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In a nutshell, I can tell you that all is well in the Fortuner world. The 2021 model has everything that made the line a success: good looks, solid engine, classy interior. What happened today wasn’t a launch. It was a victory parade. 

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PHOTO: Sharleen Banzon
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