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Toyota Fortuner Crusade 4WD 2018 off-road review

A strange caper this ever-growing SUV business. On one hand Australians are flocking to the showrooms for soft-roaders, faux four-wheel drives often disguised as hatchbacks or coupes; on the other there’s been new-found interest from manufacturers in proper four-wheel drives, capable of handling more than a muddy carpark at the rah-rahs.

Maybe it’s time to go back to old-fashioned tags, make a distinction between Sports Utility Vehicles and four-wheel drives.

In that latter category we now would add the four-wheel drive Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, Ford’s Everest and Toyota’s Fortuner. As with some in the past – Challenger nee Triton, Raider nee Courier nee BT-50 and 4Runner, nee HiLux – these current wagons are based on ute models, ladder chassis and all.

So today’s Toyota Fortuner is a HiLux wagon, albeit a tad more civilised with extra comforts and coil springs down back to help smooth out ride and handling.

It slots in below the venerable Prado as the cheapest of Toyota’s four-wheel drive wagons (as opposed to SUVs like Kluger) and, in some ways, is a better proposition than its ageing sibling for the adventuring family.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

The Crusade is the dearest of these Fortuners and showcases the wagons’ lines with confidence on those 18-inch alloy wheels with an interesting asymmetric style.

Overall, it’s a restrained look, quite clean with chrome work limited to a three bar grille and surrounds, door handles and a line along the wagon’s belt line.

  • There’s a hint of menace to the nose and a touch of muscle tone to the wheel arches. There’s a hint of menace to the nose and a touch of muscle tone to the wheel arches.
  • The rising beltline over the rear axle and the dark privacy glass down back add some points of difference. The rising beltline over the rear axle and the dark privacy glass down back add some points of difference.
  • Any Toyota with a two-speed transfer case has proven to be a decent vehicle for bush and beach. Any Toyota with a two-speed transfer case has proven to be a decent vehicle for bush and beach.
  • The Fortuner starts out with a fair four-wheel drive heritage, and with the HiLux ute ladder chassis and running gear it has the credentials. The Fortuner starts out with a fair four-wheel drive heritage, and with the HiLux ute ladder chassis and running gear it has the credentials.

There’s a hint of menace to the nose and a touch of muscle tone to the wheel arches but no unnecessary curves or bulges and no taillight lenses dribbling down the rear (as seen on the Pajero Sport).

The rising beltline over the rear axle and the dark privacy glass down back add some points of difference. It’s a wagon that neither stands right out nor lacks a road presence.

How practical is the space inside?

Being based on the HiLux chassis appears to bring with it a narrow-gutted cabin, perhaps made more noticeable on the Crusade’s highish front seats; it’s not uncomfortable but the closer shoulder width is noticeable for adults – 1433mm compared with the Prado’s 1549mm.

The second row is good for two adults; there is a lap sash for the centre spot and three child seat anchorages here. The back two seats – best for small folk – fold up against the sides at the back, taking up a bit of cargo space and limiting visibility back this way; a full-size spare (commendable) sits below the rear floor so it would’ve been difficult to have fold down-and-away seats.

  •  It’s not uncomfortable, but the closer shoulder width is noticeable for adults – 1433mm compared with the Prado’s 1549mm. It’s not uncomfortable, but the closer shoulder width is noticeable for adults – 1433mm compared with the Prado’s 1549mm.
  • The second row is good for two adults; there is a lap sash for the centre spot and three child seat anchorages here. The second row is good for two adults; there is a lap sash for the centre spot and three child seat anchorages here.
  • The back two seats are best for small folk. The back two seats are best for small folk.
  • The Fortuner would be handy for taking home a couple of extra kids from sports practice but best seen as a five-seater wagon. The Fortuner would be handy for taking home a couple of extra kids from sports practice but best seen as a five-seater wagon.
  • The back two seats fold up against the sides at the back, taking up a bit of cargo space. The back two seats fold up against the sides at the back, taking up a bit of cargo space.
  • A full-size spare sits below the rear floor. A full-size spare sits below the rear floor.

So the Fortuner would be handy for taking home a couple of extra kids from sports practice but best seen as a five-seater wagon – Mum, Dad plus three – for a family outing.

There are a number of cup and bottle holders, storage compartments and seat pockets plus three 12-volt accessory sockets and a 100w-220 volt socket in the centre console.

The touch screen for audio, phone and navigation operations is intuitive enough for most though the main instrument panel ahead of the driver, while classy and most informative, is a tad too busy – a digital speed read-out would be handy in these over-nannied days.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

The Crusade version of the Fortuner is the one-with-the-lot, hence the list price ($56,990) is almost $10,000 over the next model down, the GXL. And while the Crusade includes satellite navigation and auto air-conditioning over the GXL, other extras such as power-adjustable front seats, a powered tailgate and a ‘soft-touch’ console lid may not be worth stretching the family budget.

  • The touch screen for audio, phone and navigation operations is intuitive enough. The touch screen for audio, phone and navigation operations is intuitive enough.
  • There are a number of cup and bottle holders around the cabin. There are a number of cup and bottle holders around the cabin.
  • Rear seat passengers get access to their own air outlets in the roof. Rear seat passengers get access to their own air outlets in the roof.
  • The Crusade comes with a 100w-220 volt socket in the centre console. The Crusade comes with a 100w-220 volt socket in the centre console.

Standard gear on the GXL (there is a base GX model) and the Crusade include a rear differential lock, reversing camera, driver aids, Bluetooth connectivity, seven seats and full-size spare wheels (18-inch alloy for the Crusade). There are paddle shifters for the automatic transmission, privacy glass for the rear windows and keyless entry. And all three models run with the same coil-sprung chassis, 2.8-litre diesel engine and two-speed transfer case.

Perhaps one piece of Crusade envy - the leather-accented interior, with handsome tan highlights on our Fortuner in another well-fitted and finished Toyota cabin showed a deal of class.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

Toyota have long produced sensible powerplants and here the 2.8 litre common-rail diesel generates a useful 130kW at 3400rpm and 420Nm from 1400rpm when the four cylinder is mated to the six-speed automatic gearbox. (Six-speed manual Fortuners have 450Nm from 1600rpm but the range-topping Crusade only arrives with auto).

The transmission also has a set of low-range ratios, accessed by a rotary dial on the console. The transmission also has a set of low-range ratios, accessed by a rotary dial on the console.

The turbocharged diesel and auto gearbox is a good, fairly refined, partnership and helped out with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters - particularly useful for off-road work when hands can be a mite busy.

There’s also a set of low-range ratios, accessed by a rotary dial on the console and handy when the going gets proper tough.

How much fuel does it consume?

Maybe it was the light early-morning city traffic, maybe it was a driver’s light foot in a fairly empty wagon, but this Fortuner averaged 7.8L/100km for a combined urban and highway drive; the read-out wasn’t that much higher in the traffic but a more stop-start drive could well see 10s and more.

Where consumption rose rapidly was down the beach – over about 50km of sand driving, most of it on a falling tide – fuel use blew out to 15L/100km. It was about the same when picking our way down a rough, washed-out bush track over 30km.

What's it like as a daily driver?

A high-riding, rough-road-capable Toyota is never going to be as reassuring as a low-slung Toyota 86 when it comes to traffic sprints, roundabouts and underground parking in cramped shopping centre car parks.

Yet the Fortuner offers reasonable get-up-and-go from the lights, a decent view of the road ahead and the assurance of bulk metal in navigating city traffic. There will be body roll and protesting tyres if trying to keep up with sedans at times but the cabin is packed with all today’s modern conveniences so a driver potters along at a comfortable pace, whether around the town or on the open road where understeer can become an issue if pushing on too much.

Rear three-quarter visibility is an issue though with that high hip-line and with the third-row seats folded up. 

What's it like for touring?

Any Toyota with a two-speed transfer case has proven to be a decent vehicle for bush and beach, capable of dealing with all manner of off-road obstacles.

So the Fortuner starts out with a fair four-wheel drive heritage and with the HiLux ute ladder chassis (albeit with coils replacing leaf springs down back) and HiLux running gear it has the credentials, and the promise of durability, to get off the beaten track and back. And that’s certainly the case here – good gearing, good loads of torque delivered early plus 225mm of ground clearance are excellent starting points. The Fortuner also has a decent approach angle of 30 degrees, departure angle of 25 degrees and ramp-over of 23.5 degrees. Wading depth is 700mm.

  • Despite the road-biased Dunlop Grandtreks on the Fortuner Crusade it never faltered. Despite the road-biased Dunlop Grandtreks on the Fortuner Crusade it never faltered.
  • From soft, deepish sand to rock crawling and greasy mud splashing, the electronic traction and stability aids came in handy at times. From soft, deepish sand to rock crawling and greasy mud splashing, the electronic traction and stability aids came in handy at times.
  • There’s an 80-litre fuel tank so the showroom-standard vehicle is pretty much set for wide open spaces from the get-go. There’s an 80-litre fuel tank so the showroom-standard vehicle is pretty much set for wide open spaces from the get-go.

So no question about its rough road ability. Despite the road-biased Dunlop Grandtreks on the Fortuner Crusade it never faltered in a bush and beach outing and conditions from soft, deepish sand to rock crawling and greasy mud splashing; electronic traction and stability aids come in handy at times.

Out on the bitumen the Toyota sat at an easy 110km/h down the highway, untroubled by sub-tropical storms and interstate travellers. On back country roads care is needed to curb a driver’s enthusiasm, the front end can run wide and there can be body roll if the Fortuner is pushed around, quite understandable for a tall machine on a ladder frame chassis.

Ride quality’s good, it will tow 2800kg and there’s an 80-litre fuel tank so the showroom-standard vehicle is pretty much set for wide open spaces from the get-go; maybe add a snorkel to be extra sure of clean air out west and dry engines through the creeks.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

Toyota’s Fortuner Crusade is a sensible answer for those looking for a family-friendly off-road wagon, not a faux four-wheel drive. It has the style and off-road abilities to suit a number of applications and, despite being based on a commercial vehicle chassis, offers composed ride and handling for a high-riding, beach or bush-capable vehicle. Still unsure whether the top grade Crusade is worth almost $10,000 extra over a GXL model for the family.

Reckon the Crusade is worth the extra dosh? Have your say in the comments below

$41,000 - $55,990

Based on 19 car listings in the last 6 months

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

3.8/5

Adventure score

4.1/5

adventureguide rank

  • Light

    Dry weather gravel roads and formed trails with no obstacles, very shallow water crossings.

  • Medium

    Hard-packed sand, slight to medium hills with minor obstacles in all weather.

  • Heavy

    Larger obstacles, steeper climbs and deeper water crossings; plus tracks marked as '4WD only'