On a humid Tuesday morning in Pretoria, I had the honour of being one of the first South Africans to lay their hands on the limited edition Toyota Fortuner Epic. The team at Toyota had picked the ideal place for the launch: the rigorous McCarthy 4×4 track, where we could experience the Epic’s capabilities over tough, rocky hills and muddy obstacles. It lives up to its name.
Almost all engine and transmission derivatives were available to sample, from the 4×2 models to the 4×4 offerings. I picked the latter, in manual. With me was Mary Willemse, Toyota’s senior manager for corporate communications, who said the Epic special edition was brought in to add value and design spec to the range and was “created to infuse bold styling and excitement”.
The Epic boasts a chrome nudge bar in front, and exclusive dark grey 17-inch alloy wheels for greater visual differentiation. All the Epic models get a towbar as a rear sill protector to make loading big objects hassle-free. A brief look at the Fortuner’s timeline shows that this model has undergone several modifications and upgrades to keep it in line with market requirements.
The Fortuner 3.0 D-4D 4×4 that I drove features full-time 4WD with low range and a Torsen limited slip centre differential with lock. As we climbed up the first obstacle, you could see the heavy-duty rear suspension grafting hard to get over the rocks — keeping the car in a steady position while continuing with its momentum. Driving off-road in this car is pretty foolproof. Select low range and off you go. Slowly but surely, it got to the summit of the hill with- out losing traction. In addition, having a locking differential means that you’re unlikely to get stuck, no matter how challenging conditions become.
Toyota believes another reason for the Fortuner’s success is its balance in terms of size and price. Buyers are getting a bigger vehicle than they expected for the price. The sales figures attest to the fact that the Fortuner is a value-for-money proposition. The term “local is lekker” is well suited to the Epic as it is manufactured in Prospecton, south of Durban. “The voice of the customer is critically important and this has to a large extent dictated many of the revisions that have been made to this bestseller,” said Kerry Roodt, general manager, marketing and communications at Toyota South Africa.
With its supreme off-road ability, space, keen price and the respectability of the badge, it’s easy to see why the Fortuner is so popular.
Engine: 2 982cc, four-cylinder, turbodiesel
Power: 120kW at 3 400rpm
Torque: 343Nm at 1 400-3 200rpm
0-100 km/h: 11.3 seconds
Top Speed: 172km/h
Fuel Consumption: 8.6l/100km
Price: R513 400