With the arrival of the all-new 2016 Toyota Fortuner later this year, the Japanese brand’s SUV line-up will hit six models.
So, who will buy this new HiLux-based SUV?
It’s a vehicle that has been engineered to suit Australian conditions and will compete with its SUV-ute spinoff rivals such as the Isuzu MU-X, Holden Colorado 7, soon-to-be-replaced Mitsubishi Challenger and the upcoming Ford Everest. As such, the target market is essentially the same, according to Toyota Australia executive director of sales and marketing, Tony Cramb.
“Probably active couples, younger families, adventurous types of people that love the idea of a vehicle that they can use around town or take adventuring on the weekends,” Cramb said of the potential buyers, before suggesting that members of the grey army may also choose the Fortuner for its towing capacity (2.8 tonnes for the auto, 3.0 tonnes for the manual) as an accompaniment to their Australian road trip.
“We hear lots of marketing spin around SUVs that suggests these types of vehicles will appeal to “active”, “lifestyle” focused people. But while some SUVs don’t have serious off-road ability, the Fortuner is likely to follow its ilk in being a formidable off-road machine.
Standard gear includes a part-time, switch-on-the-fly four-wheel-drive system, as well as a mechanical rear locking differential and four-wheel disc brakes.
It has a five-link coil spring rear suspension set-up that allows greater wheel articulation than a leaf-sprung setup and, on the topic of adventuring, the new Fortuner has 225 millimetres of ground clearance, where the Kluger has 200mm (and, interestingly, the Prado has 220mm). The entry-level GX and mid-range GXL will have all-terrain tyres, where the top-spec Crusade variant will have highway tyres.
Adventure is one thing, but an affordable diesel seven-seater that’s more spacious inside than a RAV4 seemed to be one of the key drivers in Toyota bringing the car to Australia. All Fortuner models come with a 2.8-litre turbo diesel four-cylinder engine, and it produces 130kW of power and 450Nm of torque with the six-speed auto transmission, or 420Nm with the manual.
“When we’re looking at our product line-up, one of the things that we realised was with Kluger being available only with petrol and with the increasing reliance in Australia, the SUV market particularly want diesel,” he said.
“There was clearly an opportunity for us to present this to the market to meet that need for that group of customers. So I think that’s very definitely the approach that we’ve taken.
“We do have many customers that consider a Kluger but would like a diesel alternative. And Kluger sells in excess of 1000 per month. I think what you’ll find is there will be many customers that will be attracted to a Toyota-branded SUV of this style.”
When it comes to competitors, the (other) big new name in the segment is the Ford Everest, which will also launch here in October. The Blue Oval brand has said that it considers the larger Prado to be its competitor from the Toyota stable, but Cramb suggested that Toyota isn’t too worried about the new Ranger-based SUV.
“So far as whether in fact this is a competitor to the Everest, I think the customer base for this vehicle is so broad, we think that virtually anybody that is after a larger SUV – even people that may aspire to one day owning a Prado or in fact a LandCruiser 200 may start here.
“A very, very broad range of customers will be attracted to these vehicles,” he said.
Toyota Australia product public relations manager Steve Coughlan said “Fortuner is a big opportunity for Toyota in this country”.
“It’s been the subject of literally years of speculation and anticipation. The launch of a new model into Toyota’s line-up is always a red letter occasion. We get excited about next-generation models – but a brand new nameplate? That’s something special,” he said.
“Fortuner is going to reinforce our position in the SUV market, and meet the specific requirements of an SUV segment that wants to combine all the attributes of a city-bound SUV with those of the best off-road capability,” Coughlan said.
In terms of sales, Toyota has the lion’s share of the large SUV segment, with the Kluger (6780 units), Prado (7872) and FJ Cruiser (779) accounting for 26.2 per cent of all large SUV sales, or 15,431 units year-to-date. The LandCruiser 200 Series and LandCruiser 70 Series (including ute models) hold their own, too, with 8002 sales so far this year.