It's a quiet work day back in October 2015, my phone is buzzing in my pocket, so I pull it out and glance at the caller ID – the wife, better answer quick.
Before I can even get out the word 'hello', I get "I've won a car!" yelled down the line. I manage to get out a 'what?' before I get the details from the wife. "I won a raffle and I've won a Toyota Fortuner."
And that's how I came to know about Fortuners. The great news was the wife had indeed won a Fortuner, but the bad news was it was only for the weekend and then we had to hand it back.
So, the weekend finally came in February 2016, and we had won a weekend away including tickets to A Day On The Green. We went to the local Toyota dealership before we picked the kids up from school on that Friday afternoon. The first thing I noticed, after driving our regular drive, a Toyota Aurion, was having two kids all the way in the third road was fantastic. The wife and I could actually have a conversation without having to yell at each other. The next thing I noticed was it felt fantastic to drive a new car. Our Aurion was aging, and I remember commenting to the wife, partially joking, that if might be time to retire the Aurion.
Well, fast-forward a month and the Aurion had developed a bad ticking noise. Had I spoken too loudly? Did the Aurion hear me and decide to give in after years of reliable service? I didn't have to wait too long for an answer. Thirty minutes after dropping the car off, the mechanic called and informed me parts were needed from Japan and most likely the cost would almost be the same as its second-hand value.
Back to the local Toyota dealership we went, and that's how we came to be owners of a new 2016 Toyota Fortuner Crusade in Nebula Blue.
So let's time-travel two years and 50,000km to present day and let's get into some pros and cons. Let's start with the good.
Smart key entry – this is so helpful when your hands are full with shopping bags or school bags, and definitely something I can't live without in future cars.
Fixed-price servicing – for a diesel vehicle it's fantastic to have the first six services capped at $180. Do I dare talk about this at dinner parties? Absolutely, but my friends don't seem as impressed as me, though. Definitely another big tick in Toyota's favour.
Room for seven. Sure, the third row is really only for small kids, but for our family this has come in handy so many times to transport extra family or friends. Maybe that one should go in the cons section on second thoughts. The front-row seats are comfortable and supportive, and I have no issues when we have taken it on longer drives.
The 2.8-litre is mostly smooth. In my opinion, I would love it to have some more power, but at the end of the day it gets the job done and is reasonably economical to drive around town. The Fortuner does present some issues selecting the right gear, but only when going down steep gradients.
I think the dash layout is stylish and everything is in easy reach.
So let's flip the coin and talk some cons.
Lack of equipment. Safety tech is extremely limited, if not totally non-existent, and things like heated seats, sunroof, and dual climate control are all missing. Compared to the competition in this class, you get much more bang for your buck with cheaper competitors.
No need to hire a smoke machine for parties, but maybe that's a pro. But seriously, issues with the DPF have made this thing a smoke machine at times. Toyota seems to have addressed all the issues with my particular car, but it's not the best when you leave school kids in a cloud of smoke at pick-up time.
Overall, I am satisfied with the Fortuner. It has provided safe and reliable transport for my family. It's good for the occasional towing job, but Toyota does need to up its game. Yes, I realise you pay for the dealer network and brand, but in a changing car environment, Toyota risks getting left behind if it rests on its past achievements.
Finally, addressing the canary in the coal mine, this car has never gone off-road. It is a 'soccer mum' SUV, so I can't comment on its performance off-road.