In late 2015, A Wheel Thing became one of the first independent reviewers in Australia to drive the new Fortuner, in top of the tree Crusade spec, with GX and GXL the other two choices. Complete with 2.8L diesel donk, seven seats covered in chocolate leather, it’s the oiler alternative to the Kluger and came with a slushbox: 2016 Toyota Fortuner Cascade.
In 2016, the manual version was parked in the garage for a week and as it’s the same specification as the previous model, the focus will be on the transmission.
Toyota really have performed some work here as it’s easy to forget that you’re in a big SUV with dedicated off road capabilities. The clutch is weighted almost perfectly for the torque, with just enough “lightness” in the required push to not trouble the vast majority of drivers. The downward travel is smooth, firm, with a pickup point almost immediate, allowing the driver to bang through the gears if needed.The shifter itself was virtually flawless, with enough spring pressure to convey a sense of solidity, not stirring a spoon in a soup bowl. There were occasions, admittedly rare, when the move to third from second seemed stubborn, unwilling, with the gate almost as if it had shifted to the left by a few millimetres. It’s not a sporting shift, by any means, but for the most part a driver could feel as if they could hustle through the movements quickly enough.
Gearing saw just over 2000 rpm at freeway legal speeds, right in the torque zone for the engine. It’s not the quickest overtaking machine on earth though, so a driver will need some planning if looking to get past slower traffic. What was noticeable was the varying level of diesel chatter from up front; with no throttle applied, it was understandably quiet, however with more than a light push it was old school diesel clack clack clack, and definitely leaned towards the raucous side under heavy load.
The Fortuner Cascade is a tough offroader in auto guise, complete with high/low range transfer case, diff locking and driver aids such as descent control. The manual is little different, with perhaps the fact it IS a manual helping in certain applications when a driver can ensure the gear selected stays as selected.
Otherwise, of course, it gets the same safety features, luxury features, interior look (including three pin power socket at the end of the centre console and cool box near the glovebox) etc as the auto. There’s the addition of Toyota’s i-MT, intelligent manual transmission, where the computer gauges and matches engine revs to the gear shifting in order to optimise smoothness and reduce stalling.Perhaps, from a driver’s perspective, the angular motion of the gear shift would be the only concession to a totally comfortable seating position but as a manual driver by training and preference, the slight reach to the left is inconsequential.
Although it can sound a bit agricultural as does lack a certain amount of sweet looks in the exterior and dash departments, the Fortuner Cascade is a happily solid piece of kit. It’ll mud maul well enough for the average driver, has plenty of room inside for five (the two rear seats take up some room and were prone to noise from movement when the car was off road) and is a good enough on road for most. The manual version didn’t surprise, simply by virtue of knowing that Toyota would fit a decent manual transmission anyway. Although Australia has a disdain for manuals at odds with reality, they’re much more fun, engaging and involve the driver in driving, not merely piloting a car and the Fortuner is a car to be driven.
Head across to http://www.toyota.com.au and follow the links.