by John Elford

Out of Africa

My first experience of the then new Toyota Fortuner was when well known motoring journalist and good friend turned Earth Pilgrim

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My first experience of the then new Toyota Fortuner was when well known motoring journalist and good friend turned Earth Pilgrim, Geoff Dalglish, invited me to join him on an expedition from Johannesburg to Isiola north of Nairobi in 2008

This annual event takes cyclists from Cairo through East Africa including Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Botswana and Namibia, before ending the journey in Cape Town. The Fortuner was used to help make a film of this epic adventure.

Our route took us through Botswana, crossing the Chobe River, via the ferry at Kasane into Zambia. Here we visited the mighty Victoria Falls at Livingstone, later heading north through Zambia and into Tanzania where we visited the Mikumi Game Reserve, which traverses the main road. Later we travelled to Arusha where most adventurers stay before attempting to summit Mt Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa.

After entering Kenya we spent a few days in the Amboseli National Park, famous for its elephant population and the amazing view of the snow-capped peak of Mt Kilimanjaro. Our journey then took us to Nairobi and on to the town of Isiola where the tar road literally ends. From then on it is gravel towards the Ethiopian border. We turned around here, as we were warned about the possibility of bandits on the road, and waited for the intrepid Tour d’Afrique riders to meet us.

This particular Fortuner had been used by Geoff and his team on an epic overland adventure from Dakar on the West Coast to Timbuktu and southwards to Cape Town. This expedition became part of a seven-part TV series and helped launch the vehicle into South Africa as a versatile and accomplished newcomer.

While the latest Fortuner still has the same basic look it has evolved into a much more sophisticated vehicle, although still with its original promise to be top of its game in the SUV market. Toyota have always managed to build and market rugged, reliable, super-efficient and good looking products to compete in every market, and the Fortuner is no exception.

Although similar in looks, the latest model has an air of sophistication. The front and rear spoilers give the vehicle a tough no nonsense look, enhanced by the colour-coded front and rear bumpers. The darkened side and three quarter rear glass also helps with the overall good looks of the vehicle.

The Fortuner can accommodate up to seven passengers in various configurations, but probably most popular is the five-seat version with ample space for luggage. It is ideally suited as a family vehicle and can be used in many ways: for day-to-day transporting of children to and from school, weekend excursions into the country, or for the annual holiday. The Fortuner has more than enough space for a multitude of uses. Besides its size, the vehicle is extremely comfortable, with partial leather seating. The passenger compartment has a host of features such as air-conditioning, front and rear, and an audio system, with USB and Bluetooth. A multifunction display is also standard. The seats are completely adjustable with one-touch electric windows. Cruise control is also standard and steering column adjustments enhance the driving experience. Bi-halogen headlights ensure night driving is a pleasure and safe and rear LED lights and high mounted brake lights enhance night time safety. Colour coded, power retractable with built-in indicators, wing mirrors are an added enhancement and especially useful when parking.

This perfectly designed 4x4 has more than enough power with 110kw@3 400rpm and torque and 400Nm@1 600-2 000rpm to take you where your heart desires, whether it be cruising on the open road or in real 4x4 off-road conditions. The automatic six-speed transmission offers as many options as you may need, including full 4x4 mode in high or low range. The high approach angle of 29 degrees and departure angle of 25 degrees ensures 4x4 driving in all conditions is attainable. A tow hitch is standard for the addition of an off-road trailer, if required.

John Elford

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