March 2, 2021

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2021 Toyota Fortuner, Fortuner Legender review, test drive

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The 2021 Toyota Fortuner is the quintessential SUV. Big, tough and built on a solid frame, it’s exactly the kind of SUV you need for our bombed-out roads and challenging off road conditions. But just what is new on the 2021 Toyota Fortuner and the 2021 Fortuner Legender.

2021 Toyota Fortuner, Toyota Fortuner Legender: What’s new? 

The 2021 Toyota Fortuner has been updated both on the outside and the inside. Upfront it gets a new grille, larger ‘inlets’ behind the fog lights, new DRLs on its chin and a wider scuff plate. The Fortuner Legender on the other hand gets an all-new nose. Shaper and more rakish looking, the narrow ‘grille’ and deep air dam make it look seriously appealing. And the Legender also gets a two-tone paint job.  

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The 2021 Fortuner sports a fresh face; Legender variant (see carousel) gets dual-tone exterior finish.

There are no fundamental changes on the inside, but you do get a lot more kit. You get a larger 8-inch touchscreen with shortcut controls, the Fortuner now comes with connected tech, there are cooled seats, you get a Premium JBL 10 speaker sound system- with an additional powered subwoofer, and the new Fortuner now also gets Apple Car Play and Android Auto. 

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,The 2021 Fortuner and Legender look similar to the previous model on the inside.

The Legender doesn’t get the JBL audio system, but it does get a lot more kit. Two tone seats on the inside for one, ambient lighting, an electronic rear-view mirror, wireless charging, a USB port at the rear and a kick sensor for opening the hatch at the back when your hands are full. None of these features are importantly on the regular Fortuner. 

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While wireless charging is now on offer with the Legender, a sunroof is still not.

You still don’t get powered folding 3rd row seats, an electronic parking brake or a sunroof on either. 

2021 Toyota Fortuner, Toyota Fortuner Legender: What’s it like to drive?  

The updated 204hp engine, that also gets 500Nm of torque, is the biggest change mechanically, and it exerts considerable influence on how the new 2021 Fortuner drives. The increase in power has primarily been achieved by using a more powerful variable nozzle turbo; the latter now controlled by an electric motor. The big hit of torque now comes in from just 1,600rpm and Toyota has increased airflow at higher engine speeds too. 

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The more powerful, 204hp and 500Nm diesel engine feels more refined and responsive.

It feels a bit more refined to begin with, due in no small part to the BS6 tune. The throaty growl of the diesel is more muted now, it feels smoother when you are cruising and, while the engine is still a bit boomy at higher engine speeds, this one isn’t quite as loud as the earlier car. 

The engine is also more responsive. And the Toyota has now added an extra drive mode; this version now gets 3 instead of two modes; it now gets Eco, Normal and Sport. What’s nice is that Sport mode sort of sharpens up engine responses nicely and even the six-speed gearbox is quick to respond and easy to control with your right foot.

2021 Toyota Fortuner, Toyota Fortuner Legender: How well does it ride and handle?

The updates to the engine have also made the new Fortuner faster against the clock. It now takes just 11.2 seconds to get to 100kph, which makes it the fastest SUV in the segment, even marginally quicker than the more powerful MG Gloster. And with its stronger bottom end, the new Fortuner is even a second quicker than the earlier one in the 20-80kph sprint. So, all in all, more refinement and more performance. 

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The 2021 Fortuner is the quickest SUV in its segment in the 0-100kph run.

Small alterations to the suspension setup also mean it feels a bit more supple. Ride and handling however haven’t changed all that much. The body on frame setup and big wheels mean the ride is always busy. There’s always a small amount of movement even when the road surface isn’t too bad, and that means you aren’t as comfortable as you could have been. The Fortuner’s steering is also still a bit heavy at low speeds, and then of course it rolls in corners.  

Now, the one thing you have to expect on a body on frame SUV is body roll. And yes, in corners you can, without exaggeration, feel it leaning over; which robs you of some of that confidence. But that’s only to be expected. 

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Ride and handling haven’t changed much; ride is still supple and there’s a fair amount of roll in the corners.

That said; it isn’t unpleasant to drive on a highway. The steering has a fair amount of feel, you get a fair idea of what the wheels are up to and as long as you are not over ambitious, you can even enjoy driving the Fortuner at a rapid pace. 

Where it is particularly good however is over really rough patches and unmade sections. Come upon a broken section and the Fortuner is exactly the sort of car you need. You can just power over the road without giving it a second thought. Almost nothing fazes the Fortuner. And that’s the real appeal of an SUV like this. 

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Toyota has also updated the four-wheel drive system.

We didn’t get a chance to do some serious off-roading, but Toyota has also updated the four-wheel drive system. You now get a differential lock, and that should make a big difference when you are about to get stuck and need to keep the wheels turning. 

2021 Toyota Fortuner, Toyota Fortuner Legender: What’s it like on the inside?

Those familiar with the Fortuner will recognise the inside of the cabin easily; there are no fundamental changes. That tough built to last feel, central to its appeal, is still there and some materials have been improved, especially on the Legender. Many of the plastics however are still hard, the build on the buttons is pretty ordinary, and that important quality feel you get on many of the Fortuner’s rivals; that’s missing here. 

That said, the cabin is still one of the most comfortable around. The large powered front seats offer good support for the shoulders and the thighs, the position of the steering wheel allows you to find a comfortable driving position and visibility out from the command driving position is also good. 

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High driving position and ample seat support make the 2021 Fortuner’s front seats a nice place to be in.

It is also very comfortable in the rear. Climbing up to the seat is a bit of a trek, due to the cabin being placed on top of the already high chassis, but once you are seated, legroom is pretty good, there’s a good amount of thigh support, you can recline the backrest, and you can even slide the seat back or forward. You also have your own blower controls and there’s a decent amount of headroom. The Fortuner however gets no USB jack in the back. 

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While the middle row of seats offers good comfort and space, a USB slot is missing.

The 3rd row is also quite useable for short drives. Getting in however is anything but easy. While the second-row seat does flip easily, the aperture you need to climb through, like many of its rivals, is pretty narrow.  So, you have to duck walk a couple of steps; which isn’t dignified. The seat on the third row however isn’t too bad once you are sat down. Headroom is tight and yes; you are seated low. Still, you aren’t sat on the floor unlike other rivals and the Fortuner is pretty okay for short drives. MG’s Gloster has the most space on the third row, but this is the next best. 

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Third row seating best kept for short trips.

2021 Toyota Fortuner, Toyota Fortuner Legender: Should you buy one? 

At an ex-showroom price of Rs 37 lakh, the top-of-the-line new 2021 Fortuner and Legender are more expensive than all their rivals by at least a couple of lakhs. The cabin isn’t a big step up in quality, it doesn’t get a sunroof and, in many ways, it still drives and feels like the hard core off roader that it is. 

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Still Toyota now provides you with more kit on the inside, the extra performance makes it more effortless to drive and with its uprated four-wheel drive system, it is likely to be even more accomplished off road. Those interested in the Fortuner will also find it difficult choosing between the 4X2 only Legender and top of the line 4X4 Fortuner. Do you trade looks and sophistication for real off-road ability? It’s a tough call. What we can however say, and with a fair amount of certainty, is that if you are looking for a tough, dependable off roader with a no-nonsense attitude, this is the SUV for you. 

Also see:

2021 Toyota Fortuner vs Fortuner Legender: How different are they?

Toyota Fortuner facelift price, variants explained

Toyota Hiace priced at Rs 55 lakh in India

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