July has been the wettest month in the last 110 years, for areas in and around Mumbai, Thane and Pune. Which is great news! Because the moment Maharashtra doesn’t receive enough rainfall, all sorts of prayers and rituals are observed by the local population to please the rain gods! That’s how much reverence we give to the rains in India.6The monsoons are also a great time to test and review SUV’s. Vehicles that are designed for all weather driving. As part of my series #MonsoonTrails this week I travelled out of town with the Toyota Fortuner. A SUV that was launched in India in 2009. It was instantly lapped up by the customers and hasn’t looked back since then.

Tall stance, imposing in looks the Fortuner is built on the Hilux Pickup Truck Platform. It is sold in different markets world over under different names.10.jpgToyota has played a big role in redefining the way modern SUV’s are designed and manufactured worldwide. With everything Japanese, the emphasis will always be on manufacturing vehicles that are extremely efficient and easy to maintain.

The latest version of the Fortuner extends upon that. My first experience with this model of the Fortuner was at the media drive in Cochin over 2 years back in the monsoon season. While the drive to a tea estate was a short round about trip of just 200 kms, one immediately got an idea of the capabilities of the car. Driving it over wet hilly terrain, where the roads are narrow with tight sharp bends was a fun experience. Having owned a Qualis in the past for 3 years, I have experienced first-hand how good Toyota cars are.74.jpgThis model of the Fortuner is sleeker looking in comparison to its predecessor. It comes with two engine options 2.7 litre petrol and 2.8 litre diesel.  Manual and automatic transmission are standard to both petrol and diesel variants. The one I drove was the 2.8 litre diesel automatic. You start the engine and immediately the grunt of the powerful 2.8 litre that makes 175 bhp and 45.8 kgm of torque can be felt.COLLAGE-4-2.jpgThe infotainment system comes with Bluetooth, apple car play and android auto connectivity. The upholstery is of good quality and finish. Seats are very comfortable with good lumbar and under thigh support.  There is ample leg room in the second row. The third row is a little tight in terms of leg room, its ideal and comfortable for a person of average height.COLLAGE-5-1.jpgThe Toyota Fortuner comes loaded with a plenty of safety features such as dual front SRS airbags (driver + passenger), anti-lock braking system (ABS) with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) system, 15-inches front disc brakes, GOA (Global Outstanding Assessment) body, Vehicle stability control (VSC), shift lock system, immobilizer, back sonar, seatbelts (front – 3-point ELR x 2 with adjustable anchor, 2nd row – three-point ELR x 2 + 2-point NR x1 and 3rd row – 3-point ELR x2), multi reflector quad headlamps and high mounted LED tail lamps.2.jpg8.jpgThe Fortuner is one of the easiest SUV’s I have ever driven. This is testimony to how Toyota designs its cars. The engine isn’t high stressed and maneuvering one’s way in bumper to bumper traffic is easy; but the highway is where the Fortuner comes into its own.

The gearbox is a bit slow to respond. The reason is like all Toyota vehicles, the Fortuner has long gear ratios. The Fortuner comes with 2 driving modes. Eco and Power. Power is the mode one would tend to use on empty stretches on the highway where the engine responds in a more urgent fashion. Eco mode is the one most will drive in the city for a more efficient and relaxed driving experience.

I spent a lot of time driving on hilly terrain with lots of sharp bends during this review in extremely wet conditions. The Fortuner negotiated these easily without any noticeable body roll one would expect in cars that are this tall and big.

The road conditions in the monsoon can go from good to worse in a matter of minutes. Potholes of all sizes and shapes appear out of nowhere. I also drove over lots of off-road sections. Did this make any difference to the Fortuner? Not at all!

The SUV handled these conditions with consummate ease with the suspension setup working efficiently to ensure the passengers in the car feel no discomfort.9.jpgThe SUV ticks all the right boxes in terms of drivability, comfort and luxury along with the fact that Toyota cars are built to last. Upgrading to the latest model is not a problem too. The Fortuner commands a great resale value and is easy to sell. So, it’s no surprise that the Fortuner sells the most numbers in its category. The competition is a fair distance away to challenge the Fortuner’s dominance in the Indian market.

Toyota Fortuner prices for the2.8 2WD MT(Diesel) (Base Model) start at Rs.29,84,000/- ex showroom Mumbai and 2.7 2WD MT(Petrol) (Base Model) starts at Rs.27,83,000/- ex-showroom Mumbai.

Prices for Automatic Transmission start at Rs.33,60,000 ex-showroom for the 2.8 4WD AT(Diesel) (Top Model) and Rs.29,42,000 for the2.7 2WD AT(Petrol) (Top Model).