VIDEO: All-new Toyota Fortuner – Design Improvements

Executive chief engineer for the recently-launched Toyota Fortuner, Hiroki Nakajima tells the tale of what went into the making of the Japanese automaker’s body-on-frame SUV.

Nakajima notes that customers mentioned that considering the SUV’s higher equipment levels and consequently higher prices relative to the Hilux pick-up truck, the Fortuner’s styling was perhaps too similar to that of the Hilux.

To take care of that, Toyota decided to give the Fortuner its own unique front fascia while maintaining the same parts commonisation ratio as the previous models’, said Nakajima.

Despite utilising the same hood panels, front pillar area, windscreen glass and front doors as the new Hilux, the designers have managed to give the Fortuner a different frontal look, he adds. “We also needed to improve the “cool” factor of the SUV. Our design concept was mainly “tough” and “cool”,” Nakajima says.

The chief engineer says that a “tough” look is important for portraying off-road ability, while at the same time maintaining the “cool” factor as most customers use the vehicle on the road. The Fortuner’s visual belt line, for example, is an artistic device used to enhance the “cool” part of its image.

VIDEO: All-new Toyota Fortuner – Interior

Moving towards the vehicle’s interior, Nakajima recaps that the previous Fortuner/Hilux iteration shared a common instrument panel, which made them appear similar from the driver’s point of view. He goes on to elaborate that while the instrument panel’s structure for the Fortuner and Hilux is the same, the designers have given them each a different look.

Particularly for the enhancement of the Fortuner’s premium image, Toyota drew inspiration from their own Land Cruiser and Land Cruiser Prado heritage, as a means of differentiating the Fortuner from competing, premium body-on-frame SUV rivals.

“We utilised a larger cross-section compared to the previous model, so with this, we can achieve a higher safety standard, particularly for frontal impact,” Nakajima says. The Fortuner includes up to seven airbags, like on the Hilux pick-up truck. “The important thing is to address the passenger injury criteria, and with all these, we achieved the highest score in the NCAP rating,” he adds.

VIDEO: All-new Toyota Fortuner – Drivetrain

Fuel efficiency was admittedly a great challenge to deal with for the latest Hilux and Fortuner duo, according to Nakajima, to which end the new petrol and diesel engines help achieve a 10% improvement in fuel economy. He also said that both petrol and diesel engines for the Fortuner have been quietened, which makes it “easier for the customers to recognise the higher performance and better fuel economy,” he says.

Suspension-wise, the Hilux and Fortuner carries over the leaf springs and the independent link system coencepts respectively, however the setup is completely new for the Fortuner, says Nakajima. “For example, the diameter of the absorbers have been dramatically increased to reduce noise and vibration.” These translate into improved ride comfort and reduced cabin noise, Nakajima says in closing.

GALLERY: 2016 Toyota Fortuner