The rivalry between Toyota and Ford in the ute/SUV segment will heat up even further when Toyota NZ unveils its Hilux-based Fortuner wagon later in the year.
As usual, Toyota HQ in Palmerston North is playing dead on anything to do with future models, but word on the street has it that the new addition will specifically target the Ford Everest, the SUV based on the Ford Ranger, NZ’s best selling ute.
Likewise, the Fortuner (pictured on this page) shares its body-on-frame with the upcoming new Hilux and will be fitted as standard with Hilux’s new four-cylinder 2.8-litre diesel engine, part-time four-wheel-drive and seven seats.
But whereas the Hilux has a rear leaf-spring arrangement, Fortuner gets a five-link coil suspension for improved on-road manners. Ford has done something similar with the Everest, replacing the Ranger’s leaf assembly with coils.
The Fortuner is roughly the size of the old Toyota 4Runner and is expected to slot in somewhere within the Highlander’s price range of $61,990-$80,990, where it offers a diesel option to the Highlander’s petrol-only V6 engine. Fortuner also gets a rear differential lock for off-road going and more ground clearance – 225mm against the Highlander’s 200mm.
The likely gearbox for Fortuner in NZ is the Hilux’s six-speed automatic, with a braked towing limit of 2800kg. But a six-speed manual option on Toyota’s international spec list has a limit of 3000kg.
Exactly how many Fortuner models will be available in NZ is not yet known, but equipment levels should be similar to those confirmed by Toyota Australia. It says its three grades, GX, GL, and Crusade, will be fitted as standard with seven airbags, as well as front and rear air conditioning, a touchscreen stereo and disc brakes with stability control. Mid-range models will add parking sensors, smart keys and hill descent assistance. The top-end Crusade adds LED headlamps and a powered tailgate.
Ford NZ has yet to confirm equipment levels for the Everest, although it became tetchy a couple of months ago when Automotive News NZ said that while Everest would come with a smart safety package, it would miss out on Ranger’s active safety systems.
This was something a Ford Asia Pacific executive said at the first unveiling of the Everest in Thailand. Ford NZ communications man Tom Clancy said the story “is incorrect and causing a few issues out there. We will release detailed spec (specifications) soon.”
Everest is likely to pick up a slightly reworked version of the Ranger’s 3.2-litre five-cylinder diesel engine, which delivers 147kW/470Nm. A petrol option on Ford’s international spec list is a 2.0-litre Ecoboost unit generating 180kW/366NM. The Fortuner’s 2.8-litre diesel delivers 130kW/450Nm.
Both Toyota and Ford have spun SUVs off ute underpinnings. Mitsubishi is doing the same thing with its Triton-based Challenger, saying the SUV will offer class-leading refinement when it lands in NZ next year. Also due is the new Mitsubishi Pajero.