- The Chamois-coloured interiors make the cabin look both elegant and spacious.
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Kerala in the rains, is amazing. We are here because a close friend, Devina, needs help with her car purchase. She is the outdoorsy type and wants an SUV that can handle the rough with the smooth – and when she says rough, she really means it. So here we are at the Toyota dealership in Kochi, checking out the Fortuner, the latest iteration of which comes with elegant Chamois-coloured interiors that elevate the entire experience of being in the car’s commodious cabin. Devina loves the cabin’s new look – she thinks it makes it look more spacious – but she also wants proof of the pudding; which is, of course, in the eating. So we arrange for a Fortuner and aim straight for another friend’s plantation that is at a day’s drive from Kochi. In short, we are going mud-plugging.
Devina is at the wheel for the initial part of the journey, and is impressed with the Fortuner’s on-road behaviour and its firm but supple suspension that dismisses every undulation on the road. But she still has her doubts about how a huge car such as the Fortuner can handle trails, steep inclines, slush, mud and other such obstacles. Can it really go, or is it all just show?
Well, the answer to her questions presents itself the next morning, as we take the wheel and head deeper and deeper into the plantation. The surface under the tyres turns progressively slushy and the path ahead starts getting narrower. Devina’s expressions from the passenger seat convey her apprehensions. We tell her the real fun is yet to begin. We then proceed to elaborate on how the Fortuner, in 2WD, is more than capable of handling everything even the nastiest roads throw at it. While in places such as the plantation, one switches to H4 – the Fortuner’s 4x4 High – because one needs power to be sent to all four wheels. We can gather that Devina is impressed; but it does look like she requires some more convincing. That’s just as well, because the action is now about to get serious.
Up ahead is a rather steep incline with treacherous rocks that could pose major problems to a lesser vehicle. This is L4 (or 4x4 Low) territory and the Fortuner is unfazed. It is also time for electronic doodads such as Active Traction Control (A-TRC), Hill Assist Control (HAC), as well as Downhill Assist Control (DAC) to come into play. A-TRC delivers acceleration and performance on slippery surfaces, and is just the thing to have when you are attacking masses of mud, while the HAC and DAC (as the names imply) assist the driver in taming steep slopes and relentlessly going up inclines. What’s more, the Fortuner’s Electronic 4x4 selector is pretty much an ace, and Devina thought it was cool to be able to shift modes easily. The Fortuner doesn’t take too much time making a molehill out of – well, a particularly steep incline; but the challenges don’t end there: our friend’s farm simply has to be among the most fun things we have done in some time.
Ahead of us is a steep, slippery, slushy descent, and Devina is not sure if the Fortuner can pull through. But in comes DAC, and it helps the Fortuner maintain a steady descent. In a matter of about 2min, we are in the clear. We get out of the car and survey the route the Fortuner has taken, and Devina admits that the Fortuner has a lot to be impressed with. Suddenly, it starts raining. We get into the car. This time, Devina is at the wheel, and the fun is about to begin again.