I Test Drove the Fortuner AT 4x4. I had in mind to test the hill climbing, parking (I have a narrow access to my garage), and bumpiness of ride, and make a general assessment. I was lucky to get a brand new piece. It had done only 2000km. My impressions (will keep comparing with the Pajero MT 4x4):
- The cabin noise is so minimal, that this enters into the equation as a new variable. The engine growl is menacing, but can barely be heard. The quietness is in contrast with the quite noisy ride in Pajero MT, especially the deep base vibrations which are very strong. In the fortuner AT, the steering is heavy, so you do feel you are driving a beast.
- Cabin noise is relevant to ride quality, which brings us to bumpiness especially in the second seat. Here I must do my bit to unambiguously clear any doubt: The Fortuner gave a very pleasant ride, quite tasteful actually, and the usual potholes filled roads were digested quite easily and passenger comfort was excellent. All this from front as well as second row, and also the opinion of my wife, who was quite horrified with the TDs of last week.
- Hill climbing was next. In Automatic mode, the Fortuner contemptuously dismissed all challenges. I had to stop and start on a steep slope, and it did not break sweat. Just that menacing growl again.
- I did later test the manual fallback also, but that is quite nice, and instinctive, and just like driving a manual, except that there is no clutch.
- Parking – I will have a problem with this vehicle, unlike the nimble Pajero, but hopefully not an insurmountable one. Last week's Fortuner 4x4 and this 4x4 behaved differently, and I had greater discomfort with this one. I just hope if I order for a Fortuner, my specific piece does not turn out to be worse that this, since that would condemn me to 10 years of struggle in taking it out of parking daily.
- Drivability – this was never in doubt. Still, on a fast road, when I attempted to overtake in AT mode, it responded much quicker than I would have done in a manual SUV. It is lightning quick, for sure. City driving would be not strenuous at all, even in dense traffic. I am not however likely to do city driving much.
- Performance: Speed and acceleration are good, though not as good as the Pajero. 140 came and went in a blink before I decided not to stress a new beast. Body roll was minimal, though some of this could have to do with the fact that this is a new car – last week’s 4x4 had distinctly greater body roll – do these beasts deteriorate that quickly?
- Safety – I have to mention this: 1) the Fortuner doors do not have Side Impact Bars, which the Pajero’s do 2) Fortuner’s braking is noticeably inferior to the Pajero MT’s 3) Fortuner has ESP, which the Pajero does not have 4) the overall build of the Fortuner is rugged, but the Pajero felt like a fortress on wheels.
- What is more important – braking (Pajero scores heavily over Fortuner) or ESP (only Fortuner has it)? Initially I was convinced from TSIVipul’s comments that ESP is the bigger deal. However on second thoughts, I have to say that I will need ESP hopefully just 2-3 times during the life of the vehicle. They may be life saving. Part of the preventive protection will come from 4x4 mode itself while driving on susceptible surfaces. But the Pajero’s superior brakes will be in use at least 10,000 times in 10 years and could equally prove a life saver. Overall, on safety on which I place at least 30% weightage, after considering the other two items (impact bars and stronger build), I have to give it to the Pajero.
- Further, at the end of the day, while the Fortuner is rugged, the extreme engineering of the Pajero will lend itself to better absorbing punishment of daily wear of driving on bad roads, whereas I feel that in the Fortuner, absorbing punishment is not the focus of the engineering. A few things are too pleasant, too sophisticated and over time, may be vulnerable.
I spent several hours on doing a itemized points tally on 1) all attributes including stuff like headlight cleaners and keyless entry and ASS
etc. and 2) only major and critical attributes which are make or break for me. There is an unavoidable subjectivity in such an analysis, but one can still benefit by this instead of sweeping qualitative comparisons. I have to admit that both the vehicles are very close, as per my points tally, in both the comparisons. But there is a critical compositional difference:
In the end, attribute categories like interiors, driveability are not in aggregate significantly different between the two beasts. It boils down to this - The fortuner scores heavily due to its AT finesse and the Pajero due to its brutal build.
So equal – until we remember cabin noise – is my reading correct that the Pajero is extremely noisy? At least one FM with a new Pajero says so. Can the noise be reduced? In trying to damp, does one not run a risk of introducing new rattles? How expensive it it? Has anyone tried to improve the noise damping with success?
I will also TD the Pajero AT to test for cabin noise, as it is a newish TD piece being only 4 months old. I will take members’ opinion as final about the smoother ride of the Pajero.
If the Pajero noise can be tamed, I am going to opt for Pajero MT. I don’t have a chance to try a newish Pajero Sport MT. I am in deep torment, and will be almost relieved to get a negative answer to noise reduction and be forced to decide Fortuner.