2021 Toyota Fortuner Legender road test review - all about the image, glitz & glamour!
The Toyota Fortuner is a household name in India now and you have to be living under a rock to have not heard about its legacy. Of course, it can smash those rocks too and crawl over them to scale great inclines, but the reason for which it has been scaling high on the sales charts is because of the image it portrays. It announces to the world (or at least casts that image) that you have arrived in life, or are a person of power, or are simply enabling your wanderlust with one of the most capable SUVs out there. But, when we reviewed this generation of the Fortuner for the first time in 2016, we asked all of you the very important question - would you drive this polished SUV into the wild outdoors and scratch its expensive paintwork? Clearly, most of you wouldn't. If anything, people wanted an even more prim and proper Fortuner and that has given birth to the variant you see here - the Fortuner Legender.
If you want the 4x4 capabilities and the butch styling that one associate with the Fortuner, you can save a few and settle for the regular Fortuner 4x4. The Legender is the fashionable alternative - wearing more refined styling cues that are inspired by Lexus. The X-shaped nose, for example, has hints of the Lexus spindle grille.
It is complemented by a sophisticated four-pot headlamp arrangement and what Toyota likes to call a waterfall design for the daytime running lights. The lights have an exceptionally good spread and throw and are easily the best in the segment.
The vertical fog lamp housings enhance the visual sense of height for this already tall SUV, while the turn blinkers move to the far corners of the bumper and get a sequential blink pattern similar to some luxury cars and it does look good. Their low placement might seem unsafe to some, but the prominent ORVM mounted blinkers negate that concern. The front skid plate has a slimmer profile than the Fortuner's and I think the placement of the registration plate is nicely executed too.
There is no difference in dimensions between the Fortuner and the Legender, but the side profile looks sportier on the latter, thanks to the design of the wheels. Toyota loves market research and responding to their results, and consequently, the Legender is only available in a pearl white, with a matte black roof to go with it.
But the latter is achieved with a wrap and not paint, and that shows with the inconsistent edges. At this price point, it feels a bit tacky and I expected a cleaner finish since it comes from the factory.
The tail of the Legender differentiates itself with creases on the rear bumper that rise up from the fog lamps to again accentuate the height of the car. Toyota says it is a catamaran inspired styling, and it isn't hard to see why. The appliqué between the taillights is finished in gloss black, which looks rather good and then there is the Legender badging which gets a matching black finish with a chrome outline that looks tasteful.
In fact, contrary to expectations (and the norm), the Legender has minimal use of chrome and badges and I quite like it. The resultant design looks classy and has an air of sophistication to it. The only thing it leaves me wanting for is more colour options because thanks to the politicos and land mafia, a white Fortuner casts an image of so-called power that not everyone would like to associate themselves with.
Cabin and practicality
While the exterior has allowed the Toyota designers to sculpt two distinct faces for the Fortuner, the interior doesn't allow so much leeway. So while the flow of the dashboard and the layout of various elements are similar between the two cars (and also to the outgoing model for that matter), the Legender goes with a refreshingly new black and maroon scheme for the upholstery. It gets a contrasting white ambient lighting around the infotainment, instrumentation and foot wells, which looks quite nice.
The lack of equipment and creature comforts worthy of the price tag was one of the biggest complaints we had with the Fortuner and that has been addressed to an extent with this midlife makeover. There is basic connected tech now which allows vehicle tracking and geofencing, the touchscreen infotainment has a revised layout, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and while the air-conditioning was always excellent on this three-row SUV, there are finally ventilated seats this time around, though only at the front. If you like your music to play softly in the background, the Legender's 6-speaker setup works fine, but if you like to amp up your music on the go, it lacks the richness and punch of the 11-speaker JBL setup you get otherwise in the Fortuner.
A 360° camera ought to have been given by now, but all you get is a reversing camera with fixed guidelines and an extra reversing sensor at the rear over the regular Fortuner.
The other exclusive features for the Legender include an auto-dimming rearview mirror which works as intended, two USB ports in the second row and a wireless charging pad at the front, though its slot is hard to reach when you are using the cup holders.
There is no change to the seating whatsoever. While some of you wished for a six-seater configuration with more luxurious captain seats for the second row, I think that the existing seven-seater layout works just as well without compromising on space or versatility.
Long-distance comfort has always been excellent for the Fortuner and it doesn't change with the updated one, though the presence of cars like the MG Gloster in a similar price band, might leave you wanting for a massaging function and a panoramic roof for a nicer cabin experience.
Driving dynamics and updated engine
The Legender only comes with the option of a diesel motor and it is the updated 2.8l four-cylinder turbo-diesel unit. The first thing you will notice on the updated car is that the engine noise has been muted significantly. You will only hear the clatter past the 2,800rpm mark and even then it doesn't sound like a truck. The Legender can only be had with the 4x2 drivetrain with a 6-speed automatic which means the diesel engine gets the higher state of tune that churns out 204PS and 500Nm.
It may seem like a marginal bump in power and torque over the outgoing 2.8, but it makes for quicker acceleration off the mark, easier overtaking capabilities and better drivability around mountain roads. We managed a 0-100kmph sprint time of 9.85s with the Legender, which is significantly quicker than the outgoing car. In fact, this could be the quickest production-spec Fortuner on sale in India right now. Sure, the Fortuner 4x4 will have better grip off the line, making for cleaner starts with the four-wheel-drivetrain, but the additional hardware makes it a good 125kg heavier than the Legender, giving it a lower power-to-weight ratio.
It isn't only about outright acceleration though. The gearbox tuning has been optimised too and it shows in how the Legender drives effortlessly in the city or on the highway. It settles into a cruising engine speed of 1,500rpm at 100kmph or 2,000rpm at 120kmph. The mandatory beeper at that speed isn't too intrusive either. This isn't the quickest gearbox around, but it is predictable and once you get the hang of it, planning overtakes is easy. The engine-braking isn't particularly strong with this gearbox (even in Sport mode) and it almost feels like the car goes into a coasting mode when you get off the throttle - though it doesn't have that function. But the brakes on the Legender are great and finely tuned for a progressive feel. So whether you are driving alone or with a full-house, this mammoth comes to a halt quite predictably.
But it is a body-on-frame giant after all and manoeuvring the Legender around tight switchbacks or through narrow spaces still needs quite a bit of effort at the wheel. If you want a car that feels lighter and easier, look at something like the Tiguan AllSpace or the entry-level luxury compacts instead. The rigidity of the Fortuner's chassis continues to impress with its high-speed stability and soft ride at low and high speeds. The powertrain also comes with three driving modes now - Eco, Normal and Sport - which not only sharpen engine and gearbox responses, but also add weight to the steering at higher speeds, but the difference in all these modes is marginal and hard to notice. While we have complained about the Fortuner's heavy steering feel in the past, the 4x2 configuration has a relatively lighter setup.
The Fortuner Legender comes with a diesel particulate filter (note the last switch in the second row) and it will be interesting to see if it can traverse the country with continued reliability since we have faced issues of DPF clogging with most Indian cars that are equipped with it
It is a Fortuner after all, so it's capability away from the tarmac is pretty good even without the fancy off-roading hardware. So trips to the farm and mild trails are still very much doable. But if scaling mountains, bashing rocks and descending to river beds is your idea of adventure touring with this car, you are better off with a Fortuner 4x4.
Here's a quick look at how the Legender's performance compares to the outgoing Fortuner, the MG Gloster and its archrival, the Ford Endeavour.
In fact, since we had recently compared these cars, let us revisit the scorecard and see where the Legender fits in. It is no surprise that despite its tall price tag, the Legender has a lot going for it and when those points add up, it edges ahead of the competition by a fair margin.
The powertrain and its performance, and the excellent ride quality that this platform has to offer, is common to the Fortuner and the Legender. If anything, the Fortuner's 4x4 drivetrain and the off-road equipment makes it a lot more versatile and value for money in my book. The Legender's refined poise over the regular Fortuner is down to its exterior styling and few additional features inside the cabin. While there is nothing life-changing about either of it, there is no denying that the Lexus hints up its premium quotient and that is bound to appeal to many out there who want this Fortuner to do what its best at - cast a powerful image of you that massages your ego.
Photography Anis Shaikh
Watch our video review of the 2021 Toyota Fortuner Legender below
Starts Rs 29.98 Lakhs
Starts Rs 32.75 Lakhs
Starts Rs 29.98 Lakhs