Ladies and Gentlemen, I am about to rock your world. The vehicle that you know as the Toyota 4Runner is a fraud. Yes, I know, shocking revelations. This fraudster has taken the 4Runner’s name and identity, forcing the real one to take a name that’s close enough to be recognizable, but without any overlap.
The fraudster made way with the name without anyone noticing or caring, in 1995. For it was then that Toyota decided that the 4Runner would cease to exist in the way that we knew it until then, that is, an SUV version of the unkillable Hilux. The new 4Runner needed to be more comfortable and luxurious if it wanted to succeed in conquering the hearts and wallets of the suburban families that wanted to buy one. Less 2-door models, more coil springs. It worked beautifully, and even now where the Unibody is king and most SUV’s have evolved into crossovers they still have their own small space in the market alongside the Jeep Wrangler.
There weren’t any SUV’s built on the Hilux platform (as far as I can tell) for nearly a decade. It wasn’t until 2004, when a new Hilux was built around an entirely new platform that a true successor would be commissioned.
The Fortuner arrived a year after the Hilux, as a 2005 model. Unsurprisingly, being built on the Hilux platform means that it has the same engines and transmissions as its pickup sister and it’s also available with rear and four-wheel drive system. What is surprising is that all the gasoline engines available for it would be familiar for American buyers. You can have the 2.7-liter four and the 4.0-liter V6 that you get in the Tacoma. If you’re in the correct market and have taken complete leave of your senses you can even get the 4.6-liter V8 you get on the Lexus GS and the Toyota Tundra. Despite the ample choice of gasoline engines, a large number of buyers would likely choose a member of the KD line of diesels, either the 2.5 or the 3.0-liters.
Inside it’s the pretty much the same interior of the Hilux, again to be expected considering this sticks to that original formula of “Wagon Hilux”. It’s not going to win any awards for the sumptuousness of its materials, but I’m pretty sure that those same suburban mothers that want luxury crossovers would appreciate an interior that is as easy to keep clean and that will wear as well as this one.
2015 brought with it a new Hilux for all the markets that can buy it, which means that this year we’re also getting treated to a new Fortuner. I’m still not sure of the front, it looks as though it was designed for a lower, smaller car and then glued on to the Fortuner as a last-minute fix to meet a deadline, but I’ll probably get used to it. More importantly than all of this, I’ll have to answer the question some of you are probably having right now: if the car is already designed, built, and uses engines that are commonly used in the U.S, why aren’t they selling it here? Simply put; neither you nor anyone else would buy it.
Remember what I said about the 4Runner having a small space on the market? I really mean it. In 2010, the first year of the current generation, it only sold 46k units. A far cry from the 128k that it managed in 1997. The crossovers have taken over. High driving position and no need to keep the pretense of it being able to conquer any jungle other than the urban one means that the ‘ol traditional SUV’s are at a disadvantage and now only cater to a very traditional customer. Thank God for that, and the sales have been increasing steadily since 2010 (96k on 2015, likely thanks to the 2014 facelift and the new TRD Pro trim level) but it means that it would be utterly pointless to have two vehicles fighting for the same small slice of pie.