Over the December holidays, many Vaalies normally head the way of the coast. Like Cape Town, for instance. But what do Capetonians, who also happen to be in the midst of the worst drought in more than a century, do over the same time? We handed Cape Town’s Elise Kirsten the keys to the new Toyota Fortuner 2.4 GD-6 4×4 AT and sent her and her family in search of water. And some adventure…
Like water to a weary soul
The Western Cape is somewhat parched, with the City of Cape Town particularly hard hit by the worst drought in over a century. Cape Town’s main water supply, the Theewaterskloof Dam, is in a sorry state of demise.
Moisture from the city’s half-full, green swimming pools seems to evaporate faster than science dictates it should. Wilted gardens, dirty vehicles and water trickling though the pipes at a fraction of the usual pressure is what visitors can expect, as the City of Cape Town desperately attempts to avert the disaster of taps running dry.
An enticing picture of this tourist hotspot, is it not? Despite Capetonians’ best attempts to deter the crowds by announcing the drought to anyone who will listen, the month of December 2017 saw Cape Town awash with tourists, both local and foreign.
The question arises: if you were determined to visit the Cape this summer, during a severe drought, knowing full well that there would be no dipping in and out of crystal clear swimming pools when you want to cool off, where would you head?
We decided to investigate by driving up both the east and west coasts of Cape Town in search of refreshing rivers, languid lagoons and serendipitous seas. And also some adventure, of course. To ferry us on our quest was Toyota’s new Fortuner 2.4GD-6 4×4 AT seven-seater.
Being based in Cape Town, our staycation wanderings comprised a number of delightful day trips from our home base.
Part 1: In search of copious amounts of water
First up was a 240km roundtrip to the Kogelberg Nature Reserve in search of a swimming spot in the Palmiet River.
Four of us settled into the Fortuner and with the push of a button, the diesel engine roared to life. This roar is more of a refined purr than the diesel grumble of yesteryear, the modern mill being pleasantly quiet and the cabin of the Fortuner well insulated. The leather-clad interior is plush and sophisticated for an SUV that was based on the underpinnings of the South Africa’s favourite bakkie, the Hilux.
While the authorities assure us that tap water is 100% safe for consumption, we Capetonians have taken up another European habit, in addition to scant bathing, of drinking bottled water.
We count this as part of our water savings contribution and we are admittedly paranoid that the taps will run dry unannounced. Therefore we carry and store as much of the stuff as we can, at all times.
It’s as if Toyota foresaw this whole crisis and added copious storage compartments for hand-held water bottles in the Fortuner’s interior. We even discovered one by accident as an elbow knocked a section of the console, on the front passenger side, next to the left air-conditioning vent and out popped another bottle holder. What a fortuitous discovery.
I found the Fortuner’s seats to be tremendously comfortable but my enthusiasm was no match for my husband’s. He was convinced that these supportive seats were made with him in mind, perhaps they were.
We set off from Durbanville and headed onto the N2 via the R300, powered by the smallest (but by no means dinky) engine in the model line-up. The 2.4-litre mill churns out a maximum of 110kW at 3 400r/min and 400Nm of torque between 1 600 and 2 000r/min.
The sure-footed Fortuner – even in two-wheel drive it feels securely planted on both tar and gravel – made it’s way up Sir Lowry’s Pass in the Eco mode and did not feel underpowered.
The revs remained surprisingly low throughout the drive, with the rev counter needle seldomly swinging past 2 000r/min. The engine never seemed to be working too hard and the six-speed auto transmission changed gears seamlessly. On one or two occasions, for a brief moment, the gearbox did seem a bit like it was passing a hot potato between gear ratios, not sure which one worked better.
But this was a rare occurrence, 98% of the time the gearbox performed faultlessly.
Oh yes, and while our Fortuner did not have a towbar, Toyota says it has a handy
2 500kg (braked) towing capacity.
The Palmiet River lies within the Kogelberg Nature Reserve, near the seaside towns of Kleinmond, Betty’s Bay and a little further afield the well-known holidaying hub of Hermanus. After driving a short distance on gravel that gives way to cement pavers, we arrived at the visitor centre and got our permits and map before setting off on foot on the 3km walk that takes you to the swimming area.
The route is farily flat and hugs the river as it meanders along sandy stretches interspearsed with some rocky ones before the path becomes more certain and cuts through the wonderfully diverse fynbos native to this biosphere.
When we reached the pool we were ready to cool off and the mountain water was as refreshing as one could expect. Success. We found soothing waters for our thirsty Capetonian souls.
Part 2: The holiday home ride
Our second trip, on another day, was just a little further up the same coast to the bustling seaside town of Onrus.
Again, the drive was very comfortable and our one daughter was particularly happy to have her own air-conditioning vents and controls at the back. She decided to sit in the third row of seats in the back of the SUV (as this is considered fun), which is more than spacious enough for the long-limbed 13-year-old.
As we travelled, it was comforting to note that the updates to the new Fortuner models include the addition of side and curtain airbags in the 2.4-litre GD-6 models, over and above the dual front airbags and driver knee airbags that are found in the outgoing range.
On arriving at our friends’ holiday home, we were interrogated with much gusto, “New car? Nice!” And the Fortuner was inspected from nose to tail, of course.
At Onrus we easily folded up the last row of seats (they fold up and hook up to the side, and don’t fold flat into the rear floor), popped some gear in the back and headed down to the river for some canoeing and a first attempt at stand up paddle boarding.
The Onrus River water was warmer than the Palmiet’s as it runs to an end point at the beach, not quite making it over the last bit of sand to the sea. In winter and with changing tides, the two do meet, but not on this day. The sea was boisterous and cold, even for these parts, so we spent our time at the river. Much fun was had, swimming, lying on the sand and playing beach bats.
Part 3: Going the populist route
Our third trip took us into the heart of Cape Town, up the traffic-laden Kloof Nek Road and down The Glen to Clifton Fourth Beach. My mother had always warned us growing up: “Never go to the beach in the week between Christmas and New Year. It’s packed and there’s no parking. Rather stay away.”
We went anyway. She was right.
What we had not anticipated however, was the wonderful energy that surged among the holiday makers and locals alike. Beach babes and bums, cool cats and fat ones all exuded the epitome of carefree living. Smiles abounded, clothes… not so much.
Here we were in one of the most beautiful spots on Earth, my daughter and I floated in the ocean, painted toenails protruding above the water’s surface, staring up at Lion’s Head set against a backdrop of cobalt sky. Yachts bobbed behind us and peals of laughter and happy chatter wafted back and forth across the beach in rhythm to the waves tumbling to and fro.
Part 4: Feeling blue?
A short fourth outing took us down to the popular seaside restaurant, The Blue Peter in Blouberg. On sunny days year round you’ll find patrons spilling out from of the restaurant’s outside seating to spots on the lawn. We found a table outside and soon we were enjoying seafood overlooking the bay and Table Mountain in the distance. The tide was exceptionally high and although this time we didn’t dip into the sea, watching the water was uplifting enough.
Before our final journey in search of more waterways, we sandwiched in a trip to a farm 25km from home for a bit of horse riding.
And on another occasion, when one of the offspring wanted to go cycling at Meerendal, we put down the seats, popped in a mountain bike and headed for the trails. With such a versatile and spacious vehicle, life seemed much simpler.
Part 5: Gravel travel (well, a little bit)
Our final trip took us up the Cape West Coast. This time there were six of us, including granny and a friend, and the Fortuner really did offer ample room. We headed 90km from home along the R27 to the West Coast National Park, just before Langebaan. We arrived early and hoped to do some gravel travel in the Fortuner on our way to the lagoon and the sheltered waters of Kraalbaai.
We were disappointed to find that most of the roads were tarred, but we did eventually find a short gravel road. We engaged four-wheel drive to feel that extra traction up the gravelly road, although to be fair, the Fortuner would have managed competently in two-wheel drive, and headed up a hillock to the viewpoint overlooking the cyan lagoon.
Driving 40km/h through the park we spotted a number of tortoises crossing the road and a few ostriches among the fynbos. The lagoon water was still and warmer than the same Atlantic water that runs along Clifton. Boats barely bobbed, yachts hardly lolled and houseboats seemed sturdily fixed on this tranquil body of water. Tiny waves lapped teasingly at the sand. Little ones played and laughed while adults were frustrated by attempts to set up newly acquired gazebos.
We left shortly after 12pm as we had arranged to braai with friends at their holiday home on the Port Owen Marina, about 60km further north up the coast.
We headed through Langebaan and on arriving in Port Owen, the Fortuner once again attracted much positive attention, with our host hopping in the passenger seat to take a better look.
The afternoon unfolded as kids swam and canoed, a board game ensued and festive season food seemed to keep on coming.
Average consumption, by the way, was indicated at 9.8 litres/100km.
At R511 100, this model is more than a R100 000 cheaper than the 2.8 GD-6 4×4 AT. Unless you absolutely have to have the extra 20kW and 50Nm that the larger engine provides, the 2.4 GD-6 4×4 AT makes all the sense in the world. It is a spacious, comfortable and versatile diesel-powered vehicle that has both off- and on-road prowess.
Once again, I relished driving the Fortuner that evening as the light faded over the farmlands and ushered in the summer night with its large yellow moon.
The ‘Tuna had been a most splendid holiday companion for our family.
Model: Toyota Fortuner 2.4 GD-6 4×4 AT
Engine: 2.4-litre, four-cylinder, turbodiesel
Power: 110kW at 3 400 r/min
Torque: 400Nm at 1 600 r/min
Fuel consumption (actual): 9.8 litres/100 km
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
4WD system: Part-time 4WD, with selection between 2H, 4H and 4Low
4WD traction aids: Traction control, hill assist control, rear differential lock
Driving aids: Vehicle stability control, trailer sway control, brake assist, ABS
Ground clearance (claimed): 279mm
Service plan: Five-years/90 000km
Service intervals: 10 000km
Price: R511 100
But can it 4×4?
The latest Toyota Fortuner continues in the tough 4×4 tracks of the first generation version, albeit in a more refined and sophisticated manner. It rides on a double wishbone set-up in front, and a four-link independent system at the back.
It is still based on the Hilux’s tough ladder frame chassis, and it gets the same 4WD system, too. So, unlike the previous generation Fortuner 4×4 derivatives, this Fortuner is a part-time 4×4, with the default 2H setting sending the power to the rear wheels.
A twist dial selector offers options between 2H, 4H and 4Low. A rear differential lock is standard, as is traction control.
In a tough off-road environment, the Fortuner can mix it with the best in its class. The 2.4-litre engine’s 400Nm of torque peaks at 1 600r/min, and it stays at 400Nm all the way to 2 000r/min. So there’s plenty of low-down grunt available for low-speed rock crawling.
This model is fitted with 265/65 R17 tyres, which is more suited to off-road driving than some of the low profile items that are so popular on fashionable SUVs.
Can the Fortuner 2.4 GD-6 4×4 AT do 4×4? Yes, it most certainly can.
Text and photos: Elise Kirsten