Going by the way our Indian roads are made, I can pretty much call myself a person who could drive any car off-road. That said, when I saw the course laid out by experienced off-road drivers at the Toyota Fortuner off-road camp, I was pretty sure that I had to go back to basics. Set up in the busy suburbs of Mumbai, this off-road course offered some serious obstacles and after a small briefing session in the tent, we were called on the ground. Tejas, one of the instructors present first took us around the course in a manual Fortuner, he explained us all the dos and don’ts on the ground before starting off and then we buckled up and our journey began.
The first obstacle we faced was the articulation test where we would test the Active Traction Control of the Fortuner which locks the wheels spinning in the air and providing traction to the wheels on the ground. The Fortuner took the obstacle like a boss and headed to the side inclined test. At an angle of 35 degrees, the low Centre of gravity of the Fortuner ensures that the car doesn’t topple over. After passing through the chicken pots, or what was called Saki Naka as a joke, we head to the 40-degree angle climb, at a steady pace of 1800 to 2000 rpm the Fortuner climbed the slope with ease. Once on top of the hill, Tejas activates the Downhill Assist Control and without even touching the brake or accelerator the Fortuner climbs down to encounter the natural side incline, a 35-degree slope carved out in the ground. Tejas tells us how to keep the steering in the obstacle and how to move through the pit.
Coming out of the pit, we pass through the rumble strips, called Marol Naka, which leads to the water crossing. The Fortuner can wade through 700 mm of water without any problem provided you enter the water slowly if you mess up, the engine will suck up the water causing some serious damage. Climbing the slope out of the water, Tejas stops to let the water drain out and demonstrates us the Hill Start Assist Control which prevents the SUV from rolling back on a slope for 3 seconds, which is enough time to let go of the brake and accelerate up the hill. Crossing the water trench we head to the slush pit, where the car must be kept at a constant pace and in a smooth motion or else you risk getting stuck which marked the end of our instruction lap.
Then I was handed a car, an automatic transmission Fortuner, I climb into the driver seat and while adjusting it to my liking, I am joined by Paras who would guide me through this adventure. We head to the course, maintaining a safe distance between the car in front of us, Paras took care of all the jitters and doubts I had, making me feel much more confident when I manoeuvred the car through all these obstacles. After finishing the course, I now had much more respect for the Fortuner than I ever did before, not only does it offer such great on-road presence, its off-road prowess had me mighty impressed. We did that course in such luxury and refinement and I believe there are a very few cars available at this price point which can do so. Pair it with Toyota’s reliability and low-cost maintenance, the Fortuner is truly one rugged car that happens to be the most sensible car to use on the roads of our country.