Toyota Fortuner – start your impossible

Pieter Badenhorst shares the many reasons why the Toyota Fortuner is the perfect vehicle for him.


Pieter is a family man who loves the outdoors, especially camping and hiking, and there is nothing more enjoyable for him than exploring local game reserves with his wife and kids. “With my family’s sense of adventure, I need a car that can take us anywhere we want to go, even if that means driving on rocky and bumpy terrain to get to our destination.” This is why the Toyota Fortuner is the perfect vehicle for him.

Family car: 7-seater Fortuner

Having driven a Toyota Hilux for many years, Pieter’s family are used to the 4×4 lifestyle. But as the family grew, so their needs started changing.

His children wanted to take friends along on holiday so he needed more seating space which led him to investigate the 7-seater Fortuner.

The comfort and safety of the Fortuner equals a happy family. The kids love travelling in the back row of seats where they have their own air-conditioner. Now, the journey is very much part of the adventure as the set destination.

Pieter loves the 4×4 capability and how comfortably it handles gravel roads. The ground clearance gives him peace of mind when exploring off-road, and it gives the added advantage of a higher driving position which enables him to see over the vehicles in front of him when sitting in bumper to bumper traffic in Gauteng.

Vehicle adaptations

When choosing a vehicle, Pieter needs to look beyond the capabilities of the vehicle since his right arm is amputated from below his elbow and his left arm through his shoulder due to an electrical accident as a child. Thus, he needs to adapt the car to enable him to drive it with one arm.

Many of the features of the Fortuner 2.8 GD6 4×4 AT make it possible for Pieter to access the vehicle with minimal adaptations. For driving, the only adaptations he has needed is an automatic car, along with a prosthesis which is attached to the steering wheel which enables him to control the steering with half an arm, and moving some of the secondary controls to the floor so that he can manage the indicators, wipers and lights using his left foot while his right leg controls the normal accelerator and brake pedals in an automatic car. The super-light hydraulic power steering facilitates the ease of Pieter’s driving.

His secondary control panel was designed by his father and an auto-electrician when he first started driving many years ago. This has been transferred between many models of vehicles that he has had over the years.

Each button activates a different control, including the left and right indicators, wipers, hooter and headlights. With the Fortuner, he has not needed to activate the headlight buttons as it has automatic lights which are light-sensitive and switch on and off automatically when needed.

Automatic gearbox and keyless entry

The Fortuner has several models available with an automatic gearbox. This opens the possibility for people with a variety of disabilities to drive it.

The gear shift is also perfect for people with limited hand function as it has a step design which does not require pushing in a button whilst putting it into gear. The gear lever is simply guided through the required pattern to achieve the desired gear.

The keyless entry and push button start that come standard on Pieter’s model of Fortuner are essential for him since he has no fingers to easily manage keys and open doors. If he has the key in his pocket when he comes near the vehicle, he can open the doors and start the car with a press of a button.

Power back door system

The rear door on any SUV can be a challenge for people with a variety of disabilities, or persons of short stature or those who have lower back pain. It’s generally a high and heavy door that needs to be pulled down to close.

The 4.0L and 2.8L models are equipped with a power back door system which provides a very functional solution. It has a back door closer button that needs to be pressed to close the door. The button can easily be set so that the rear door opens to a specific angle or opening height.

Pieter has set this so that it opens higher than his head. But, for a person of short stature or in a wheelchair, it can be set to enable them to reach the close button without any difficulty. The rear door can be opened and closed from inside the vehicle, off the wireless key or using a button.

Audio-visual navigation system

The Bluetooth system in the Fortuner comes standard across all models, while the 2.8L and 4.0L models also come with a touchscreen audio-visual navigation system. The multi-information display includes all the frequently checked trip information. The display doubles up as the rear camera screen, navigation system, cell phone information and call answering. All content can be controlled via easy access switches on the steering wheel.

Seating layout

The seating layout provides remarkably easy flexibility with the middle row of seats having a 60:40 split with a one-touch tumble slide.

Again, only needing to press one button, the seats fold-up creating space needed for camping or sports equipment. So, Pieter doesn’t need fingers to be able to rearrange the seating at the rear of the car.

The third row of seats have an equally clever one-touch design which can either free up space for luggage or create a row of seats for extra passengers. This is the “kid’s zone” where competition is rife; the winner gets the back row.

The 2.8 GD6 model includes power front seat adjustments while most other models have manual adjustments.  With a quick push of a button, this enables Pieter to reset to the seat position with ease after his wife has been driving.

For drivers with paralysed legs, this can make a huge difference as it can be extremely difficult to adjust the position of the driver’s seat without being able to push or pull with their legs.

Safety features

The Fortuner boasts more than its fair share of safety features, including the anti-lock braking system; brake assist; electronic brake force distribution; hill-assist control; traction control; vehicle stability control; trailer-sway control; and downhill-assist control as well as front airbags for both driver and passenger, and curtain and side airbags and knee airbags for the driver.

Models

The Toyota Fortuner is currently available in 10 different derivatives, including petrol and diesel options; six speed manual and automatic; 2.4L, 2.7L, 2.8L, 4.0L, 2×4 or 4×4 with seven of these available with an automatic gearbox. Prices start from R505 600.

The torque of the 2.8L diesel motor gives plenty of muscle to tow Pieter’s 4×4 camping trailer with ease, producing 450Nm @1600-2400r/min and an unbraked towing capacity of 750kg.

Fuel consumption on the combined cycle is expected to be 8.5l/100km (without the trailer).

The new diesel engines have a smaller capacity with higher torque with Toyota’s new innovations translating into increased power with lower fuel consumption.

So, it’s no surprise that the Paralympic athlete, Pieter Badenhorst, is Toyota SA’s new brand ambassodor. He is a living example of Toyota’s slogan #Start Your Impossible.

Toyota Fortuner - Freedom of Mobility