Cars > Driven

Toyota Fortuner GR-S 4x4: The old reliable gets the GR treatment

Is the GR-S variant even worth it? We find out

The red bash plate also comes standard with the GR-S. PHOTO BY SIMONN ANG

I never thought I’d become a grumpy old man at the ripe age of 31. More and more, I catch myself saying, “Things were better in the old days.”

I’m a huge fan of Ben&Ben, but I’m sorry, I just can’t stand to listen to the band’s rendition of “Make It with You” when Bread’s original version is far, far better, and just as accessible on Spotify.

I don’t watch a lot of NBA these days because I don’t think spreading the floor with all these stretch-fours and stretch-fives shooting threes is nearly as interesting as Hakeem Olajuwon or Patrick Ewing dominating the paint with brute force and elegant footwork. Bring back the physicality; men with their backs to the glass; hand-checking, at least.

And it’s the same with my taste in cars. Give me leather on every panel, an old-fashioned engine with tiny explosions happening inside, and a stick to shift my own gears. I’ll be fine without a screen in sight, so even a modest double-DIN screen is way more than enough.

It's refreshing to see a dashboard not slathered with screens nowadays. PHOTO BY SIMONN ANG

Still, sometimes I get a glimpse of the good old days. The Silk Sonic’s immaculate, soulful ’60s and ’70s vibe, Joel Embiid’s highlight-worthy post-up plays, and this: the Toyota Fortuner GR-S.

The Fortuner is easy to fault for being a little out-of-date, to put it bluntly. Even more so when you realize how expensive this range-topping GR-S is compared to its competitors. And even then, it’s no match for something like the Ford Everest Titanium+ 4×4.

While the Fortuner GR-S has many of the electronic safety components that are commonplace in today’s market, these are more like shoehorned afterthoughts on the Fortuner rather than meticulously planned features.

Is the cockpit good enough for you? PHOTOS BY SIMONN ANG

For example, the GR-S comes with a 360º camera, but you can only see the camera feed if you press a button far left of the dashboard, right above the fuel door release. It doesn’t come on when the sensors detect a nearby obstacle or when the turn signals are flashing. They’re just there, and you have to remember you have them.

All the controls for the adaptive cruise control are on the little stalk on the steering wheel, except for one. The button for setting the following distance is on the right spoke of the steering wheel itself.

The small TFT display on the gauge cluster doesn’t switch into a graphic to display all the cruise control settings, and you don’t get low-speed follow or lane-keeping assist—just the notoriously annoying lane-departure warning system.

The center screen is also relatively small measuring a mere eight inches, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto require a wired connection.

Is there substance behind the badge? PHOTO BY SIMONN ANG

With all those considered, there’s also the subject of the Gazoo Racing badges sprinkled all over this particular variant. Many will agree when I say that unsubstantiated “performance” packages are nothing more than greedy cash grabs.

And if you’re just looking at brochures and comparing spec sheets, that’s exactly what the Toyota Fortuner GR Sport seems to be. At P2,645,000, the GR-S is P90,000 more expensive than the top-of-the-line non-GR LTD 4×4.

Most of you have also probably made up your minds about this SUV as Toyota’s shrewd ploy to squeeze every extra cent out of its customers since it makes the same power out of the same engine and uses the same gearbox.

The aesthetic upgrades are handsome and tasteful. PHOTOS BY SIMONN ANG

But is it? The differences are small, but plenty.

Up front, the GR-S gets a sportier bumper with different fog-light cowls, a reshaped lower grille with a GR Sport badge, the bottom edge of the bumper is body-colored instead of black, and the front diffuser is gloss black instead of silver on the LTD.

Down the sides, the plastic cladding around the wheel wells is painted in body color along with the door handles. The wheels are the same size as the LTD’s at 18 inches, but they have sportier design and are finished in a state of gunmetal gray and black. Red GR calipers front and rear peek behind these wheels.

Finally, at the back, the GR-S gets roughly the same spoiler, albeit with white inserts on the underside. The tailgate garnish bearing the Fortuner moniker is also painted in white instead of chrome or gloss black in the other variants.

The interior is familiar, with some sporty bits added. PHOTOS BY SIMONN ANG

Inside, the push-start button is emblazoned with the GR logo, and the steering wheel is wrapped with perforated leather inserts and bears a red center marker at the 12-o’clock position as well as a GR emblem at six o’clock.

The center console is trimmed in faux carbon fiber instead of gloss black. The seats are slightly reshaped with the GR logo embroidered on the headrests and perforated suede-like materials down the center.

However, the GR-S loses the ambient lighting and the ventilated front seats present on the LTD. The rest of the interior amenities are pretty much the same as on the other Fortuner variants.

The monotube shocks are worth the premium if you enjoy driving your car. PHOTOS BY SIMONN ANG

Other than that, the key differentiator for the GR-S is the monotube shocks. As far as I can tell, the suspension geometry is exactly the same (double wishbones up front and multilink in the rear) with the shocks being the only difference.

Some will say it rides slightly better than a Fortuner with the standard suspension, but what you’re actually getting with the GR-S’s suspension is better body control. It moves around a lot less under lateral load.

It doesn’t dive as much under braking or squat under acceleration or load. It’s still an SUV so there’s still a lot of body roll, but it’s not as easily upset as the standard.

But most importantly, the rebound is much more controlled and gradual, so it doesn’t feel as jumpy or matagtag. Of course, monotubes are more performance-oriented, so damping is still stiff. Overall, it’s not a stark difference, but there is a slight improvement.

The calipers look the same as the standard ones, only in red. PHOTO BY SIMONN ANG

The red Gazoo Racing calipers seem to be the same ones on the standard apart from the color, but the brakes do feel positive and alert. There’s a lot of initial bite and plenty of stopping power overall.

Again, the 2.8-liter turbodiesel (1GD-FTV) is carried over from the LTD, and is also mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. It’s punchy and powerful, but also very smooth and quietperfect for long road trips and quick overtakes on provincial roads.

Most will complain about the heavy steering, but the hydraulic rack is a welcome adherence to tradition. I know you don’t get variable weight with a hydraulic system. I’m aware that it will become a huge pain in the behind when the oil seals start leaking, the pressure hoses start cracking, and the pump fails in 10 years, but at least it feels great.

There’s a lot more of the road that comes through to the steering wheel, and it doesn’t feel artificial.

It may not be the most advanced PPV out there, but the Fortuner is still well-loved. PHOTO BY SIMONN ANG

If you’re in the market for a midsize SUV and you want the latest and greatest tech, all the driver aids, and big screens, then maybe the Fortuner GR-S isn’t for you. There are better options out there, and most are even cheaper. But for people like me, it’s perfect. And it seems to be perfect for many others, seeing as the Fortuner is the undisputed bestseller in its category.

But should you get a Fortuner in GR-S trim? Is it worth it? Yes. You would have to spend right around P90,000 in the aftermarket converting your LTD into a GR-S replica anyway, and some of the interior bits would still be missing. No one is pulling tricks here.


Engine2.8-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel
Transmission6-speed automatic
Power201hp @ 3,400rpm
Torque500Nm @ 1,600-2,800rpm
Dimensions4,795mm x 1,855mm x 1,835 mm
Drive layout4WD
UpsideSimple, reliable, and good-looking in GR-S trim.
DownsideA little too simple for some; lacking in the electronics department.

Simonn Ang

Simonn is just a regular guy who happens to love cars and motorcycles. He also loves writing about them, too.