The Toyota Fortuner has been the undisputed champion among large SUVs in the Indian car market and despite being around for over a decade remains a formidable player with the crown firmly on its head. Challengers have come and challengers have gone but hardly anyone has managed to even ruffle the feathers of the Fortuner. But there’s a new SUV in town, one that has a rich pedigree and claims to be a rugged off-roader with cabin amenities that match most luxury vehicles. The Jeep Meridian has been officially launched in the country as a three-row SUV and whether Jeep India admits it outright or backs away from it, the target is the Toyota Fortuner.
Challenging a proven warrior king is brave but it is obviously not easy. While the Meridian claims to have what it takes, to pull off what could very well be the biggest challenge the Fortuner has ever faced in India will take every ounce of automotive prowess and then some.
We drove the Fortuner to Chandigarh recently when Jeep invited us for the first drive experience of the Meridian and pitted the two large SUVs against each other. There are obvious similarities in intent to woo and wow buyers but the contrasts between the Meridian and the Fortuner are also quite stark.
Here’s a quick look at what you can expect from each of the two vehicles:
Meridian vs Fortuner: Dimensions and exterior styling
One of the main reasons behind Fortuner’s success in the Indian car market has been its great road presence. It’s a big SUV that can do it and doesn’t mind showing off its muscles. Park the Meridian next to it and the larger dimensions of the Fortuner become even more apparent.
|Jeep Meridian dimensions (in mm)|
|Width||1 858||1 855|
But if sophisticated style is what you prefer, the newer SUV of the two certainly has the edge. The Meridian is likely to benefit from the novelty factor but even beyond that it looks smarter than the Fortuner which always seems to have prioritized masculine and butch visual cues.
Judgment- Appearance is always subjective and in that sense it is even stevens between the two models.
Meridian vs Fortuner: Engine and Transmission Choice
The Fortuner is powered by a 2755 cc diesel engine that produces 201 bhp and offers 500 Nm of torque. There is also a 2,694 cc petrol engine that produces 164 hp and has 245 Nm of torque. The Toyota is available with both manual and automatic transmissions.
If you’re looking for a gasoline-powered SUV, the Meridian is off your list right away. That’s because the Jeep gets a 2.0-liter turbocharged diesel engine that produces 167 hp and has 350 Nm of torque.
In the real world, the Fortuner certainly has more traction and muscle on the road ahead with a characteristic sense of disdain much admired by its intended target audience. But if it’s refinement you want, the Meridian has plenty of it. The nine-speed automatic is also buttery smooth to help matters.
Verdict – Both models come with AWD options and handle rough terrain. On paper though, the Meridian may have a slight edge and the fact that it is more refined on regular roads gives it an edge over the Fortuner.
Meridian vs Fortuner: Cabin highlights
Both Meridian and Fortuner are three-row SUVs and in that sense alone, there is a lot of space in the cabin. The space in the second row is comparable in terms of knee room, legroom and headroom. However, the Meridian is the more comfortable of the two in terms of seat cushioning and benefits from an incredibly premium feel.
Where the Jeep SUV loses big time, however, is in the last row. Not that the Fortuner offers miles of space here, but the jump seats are much more practical than the bench seats in the last row of the Meridian where there is a very palpable sense of claustrophobia.
Verdict – If the third-row seating is only an option at best and the focus is on having a premium experience on the move, the Meridian has its nose ahead. But if packing a large family on frequent highway journeys will be the norm, the Fortuner has the edge.
Meridian vs Fortuner: Features list
Meridian is clearly ahead of the curve when it comes to the list of features. Being the newer SUV, it benefits from studying what its competitors offer and then offering a little more. While both the Meridian and Fortuner have some great convenience features like ventilated front seats, automatic climate control, large infotainment screen and cooled glove box, the Jeep SUV adds a panoramic sunroof, wireless phone charger and ambient lighting to the list. The 10.1-inch main touchscreen is also larger than that of the Fortuner. However, note here that the Fortuner has wireless phone charging, ambient lighting and kick-to-open powered tailgate in the Legender variant but this variant is much more premium in terms of pricing.
Verdict – Meridian offers much more value for money in terms of features list than Fortuner.
Meridian vs Fortuner: Prices in India
Meridian has been launched at a starting price of ₹29.90 lakh (introduction, ex showroom). This base pricing means the Meridian is cheaper than the Fortuner and even the MG Gloster. Moving up the price chart, the fully loaded Jeep SUV adds up ₹36.95 lakh for AWD with automatic transmission.
|Jeep Meridian full price structure|
|Limited MT FWD||₹29.90 lakh|
|Limited (O) MT FWD||₹32.40 lakh|
|Limited 9AT FWD||₹31.80 lakh|
|Limited (O) 9AT FWD||₹34.30 lakh|
|Limited (O) 9AT 4×4||₹36.95 lakh|
|(from showroom, introductory prices)|
Fortuner pricing starts at ₹31.75 lakh for the 4×2 with manual transmission. The most affordable Fortuner with AT is on ₹33.38 lakh which is still more expensive than the most affordable Meridian with AT – ₹31.80 lakh. The Fortuner 4×4 with AT is the variant comparable to the state-of-the-art Meridian and the Toyota here is priced at ₹40 lakhs. Fortuner Legends and recently launched Fortuner GR-S are even more expensive.
Verdict – Although pricing for the Meridian is introductory for now, it’s very aggressive and should keep the SUV well positioned. The Jeep model will benefit from being the newest SUV available, but even when the pulse has settled, its premium cabin, impressive feature list and sophisticated handling will shine through.
But with the Fortuner, one can expect a robust after-sales service network, a high resale value and a rugged character that is much loved by many SUV buying customers. The impressive road presence and practical third-row layout also work in its favour.
First publication date: May 25, 2022, 11:26 AM IST