A profoundly different looking Kluger was launched in 2014 by Toyota, the obvious aim to remain competitive in the SUV race for dominance. EFTM has just spent the Christmas period testing out the US sourced and now standard 7-seater offering from the Japanese giant.
The 10 Minute Test Drive
We found ourselves in the variant just shy of top spec Grande model, the GXL with All-Wheel-Drive (AWD). The experience is very typical of many of the Kluger’s counterparts, that is large proportions but with the ability to almost mimic the handling of traditional wagons. Another added bonus for large SUV buyers is that they get a vehicle that looks like a large traditional 4WD but lacks the harshness and more agricultural traits of the real off-roaders. The Kluger is no different.
Interior wise the Kluger goes some way towards fending off the traditional criticisms of many Toyota offerings. While hardly at the most innovative end of the market the 2014 product features a semi-premium feel with above average materials and a general sense of being in something a tad special.
Storage space is abundant and masterfully pulled off in some cases. For example a very clever storage cavity runs across most of the front dash, handy for phones, keys and numerous other moderately sized items which thankfully won’t slide around.
The cabin and 7-seater arrangement is on par with competitors in terms of functionality. The middle row can be slid forwards allowing easy access to the generous third row space. While the rear two seats are a no-go for most adults, moderately sized teenagers can be comfortably accommodated. Ventilation is excellent with head level vents and independent temperature control for all rear passengers.
From behind the wheel the vehicle never feels underpowered and nor should it. Only a 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine is available and it pulls the near two-tonne GXL along swiftly. But you can just feel the fuel economy slipping into the red every time you may feel a bit flighty. A small Eco light in the instrument cluster serves as a handy reminder that a tender approach to the throttle should be adhered to.
The Kluger feels very secure and flat on the road most of the time. Our trip involved migrating to Canberra over the Christmas period and we were certainly loaded up, with the second and third rows folded flat to accommodate our stash. With the added weight, obviously things became a bit floaty, particularly on the Hume Hwy around Goulburn where the older sections of that road traverse undulating territory all while the 110km/h limit remains in place. But I’d have to say aside from that the Kluger is one of the most competent large SUV’s I’ve driven at this price point when comes to handling.
Ins And Outs
As mentioned you only get one option to power the Kluger, a 3.5-litre V6 petrol which develops 201kW/337Nm. A six-speed transmission is joined by an interesting AWD system. Formally the system operated full-time but is now controlled by torque vectoring technology. What this means is that torque can be shared around as needed, with up to 50 percent being granted to rear wheels if called upon. You can lock drive in equal parts if required via a centre diff lock button. Other traction enhancing technology includes Hill Decent Control if you really can’t be bothered using the brake pedal to maintain a steady decent. It’s worth noting the Kluger is also available with 2WD on all variants (GX, GXL, Grande). It’s also worth a mention that the Kluger also won’t cross the Simpson Desert, so let’s keep things in perspective here.
A 6.1-inch multimedia display is uninspiring and includes the Toyota Link connectivity interface. While it does include a reversing camera, the system itself is plain to look at and lacks the sparkle and modern look of its competitors. Additionally at this level Satellite Navigation surely could be thrown into the equation?
Leather seats on the GXL model look the part and include heating up front, a tri-zone air-conditioning system is controlled via the front console or a unit within reach of the middle row just behind the large centre storage bin. LED Daytime Running Lights complement the overall bold new take on what was already an attractive SUV.
Prices kick off at $40,990 for the GX 2WD variant. We sampled the GXL AWD which sits at $53,990. The range tops out at $67,990 for the Grande AWD. Despite a claimed 10.2-10.6L/100km (2WD or 4WD) you’d simply have to say the Kluger is thirsty. I averaged 11.1L/100km over around 600km’s but that was mostly at freeway speeds. Utilising its 2000kg braked towing capacity or simply plodding around the city all week will produce uncomfortable fuel bills. Toyota do Hybrids so well, why no diesel option? We can only simply ponder these questions.
The thing is Australians love a Toyota, and as far as SUV’s go the Kluger is front and centre when it comes to popularity. This is on the back of the brand’s legendary reliability, resale values and excellent dealer network. There’d be plenty of Kluger owners who rest easy at night.
EFTM Rubber Stamp
Toyotas don’t try and fake their way into your garage. You look at the spec sheet, read the reviews then go and drive one to see if it’s all true. As soon as you jump in and do it you realise that in a motoring classroom Toyota would be a straight B student, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The Kluger sits in that very classroom and we award it the EFTM Credit Rubber Stamp of Approval.