Earlier in the year Bowen took the new Toyota Kluger out for a spin and had plenty of good things to say. While he may be able to put it through the camping and dog as a passenger test, I took it one step further – grabbed the keys to a Grande model and took the whole family down the South Coast for a week.
Because of the seven seats, their competition for buyers in this segment is narrow, and at over $73,000 drive away it’s not a cheap option. You’re competing with Mazda, Nissan, even Ford’s new Everest, so the slick new look is not going to work on its own – this has to be great.
The 10 Minute Test Drive
This is a safe drive. There’s a premium feel in the cabin thanks mainly to the Grande’s features such as woodgrain-look instruments but in reality you’ll feel just as good in the GXL.
There is nothing SUV about the drive behind the wheel of this – its relaxed and comfortable with a tall stance. Under acceleration there’s all the power you need, but pottering around town it’s smooth through the corners and a soft ride.
Anyone popping into a dealer and taking this for a test run won’t be disappointed. I think that’s where Toyota have the advantage, their vehicles are hard to fault right out of the box.
Round the back the automatic opening rear boot is a simple luxury, but the real bonus is the glass hatch on the rear door that opens independently of the door itself. We loaded the car so much that allowed a few extra things to be pushed in. Sadly on arriving home I opted for the push button rear door opening from the drivers dash-mounted button, and most of our stuff fell out on the grass. Watch out for that:)
Ins and Outs
The saying might go the devil is in the detail, but for the Kluger Grande the upside is in the detail. Over and above the GXL variant (and for an additional $14,000 or so) there are a fair few notable inclusions.
- 19 inch alloys
- LED headlamps
- Automatic High-Beam
- Tilt and slide moonroof
- Powered back door
- Glass Hatch in the back door
- Heated and Memory external mirrors
- Woodgrain-look instruments
- 2 memory position drivers seat
- Electronic dimming rear view mirror
- Heated and ventilated front seats
- Reversing camera with Back guide
- Pre-collision safety system
- Lane Departure Alert
- Blind Spot Monitor
- Active Cruise Control
- an 8 inch touchscreen infotainment system
- Sat Nav
- and a 9 inch roof mounted rear blu-ray system.
Now, that’s a big list. But let me tell you, if this is your primary family car – it’s an important list. The Lane Departure Alert is excellent, very rare to get a false positive on it, a slight drift across the lane markings or corner cutting and a few clear beeps which the kids will quickly realise is you moving out of the lane and they’ll be on you as much as the automatic system is.
Fortunately I didn’t get to test the pre-collision safety system, but the Active Cruise Control is a great thing on the open highways.
The Tech Inside
Having a roof mounted rear DVD/Blu-Ray system seems awesome, but really – it’s a bit 90’s now isn’t it? Of the three or four DVDs we took with us, they struggled to work – scratches on each of them (parents will agree) is unavoidable. When are we going to see Chromecast streaming compatibility in the rear of the cars for the kids?
Op front the 8 inch screen is great, Toyota persist with the touch sensitive buttons on the side of the screen like an ATM, instead of putting all their eggs in a highly customised user-interface to match the modern smartphone like expectations of consumers.
That said, it works well, has all the compatibility you need and won’t let you down.
Once again, the Lane Departure Alert and Active Cruise Control are solid tech features which we think should be required in all vehicles.
The Hip Pocket
All this for over $70,000. The concept that it “won’t let you down” is probably what makes this vehicle sell so well. The market dominance is Toyota’s to lose, but if the likes of Ford start pushing their competitors in the same manner they are with the Ranger against the Hilux Toyota will have to start looking over their shoulder.
The unspoken words thus far relate to the engine. There is no Diesel option, and with the Ford Everest offering that option there could be competition in the fuel economy stakes. Quoted at 10.6L/100km I never saw it below 12. After a week away we were at 12.4 and that did include stacks of highway driving.
The Road Trip
My biggest gripe with 7-seaters over and over again is that there are only seven seats available once you’ve arrived at your destination. Packed to the roof for the journey down, it wasn’t until we’d reached our accommodation and unloaded everything that my oldest son could enjoy the third row seating.
Sure you can get roof racks, roof storage and or a trailer, but in reality, I’m not sure we fitted too much more than we would have if we’d taken our Commodore Wagon.
Our Kluger had rubber mats along the floor of the second row – perfect for the sand from the beach and frankly the car took a full week’s family use without a hitch.
Getting in and out of the third row using the rear door isn’t easy, and while you can fold down the middle row to get access but not when you’ve got two booster seats strapped in.
This was an enjoyable week, the car gave us no trouble, it was a great drive and there was no complaints from the three children or two adults on board.
EFTM Rubber Stamp
Save yourself $4,000 and get the 2WD option, when are you actually going 4WDing? That’s just me.
Bowen nailed it with this one, overall the Kluger is a Credit from EFTM. It’s everything you’re going to want, but if they just expanded the power options to include a Diesel there’s a chance we could bump that up.
Bottom line, I can see why they sell so damn well.
Oh, and this little “shelf” under the dash is actually super handy for all the bits and bobs and stuff doesn’t roll around as much as you’d think!