Toyota Kluger Video Review

Since 2003, Kluger has found 170,000 homes, with 14,743 of those in 2018 alone.

That means Kluger is the best selling SUV in the segment.

But, is it any good?

This model is the second Australian generation (1st generation was not sold here), and has been on sale since 2014. It got a wee a nip and tuck in 2017.

Poor old Kluger is in its twilight years, even though its 5th birth was less than a year ago. The replacement model debuted at the New York Motor Show last April.

It is squarely aimed at families of all sizes, with a 3rd row of seats that can be deployed as needed. They’re a snug fit, and best left to the more diminutive traveller.

As we know, gay families come in many forms, but of course you can simply ferry friends, as a designated driver, in great comfort if that’s your thing.

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Does it look good?

It’s deliciously chunky. Kluger shows some of the early styling cues that Toyota has since gone berserk with.  It isn’t quite as polarising as the RAV4 we drove a few weeks ago. You’ll remember we weren’t all that fussed on the outside, but loved the drive.

It sits 200.3mm off the ground. That 0.3mm could be the difference between getting marooned on a wayward hump, or not. Who wants to get stuck on a hump? Not I.

Kluger is big, very big.

When size counts, the more the better. The monocoque shell 4865mm long, 1925mm wide and 1730mm high, with a 2790mm wheelbase.

There are 3 choices of trim, GX, GXL, and Grande. Our Black Edition is a limited run special edition, and doesn’t it looks smart dressed in its little black frock. The mean-looking black edition is based on the mid range GXL.

Black paint always looks good, and you really appreciate in in the 45c summers, not. GXL’s 18” wheels have been upgraded to 19” on Black Edition. They look fabulous.

I’d describe the styling as strong enough to impress, but not so overpowering as to scare off the punters.

Rear lights are LED, and there are LED DTRLs up front. Headlights are halogen, which seems a little behind the times.

The rear tailgate is power operated and includes a neat glass hatch for quick access. It sits very high up out of the way of little fingers.

The glass hatch is only available on power tailgate models, so GX buyers miss out.

What’s the cabin like?

There is an equally dark and brooding interior too. Remember, this car is now 5 years old, and designed mainly for the US market. So, it is getting in in years, relatively speaking.

Toyota says the cabin is “premium”, but I’d be more comfortable with “comfortable”.

The asymmetric cockpit does my head in. I like things simple, or very, very complex. Somehow. Kluger just feels slightly old.

Despite that, it is very well set out. The centre stack  holds the (3-zone) climate controls with an 8” infotainment screen above. The latter is flanked by fixed buttons, with 4 air vents well placed at face level. Front passengers each have a temperature control, with a 3rd for those on the bench seat in the 2nd row.

If there is a peculiarly American feel to the cabin, it is not by coincidence. Kluger is designed for US tastes, and our friends across the pond like things to be, shall we say, obvious.

There are loads of cubby holes and cup holders. A huge single tray runs2/3 of the way across the fascia. It has thoughtful dividers to stop mobiles sliding during in an enthusiastic corner. I can imagine that thing chockers full on a road trip.

The centre console has 2 large cup holders for your double-double soy latte with a twist of caramel. There is another tray, with USB and power outlets, and a large centre bin with peculiar roll-away lid.

Surfaces feel deliciously soft, which gives occupants a the impression you’ve paid a bucket of dosh more than you actually have. Hard surfaces look like they are sturdy, but there is a grey metalised trim around the climate controls that sets my teeth on edge. I can’t abide metallic effect plastic..

The gear selector has a staggered gait which takes a little getting used to.

One thing that almost no one likes, is the parking brake operated with a foot peddle. Why? What a stupid idea. It is a relic from the era prior to electric buttons. In the bin with it.

What about the seats?

You sit as if you’re on a throne, as you do in most SUVs.

Grande gets the full leather treatment, and we know how some of our fraternity will react that that. Nuff said.

All other models getting either leather “accents”, or cloth. Black Edition and GXL adds seat heating up front, and Grande gets a rear entertainment system. Grande costs many more shekels, but is the model buyers seem to prefer. It is around $75 grand on the road, so it would want to be a bit nicer.

Second row seats get a bench with folding backrests, while the 3rd row origamis neatly into the rear floor. All Klugers have 3 rows.

Front seats are comfortable enough, no matter how far you drive. There is 10-way power adjustment with lumbar support for the driver. The passenger has to schlep the seat around with manual levers. For 60 grand on the road, that’s a bit rough.

Black Edition has some smart contrasting stitching which lifts the interior just a touch.

Access to the 3rd row means the 2nd row has to be moved forward, as if you were getting in to the back seat of a coupe. Best leave that to people you don’t like very much.

What Kluger like to drive?

Kluger is as smooth as Sinatra, when he wasn’t on a bender.

8 speed ZF automatics shift gears with the slickness of a magician. You could be forgiven for thinking it was a DCT (dual Clutch Transmission) as seen in Porsche. That’s as near as Kluger gets to being a Porker though.

Ride is luxurious. The odd thump intrudes over heavier bumps, but most city incursions hardly turn a hair. 19” wheels usually ruin the ride, but not in the Black Edition. Normal old GXLs have 18 inchers, but beauty is pain, and Black Edition is rather pretty.

Handling is neutral-ish.

Kluger is a high-rider, so there is just a touch of body roll in tight corners. Keep in mind, Kluger is aimed at those wanting a comfortable, spacious, 7 seater. It isn’t a sports car. If you want a sports car, buy one.

Steering in feather light.

Turning in to corners at speed can catch you off guard. The front wheels have only a passing acquaintance with feedback, but most drivers won’t care. At parking speeds, you could turn the wheel with one finger. You’ll be whipping it into a tight spot before you can say, “mine is a martini, cheers”.

Is Kluger AWD (all wheel drive)?

Yes, In fact you have a choice of two or all wheel drive. Aren’t you lucky?

A clever graphic on the drivers 4.2” LCD multi information panel is fun to watch, but not too closely of course. You should be watching the road. It shows the amount of power going to each wheel. If you get bored, you can show any number of other data sets that take your fancy.

What engine does Kluger have?

Strangely, there is a single V6 Petrol option. There isn’t a hint of diesel to be had. Yanks have a distinct dislike of bucolic tones in anything but those ridiculous trucks they seem to love.

This engine has been around for many years, but it is no boat anchor. It is used in other Toyota models such as Camry, as well as a host of LEXUS cars. It is smooth and very quiet.

The 2GR FKS engine gained direct fuel injection in 2017. This dialled up the power to 218KW/350Nm. Kluger hums along nicely at cruising speed, and can hit 180kph on a good day.

Fuel figures improved over the pre-facelift model too. GX/GXL/Black Edition saw a 10.8% decrease, getting 9.1L/100k for the 2WD, and a 10% decrease to 9.5L/100k for all AWD models.

On the highway that drops to an impressive 7.2L/100k (2WD) and 7.2L/100 (AWD). A canny driver should be able to get from Sydney, to either Brisbane or Melbourne on a single tank. Not too shabby compared to the old days when engines drank more than drag queens.

CO2 is 221g/k for all AWD Klugers, and for 2WD models, GX/GXK emit 212g/k, and Grande does slightly worse at 216g/100k. Multiply that for 1,000 to see what you do for you roadtrip, and you’ll put out a staggering 216kg of CO2 driving up the Pacific Highway. Let that sink in for a moment.

What technology and features does Kluger have?

Toyota packed a bunch more stuff in to keep Kluger up to date.

There is still no word on whether Klugers will be able to upgrade to CarPlay, so watch this space. Other new Toyotas will be able to have CarPlay installed, some at no cost. It seems only fair if you’re paying over $50 grand.

Important features include:

Halogen headlights, Auto high beam, reversing camera, tri-zone air cond, 4.2: drivers LCD display, 8” infotainment screen, AB radio, auto wipers and lights, 7 seats.

The Halogen headlights we a bit of a disappointment. While that’s not a deal breaker, it seems a bit mean.

How safe is Kluger:

Safety is a complex issue. ANCAP (Australian New Car Assessment Programme) test cars to destruction, then distils the findings into a simple, some say over-simple, star rating from 1 to 5. 5 is the number most people want.

ANCAP gave Kluger a 5 Star safety rating way back in 2014. Most business buyers require 5 stars. They also need a date stamp no older than 3 years. That could be an issue for Kluger. Furthermore, ANCAP is changing their protocols so that date stamps will only be valid for 6 years. With tests costing a million, plus 5 cars, that’s an expensive exercise to keep older models valid. ANCAP did this to keep people safe, so they say

All Klugers get “Toyota Safety Sense” which includes active lane control, AEB (autonomous emergency braking) and blind spot monitor. A radar and other sensors watch around and in front to make sure you don’t hit anything.

Rear Cross Traffic Alert warns you when reversing and tells you which direction traffic is coming from. That’s mighty handy reversing out of the sausage sizzle at Bunnings. You know how manic that makes the place.

There are 7 airbags, and of course, the ubiquitous stability controls.

What’s Kluger cost?

Prices are

GX $44,500

GXL $54,950

Black Edition $55,970 (special edition)

Grande $65,935

AWD: Add $4,000 ($29 less on Grande)

PLUS on-roads.

Engine: 3.5L Petrol V6

Power: 218kw/359Nm

Econ: 9.1L/100k – 9.5L 100k comb

CO2: 216g/k – 221g/k

What’s a service cost?

Capped price servicing applies to the first 6 services. (3 years or 60,000km, whichever comes first)

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