It’s all about the badge
There are smarter SUVs but the Kluger’s solid feel appeals
THE Toyota Kluger is our third best-selling large SUV, pipped in year-to-date sales by the Ford Territory, which in turn sits under Toyota’s Prado. Amazingly the Kluger does so well without a diesel variant and more than triples the sales of the diesel-only Hyundai Santa Fe.
Late next year, when the new US-built Kluger replaces this model, it will run only a big petrol engine.
At $55,490, the Kluger KX-S all-wheel drive isn’t cheap, but the five-year-old SUV has a decent level of kit including heated and electric-adjust front seats, reversing camera, satnav, leather trim, hill holder and hill descent, voice recognition, trip computer, six-speaker audio with iPod/USB and
Bluetooth, 19-inch alloys and climatecontrol aircon front and rear.
Do you need an AWD? Save $15,500 with the (much) less-equipped KX-R front-drive five-seater or, better, get the Altitude model for $44,990 with seven seats, sunroof and satnav, but no leather.
Drivetrains— and hence performance and economy— are identical across the Kluger range. A diesel Territory starts at $43,250.
In poor light, the Kluger looks as formidable as a Land-Cruiser 200-Series. There is a family resemblance but they are chalk and cheese. The Kluger is an SUV in the perfect sense of the term. It’s tall, long and wide and designed for heaps of cabin space. It is very versatile. The centre seat splits, slides, flips and folds flat.
It’s listed as a seven-seater but the hapless passenger in the centre-row’s middle seat is sitting on a removable armrest and cushion— not very comfortable. This centre section of the seat is removable and stows in a dedicated cubby hole under the front-seat armrest. The third row can sit flush under the boot floor and the full-size spare is in a steel shell under the rear.
Levers in the boot remotely fold down the centre-row seats but retrieving them is awkward and the third row relies on fabric straps to assemble. The lift-up glass panel in the rear hatch is a boon. Hard plastics abound within and the allblack decor and tinny doors don’t meet the Kluger’s price tag expectations.
Toyota uses its 3.5-litre petrol V6 in various tune to power the Kluger, Aurion, RAV4, Tarago, six Lexus models and even the Lotus Evora. The V6 varies outputs with transmissions.
In the Kluger, it is rated at 201kW/ 337Nm and linked to a five-speed auto driving the front wheels with an on-demand pick-up that will engage the rear wheels when needed.
Fuel economy is a claimed 11.0L/100km on standard unleaded fuel. There’s also electric-assist steering, multilink rear suspension, fourwheel disc brakes and nothing much else out of the ordinary — which is exactly what you want in a family wagon.
This is a five-star crash-rated vehicle with all the necessary electronic aids, seven airbags, full-size spare wheel and offroad assistants. There’s a rear camera but omissions include park sensors and heated side mirrors.
It has so many things going for it but I’m let down by the drive. It’s capable and quiet and holds the road well but the engine’s delivery is laid back until you put the boot in.
Yes, it performs well when encouraged but thrives on revs and that wrecks any potential for economy.
In suburban and highway cruising I averaged 12.2L/100km.
Generally, if you tootle around the suburbs or cruise country roads, it’s a good machine.
Ride comfort is generally good and and tyre noise suppressed, both improving at cruising speeds, making it a capable country machine. It needs a front park sensor.
The foot-operated park brake enjoys clipping my left foot.
As a drive it’s capable but not a lot of fun. But the way its seats reconfigure and the space— even I can fit in the third seat row— make the Kluger a very appealing package.
Versatile: The Kluger is capable but not a lot of fun