A VESSEL FOR THE LONG CRUISE
Jam-packed with luxury items, the Kluger Grande sails along the freeway
Luxury car tax is paid by buyers of luxury cars, right? Not so fast. Toyota buyers pay more than most because the brand makes some very expensive SUVs, headed by the Prado and LandCruiser, which can cost between $80,000 and $120,000. Our road test car also attracts LCT — the Toyota Kluger Grande is more than $70,000. So how does it cut it as a luxury cruiser?
The sticker shock is somewhat soothed by the amount of equipment Toyota jams into the Grande. There’s leather all-round, including padding on the dash and around the doors, while the front seats are heated, ventilated and power adjustable. A power tailgate makes loading shopping bags easier, although it beeps like a reversing truck for the entire time it’s opening and closing.
Technology includes digital radio, built-in satnav with speed and school zone warnings as well as live traffic updates, Bluetooth audio streaming and — for the kids — a rear entertainment unit with a nine-inch screen, a couple of sets of headphones and a Blu-ray/SD card reader. The aircon can be controlled separately for front and rear passengers and the Toyota Link app can find cheap fuel, give you weather forecasts, search for restaurants and connect you with an operator for other services, including roadside assistance. Notable omissions are Apple CarPlay or Android Auto and front parking sensors, the parking brake is foot-operated and it can’t reverse park itself.
Toyota knows how to make a family freeway cruiser and the Kluger is supremely comfortable on the open road. The seats are supportive, rear leg and headroom are good and the third-row seats are a decent size for kids, with easy access through the sliding and folding middle row.
On hot days, there are handy window shades, while the rear seats will recline. The aircon, even on a midsummer day in the outback, can make it feel like the Arctic. Storage spaces are generous — the centre console bin can fit a couple of twolitre bottles and there’s a lockable glovebox.
The suspension is built for comfort as well, soaking up most back-road hits with ease (there is a tendency to float over larger bumps) while the cabin is hushed and free from vibrations.
The array of driver assistance features is as comprehensive as you’d expect of a family car in this price range. There are blind spot and lane departure warnings. There’s also a reverse cross traffic alert that helps when you’re backing out of driveways and carpark spots.
On the freeway, the Grande automatically keeps a safe distance to the car ahead. At lower speeds it will slam on the brakes to avoid or mitigate a crash.
Recent engine revisions yield more power and a new eight-speed transmission delivers better fuel consumption on the open road. Engine noise is well muted and the gearshifts are smooth and swift. In town the Kluger is big, heavy, with a large turning circle, and thirsty — up around the mid-teens in heavy traffic. There’s no stop-start or cylinder cut-out and no diesel option — be prepared for frequent refilling.