A VES­SEL FOR THE LONG CRUISE

Jam-packed with lux­ury items, the Kluger Grande sails along the free­way

Mercury (Hobart) - Motoring - - MOTORING -

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?

VALUE

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.

COM­FORT

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.

SAFETY

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.

DRIV­ING

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.

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