The Kluger is something of a rarity in Toyota’s large SUV range. For a brand with its SUV bread and butter tied up in serious off-roaders, the Kluger takes a slightly different approach.
In a scenario that resembles the opposite to the old line, ‘if it looks like a duck,’ the Kluger is a large Toyota SUV, it’s suitable for families, it has all-wheel drive, however, this SUV is orientated towards the road.
It’s hard to believe the Kluger has been with us for well over a decade. Over that time, it’s been a significant contributor to Toyota’s dominance over the Australian new car market, the Kluger has notched up over 140,000 sales.
Like the rest of Toyota’s fleet, the Kluger has proven itself to be a car that can go the distance. There are plenty of examples of the Kluger reaching high odometer readings without much drama or fanfare.
On test here is the mid-spec Kluger GXL with all-wheel drive. Before on-roads, the GXL comes in at a significant $57,550. This price represents a 10k jump from the GX variant.
The 2017 model year brings minor exterior changes, such as restyled front and rear masks that include an updated grille and LED taillights.
In GXL guise, the Kluger gets three-zone climate-control, keyless entry and start, leather-accented seats that are heated up front with the driver also enjoying a 12-way power-adjustable seat.
There’s also been some extra kit added to the interior, the 8-inch infotainment screen now features satellite navigation and digital radio.
Styling and equipment changes aside, the 2017 Kluger looks to address some of the outgoing model’s shortcomings by better balancing performance with economy.
Consumption has always been the Kluger’s Achilles heel. It’s a big car without a diesel option and it likes a drink.
To combat this, direct-injection technology has been added to the Kluger's large by today’s standards, 3.5-litre V6 engine. This has produced 17kW more power and 13Nm more torque taking the engine’s totals to 218kW/350Nm.
Complementing enhancements to the engine, two extra ratios have been added to the transmission, taking the count to eight.
Toyota claims these drivetrain upgrades bring with them fuel consumption improvements of between 8.8 and 10 per cent. After 900km of testing, we were able to return a consumption figure of 10.4L/100km, not far off the official ADR figure of 9.5-litres.
So, the improvements to the engine and transmission have sharpened the efficiency of the 2017 Kluger.
As a family transporter, the Kluger does a great job. The emphasis on space and comfort make it ideal for families. The interior proportions are outstanding. Passengers in the second row enjoy plenty of legroom with a flat floor and a reclining seat.
The cabin has plenty of storage, including a whopping centre console that comes in at 24-litres.
Nothing does more to remind you of the Kluger’s American origins than the enormous front cup holders. Obviously designed for those from Texas, they are way too big, even with the adaptor to reduce the circumference of the space. Those who like to enjoy a sensibly sized coffee will not be impressed.
Overall, the cabin is well laid out and user-friendly with the typical Toyota fit and finish. What detracts from the packaging is the foot operated park brake – unfortunately, for a driver in size 14 shoes, the memory of this system sticks long after the drive has ended. It’s hard to believe this hasn’t been resigned to the confines of the history books.
The Kluger is a comfortable car to drive. It’s capable of providing a wonderfully controlled ride over long distances. It’s a relaxing place to sit while carving up the kilometres.
There is no shuddering through the suspension, it’s supple and easily neutralises the bumps and uneven coarse surfaces of regional roads.
Adding to the Kluger’s driving experience is the agile steering, one of Toyota’s better efforts. It’s a sharp handler for a large SUV.
Engine performance is strong and acceleration is surprisingly brisk for a car that weighs in at over two tonnes.
Refinement is really impressive and stands out throughout the driving experience. Wind and road noise at high speeds are virtually nonexistent. In this regard, the Kluger can compete with cars from the premium segment.
Don’t be fooled by the all-wheel drive on the Kluger, it’s not one for the rough stuff. If adventure is what you’re seeking, you’ll need to move to the Fortuner or Prado, some of Toyota’s proper off-roaders. The all-wheel drive option is more a safety one for those who regularly encounter slippery conditions or loose gravel.
When it comes to safety, the GXL Kluger isn’t as well stocked as it should be. It does get seven airbags, anti-skid brakes with brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution, stability and traction control. Disappointingly, the GXL misses out on the Toyota Safety Sense package, meaning lane departure, rear cross traffic alert and blind spot monitoring are the domain of the range-topping Grande.
For the 2017 Kluger, Toyota has maintained 6-month/10,000km service intervals. This is inconvenient and unnecessary. We remain hopeful the same schedule C-HR owners enjoy will filter through the rest of Toyota’s range sooner rather than later. The Toyota Service Advantage continues to be something of a saving grace, with the first six trips back to the dealer costing only $180 each.
Toyota’s three-year/100,000km warranty is nothing better than average and looks a little inadequate in today’s market. This has been further highlighted recently with fellow Japanese manufacturer, Honda, moving to a five-year offering.
The 2017 Kluger GXL offers the expected level of Toyota build quality while bringing premium levels of comfort and refinement in a road biased package. Improved fuel consumption through an updated engine and transmission is most welcome and strengthens the Kluger’s credentials as a very competent family car. Although the Kluger’s off-road capability is not comparable to other Toyota SUVs and there is an expensive outlay to get into one, once inside, the Kluger offers a family oriented road car that can go the distance.
2017 Toyota Kluger GXL AWD Specifications
Price from $57,550, plus on-road costs Engine 3.5L V6 petrol Power 218kW @ 6,600rpm Torque 350Nm @ 4,700rpm Transmission 8-speed automatic Combined Fuel Consumption 9.5L/100km Tank Capacity 72L Length 4,890mm Width 1,925mm Height 1,730mm Wheelbase 2,790mm Kerb Weight 2,045kg Ground Clearance 200mm Turning circle 11.8m Service Intervals 6-months or 10,000km Warranty three year/100,000 kilometre
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