TOYOTA HAS A SALES SUCCESS AMONG FAMILY BUYERS WITH ITS BIG, IMPOSING KLUGER. Now into its third-generation, the 2016 Toyota Kluger is still among the best of the big family wagons.
Its appeal gets a boost with sharper pricing, a more assertive look, a new interior and greater refinement. The seven-seat soft roading SUV also boasts more technology, safety and equipment.
On the road it is comparatively car-like, with good manners thanks to its locally developed steering and suspension, yet still quite capable when it comes to light off-road duties.
It's a tad thirsty, but your family will enjoy the stretching room inside, the comfortable ride and good performance.
Vehicle Style: Large SUV
Price: $53,990 (plus on-road costs)
Engine/trans: 201kW/337Nm 3.5 litre V6 petrol 6sp automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 10.6 l/100km | Tested: 14.8 l/100km
Sitting in the middle of the line-up is the Kluger, a family favorite and with a passenger-car on-road demeanor.
Its seven-seat layout provides plenty of seating/luggage options. Also, for those wanting to dabble in a bit of light off-roading, the Kluger can also fit this bill thanks to good ground clearance and, in this model, a capable light-duty AWD system to call on.
Wrapped in a new longer, wider body that translates directly into a bigger more useful interior, this latest generation Kluger has new rear suspension, revised steering and a new six-speed auto, replacing the five-speed of its predecessor.
It also boasts more standard features and updated infotainment, along with greater refinement. So, on paper, it would seem to have the answers.
- Standard equipment: Rear parking sensors, tri-zone climate control, multi-information display, cruise control, steering-wheel controls, privacy glass, three 12V accessory connectors, auto headlamps, cargo cover, tilt and telescopic steering, power mirrors & windows, smart entry and push-button start, 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat, leather seat trim, driver and front-passenger seat heaters, roof rails
- Infotainment: 6.1-inch touchscreen, six-speaker audio, reversing camera, bluetooth phone voice recognition, iPod connectivity, USB and AUX inputs, Toyota link app connectivity.
- Cargo volume: Three rows up 195 litre, two rows up 529 litres, front row up 1171 litres
Toyota has given its latest Kluger GXL an all-new interior, with soft touch surfaces, leather trim and plush materials. The result is a more refined and classy look and feel.
The redesigned body and revised rear suspension has resulted in all three rows moving forward providing more interior space and an extra 70mm added to the third row access.
The 50/50split third row seat is now 110mm wider and the rear luggage space has increased by a third.
The second row 60/40 split seat, with fore, aft and reclining adjustability has generous leg, knee, hip, shoulder and headroom for three adults.
Up front, the wide, supremely comfortable and supportive seats make long journeys seem like a trip around the block, and, thanks to the repositioning of the front pillars and the large glass area, all round visibility is excellent.
The clear and well-laid out HVAC controls are easy to use and the tri-zone system (for the air-con) effectively pipes air to all three rows, with the second row having its own controls.
An abundance of storage cubbies is scattered throughout the cabin, some large - most extra large, with Toyota’s clever packaging seen in the under-dash tray, ideal for phones, wallets, glasses, snacks and knick knacks.
Housed in the tilt and reach leather-clad steering are the MID, audio and voice-activated Bluetooth controls.
Integrated into the dash at the top of the centre stack is a 6.1 inch colour infotainment touch screen, with reversing camera, Bluetooth phone and music streaming and several apps that require downloading, using the Toyota app.
Oddly, however, the Kluger GXL misses out on a sat-nav.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 201kW/337Nm 3.5 litre quad-cam petrol V6
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic, all wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front and double wishbone rear
- Brakes: 328mm ventilated front and 309mm solid rear disc brakes
- Steering: Electrically assisted rack and pinion power steering
- Towing capacity: 700kgs Unbraked / 2000kgs braked
The Kluger GXL is whisper quiet.
I know it’s an often over-used term, but in the Kluger’s case it is hand-on-heart true; as a whispered conversation with my partner while travelling at highway speeds can attest. '
There’s no noise from the huge exterior mirrors or the Michelin Latitude tyres. No question, Toyota’s NVH boffins have done a sterling job, but the lack of noise makes the Kluger’s speeds deceiving at times.
The engine characteristics and exhaust note from the Kluger’s silky-smooth 3.5 litre V6 reminds me of the Honda MDX, with its peak power and torque living near the top of the rev range.
The new-for-this-model six-speed auto provides swift, seamless changes, up and down, the box.
And, as you’d expect, the Kluger’s suspension is tuned for comfort, not cornering, so there is an expected degree of body roll. However, it feels surefooted 'enough' with a solid on-road feel and when (gently) off-roading.
We tackled a variety of tracks, some more challenging than others, and with the aid of the diff lock, the hill descent control and the solid feeling brakes, the Kluger had little trouble getting 'there and back' (but you wouldn't put it up a fire trail).
A limiting factor though is its top-end power delivery, which isn't especially useful off-road, but does give the big Kluger a handy turn of speed on the highway.
However, at speed, the steering is too light and short on feedback for my liking. That said, it's certainly more than acceptable when parking, or manoeuvering in tight spots, which it does quite well, thanks to its 11.8 metre turning circle.
But what lets the Kluger down is its insatiable thirst.
The best we achieved was 9.8 l/100km on one longer freeway run. Overall, the range from its 72 litre tank never exceeded 470kms and the average for the week was 14.8 l/100km.
It’s a pity that Toyota don’t offer a diesel version of the Kluger, especially as Hyundai’s Santa Fe, Kia’s Sorrento and Ford’s Territory all have the diesel option.
Another let down is the cruise control. Just like the Camry Atara SX I drove recently, it couldn’t maintain the set speed when travelling down hills, creeping by as much as 15km/h.
ANCAP rating: 5/5 Stars - this model scored 35.57 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: ABS with Brake Assist and EBD, VSC and Traction Control, Hill-start Assist Control, Downhill Assist Control on AWD models, Seatbelt reminder for rows one & two, daytime running lamps and front fog lamps.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander comes packed to the rafters with equipment, while offering a more wallet-friendly diesel powertrain and a five-year warrantly.
The Kia Sorento Platinum does the same, with a stylish twist and an even more comprehensive seven-year warranty.
Although ageing, the Ford Territory Titanium is still one of the best handling SUVs on the market, and offers a choice of petrol or diesel engines to suit your needs.
The Nissan Pathfinder ST-L, like the Kluger is a petrol-only offering, similar size and with a CVT automatic.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The Toyota Kluger is a very capable, family-friendly vehicle.
It is spacious, comfortable, refined, easy-to-drive, with the controls and switches intuitively arranged and a huge glass area that provides a commanding view of everything around.
Long journeys are the Kluger’s forte. In the ever-decreasing car park spaces and constant narrowing of streets in the urban world, you will be reminded of its sheer size.
A plus is that it comes with Toyota’s bullet-proof reliability and low servicing costs. If the fuel bills don’t frighten you, the Kluger will be as faithful and dependable as the family pet.
A nice drive and a big, solid car, but we do, really, have to mark it down half-a-star for its thirst (though it might not bother you as much).
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VISIT THE SHOWROOM: Toyota Kluger - Prices, Features, and Specifications