2014 TOYOTA KLUGER REVIEW
What’s Hot: Big, practical cabin and dependable V6.
What’s Not: No nav or split tailgate on GX or GXL, even as an option.
X-FACTOR: For the family buyer, standard seven seats might be the clincher (and it's now marginally cheaper).
Vehicle Style: 7-seat large SUV
Price: $40,990 (GX 2WD) to $67,990 (Grande AWD)
Engine/trans: 201kW/337Nm 3.5 petrol V6 | 6sp automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 10.2 l/100km | tested: 12.1 l/100km
The new 2014 Kluger is the first US-made Toyota sold in this country. Big before, it is now bigger than ever.
Supersized? Physically, yes, but the pricetags for the entry and mid-grade models have been comprehensively downsized.
Sevens seats are now standard on every Kluger, but though there’s no longer a five-seater in the range, the price of entry has risen by just $500 to $40,990.
And compared to the outgoing Kluger GX 7-seater, the new base model is $2200 less.
It’s a similar story for the mid-grade GXL 2WD, which gets a price drop from $51,490 to $49,990.
Bigger, cheaper, better - or at least that’s what Toyota says. We travelled to the North coast of NSW to sample the full range and put it to the test.
- GX: two-zone manual air-conditioning, cruise control, cloth upholstery, trip computer, power windows and mirrors, 18-inch alloys with full-size spare, seven seats, reversing camera, rear parking sensors, 6.1-inch LCD display, Bluetooth phone/audio.
- GXL (in addition to GX): three-zone climate control, keyless entry and ignition, leather-appointed upholstery, powered driver’s seat,
- Grande: (in addition to GXL): 8-inch LCD, satellite navigation, dual power front seats, power tailgate with separately opening glass, roof-mounted Blu-ray player, active cruise control, lane departure warning, blind spot monitor, collision alert.
Material quality is dramatically improved, and there’s a great many features that improve the utility of the Kluger’s interior without sacrificing comfort.
There are more soft-touch surfaces, and the wide shelf that spans the lower dashboard is trimmed in soft plastic that stops your phones and other gadgets from sliding around.
The shelf also sports a pass-through for iPod and phone charging cables, which allows a music player to sit on the shelf while piping music to the USB port mounted underneath.
Other storage options abound, and the centre console box is simply huge. Able to swallow up to 24 litres of your stuff, there’s enough room in there for a full-sized box of tissues… or six.
The rest of the cabin is equally roomy. The front seats are wide and comfortable, and the leather upholstery in the GXL and Grande feels appropriately premium, if not quite Lexus-spec.
The second row is excellent. Big doors make it easy to get in and out, a flat floor and unintrusive centre console means a centre adult passenger is a realistic proposition.
The 60/40 split second-row bench also slides fore and aft to maximise legroom.
Headroom is excellent, and so is leg and foot room. Second row passengers also get their own ventilation controls though in the GX it's not the set-and-forget tri-zone climate control system that's found in the higher grades, just two-zone manual air conditioning.
Getting in and out of the third row can be a chore though.
The second row flips and slides forward easily enough, but it doesn't return to the last set position. Annoying when you're trying to give third row occupants a decent amount of legroom.
Once settled in though, the third row is good. The squab is a bit short, but there's a good amount of room for two adults to sit in reasonable comfort.
Against the outgoing Kluger, there's 110mm more width overall in the third row area while there's 83mm more width at hip level.
Roof-mounted air-vents and cupholders help make the third row a little more inviting, but it's the extra space that helps it the most.
And another area where more space is appreciated (at least in a family-sized SUV like the Kluger), is the boot.
The 2014 Kluger's luggage area has swelled thanks to an increase in rear overhang and the relocation of the seat mountings further forward.
With the third row in place there's 195 litres of cargo space, roughly one-third more than before.
Third row down the Kluger offers 529 litres; and, with both second and third row folded flat there's 1171 litres of cargo space, total.
Fill it to the roof and you get an extra 700 litres of storage.
But not everything is perfect, particularly with the way the Kluger is specced. For starters, sat nav isn’t even available as an option on the GX and GXL, which is hard to excuse for a car costing over $40,000.
Another disappointment is the removal of the separately-opening tailgate glass from all variants bar the top-grade Grande.
It was one of the old Kluger's most useful features (only got a small bag to chuck in the back? Just lift the glass, not the whole tailgate), and it's sorely missed in the GX and GXL.
There’s also no availability of front parking sensors, even on the $63,990 Grande.
Rear parking sensors and a reverse camera are standard on all cars though, which is vital for a car as large as the Kluger.
ON THE ROAD
- 201kW/337Nm 3.5 petrol V6 | 6sp automatic
- FWD and AWD drivetrains available
- MacPherson strut front suspension, double-wishbone with trailing arm rear suspension
- Disc brakes all around (328x28mm front rotors, 309x10mm rear rotors)
- 10.2 l/100km claimed fuel economy for GX and GXL 2WD
Steering is very light in the 2WD models, but weights up progressively in a corner. The AWD Kluger feels better though, with a meatier feel through the steering wheel that makes it easier to place through a corner.
It's a faster rack ratio than in the previous model. As a result, the 2014 Kluger feels a lot more willing to change direction than before.
The suspension is soft, especially on the 18-inch wheels of GX and GXL. We drove a GXL 2WD on the first leg, and body-roll was quite evident through some of the tighter corners of the drive route.
Grip is reasonably good for a large SUV, but attempting to push it along too quickly just results in plough-ahead understeer.
It's no major sin - big SUVs aren't sportscars
We also noticed that sharper bumps didn't seem to get absorbed as easily as larger, longer lumps in the road. This is much more pronounced on the larger 19-inch wheels of the Grande.
But for the most part, the Kluger is impressively compliant. Isolation from road noise is also very good, and the cabin stays blissfully quiet at speed.
The rear suspension is all-new for the 2014 model, and it does a good job of quelling unwanted body movement at the back.
Another thing that helps on-road comfort is the Kluger’s impressive noise, vibration and harshness suppression.
There’s now 30 percent more sound-deadening material on the floorpan, as well as an acoustic windscreen and revised engine mounts.
The result is a family wagon that’s almost Lexus-quiet - even on a gravel road.
The engine is familiar to us all, being the same 3.5 litre V6 used by the previous-gen Kluger as well as the Aurion.
It's powerful (201kW), not lacking for torque (337Nm) and has the capacity to effortlessly lug the big, heavy Kluger up hills with ease.
Power remains the same for 2014, but fuel economy has been improved to 10.2 l/100km for the 2WD GX and GXL, and improvement of 0.8 l/100km. We couldn't match these figures though.
The six-speed gearbox is new, and replaces the antiquated five-speed of the outgoing model.
It's smooth through the gears and doesn't hunt up hills, and is generally better-behaved than the ‘box it replaces.
Up steeper hills it can take a moment to kick-down and find the best ratio, but once it's found it the gearbox will stay in gear until the road levels out.
The manual shift mode works well enough if you want to lock the transmission in a particular gear, but this is a gearbox that's best left to its own devices.
On the road, there’s not a huge difference in the way the 2WD and AWD models drive.
The AWD hardware has been changed to a front-biased reactive system that only shuffles drive to the rear axle when a loss of traction is anticipated.
On dry roads it’s hard to induce much of a torque split.
ANCAP rating: The 2014 Toyota Kluger has yet to be tested by ANCAP.
Safety features: Stability control, traction control, ABS, EBD, brake assist and seven airbags are standard across the range. AWD models gain hill descent control.
The Kluger Grande also gains active cruise control, a collision detection and warning system, blind spot monitor, lane departure warning and auto high beam.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The improvements in interior design, space and utility are very much welcome and the refinements to the chassis certainly improve the driving dynamics.
The retention of the 3.5 litre powertrain, and no diesel in sight, takes some of the gloss off at the bowser however.
But what buyers will notice most is that quality of this US-built Kluger appears to be every bit as good as the previous made-in-Japan offering.
It drives well (though dynamically it’s still a pretty soft thing), there’s plenty of space and features like the dash shelf are a nice touch.
The need to spend upwards of $60k to get an integrated sat-nav unit is a bit of an eyebrow-raiser though.
Prospective buyers will also need to consider our initial 12.1 l/100km consumption is on the high side for a family car.
There are four-cylinder and diesel rivals (click for our road-tests) that are easier on the pocket.
Pricing (excludes on-road costs)
- 2014 Kluger GX - $40,990
- 2014 Kluger GXL - $49,990
- 2014 Kluger Grande - $63,990