The Toyota Kluger is an affordable family-size SUV that Toyota has built with the importance on function over flash. The current version of the Kluger was launched in 2007 and, other than an exterior update in 2010, has not changed much. The update in 2010 included a new bonnet, grille, bumpers, headlamps, tail lamps and door moldings. While this did update the look of the Kluger, Toyota is still not worried about the style of the Kluger being its selling point. The next-generation Kluger will arrive in Australia sometime late in 2013, and will be arriving from the United States instead of Japan this time. The right-hand-drive Kluger (known as the Highlander to those on the other side of the world) will be produced in the state of Indiana, which is where the Australian market will receive its shipments.
The Kluger, although not highly publicised, sits in the number three position in the large SUV market behind the Ford Territory and Toyota Prado. The Kluger, no matter how you look at it, is a large, roomy vehicle that is only slightly smaller than the LandCruiser. The vast interior space makes the Kluger capability of holding a large amount of passengers and an even larger amount of cargo. The standard seating is designed for seven, but the ability of the second row to slide completely forward or backward opens up an almost limo-like seating area to enjoy the standard 9.1-in display screen for the entertainment system. So whether you are volunteered to take the kid’s soccer team to a game, or planning a night out with a number of friends, the Kluger offers the versatility to handle both equally well. Rear passengers also have their own air conditioning vents, allowing them to adjust the temperature of the rear of the vehicle independently of the driver or front passenger.
For those who want a more luxurious family-friendly vehicle, the Kluger Grande offers full leather seating throughout, and a second row that can be folded down by a switch near the rear door, opening up large amounts of space for bigger objects without having to be a contortionist to get the seats down. With all the seats up, there is still enough room for grocery bags and other items behind the rear seat, and can be easily accessed by a rear glass hatch that can be opened instead of opening the entire tailgate. The front of the Kluger also features wood grain-look and chrome accents that add to the pseudo-luxury feel. The broader seats are comfortable, there is plenty of elbow and legroom for even taller adults, and if it seems a little tight, the ability to move the seat can alleviate it.
Some of the other creature comforts that are on the long list of features of this family SUV are smart entry and start, heated front seats, rear view camera, 8-inch touchscreen, GPS navigation, three zone climate control and Bluetooth capability as well as a USB port and 3.5mm auxiliary input for the stereo system. Under the hood is an extremely quiet 3.5-liter V6 petrol engine that produces 201kW of power and 337Nm of torque. Even though it weighs around 2035kg, it can still get from 0 – 100km/h in 8.2 seconds. Not bad for what is sometimes referred to as a “family trickster” in the country it is manufactured in. The 5spd transmission, although a little outdated, still provides smooth shifting, although the updated 6spd would probably provide better fuel economy and performance. Nevertheless, as the saying goes, if it is not broke, why fix it? While the fuel consumption is not something that will win awards, for the size of the vehicle the between 11.6L/100km and 14.1L/100km fuel economy, depending where you get your figures, is to be expected. Bottom line is that it handles like a full-size SUV; it is not designed to be a sports car, so one should expect it to handle like one. It handles rough roads adequately, but on well-maintained roads it rides quite comfortably. Whether you choose the AWD or two-wheel-drive versions, they both seem to have the ability to stick to the road even during torrential rain. The long list of safety systems includes vehicle stability control, traction control, anti-lock brakes with brake assist and electronic brake-pressure distribution.
The look of the Kluger remains traditional and conservative for a modern SUV, but with a price of between $39,900 for the base with its long list of standard features, to the $65,490 for the leather-clad, fully loaded version, it still provides a full-size family vehicle at a reasonable price. If you combine the versatility, functionality and low maintenance costs that come with a Toyota Kluger, and compare it to the price you would pay for a “sportier” full-size SUV, you will see the Kluger is the smart choice.