Since its launch in Australia three years ago, the third-generation Toyota Kluger has been a big seller in Australia because of its size, packaging, pricing, ease of operation, and brand reputation for reliability and resale. With the MY17 facelift, the company builds on that with small but important updates to the V6 powertrain to improve both performance and economy, including an all-new eight-speed automatic transmission, slightly improved interior trim, and a few equipment upgrades to the mid-range GXL and flagship Grande. So we’re talking about more of the same, only slightly better than before.
- Reliability assured: Though the 3.5-litre V6 has been comprehensively modified with the addition of direct injection and improved combustion processes, it’s still essentially from the same family of engines as before, so hassle-free durability is virtually guaranteed – and this is one of the key reasons why people stick with Toyota.
- A smooth operator. Like before, the Kluger’s V6 impresses with a lush and silky refinement, making it one of the sweetest powertrains available for the money. Now, though, the addition of 8.5 percent more power means there’s more oomph too, backed up by a fresh, slick-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission, replacing the old six-speed unit.
- Premium economy. The MY17 Kluger relies on 95 RON (or higher) premium unleaded petrol to operate at peak efficiency, but the upshot is 10 percent lower fuel consumption (and a corresponding drop in carbon dioxide emissions); and if the expensive stuff isn’t available, Toyota says the new powertrain will still happily run on standard 91 RON unleaded.
- Upgraded materials. While not a lot has changed inside, Toyota has at least improved the quality of trim and materials used on the dashboard, doors, and console, lifting the ambience and perceived quality. Happily, the rest of the cabin’s practicality and ease of operation remain as before – and that should please Kluger converts.
- Improved driver-assist systems. The flagship MY17 Kluger Grande’s standard lane departure alert system adds ‘steering assistance’, which firstly sounds a buzzer and flashes a warning light if the driver fails to notice the vehicle straying from its chosen lane, and then applies light steering force to help nudge it back in line.
- More safety please. Only the circa $65K-plus Grande scores AEB Autonomous Emergency Braking, as well as Lane Keep Assist and Reverse Cross Traffic Alert; the rest of the range must do without these, while rivals like the Mazda CX-9 provides AEB as standard equipment across the Toyota Kluger range.
- Where’s the diesel and hybrid? Because the Kluger is built in America primarily for North American consumption, there is no diesel option (petrol is cheap up there). And while economy-minded buyers in the USA and Canada are offered a neat V6 petrol/electric hybrid model, it is only built in left-hand drive. So even with the MY17 Kluger’s 10 percent better fuel economy, it cannot match the parsimony of rivals like the Kia Sorento CRDi turbo-diesel.
- No stop/start. All but the base Kluger in the USA and Canada have stop/start technology to help save fuel (and reduce noise and pollution while standing still in traffic), but it was deemed too annoying for Australian Kluger buyers, thus another opportunity to make the big heavy Toyota more economical has been squandered.
- Same old ride. Toyota says it has not made any changes to the MY17 Kluger’s chassis – which is good news in one way because the previous edition was quite an adept handler, but it also means that the older version’s busy and unsettled ride remains.
ANY RIVALS I SHOULD CONSIDER?
The MY17 Toyota Kluger is shaping up to be a very good seven-seater SUV, with all the space, practicality, power, reliability, and durability people expect from the brand.
However, the Mazda CX-9 also offers such attributes, and then steps ahead with excellent handling and ride qualities, a more supple ride, and significantly better fuel consumption figures.
The Kia Sorento is also a worthy adversary, and remains unbeatable in the aftersales stakes with an industry-leading seven-year warranty against the others’ three-years.