The Toyota Kluger is Australia’s biggest selling city-slicking large SUV, offering V6 power and a comfortable and quiet seven-seat cabin that reaches premium levels in the range-topping Grande that’s the subject of this review.
First launched in Australia in 2014, the Kluger went through a mid-life upgrade at the start of 2018, so we decided to see if it still stacks up against fresher competition including the Mazda CX-9, Skoda Kodiaq, Peugeot 5008, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento and the new Holden Acadia.
The Kluger comes in three model grades, GX, GXL and Grande that are each available with front- or all-wheel-drive, with the latter attracting a $4000 premium. 2018 Toyota Kluger pricing is as follows:
- Kluger GX FWD - $44,500
- Kluger GX AWD - $48,500
- Kluger GXL FWD - $52,990
- Kluger GXL AWD - $54,990
- Kluger Grande FWD - $65,646
- Kluger Grande AWD - $69,617
The Grande AWD ‘s $69,617 price tag makes it the most expensive non-4X4 Toyota available in Australia, and is higher than better-equipped rivals sitting atop their respective ranges, such as the Mazda CX-9 Azami LE ($66,490) and Holden Acadia LTZ-V AWD ($67,490).
Read next: 2018 Toyota Kluger: Which Spec is best
The Grande does come with the full enchilada though, including active safety features that are optional in the GX and GXL grades meaning, apart from accessories such as floor mats and roof racks, the only extra you’ll pay is about $480 for premium paint should the standard Eclipse Black hue not be your thing.
In all-wheel-drive guise the Kluger’s 3.5-litre V6 engine consumes regular unleaded petrol at an official combined rate of 9.5L/100km.
The Kluger requires servicing every 10,000km or six months, which is a higher frequency than most, though Toyota’s capped priced servicing means you’ll pay just $180 for the first six services during the first three years or 60,000km.
The Kluger is still covered by Toyota’s three year/100,000km warranty, which seems a little stingy considering most of its rivals have at least five years/unlimited kilometre coverage.
Detailed information, about the entire Kluger range can be found in out 2018 Toyota Kluger Range Review.
The Kluger Grande AWD brings additional safety and luxury features over and above the standard features list and brings for its $67,490 retail price tag:
- Part leather upholstery
- Three-zone air-conditioning
- Keyless entry
- Power-operated tailgate
- Heated and ventilated front seats
- Power adjusted front seats, with driver’s seat memory
- 8.0-inch touchscreen
- Digital radio
Read next: 2017 Toyota Kluger Quick Review
- Satellite navigation
- Autonomous emergency braking
- Lane keeping assist
- Adaptive cruise control
- Rain-sensing windscreen wipers
- Reverse parking sensors
- Rear-cross traffic alert
- Blind-spot monitor
- Rear-cross traffic alert
- Auto-dipping dusk-sensing headlights
- Daytime running lights
- 19-inch alloy wheels
The US-built Kluger is 4.89 metres long and 1.93m wide with the main cabin sitting above its 2.8m wheelbase. One reason for its popularity is that while it comfortably accommodates a family of seven, its size isn’t a hindrance when it comes to parking or negotiating city streets.
Head and legroom is excellent in the first two rows, but get a little tight in row three that’s best suited for kids.
As with most SUVs, boot space is tight (195 litres) if you’re using all seven seats, but even with the third row down you’ll only fit 529 litres, which is less than some medium SUVs. Fold down the middle row and you’ll fit 1872 litres worth of gear behind the front seats.
The Kluger Grande comes with the full suite of available active safety features, including radar-based autonomous emergency braking that works at city and highway speeds – part of what Toyota calls its Pre-Collision Safety system. This is backed up by lane-keeping assist, blind-spot warning and rear-cross traffic alert.
The Kluger is also equipped with seven airbags, including driver knee bag and side curtain protection for all three rows, and it has three child-seat anchor points for the middle row of seats but none for the back row.
The Kluger scored the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating in April 2017.
Read next: Toyota to expand its hybrid fleet by 2022
The Kluger Grande’s stylish cabin looks well put together and you can choose between dark black and tan trim with neither costing extra. That said it doesn’t feel like a $70,000 car.
Cabin storage abounds, starting with huge centre console bin, and broad storage tray above the glovebox that is good for holding phones. Big door pockets and a deep centre console provide ample space for bottles, handbags and the like.
First and second-row seats are plush and supportive, for good long distance comfort. The third row seats are reasonably comfortable, but pretty tight for bigger people for anything more than short trips, though legroom is helped by being able to fit your feet under the second row seats.
Ventilation controls are big and easy to operate, and there is a separate control unit for rear passengers mounted on the ceiling that blows airs through vents located in the third and second rows. There are also retractable blinds in which slide up and down to cover the rear-door windows and protect children from the direct sun.
On a country road or freeway, the Kluger is impressively quiet inside and rides comfortably. The cabin filters out road noise, but the wind can be loud around the big door mirrors.
ON THE ROAD
The Kluger is pleasant to drive with a comfortable seating position and good forward vision. It feels planted to the road and the 218kW/350Nm 3.5-litre V6 engine runs smoothly and quickly responds to your right foot via the eight-speed automatic transmission.
The ride is smooth, even on the bigger 19-inch wheels. It recovers well when riding over big bumps, but does tend to vibrate when passing over smaller road imperfections.
At 2100kg, it’s not exactly designed for hard cornering, but it does feel stable through bends. The steering has a little play in it, though you do get more response from the 19-inch wheels than with the 18s under the GL and GLX.
While not a true off-roader like its Landcruiser Prado stablemate, the Kluger’s all-wheel-drive system instils confidence during off-bitumen driving on gravel, dirt or snow-covered roads, and farm tracks. A snow button near the gear selector reduces the chance of wheelspin on slippery surfaces.
The Toyota Kluger set the standard for road-based large SUVs, and while the range-topping Grande is a comfortable and capable family wagon it’s not quite as luxurious as its $70,000 price tag would suggest.
It feels dated compared to its rivals, such as the Mazda CX-9 and Holden Acadia, that offer more in terms of value, comfort, technology and price.