The Toyota Kluger is getting on in age, but Australians still flock this big bus in droves when they need a large family truckster. The Toyota Kluger is the second best-selling large SUV on the market, only pipped by its own bigger brother – The LandCruiser Prado.
Ahead of a new-generation car arriving later this year, we’ve spent some time in the current-gen rig to see why it ticks so many boxes for new car buyers.
What is the Toyota Kluger?
The Toyota Kluger is built with a different era and a different market in mind, hailing from Princeton, Indiana but still managing to appeal to Australians.
Maybe it’s the value aspect that is the draw for buyers. Everything about the Toyota Kluger is excessive. Even in this all-wheel drive base GX grade which costs $48,850, it houses so much storage, has a huge 3.5-litre V6 engine and has enough space within its seven-seat layout that you could comfortably road-trip across the country – which is what we did.
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We saddled up the Kluger and pointed it towards Bathurst, NSW for the recent 12-hour race to see how it would handle open road touring, as well as the normal everyday schlep around town – but more on that later.
The Kluger competes with a horde of other large SUVs like the Holden Acadia, Mazda CX-9, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento, Nissan Pathfinder and Skoda Kodiaq.
This isn’t quite the most affordable Kluger you can buy, there is a $4k cheaper front-wheel-drive version that slots in underneath, but as for model grades go, this is the entry-level spec.
For its $48,840 expense, the Kluger GX AWD remains fairly basic on the outside with 18-inch wheels, halogen headlights, rear privacy glass and fog lights. Its basic spec stays much the same once you get inside, too, with the exception of active cruise control as standard and auto headlights.
Standout safety equipment includes hill-descent control, pre-collision safety system that can detect pedestrians, blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure alert and control and rear parking sensors with camera.
As with all Klugers, the GX has three rows of seating for a total of seven passengers and is powered by a 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine with eight gears.
What is the Toyota Kluger like to live with?
If you’ve got a large family in tow, it’s hard to think of a more suitable candidate than the Kluger. Its commodious space will ensure adult passengers, as well as kids, are comfortable, the cabin is built well and looks set to stand the test of time and its generously sized boot will eat up all accompanying luggage.
The seats, while covered in a fairly drab cloth, are super comfortable and made the eight-hour road trip to Bathurst a genuinely pleasant experience.
Also of importance was the strong air conditioning which had to battle multiple 40-degree C heatwaves on our interstate journey.
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We loaded up the boot to capacity with camping equipment, luggage and supplies and piled five people inside who all reported a pleasant experience throughout the trip.
Three adults can comfortably sit along the middle row without too much shoulder-jostling. We each had a quick jaunt in the third row, too, which is fine for short distances but isn’t especially easy to access owing to a tight entry aperture.
Entry and exit everywhere else is super easy for adults. It strikes a good balance between not having to stoop down into it while equally not having to haul yourself up like you would with something 4x4-spec. Once seated there’s acres of headroom, plenty of air-conditioned foot space and the second row slides back and forth to afford more or less room.
Staying in the second row, there are map pockets to store loose items, sizeable door pockets for drinks and the like and you'll find two cup holders in a fold-down centre armrest. There isn’t too many other amenities for second-row occupants, noticeably lacking USB ports and having just one 12-volt power outlet.
Hopefully, the next-gen car is a bit more technologically minded.
Working our way up front the expansive space continues with a mammoth-sized centre console bin, a neat shelf underneath the dash that can house things like keys, wallets and phones, and two American-sized Big-Gulp cup holders.
Storage solutions are plentiful, often resulting in lost items that take a minute to realise where they’ve been left.
What else does it have going for it? The 6.1-inch touchscreen, while no-frills, gets the job done controlling radio, Bluetooth phone calls and audio streaming, but it does miss out on Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The steering wheel can control aspects of the infotainment as well as the multifunction display in the instrument cluster but annoyingly we don’t find a digital speed readout within the display which could have come in handy. The steering wheel itself is pretty ordinary to the touch as well; we would have liked to see a leather covering.
What is the Toyota Kluger like to drive?
The Kluger is a big car to drive. It doesn’t have that unexplainable ability to shrink around you like some other large SUVs possess, and it’s much easier to motor about on wide country roads than navigating tight multi-storey car parks as a result.
That said, its light steering is easy to change direction with and its body is entirely manageable around town. You just have to be careful when manoeuvring tight spaces or parking.
It didn’t take long for us to become grateful of the Kluger as a road trip car. Not only does it have the relaxing interior, but it’s phenomenally comfortable on the open road. Every Kluger has active cruise control which is welcome, but it can lag behind on speed changes.
It’s a big lumbering thing to wield, but that needn’t be a bad thing. It’s super comfortable over bumps and eats up big road imperfections nicely.
Of course, the soft springs that give it that laissez-faire ride quality means it does pitch and roll in corners to some degree. It’s more evident when navigating city streets rather than New South Wales’ big sweeping bends, but that relaxed rolly-poly handling mightn’t be for all.
The powerplant that services the big Kluger has more than enough pep to handle overtakes and can get the car moving up to speed quickly.
The V6 produces a healthy 218kW and 350Nm which handled our interstate jaunt with ease, but hot weather and a big load of bodies and gear meant that the fuel consumption wasn’t great, returning a combined rural and city reading of 10.4L/100km, against a claimed 9.5L/100km on the combined cycle.
Is it worth the money?
To rid extra stock before the Kluger replacement arrives later this year, Toyota is keen to do deals. Across all models grades there’s a slashing of prices; with the GX AWD we’ve talked about being listed at $45,990 driveaway which is a whopping $8000 cheaper than its normal retail price.
That value is extremely hard to argue with, especially when many comparable models will be going for well over $50k.
It mightn’t be the newest kid on the block touting all the latest features, nor is it as off-road capable as its better-selling LandCruiser Prado sibling, but it’s certainly one of the greatest value SUVs on the market.
Pros: Value for money, myriad storage options, comfortable ride and seats
Cons: Basic infotainment system, ordinary cabin materials, thirsty V6