THE TOYOTA Kluger has long been one of Australia’s unsung heroes. The seven-seater is one of the biggest selling family SUVs, registering over 170,000 sales here since 2003 and those sales have steadily trended upwards, the Kluger claiming top spot among large SUVs in 2018, when it shifted 14,743 units. Toyota has whipped the hanky off the latest fourth-generation model at the New York motor show and it’s fair to say that the changes are all-encompassing.
The US-built model will arrive here in 2020 and runs on a version of the clever modular TNGA-K chassis that underpins the latest RAV4. In this stretched guise, the Highlander offers 30mm of additional interior length compared to its predecessor, with legroom in the second and third rows prioritised. A longer rear overhang helps contribute to a 60mm growth in overall length and 455 litres of luggage space. In other words, you might need to measure your garage before signing on the dotted line.
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More importantly, the Kluger will be offered not only with a V6 petrol powerplant, but will also receive a petrol-electric hybrid powertrain so that buyers can have the smoothness and efficiency of a petrol engine with the sort of economy that would once have had them turning to diesel power. It’s part of a hybrid product assault that sees the Prius-inspired tech roll out further across the range. Expect to see the hybrid version of the new RAV4 for Australia as well as battery-assisted versions of the C-HR compact SUV, the Corolla sedan, and the facelifted Yaris city car.
Toyota has been a little behind the curve with smartphone mirroring, but the Kluger’s top-spec 12.3-inch infotainment system now allows you to port both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Should you go for an entry-level car, that screen will probably measure eight inches from corner to corner. That said, Toyota hasn’t exactly skimped on equipment for the entry level car. While Australian specifications have yet to be finalised, the lowest grade model shown at New York included gear like three-zone climate control, LED head- and tail-lights, eight-way electric adjustment for the driver’s seat, not to mention the latest Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 electronic suite.
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This includes the obligatory autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection and also packages in adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, high-beam assist, lane departure warning with steering assist, a reversing camera, lane trace assist and road sign assist features.
The 3.5-litre D-4S V6 petrol engine has been given a shot in the arm, now making a healthy 220kW, while an eight-speed automatic transmission helps eke out each of those kilowatts when you’re in a hurry. The hybrid powerplant is even more fascinating. Toyota has been selling hybrids for 22 years now, so it’s reasonable to assume they’ve ironed out teething issues.
The Kluger hybrid sees a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine plumbed under the big bonnet, with a pair of electric motors joining the fray to develop a system output of 180kW. The bigger draw will doubtless be fuel economy that’s pegged at a mere 6.9L/100km. Both the petrol version and hybrid have been shown in both front- and all-wheel drive, although Toyota will need to make a decision on which of the four drivetrain /engine combos it will bring to Australia.