Paul Maric road tests and reviews the 2014 Toyota Kluger.
Since storming on to the scene in the year 2000, Toyota’s big-SUV, the Kluger, has been a raging success. Available in both front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive, the Kluger’s success has come down to size, versatility and V6 performance.
Fast forward 14 years and the Toyota Kluger remains a success story for the Japanese car company. The third generation Kluger has undergone a styling change with more masculine angles and better use of interior space.
Production facilities have also changed. The Kluger is no longer manufactured in Japan, with the two main production facilities being China and the USA (the Australian sold Klugers are produced in the USA). Such a big production shift can sometimes mean a drop in quality; thankfully the Kluger remains a well-built vehicle for the masses.
Starting from $40,990 for the entry-level front-wheel-drive Kluger GX, the range continues on to the $67,990 top-spec all-wheel-drive Grande. I drove the volume selling $44,990 four-wheel-drive GX model to get a feel for the entry-level range.
Inside the cabin, the Kluger still feels like a step up into a larger SUV. This gives drivers the feeling of power and height over other cars on the road. There’s also a newly designed cabin that features soft-touch finishes and an updated steering wheel.
Much like the second generation, the new Kluger is very spacious inside. The front seat and second row passengers have a large amount of leg and headroom to play with. There is also a third row, which increases the seating capacity of the Kluger to seven. But, don’t expect to fit adults or large teenagers in the third row.
Boot space is very impressive (as you would expect for a car this size). With the third row erected, there is 195 litres of space. Drop the third row and space increases to 529 litres. If you go even further and drop the second row of seats, luggage space increases to a whopping 1,171 litres.
The Kluger’s level of technology and features has also increased. The Kluger now comes with voice recognition, USB connectivity, Bluetooth audio streaming and an intuitive audio system interface. The standard six speaker sound system is very good and offers enough bass and clarity to keep music lovers happy.
Visibility outside the cabin is excellent. While the front is quite high, there is uninterrupted visibility out the front and rear. Reversing is also made easy thanks to a reversing camera and rear parking sensors.
Under the Kluger’s bonnet is a familiar V6 engine. The 3.5-litre V6 engine is the same as the last model, but Toyota claims that fuel consumption has decreased to 10.6L/100km (from 11.0L/100km). The engine is mated to a very smooth shifting six-speed automatic gearbox.
While Toyota claims that fuel consumption has gone down, I didn’t manage to get under 13.0L/100km, which is around 25% higher than the official claim. In fact, it was quite frustrating to not be able to use any less fuel, especially considering that most of the driving I did during the week with the Kluger was on the highway. This partly comes down to the car’s larger 2,030kg kerb weight.
Fuel consumption aside, the Kluger is an impressive car to drive. Both on the highway and in the city, the Kluger offers light steering and excellent feedback through the chassis. The steering rack offers light steering for parking too, which is great for a car this size.
Over rough roads and poor quality country roads, the Kluger handles very well. The suspension and dampers are unrestrictive and soak up bumps with great ease. In fact, it feels much more like a BMW X5 than a Toyota, which is high praise for Toyota’s Japanese engineering team.
At just over $40,000 for the entry level Kluger, the segment is filled with options. Buyers can try the new Nissan Pathfinder, Mazda CX-9, Kia Sorento, Hyundai Santa Fe and Ford Territory. Given the competition, the Kluger scrubs up very nicely on paper.
If the Kluger were available in a diesel it would be the clear winner in this segment. But, given that it only comes in a petrol variant and uses a considerable amount of fuel, it is worth trying out the competition before committing to a purchase.
NUTS and BOLTS
Engine: 3.5 litre V6 producing 201kW and 337Nm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Safety: Five stars
Origin: United States
Price: From $40,990