Now here's an off-roader worth getting excited
While 'crossover' vehicles have been blurring the
line between road cars and off-roaders, the new Toyota Kluger blurs the
boundaries even more. Spawned from the highly acclaimed Lexus RX330, the Kluger
has a prestige feel along with real on-road performance. Take the Kluger for a
blast down your favourite winding road and you'll be mightily impressed; it's
only when you step out and close the door you remember you've been driving an
So what makes the Kluger such a pleasure to
Let's start with its engine and driveline. The
Kluger is powered by a VVT-i 3.3-litre V6 that offers a solid 275Nm of torque
all the way from 1500 rpm and a maximum of 328Nm at 3600 rpm. Such a generous
spread of torque enables you to accelerate from any rpm. In the top-end there's
a healthy 172kW available at 5600 rpm - and the sweet revving nature of the
engine makes every one of those kilowatts very accessible.
The Most Sophisticated Engine In its Class
Kluger's all-alloy 3.3-litre V6 (coded 3MZ-FE) is by far the most advanced in
this vehicle category. Its spec list includes six-bolt main bearing caps, forged
conrods, lightweight alloy pistons with Teflon coated skirts, 10.8:1 compression
ratio, DOHC, 24-valves and infinitely variable inlet cam timing (over a 60
degree range). There's also stainless steel headers, a variable valve muffler,
two-stage variable runner induction system, two-stage air cleaner inlet, a
hot-wire airflow meter, twin knock sensors, direct-fire ignition and electronic
engineering like that, it's no wonder the Kluger has the highest specific output
in the medium-size crossover market!
The Kluger comes fitted with a standard 5-speed
automatic transmission, which - combined with clever electronic throttle control
strategies - is always smooth during changes. It's also willing to kick-down and
we found it always in the ideal gear. The only thing missing - and we noticed it
on several occasions - is a sequential style shift arrangement. Given the Kluger's on-road performance, a sequential
shifter is a logical fitment.
The entry-level Kluger CV and mid-range CVX employ
a constant AWD system comprising a viscous centre coupling and a limited slip
rear differential. In contrast, the top-of-the-line Kluger Grande and CVX with
the optional Safety Pack (as tested) use an electronic torque-split AWD system
in place of the viscous coupling. This is said to "provide more precise and
smoother traction." Note that the optional Safety Pack also adds electronic
stability and traction control and four extra airbags.
None of the Kluger range comes with a centre diff
The 'seat of the pants' feeling that this is one
very rapid SUV is confirmed when you look at Toyota's official performance
figures. Able to rocket from standstill to 100 km/h in a scant 8.1-seconds, the
Kluger can genuinely embarrass 'performance' cars at the traffic lights.
And don't think that you pay for this performance
at the petrol bowsers. We averaged 14 litres per 100km during our reasonably
hard-driven test, but expect to achieve better in normal situations. Fuel tank
capacity is 72 litres.
This top-notch driveline is only part of the
The Kluger's steering is linear in response, well
weighted and direct - it's extremely car-like. Pick your cornering line and the
Kluger offers greater precision than any other crossover vehicle we've
The suspension is also impressive. The Kluger
employs a monocoque chassis riding on a MacPherson strut front-end and a
strut-type rear with dual lower transverse links and a lower trailing arm. Ride
quality is very good - with a couple of small exceptions. There is the sensation
of having considerable unsprung mass (caused by the relatively large wheels,
tyres, etc) and the ride is quite firm at low speeds whenever there are no
passengers or cargo onboard.
As mentioned, our CVX test vehicle was optioned
with the Safety Pack that includes the electronic torque-split system along with
stability and traction control. This configuration means the Kluger is extremely
stable and somewhat uneventful to drive. The vehicle's natural tendency is to
understeer, but you never need to bother about it - simply keep your right foot
planted and let the electronic control systems do the work! The stability
program intervenes early enough that there's barely any chance of having an
During understeer, the stability program
automatically reduces throttle opening and - depending on severity - it will
apply the front and the inside rear brakes. In an oversteer situation, the
"engine output is controlled" and the brakes may be applied to the outside front
and rear wheels. Without question, the combination of electronic controlled
torque-split AWD with stability and traction control systems give the Kluger
brilliant real-world handling and immense primary safety.
The Kluger stops well despite weighing around 1800
kilograms. Ventilated 296mm discs can be found under the nose while solid 288mm
discs are fitted to the rear. More impressive are the brake control systems -
4-channel ABS, EBD and brake assist (a system that helps optimise brake force
during emergency stops) come as standard. No problems with the brakes during our
The Kluger CVX with electronic torque-split seems
quite capable when venturing off the bitumen. Toyota emphasises the long
suspension travel, 184mm ground clearance and entry and departure angles
comparable to anything else in the category. We did notice the lack of a centre
diff lock, which allowed wheelspin over extremely undulating surfaces. If you
plan on serious off-road expeditions we suggest you look at a more dedicated
The Kluger loses none of its points when it comes
to interior flexibility, comfort or quality.
The Kluger CVX can carry up to seven people in
three rows of seats - twin buckets at the front, a three-seater centre row and a
foldout two-seater third row.
The front and second row seats offer plenty of
space and comfort, but the foldout third row seat is clearly intended for
children. Think of the Kluger as a five seater with the ability to take a couple
of extra kids home from soccer training if necessary. The second row seat is
60/40 split, has the ability to slide 120mm fore-aft and incorporates a centre
Note that all seven seating positions have 3-point
seatbelts and adjustable head restraints, but child restraint anchorages are
provided for the second row seat only.
All seats onboard the CVX are trimmed in quality
leather and occupants enjoy exceptionally low NVH levels (thanks to many of the
noise reduction measures originally developed for the Lexus RX330). The
occasional in-cabin exhaust resonance is the only criticism in this
The CVX cabin is comprehensively equipped without
including anything gimmicky. There's an easy to use digital climate control
system, trip computer, cruise control, power windows and mirrors, power front
seats with fold-down centre armrests, remote central locking and immobiliser,
rear seat heater, auto-off headlights and more. A foot operated park brake is
fitted, but rest assured it is very simple to use. High quality tunes come from
a double-DIN tuner/cassette/6-disc system with a 35W x 4 amplifier wired to 6
Cargo space is not a problem. The third row seat
folds completely flat to provide ample cargo area for the majority of instances.
If the need arises, the second row seats can also be folded almost flat with the
rest of the floor; this is a simple one-step action. A security blind is stowed
in a compartment under the cargo area floor, while the full size spare wheel is
accessible from beneath the rear of the vehicle.
From a safety perspective, the Kluger offers front
seatbelt pre-tensioners and force limiters along with twin airbags as standard
on the CV and CVX. As mentioned, however, our CVX test car was equipped with the
optional Safety Pack. This adds front and rear curtain airbags and front side
airbags - a total of 8 airbags. High-strength steel is used throughout the body,
which incorporates a rigid safety cell. The visibility afforded by the Kluger's
relatively high driving position also has major safety benefits.
The Kluger is conservatively styled which means
it's easy to walk past without recognising it as anything out of the ordinary.
It is handsome, though, with good proportions, accented wheel arches,
multi-reflector headlights, privacy glass at the rear, roof rails and front fog
lights (standard on the CVX and Grande). The CVX is equipped with 16-inch alloy
wheels and 225/70 tyres, while the Grande flaunts 17s and lower profile
Build quality is to a very high standard. Paint
finish is very good, panel margins are even, fabrics are excellent, switchgear
is positive and there were no creaks or rattles in our test example. The only
gripes are 'orange peel' in the paint and the absence of an anti-rattle lining
inside the flip-out storage compartment near the driver's right knee. Nothing
Having read the read this far you'll have learnt
that the Toyota Kluger is a very impressive package. But does it stack up as
good value for money?
We think so.
The Kluger CVX model kicks off at $48,990 plus
ORCs, while the optional Safety Pack (as fitted to our test car) adds a modest
$2200. The Australian off-road market is difficult to divide, but we believe the
Kluger will attract buyers of vehicles such as the Mitsubishi Outlander, Holden
Adventra, Subaru Outback Premium, Volvo XC models and, dare we say it, Lexus'
own $70,000-odd RX330... Many owners of 'proper' 4WDs will also gravitate toward
the slick Toyota.
If you're in the market for a high quality
crossover vehicle with some real on-road performance and sophistication you
should be very excited. We are!
Why You Would
engine and transmission giving excellent performance
handling and stability
Why You Wouldn't
centre diff lock
Test vehicle fitted with optional Safety Pack comprising electronic controlled
torque-split AWD, stability and traction control and four extra airbags.