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Car reviews - Toyota - Kluger - 5-dr wagon range

Launch Story

7 Aug 2007

TOYOTA’S new-model steamroller continues apace this week with the launch of the market-leading brand’s critical new medium SUV, the second-generation Kluger, which fails to match the starting price of its most direct rival – let alone its many new Korean competitors.

Priced from $39,990 as a front-wheel drive for the first time – down $2000 from the outgoing Kluger AWD’s $41,990 entry price – the bigger, less fridge-like Kluger MkII is built in Japan and leapfrogs Ford’s dominant Territory in terms of both interior space, engine power, fuel consumption, safety features and standard equipment.

Ford braced its popular homegrown Territory for the Kluger assault last month via significant price cuts, which saw the base five-seat Territory TX RWD’s sticker slashed to $37,990 – $2000 less than the five-seat KX-R 2WD, the least expensive of another three newly-named Kluger variants.

As with Territory, around half of all Klugers sold are expected to be two-wheel drive (52 per cent, to be precise).

Toyota’s 163kg 2GR-FE 3.5-litre 24-valve DOHC all-alloy 60-degree V6 with dual variable valve timing, as found in the Lexus RX350 (203kW) and the Tarago V6 and locally-built Aurion sedan (200kW), delivers a class-leading 201kW at 6200rpm on 91-octane standard unleaded petrol in the new Kluger.

While that shades both the 172kW of its predecessor’s 3.3-litre V6 and the Territory’s 190kW, the new Kluger’s 337Nm peak torque figure (at 4700rpm) is up only 9Nm and still well short of its nemesis’ category-best 383Nm. And then there’s the 245kW/480Nm Territory Turbo.

However, Toyota points out that with an ADR 81/01 combined fuel consumption figure of 11.0L/100km (11.6L/100km for the Kluger AWD Grande, which emits 271g/km of CO2 emissions versus 259g/km for lesser variants), the Kluger uses 10 per cent less petrol than both the model it replaces (12.3L/100km) and the Territory (RWD: 12.2L/100km AWD: 12.8L/100km).

It is also claimed to deliver a spritely 0-100km/h acceleration time of eight seconds (8.2 for AWD versions), and a 180km/h top speed.

Despite a $2000 entry premium, Kluger is claimed to offer better value than Territory thanks to seven airbags as standard instead of just two, superior flexibility via one-touch seat levers and a stowable centre middle row seat, and extra standard equipment such as a reversing camera, alloy wheels, cruise control and a cargo cover.

Toyota claims the Kluger’s taller and wider body creates a roomier cabin and more third-row legroom than both its forebear and the Territory, and that its newness will retain higher resale values.

Furthermore, it claims service costs will also be lower “for the vast majority of customers” because the Kluger is covered by Toyota’s fixed-price service plan, which offers six standard scheduled services for $150 each, as introduced with Camry, then Aurion (four services only) and Corolla.

A five-speed automatic transmission is also touted as an advantage over the Territory RWD’s four-speed, which also features a manual-shift mode, but Kluger does not match the six gearbox ratios offered by the Territory AWD and the similarly-powered Tarago and Aurion V6s.

Kluger’s base price is now $4000 lower than the most expensive RAV4 ($43,990 in auto guise), and that overlap will increase when Toyota introduces the (also 3.5-litre) RAV4 V6.

For now, however the five-seat KX-R 2WD replaces the current AWD Kluger CV and opens Kluger’s account at under $40,000, with a third row of seats (including rear air-conditioning and air-vents for all three rows) adding $2500 to the base KX-R’s price.

Both the mid-range KX-S 2WD ($49,990), which replaces the CVX, and the top-shelf Grande 2WD ($59,990) come with seven seats as standard, but are now $500 more expensive than their AWD predecessors. All-wheel drive adds $4500 across the range, making the cheapest Kluger AWD $44,490 (Territory TX AWD: $42,990) and the Kluger Grande AWD $64,490 (Territory Ghia AWD: $56,990).

With Hyundai last week creating a new medium SUV low water mark of $33,990 for its Santa Fe 2.7 V6 SX AWD – $1000 less than Holden’s cheapest Captiva – Kluger is likely to be shopped more commonly against fellow Japanese models like Mitsubishi’s five-door Pajero (from $49,490) and Nissan’s Pathfinder (from $44,990).

Unlike the Kluger, all of these models offer a diesel engine option and, though a hybrid version could also eventually join the range, it would push Kluger further into Prado’s pricing bracket (from $46,290), as well as compete with the petrol-electric RX400h from Toyota’s luxury division.

Effectively a replacement for the Camry wagon, the Kluger is, according to Toyota Australia’s senior executive director of sales and marketing David Buttner, “the consummate all-rounder” because it combines the strength and versatility of an SUV, the ride and handling of a car, the convenience of a station wagon and the ground clearance and AWD to cope off-road.

Toyota believes the first 2WD Kluger will grow the medium SUV segment as a whole, as well as sway buyers away from Territory with its highly specified, sub-$40,000 entry pricing.

“Considering the size, performance, space, versatility and specification of the new Kluger, that’s a truly remarkable price,” said Mr Buttner. “For the first time, we can offer Kluger as a 2WD vehicle – a great alternative for the many buyers who seldom, if ever, venture off road.

“Customers can save money by opting for a 2WD Kluger even though it retains the strong looks and excellent ground clearance of the AWD versions. In fact, the only visible differences between the 2WD and AWD versions are an AWD badge – and the price tag.”

Kluger has the highest level of standard safety features in its segment, with all variants featuring twin front, front-side, full-length side-curtain and driver’s knee airbags for a class-leading total of seven, plus a reversing camera.

There are also Toyota Australia firsts including whiplash injury-lessening (WIL) active front-seat head restraints and 19-inch wheels (with 245/55R19 tyres) on the upper two grades. The base KX-R also features wider 17-inch alloy wheels (with 245/65R17 tyres) instead of the Territory TX’s steel items.

All Kluger model variants carry a full-size spare wheel.

As with Territory and the Koreans, standard across the range is a potentially life-saving stability/traction control system (Toyota’s audible VSC/TRC), which in this case is linked to a first-in-class electric power steering (EPS) system.

As with last year’s redesigned RAV4 and the new Tarago V6, the road speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion system is linked to VSC and can increase steering assistance “during relevant operating conditions” like understeer and oversteer situations, and can be tuned to deliver steering feel to suit individual market tastes. The steering wheel is adjustable for height and reach.

Naturally there is anti-lock brakes, brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution, but while AWD versions, which feature the same 50/50 default front/rear torque split, have Downhill Assist Control to match Territory’s Hill Descent Control, Kluger goes one better with the convenient Hill-start Assist Control.

Of course, Kluger also offers seven three-point seatbelts, five height-adjustable head restraints, height-adjustable front seatbelts, force-limiting front seatbelt pretensioners and three second-row child seat anchors.

Like almost every medium SUV there is standard air-conditioning, an MP3-compatible CD sound system, steering wheel audio controls, a 40/20/40-split folding second-row seat with 120mm of fore/aft slide adjustment, glass-mounted radio antenna and the now-obligatory opening tailgate window. Lexus-style Optitron instruments feature across the range.

Apart from two-inch-larger-diameter alloys, the mid-stream KX-S adds, a smoked chrome grille, smoked halogen headlights and tail-lights, foglights and dark silver roof-rails.

Inside, KX-S scores leather (instead of fabric) trim, a four-spoke leather steering wheel (with audio controls), leather gearshifter, three-zone climate-control air-conditioning, a third-row seat, power front seat adjustment, an adjustable-length driver’s seat cushion, heated front seats, stainless-steel Kluger scuff plates and six-CD stacker with Bluetooth telephone compatibility.

The range-topping Grande is differentiated by a chromed grille, clear halogen lighting and silver roof-rails, and gains extras like a powered tailgate, auto headlights, keyless un/locking and starting, steering-wheel telephone and voice control, an electro-chromatic rear-view mirror, woodgrain trim, moonroof, satellite-navigation with an eight-inch screen (instead of a 3.5-inch monitor), an AVN four-CD stacker and a roof-mounted rear-seat DVD entertainment system.

Kluger II’s bigger new monocoque five-door body is 95mm longer (4785mm) overall yet 105mm longer inside, 85mm wider (1910mm) and 25mm higher (1705mm).

It rides on a 75mm-longer wheelbase (2790mm), offers 16mm more ground clearance (206mm), has an 11.8-metre turning circle and a 0.34Cd aerodynamic drag co-efficient. The Territory has 179mm of ground clearance and an 11.4-metre turning circle.

At 750kg and 2000kg respectively, Kluger may not match Territory’s un/braked towing capacity of 750kg/2300kg, but it is 90kg to 160kg lighter at 1835-1930kg (2WD), 1895-1935kg (2WD Grande), 1920-2020kg (AWD) and 1995-2035kg (AWD Grande). Territory weights range between 1995 and 2045kg for the RWD, and 2075 and 2125kg (AWD).

It is claimed to be stronger and quieter than before (no figures are provided) and now features pedestrian-friendly front bumper and bonnet designs, a reinforced cabin, energy-absorbing head-protection measures in all four pillars, inner and outer beltline reinforcements and stronger rear door skins.

There are larger-diameter vented front (328mm versus 296mm) and solid rear (309mm versus 288mm) brake discs, new twin-piston front callipers and a revised four-wheel MacPherson coil-over-strut suspension package featuring stronger front hub bearings, knuckles and lower ball joints, and 3mm-thicker rear damper units.

Toyota says final suspension calibration followed testing in Australia, the world’s only major RHD Kluger market.

Apart from a new one-touch tilt/slide feature to access the third row, convenience features include six cup-holders, four door pockets, a large driver-facing glovebox and centre console box/armrest, dashboard compartments, seatback pockets, a tonneau cover and a work tray that can replace the centre middle seat and stows under the centre console. Seven-seat Klugers do without the five-seat KXR’s rear under-floor storage box.

A number of genuine Toyota accessories, as well as Swedish-made Thule cargo options, are available for Kluger, including various luggage pods and ski, bicycle and kayak carriers, plus nudge bars, weathershields, stainless-steel side steps, driving lights and mudguards.

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