Make / Model Search

Car reviews - Toyota - Kluger - 5dr wagon range

Our Opinion

We like
Improved steering, handling and ride, roomier body, bigger cargo area, appealing dashboard functionality, better value
Room for improvement
No diesel or hybrid option, V6 thirst, some cheap lower-dash plastics, foot-operated park brake


Click to see larger images

17 Nov 2014

looks back at this era of SUVs, the outgoing second-generation Toyota Kluger from 2007 ought to go down as one of motoring’s retrograde moments.

Even the people involved in its inception privately admitted their brief was simply to ‘Camry-fy’ the crossover. Translated? Make it dull but dependable.

What it also offered was torque steer, ponderous handling, a punishing ride and a big thirst. It still sold well in Australia, but Toyota’s principal aim was Middle America.

Now the only place Toyota makes the Kluger is the US, in Indiana, with the old Japanese factory now tasked with other projects. And the good news is, Toyota appears back on track.

Here’s what the engineers both at the CALTY design studios in California and back in Japan have done.

Basically they stretched the overhangs at both ends, widened the body and tracks, pushed the A-pillars forward at the base, added more creases and corners to the boxier shape, turfed out the old rear coil suspension for a space-saving double wishbone set-up, beefed everything up, stuffed it all with more sound deadening and put an angry new face on it all.

So yes, not exactly a complete re-do. But still more than a simple re-skin.

And as a seven-seater crossover, the Kluger will take some beating.

Getting into and out of every seat has been made easier by large doors with sliding middle seats employing a one-tug mechanism.

The driving environment is enhanced by slimmer forward pillars, an excellent relationship with all of the logically arranged controls and there a couple of smart details such as a handy vertical storage area for phones and stuff, a ‘conversation’ mirror and a central console bin the size of an esky.

Only some cheapo lower plastic trim detracts from the contemporary high-quality look and feel of this easy and intuitive dashboard area.

Oh, and for the love of Freddie Kruger why won’t Toyota consign the cruddy old foot-operated park brake to history?The second row is fine for three adults at a pinch, with ample ventilation and all the prerequisite cup-holders and cubby holes present, though the low and slim cushion may bring on numb bum for some after a while.

A pair of averaged-sized males demonstrated the now reclinable and roomier third-row bench, with all of the practical amenities to help make it a tolerable place for shorter trips. But – really – seats number six and seven best correspond with the age of the kids that Toyota has in mind to travel back there.

Still, a 40mm overhang increase and less-intrusive rear suspension means there’s now a less laughably meagre amount of cargo space with all bods on board, while folding each successive backrest reveals an increasingly vast luggage area, to the point where – as a two-seater panel van – the Kluger can double as a mobile motel where the cycle of life can begin all over again.

However it is on the move that the Toyota really rises above the lowest-common denominator engineering of the preceding snooze-mobile.

Although the necessary diesel option won’t happen, and while the anticipated petrol-electric hybrid might still be a couple of Iron Man film sequels away, the carryover drivetrain has been massaged enough for the 201kW/337Nm 3.5-litre V6 powertrain to at least remain in the race.

At last six ousts five speeds for the slick-shifting torque-converter auto transmission, helping the hefty two-tonne crossover cross the 0-100km/h line a little quicker and quieter than the old model (at 8.3s in the lightest FWD version), while still managing a circa-eight per cent consumption drop.

Like most Toyota V6s this one needs a good rev but is pleasantly vocal and sufficiently vigorous doing so, providing the necessary oomph for quick overtaking. All that noise-quelling gear might add mass but it has made for a more hushed environment.

Yet it is the first turn of the recalibrated electric steering that gladdens our hearts most, since the overly light vagueness has vanished for a steadily progressive and appreciably weightier system that feels far more natural than we had hoped it would be.

Toyota says Kluger III prototypes spent two years in Melbourne being fine-tuned with firmer springs, revised dampers and a modified steering system so that its SUV would feel far more dynamic, stable and secure (especially on gravel roads).

No, you won’t believe you’ve accidentally burned off in a BMW X5, and Ford’s Territory is still the class high watermark a decade on, but this is one worthy localisation program. Crook steering feel and ponderous understeer are no longer the Kluger’s calling cards.

Toyota knows this, for it gave the Aussie media hours of mountain passes to play on, with gravel stretches and some quite ragged roads, and the newcomer didn’t break a sweat.

The ride felt firm yet controlled and quite absorbent – even on the 19-inch wheels fitted to a Grande AWD we sampled – while the sense of confidence and control made us grateful for the efforts the engineers have expended.

Very encouraging strides made by all, for the benefit of all those families requiring a smooth, safe, spacious and quiet seven-seater wagon of decent dynamic aptitude.

With the Territory now turning 10, the Holden Captiva feeling downright old, cheap and tired, Hyundai’s Santa Fe still patchy in terms of accommodation and driveability, the Kia Sorento honest but also feeling a tad dog-eared and the Mazda CX-9 thirsty, the Kluger has zoomed into view as a leading petrol-powered large SUV contender.

It is a shame Toyota won’t bother about a diesel, and more frugal petrol powerplants ought to be a pipeline priority, but even then, on the strength of our first Australian road drive, the new 50-series stands as the most improved SUV of our time.

History now ought to look upon this Kluger far more kindly than the last one deserves.

The Road to Recovery podcast series

Click to share

Click below to follow us on
Facebook  Twitter  Instagram

GoAuto can help you buy a new Kluger

Customer Terms and Conditions – New Car Lead enquires


This is an agreement between GoAutoMedia Pty Limited ACN 094 732 457 of PO Box 18, Beach Road, Sandringham, VIC, 3191 (“we/us”), the owner and operator of the GoAuto.com.au website (“the website”) and the person wanting GoAuto.com.au to provide them with a lead for the purchase of a new car (“you”).

By completing a New Car Lead Enquiry, you agree to the terms and conditions and disclaimers and acknowledge the policies set out below.

Terms and Conditions

  • In order for us to effect a lead you must you must complete a New Car Lead Enquiry (“Enquiry”).
  • We will call you as soon as possible after you complete the Enquiry and certainly no later than the next business day. When we call, we will discuss with you your new car requirements.
  • You consent to our passing on the Enquiry and your requirements to an appropriate authorised motor car dealer as a lead.
  • We will contact you again in approximately eight days following your initial enquiry to check on the progress of the Enquiry.
  • While we will provide the dealer with the Enquiry and details of your new car requirements, we take no responsibility for what happens after passing on that material as a lead.
  • You acknowledge that we are a new car information service providing new car editorial information, pictures and prices to our customers as a guide only. Any new car prices published on the website are the manufacturers’ recommended retail prices and do not include delivery charges and on-road costs. Any authorized motor car dealer to which we pass on your Enquiry as a lead will provide you with full details of the price at which the vehicle will be sold to you.
  • You acknowledge that we do not sell motor vehicles. Any sale of a new car to you by a dealer after we have passed on your Enquiry to that dealer as a lead, is a sale by that dealer not by us.

Privacy Policy– New Car Lead Enquires

  • We take privacy very seriously. We understand that you will only complete an Enquiry if you can trust us to protect your personal information and use it appropriately. Our policy is to ensure that the personal information collected when you make an Enquiry is only used for the purposes of connecting you with an authorised motor car dealer.
  • We do not on-sell information collected from you or any other customer.
  • From time to time, we may email you with information or promotions that may be relevant for car buyers. You will continue to receive communications from us unless you tell us that you do not want to receive any advertising or promotional information in the future by unsubscribing from these communications.
* Denotes required field
** Australian inquiries only

Kluger pricing

Motor industry news

GoAutoNews is Australia’s number one automotive industry journal covering the latest news, future and new model releases, market trends, industry personnel movements, and international events.

Catch up on all of the latest industry news with this week's edition of GoAutoNews
Click here