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First look: Toyota unveils MkII Kluger

Upsized: New Kluger is nearly 100mm longer and wider, but only a little sexier.

Toyota unveils its second-generation Kluger in Chicago, five months ahead of release

8 Feb 2007

THE REPLACEMENT for Toyota’s vital Kluger medium SUV has broken cover at the 2007 Chicago Auto Show – five months ahead of its official release in Australia and US in July.

Revealed yesterday (February 7) in the US, the redesigned Kluger – or Highlander, as it’s known Stateside – comes with what the Japanese auto giant claims will be an unrivalled list of standard safety features.

The second-generation Highlander is also claimed to be bigger, roomier, quieter and significantly more powerful than its predecessor, which went on sale here in November 2003, and goes on sale here about a month before the US-market’s V6-powered RAV4 hits local showrooms – a vehicle that will share its new 200kW V6 and is also likely to offer up to seven seats.

Despite an average weight increase of around 225kg, according to Toyota the all-new Kluger returns almost identical fuel consumption to the current model, whose 172kW/328Nm 3.3-litre V6 returns 12.3L/100km on the official ADR 81/01 combined cycle.

8 center imageThis is thanks to its employment of a variation of the 3.5-litre V6 that debuted here in Toyota Australia’s Aurion large sedan last November. In the US, the 2008 Highlander will deliver 200kW and 338Nm of torque and continues to be available exclusively with a five-speed automatic transmission – not the Aurion’s six-speed auto.

As in the US, where the new Highlander Hybrid was also revealed yesterday, the MkII Kluger will be available in both front-drive and all-wheel drive guises here, in a departure from the current (AWD-only) model range.

Pioneered by Ford Australia’s segment-leading Territory SUV, the twin-pronged 2WD/AWD model line-up may also be mimicked by Holden with its Captiva SUV, which becomes available with turbo-diesel power to match Hyundai’s Santa Fe range from next month.

Toyota Australia has not confirmed whether it will import the new Kluger Hybrid, which combines a 3.3-litre V6 with electric power to offer the same 200kW and drives exclusively through an electronic continuously variable transmission (labeled ECVT) and an "intelligent" AWD system dubbed 4WD-i.

Based on a chassis shared with the new Camry, US-market Avalon and Toyota Australia’s Aurion, the new model rides on a 74mm-longer (2789mm) wheelbase.

Key dimensions include an overall length of 4785mm (up 95mm), a width of 1910mm (up 85mm), height of 1760mm (up 25mm) and ground clearance of 206mm (up 19mm).

As with the current Kluger, both five and seven-seat versions will be available, and while 17-inch alloys will be standard on the base variant in the US, Sport and Limited variants will offer 19-inch wheels as standard.

Unveiled in Chicago by Toyota Motor Sales (USA) senior vice president automotive operations, Don Esmond, the new Kluger features a segment-leading total of seven airbags, including a driver's knee airbag and full-length side curtain airbags.

Also standard is vehicle stability control, traction control, anti-lock brakes, electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist.

The new Kluger also features electronic power steering, while all but the base variant in the US will come standard with a stand-alone reversing camera (linked linked to satellite-navigation).

It’s also claimed to be the first Toyota model to feature both active head restraints and a pedestrian-friendly front bumper and bonnet.

Shaped by Calty Design Research in Newport Beach, California, Kluger II’s new bodyshell is claimed to make "a statement of strength instead of ruggedness of intelligence over toughness".

Inside, the new Kluger cabin is said to be more airy and flexible, and comprises second-row captain’s chairs with armrests that can be converted to a three-occupant bench seat via a "Centre Stow" seat that hides under the front centre console when not in use.

The twin-seat third row, which features folding head restraints and stows to produce a flat rear cargo area, reclines and slides over a range of 120mm, while a separate-opening rear window and keyless starting will be available on upstream variants in the US.

Options in the US will include a remote-opening/closing tailgate, satellite-navigation with eight-inch screen, a rear entertainment system with nine-inch screen, three-zone air-conditioning, a nine-speaker JBL sound system with Bluetooth and six-CD in-dash stacker, heated/leather seats and a 2268kg tow pack.

"The 2008 Highlander takes the car-based SUV concept to a new level," said Mr Esmond. "I say that with conviction, because it's a category we invented.

"As you can see, the new Highlander has raised the bar significantly. Last year we did the same with RAV4. And in about a year, we'll do the same with both LandCruiser and Sequoia.

"The Toyota division now markets a six-vehicle SUV line-up that appeals to specific buyer demographics and life-stages. It is a line-up that gives us enormous flexibility in responding to shifts in the marketplace. We are committed to keeping our products fresh and at the front of the pack."

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