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New York show: More kick for Toyota Kluger

Oz bound: Toyota’s American-built Kluger SUV will get welcome powertrain and – potentially – safety upgrades when it arrives in Australia about a year from now.

New-look Toyota Kluger to get tweaked V6 and all-new eight-speed auto in 2017


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15 Mar 2016

TOYOTA’S strong-selling Kluger family SUV is in line for a major facelift that will include improved performance and fuel efficiency from an upgraded 3.5-litre petrol V6, an all-new eight-speed automatic transmission and automatic engine idle-stop.

Due to make its first public appearance under its American Highlander badges at the New York motor show next week, the large seven-seater will also get a bolder exterior that takes on Toyota’s latest design language, plus new safety technologies.

Toyota Australia product public relations manager Stephen Coughlan today confirmed that the new Kluger will make it to Australia in the first half of next year – about six months after its showroom debut in the United States, where it is manufactured for global markets at Toyota’s Princeton factory in Indiana.

Mr Coughlan said it was too early to discuss specifics of the revised package for Australia, except to say that the revamped engine and new eight-speed transmission will be included in the Australian vehicle.

Power, torque and performance details of the revised engine are yet to be divulged. The current quad-cam V6 bangs out 201kW of power and 337Nm of torque, driving either the front wheels or all four wheels – depending on the variant – via a six-speed automatic transmission.

The biggest enhancement to the latest Kluger is the addition of an extra two cogs in the automatic transmission which is set to improve both acceleration and fuel efficiency.

Although four-cylinder and hybrid variants are available in the North American Highlander, there is no word yet whether Australia will take these. The current Kluger is exclusively V6 petrol. No diesel is available.

Despite the lack of an oil-burner, the Kluger is one of Australia’s top-selling large SUVs, outsold only by its Toyota stablemate, the Prado.

So far this year, Toyota has sold 1720 Klugers – down 9.5 per cent on the 1900 sold in the first two months of last year – compared with 2389 Prados (up 23.9 per cent).

Toyota Australia executive director sales and marketing Tony Cramb said Kluger had record annual sales of almost to 14,000 units in 2015.

“Its combination of performance, space, safety and efficiency has made it an Australian family favourite, and these upgrades to the current third-generation version will help further cement that position,” he said.

The new Kluger was revealed in photos released in the US over the weekend, showing a bold new face with new nose dominated by a larger lower air opening with horizontal bars in either black, chrome or silver, depending on the specification level.

This helps to bring give the somewhat staid Kluger some zing while at the same time bringing it into line with other new generation Toyotas such as the facelifted Camry.

The sheetmetal all appears to be carried over from the current model launched in Australia in March 2014, but new alloy wheels are evident, along with redesigned tail-lights and fresh exterior colours.

A revised interior includes four extra USB ports, for a total of five.

In North America, the range gets a new sporty variant, the SE, with 19-inch wheels and black trim.

American buyers also can opt for ‘captain’s chairs’ second row seats instead of the three-person bench that currently comes to Australia. An eight-seat version is also now available, over there at least.

A major safety upgrade includes forward collision warning, autonomous braking, lane departure alert, automatic high beam headlights, pedestrian pre-collision system and adaptive cruise control.

High-end variants get blind-spot warning and an all-round camera system for parking.

We are betting that some if not all of these safety features will included on the Australian range, on some variants at least.

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