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Driven: Short supply to constrain new Toyota Kluger

New addition: Toyota will battle restricted Kluger supply from the US - initially.

Hot demand from US source to take a chunk out of Toyota Australia’s Kluger supply


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12 Mar 2014

TOYOTA says supply restrictions due to stronger-than-anticipated demand from North America will likely keep the re-designed Kluger launched locally this week from the top of Australia’s large SUV sales charts.

Ford’s locally-made Territory, Holden’s Captiva 7 and the hard-charging Jeep Grand Cherokee all eclipsed the old Kluger’s 12,668 sales last year. This week, Toyota said that supply of the new one would likely see its sales only tread water – for now.

“We will be supply restrained in the early months as the plant ramps up in support of right-hand drive production,” said Toyota Australia executive director of sales and marketing Tony Cramb.

“In terms of volume we expect it to be the same as last year.”

Demand for the Highlander (nee Kluger) in the United States is so far running at some 25 per cent above expectations, according to Toyota, while the Indiana plant that is the sole global source for the 50-series Kluger is still in a slow start-up phase for right-hand drive production.

A company spokesman said that Toyota wants to ensure the best possible quality from both the suppliers and the factory.

Just two months ago, GoAuto reported from the global Highlander drive event in California that the Princeton facility was more than capable of supplying Australia and New Zealand at least 1500 Kluger units per month.

Despite the supply hiccup, Mr Cramb is confident the new model will be in with a strong chance at the number one spot once vehicles are more freely available.

He is also keen to see the latest Kluger continue the previous model’s blooming private-market share, which has expanded from 38.8 per cent in 2007 to 56.5 per cent last year.

Besides bringing in a richer and therefore more profitable model mix, the result has also seen a younger-than-average age demographic for the brand – a desirable outcome as that can often lead to a lifelong affiliation with that customer.

“Over the years the Kluger has been a strong performer in the private market,” Mr Cramb said. “Last year was the best result in the private market ever for Kluger, rising to 56.5 per cent of total sales.

“That is very important for the type of buyer it brings into Toyota dealerships. More than half of Kluger buyers are aged under 45-years old – and that is the low end for this segment.

“Over the life of the second-generation model the two upper grades accounted for almost one-in-two sales with the new Kluger we will continue that success with the mid to high grades.”

To help snare diesel buyers who might otherwise overlook the petrol-only powered Kluger, Mr Cramb said that it is being launched with a campaign showing the Prado and RAV4 as part of the company’s wider portfolio of SUVs.

“I don’t see the lack of diesel availability as a major problem for two reasons,” he said.

“If somebody wants a Toyota diesel they can buy either a Prado or a RAV4 on either side of the Kluger.

“And given the value for money and improvements in fuel economy, that diesel premium may take many years to pay back if that’s the reason why they want to buy a diesel. So either way I think we’re going to be fine.”

The value comment comes in the wake of the new base Kluger GX’s $40,990 plus on-road pricing, which is $2200 cheaper than the previous seven-seater KX-R equivalent While that is also $500 more than the old entry-level five-seater Kluger, Mr Cramb said that over 80 per cent of sales were for the three-row version.

Furthermore, the newcomer scores more than $2000 of added features including rear parking sensors, larger alloy wheels and an extra gear ratio for the standard automatic transmission.

Additionally, opting for the all-wheel drive version is now $500 cheaper than before at $4000, which should help the latter edge the front-drive Kluger as the more popular variant.

Measuring in at 40mm longer at either end, the third-generation SUV features a more cab-forward design with a greater windscreen angle, smaller glass area and wider track.

Built on a monocoque platform shared with the latest Camry and US-only Avalon sedan, overall length increases by 80mm to 4865mm and width grows by 150mm to 1925mm, but height and wheelbase remain about the same at 1730mm and 2790mm respectively.

The 2GR-FE 3456cc 3.5-litre V6 is also largely carryover, delivering 201kW of power at 6200rpm and 337Nm of torque at 4700rpm.

In both the front-wheel drive and AWD models an Aisin-supplied six-speed automatic transmission replaces the old five-speeder, helping fuel consumption improve by around eight per cent to 10.2 litres per 100km in the former and 10.6L/km in the latter configuration.

Only a Euro-IV emissions rater, carbon dioxide pollution levels vary between an average of 237 grams per kilometre and 246g/km.

Conversely, the 1935kg to 2065kg crossover requires between 8.3 and 8.7 seconds to hit 100km/h from standstill, on the way to an 180km/h V-max.

Toyota makes a big deal about the two years its Melbourne-based Technical Centre tuned the suspension (MacPherson struts up front and a new double wishbone arrangement in the rear, replacing the old trailing arms set-up) and electric rack and pinion steering for improved handling, ride and gravel-road stability characteristics.

The steering ratio has been quickened – down to 14.8:1 from 17.1.

About 30 per cent more sound deadening has been fitted to help quieten down the vehicle, while there has been an uplift in body and chassis strength and rigidity to further help with dynamic and refinement qualities.

Along with the longer rear overhangs and re-designed one-move sliding second-row seat mechanism that brings a larger aperture for easier entry and egress, the more compact rear suspension helps liberate extra third-row space, while boosting luggage capacity by 50 per cent when all seven seats are erect.

The volumes vary from 195 litres to 529L in five-seat wagon mode, to a lie-flat 1171L capacity in two-seater ‘panel van’ configuration.

Finally, Toyota says the latest Kluger benefits from higher quality materials inside, as well as smarter design touches brought on by innovative storage spaces such as an open tray underneath the dashboard and a large roll-top centre console with 24.5-litre tambour opening.

The dynamic torque control, as part of the part-time AWD system, sends between 10 and 50 per cent of drive rearwards as traction requirements dictate, while an AWD-Lock facility is available up to 40km/h.

Finally, towing capacity is rated at 2000kg (braked).

Rear parking sensors and a reverse camera are all standard, as part of a long list of safety gear that includes vehicle stability control, a hill-descent control on AWD cars, and seven airbags.

The flagship Grande also gains lane-change assist, auto high beam, autonomous low-speed brakes, a blind-spot monitor, heated and leather front seats, an eight-inch screen, DAB+ digital radio, GPS with Suna traffic alert, second-row sunshades and a radar-guided cruise control system – amounting to a $7000 equipment upgrade for a $3500 premium over the previous variant equivalent.

Other new-to-Kluger features include Bluetooth telephony and audio streaming with voice recognition, Optitron instruments, Toyota Link Apps and a Multi-Info display.

2014 Toyota Kluger pricing*
GX 2WD (a)$40,990
GX 4WD (a)$44,990
GXL 2WD (a)$49,990
GXL 4WD (a)$53,990
Grande 2WD (a)$63,990
Grande 4WD (a)$67,990
*Excludes on-road costs.

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