Car Reviews

2015 Toyota Kluger Grande car review

Robert Pepper’s 2015 Toyota Kluger Grande car review on- and off-road with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety, verdict and rating.

In a nutshell: The Toyota KLuger sells well on the strength of the name as the solid, reliable choice, but can’t claim to be leading the market as an innovator.

2015 Toyota Kluger Grande

PRICE :  $67,990 (+ORC) WARRANTY : 3 years / 100,000 km SAFETY : 5 star (35.57 / 37, tested in 2015) ENGINE : 3.5L V6 POWER : 201kW at 6200 rpm TORQUE : 337Nm at 4700 rpm  0-100km/h :  7.1 seconds TRANSMISSION : 6 speed automatic DRIVE :  On-demand all-wheel drive 0-100: 8.7 seconds ANGLES : APPROACH 18.0, DEPARTURE 23.1 BODY :   4865 mm (L);  1925 mm (W),  1730 mm (H) TURNING CIRCLE :  11.8m WEIGHT :  2065 kg SEATS : 7 (2/3/2) TOWING : 2000kg braked, 700kg UNbraked FUEL TANK : 72 litres SPARE :  Full-size ALLOY (UNDERSLUNG) THIRST : 10.6 L/100km ADR81/02 combined cycle FUEL : 91 RON UNLEADED

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Editor's Rating

How we rated the Toyota Kluger Grande 90%
Practical Motoring Says: The Toyota Kluger is a large, comfortable, practical family wagon. Consider it if you don't mind the ordinary driving dynamics nor want to venture offroad. It does nothing badly, but nothing exceptionally well.
90

On the outside

It’s a Kluger, the ultimate anonymous SUV that took over from the Territory after Ford stopped bothering.  The styling is exactly what it should be – inoffensive, modern and blends right in to the McMansion. Behold:
 
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Toyota’s claim for the Kluger is the “ultimate family SUV”. Interestingly, there’s nothing about sportiness or off-road ability. And maybe that’s a good thing.
 
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Our test car, in case you missed the title, is the all-wheel drive top-spec Toyota Kluger Grande.

Room & Practicality

The good news starts at the front. Right under the heating controls is a long, brown ledge stretching right across to the left side vent where you can store all manner of things like phones and keys. There’s a divider too, so the items don’t slide around too much. Not that the Kluger encourages enthusiastic driving.
 
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There is a centre console big enough to stuff a feral ginger tomcat into (estimated, actual cat not stuffed). It’s huge. Mrs P said if it was a touch bigger her handbag could fit inside.
 
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The drink holders are massive too, and well positioned out of the way of elbows and the like knocking against them when reaching for the gear shifter. Big glovebox too. Also at the front is a handy storage compartment on the right under the steering wheel. There’s also the usual door sidepockets.
 

Moving into the second row we have lots and lots of space.
 
 
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There’s a 40/60 split, and the seats can move forwards and backwards a bit too. You can also see the easy-to-use levers to operate the seats, and the built-in, tough and practical rubber floor mats. And two seat pockets for stashing magazines, books or tablet, they’re nice and strong too.
 
Visible below is the centre table/armrest/battle divider, and the heating/cooling controls for the second row.  That is kid-friendly. There’s a 12v socket hidden down the bottom of the centre console, so instantly Kid 1 rated the car highly.
 
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Now we get to the bad news, or rather the missed opportunity. Toyota claims this to be the ultimate family SUV, but:
 
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That’s only a 40/60 split, not a three-way split like you find in XC90, Discovery and the R51 Pathfinder.  Nothing wrong with it, but “ultimate” it is not. Also, the seats don’t fold completely flat, so average marks there. However, the ease of operation is above average, big levers and well marked out.
 
This is how you get into the third row:
 
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It looks like an 8-seater, but it’s not, just seven. Bonus points for drinks holders on both sides, and lots of space, especially remembering the second row can slide forwards a bit. Having spent time in the third row I’d say it’s not market leading, but it is above average.
 

And that’s what it looks like with the third row down and the second partially up.
 
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There’s a good amount of room, but a bit lacking for tie-downs, and the third row doesn’t quite fold flat or latch down. Disappointing.
 
Finally, we conclude Tour of Kluger with the third row up where we find useful amounts of space behind the seats. The base also lifts up to reveal even more storage.
 
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There are even more interior photos in the gallery at the end of this review.
 
Summary – a good, useful, practical interior that should do fine for most purposes even if it is not the ultra-configurable design of the market leaders.

On the inside

There’s a digital clock up front and centre. Excellent. A small but important touch… all cars should have one so everybody can see how late they’re running. Only one 12v socket and USB port, but you can run a cable up to the storage compartment below the climate controls. There’s another 12v in the centre console.
 
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The dash is modern, easy to use, well laid out and displays useful information. More pictures in the gallery at the end. You can even choose the colour of the infotainment unit fonts, so I selected brown.  Seemed to be appropriate.
 
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Here’s the infotainment unit, which has a huge screen. Does all the basics, including the all important fuel economy, but nothing special.
 
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Here it is displaying navigation. I prefer using Google Maps, which I find superior to just about every in-car system, but this one isn’t too bad. Didn’t swear at it.
 
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A handy feature is the way it shows the driver the next street on the dash.  This is a good little reminder, and you get it even if someone has switched the main display onto another task. It’s not unique to Toyota, but it’s still good.
 
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How to make the second row quiet. Yes, it’s a drop-down screen so your Kluger becomes a cinema, but only on the Grande.

 
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However, it’s not a great idea. The screen blocks the rear mirrors for starters. And it uses something called “discs” which are circular objects you insert into a “player”, controlled by a “remote”. I thought in 2015 we were past all that, even if it does Blu-Ray discs and the headsets are wireless (powered by AAAs). Anyway, I’d suggest instead of a player like this you simply get two tablets, a mount to fix them to the rear headrests and a couple of headsets. Much more flexible, cheaper, portable and doesn’t block the rear view.
 
Speaking of rear views, here’s the usual back-seat monitor mirror:

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Performance, ride and handling

Around town: Kluger is not small, so slotting it into tiny spaces is not easy. The huge reversing camera display with moveable guidelines (see below for picture) helps though, and visibility is not bad. The engine is petrol-only, and while 200kW sounds like a lot it has nearly two tonnes to move, isn’t very torquey and does its best work rather high in the rev range so you don’t get any feeling of waftable power like you find in powerful diesels (cue: Toyota Fortuner). The engine note isn’t bad, not the raspiest V6 but better than nothing. Turning circle is a bit big, but workable.

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Fast rural roads:  The Kluger is a big, boofy, soft-riding SUV that weighs two tonnes and has a suspension tuned for comfort not handling.  Nimble it is not, and there are low-range 4WDs that handle more sharply.  It is front-drive biased and you can certainly feel it through the steering wheel under power, and while there’s enough grunt the gearbox isn’t smart enough to be in the right gear at the right time at speed, so you’d best off using manual mode. But the Kluger isn’t about sporty driving and Toyota make no claim it is. So, if that’s what you want, look elsewhere. It’s just a comfy cruiser (no pun intended!) and if you treat it as such it’s a great car.

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Dirt roads: No rally car, but the Kluger does pretty well as a cruiser on dirt roads. Start to push on or when you need to lay the power down over corrugations and things become untidy but never out of line. The suspension works well on dirt roads.

Off-road: If you want to drive any further than formed dirt roads buy a Prado, which is almost exactly the same size as the Kluger. 

The Kluger has limited clearance and angles, which is understandable given its intended function. Less forgiveable is the 4WD system. As we found with the NX200T, you can have traction control operating only with stability control, (difference explained here). The stability control system (VSC in Toyota terms) cuts in very early so the traction control can’t really operate. In practical terms when the car is like this…

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…it needs traction control to pull through, but VSC stops it working as it kills the throttle. You can turn VSC off, but then that turns traction control off too and then you really are going nowhere. As with the NX200T, this characteristic will not be ideal for slippery or loose surfaces like sand, mud or snow. This is a shame, as the car seems able to send torque more or less correctly to the rear wheels when required.

The Kluger has a basic hill descent control system (DAC, or Downhill Assist Control), single speed, fairly harsh and disengages when the brakes are applied. Would work ok on a slippery descent but not for high-traction, low-speed descents. 

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Towing: We didn’t tow with the Kluger but it is rated for 2000kg braked, which is around average for such a vehicle. Unsually, the unbraked capacity is 700kg not 750kg.

Quality

The kids fought inside the car. Nothing broke. We’ll call that a pass for quality then.

Pricing & Equipment

There are three grades of Kluger – GX, GXL and Grande.  Both come in 2WD and AWD to make six options.   Given the fact the AWD is rather ordinary I think the 2WD versions may be better value, as for any real AWD work you’d want a different vehicle entirely.  Here’s the prices, exclusive of on-road costs:

GRADE2WD PRICE
GX$40,990
GXL$49,990
GRANDE$63,990

Options:
AWD: $4000
Premium paint: $550 (Eclipse Black: no cost)

All Klugers have the 3.5L V6 motor, and the GX model has:

Reversing camera and reverse-parking sensors; Multi-information Display (MID); cruise control; steering-wheel controls for audio, phone and MID; electric power-assisted steering; Hill-start Assist Control; Downhill Assist Control (AWD models); alloy wheels including full-sized spare; auto headlamps on/off; cargo-area tonneau cover; six-speaker display audio with Toyota Link (apps); AUX and USB input; tilt and telescopic steering column adjustment; power-adjustable exterior mirrors; conversation mirror; power windows (with front-door auto up/down); and seat-belt reminders for first and second-row seats.

Kluger GXL grade adds:

• three-zone climate-control air conditioning; 
• Smart Entry and Smart Start (keyless entry);
• 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat including lumbar support;
• leather-accented seats; 
• driver and front-passenger seat heaters; 
• premium steering wheel and shift knob; and 
• roof rails.

As usual, that’s not a huge amount for an extra $9000, not even any active safety gear. Add another $14k for the Kluger Grande and you get:

• Active Cruise Control with steering-wheel switch;
• Pre-Crash System;
• Lane Departure Alert;
• Blind Spot Monitor;
• 19-inch alloy wheels in lieu of 18-inch; 
• projector LED headlamps with Auto High Beam;
• power-operated rear door with glass hatch;
• tilt and slide moonroof;
• all automatic up/down windows;
• heated exterior mirrors with memory function and puddle lamps;
• two-position memory for driver’s seat;
• driver and front-passenger ventilated seats;
• eight-inch display audio with navigation and DAB+ digital radio;
• colour 4.2-inch TFT Multi-information Display;
• nine-inch rear-seat entertainment system with Blu-ray player; 
• second-row seat retractable sunshades;
• ambient lighting on door trim and instrument panel;
• woodgrain look on instrument panel;
• electro-chromatic interior mirror; and
• back guide monitor for the reversing camera.

There’s some good stuff there, like active cruise control, blind-spot monitoring and the like which can’t be added aftermarket. But we’re now into serious money, another $23,000 on top of the base model. The cynic in me says Toyota deliberatly put all the safety goodies only into the Grande knowing it is a family car with a safety oriented buyer. Out of the range I reckon the GX is the best value.

Safety

The Kluger is of course a 5-star ANCAP car. It has a standard reversing camera with moveable guidelines, and reversing sensors.

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A big omission is ISOFIX child restraint points. There’s three conventional points for the rear seat though.

Overall the Kluger is pretty much up to the mark on safety basics, but only the Grande can claim the latest active tech like blind spot monitoring, pre collision warning and lane departure alert. Speaking of which, this road…

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…threw the lane departure system into a frenzy.  Had to be switched off in disgrace. The blind spot monitoring worked a lot better.

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Amazingly the Kluger does not have ISOFIX childseats, only three conventional tethers for the second row.   That’s a serious omission for a family-focused SUV these days.

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2015 Toyota Kluger Grande Gallery

Here are even more photos of the Kluger. 

 


Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper is a motoring journalist, offroad driver trainer and photographer interested in anything with wings, sails or wheels. He is the author of four books on offroading, and owns a modified Ford Ranger PX which he uses for offroad touring. His other car is a Toyota 86 which exists purely to drive in circles on racetracks, and that's when he isn't racing his Nissan Pulsar. Visit his website: www.l2sfbc.com or follow him on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/RobertPepperJourno/ or buy his new ebook!