2018 Toyota Kluger Grande Review
Isaac Bober’s 2018 Toyota Kluger Grande review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
In a nutshell: The refreshed Toyota Kluger gets tweaked styling, inside and out, a more powerful engine, enhanced features and a slight price rise across the range.
2018 Toyota Kluger Grande
Pricing $65,935+ORC – AWD adds $4000 Warranty three –years 100,000km Safety five-star ANCAP Engine 3.5-litre V6 Power 217kW at 6600rpm Torque 350Nm at 4700rpm Transmission eight speed automatic Drive all-wheel drive (on-demand) Dimensions 4890mm (L); 1925mm (W); 1730mm (H) Weight 2100kg Spare full-size alloy Fuel Tank 72 litres Thirst 9.5L/100km (combined)
THE REFRESHED 2018 Toyota Kluger arrived in Australia in February this year with very little fuss and no national media launch. But that wasn’t because Toyota didn’t think it had anything to crow about…
The refreshed Kluger boasts a sharper exterior look (new look front and rear and new alloy wheel designs), tweaks to the interior, a tweaked engine that offers more power, enhanced features and slight price rises across the board.
What’s the interior like?
The refreshed Kluger boasts the same focus on roominess as its predecessor, but has updated the interior, particularly the dashboard, no end. Toyota has tried to move its hard, scratchy plastics as far away from regular touch points as possible and, particularly in our top-spec Grande model tried to lavish it with soft-touch materials.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t tried hard enough and while the cabin looks and feels much nicer than the old Kluger, much of the regular touch points, like volume control knobs and climate control dials, feel very cheap. More than that, the painted finishes that Toyota has used in some areas, show grubby marks and dust very easily.
For instance, the test car I drove only had around 2000km on it when I collected it and had been professionally detailed, but there were still crumbs stuck in hard to reach joins on the dash. The Kluger’s not alone in this, other Toyota’s I’ve driven, like Camry, seem to attract bits of grit in the plastic joins. And so, despite it being a brand-new car, the interior of the Kluger I drove was already starting to look a little tired; something to bear in mind.
The wood-grain-esque touches on the dash and the steering wheel don’t add an air of luxury; they just make what is a fairly modern looking dashboard design, look a little dated. But I did like the blue ambient lighting (and so did my kids) around the dashboard and doors.
The infotainment unit offers decent features but it all feels a little clunky and the touch-sensitive shortcut buttons aren’t the easiest to use. There’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto connectivity and so you have to make do with Toyota’s native offering which, when streaming music can require quite a few button presses to get to where you want to be. To be honest, the system feels a generation behind key competitors.
Climb up behind the wheel and the Kluger feels comfortable and big. The driver and front passenger seats are squidgy but they lack support when the road turns twisty, but a couple of longer runs in it revealed long distance drives won’t be a problem for driver and passenger comfort. I can report there were no aches or tiredness in the legs.
Over in the back there’s plenty of room and the flat floor makes it easy for kids to clamber from one side to the other, which is handy when trying to get them into and out of the car onto the footpath when parked on a busy road. At the back of the centre console is a charge point (12V), air vents are up in the roof on both sides of the car. There’s tri-zone climate control, meaning backseat passengers can control the temperature themselves via controls on the back of the centre console.
The second-row seats fold down easily for access into the back row (they are 60:40 split only). Although sitting in the back is for smaller teens rather than adults. While the back seats tumble forwards easily, you’ve still got to clamber through a small-ish gap, although it’s easier than climbing into the back of a Ford Everest. The third-row spreads across the back of the car, and while it looks like it offers seating for three, it’s only a two-seater, making for seven seats all up.
There’s still a reasonable amount of bootspace with the third row up, becoming cavernous with the third row folded flat.
What’s it like on the road?
Under the bonnet of the refreshed Kluger is the same 3.5-litre V6 as before, only now it has direct injection which has liberated an additional 17kW and 13Nm of torque for a total output of 218kW and 350Nm. This tweaked engine is mated to a new eight-speed automatic transmission, which replaces the old car’s six-speed unit.
Despite more grunt, Toyota claims the new Kluger uses less fuel with AWD variants drinking 9.5L/100km (combined) and 2WD variants down to 9.3L/100km (combined). In our week of driving around, we averaged 10.1L/100km, which isn’t too bad for two tonnes of metal.
The engine offers a decent amount of oomph but because the transmission is tuned to run straight to top gear whenever possible, pick-up can feel a little lethargic with some hesitation between throttle application and down shifting. But away from urgent-need-for-speed situations, the Kluger is a relaxed and easy cruiser. Even up and down the Blue Mountains with the family on-board proved its got more than enough grunt to keep up with traffic and flatten hills.
The transmission isn’t the best eight-speeder I’ve ever used and can feel more like a six-speed automatic at times, rather than a smooth eight speeder. But that’s partly because it’s constantly trying to get into top gear to maintain ‘low’ fuel consumption.
The steering lacks weight both on-centre and throughout its action; indeed, there’s a little bit of play in the steering when driving down gun-barrel straight highways. And the turning circle is pretty big. One test I use is whether I can turn around in my street without having to reverse; I could in the Kluger. Just. With the tyres touching on both sides of the road as swung around.
Across highways and around town the Kluger feels fine, but as the road surface breaks down or the road gets twistier then the soft-riding Kluger’s ride begins to bite. At around town speeds and in a straight line, the soft ride makes short work of pot holes, smothering them. But a lack of damping becomes evident across speed humps, where the ride becomes boat like. And, tipping the Kluger into corners sees it roll and become wallowy.
Sure, it’s a hefty SUV with seven seats and so a softer ride is probably preferential, but if you’re looking for something a little sharper then I’d suggest waiting for the Skoda Kodiaq which will be here in May.
Our test car was a Grande with all-wheel drive but this is a part-time system that sees the front-wheels only being driven when cruising and around 10% of torque sent to the rear wheels as the steering wheel is turned. If the system detects things are getting really slippery then it’ll send a maximum of 50% to the rear axle.
In our week there was plenty of rain around and so I managed to get the all-wheel drive system to work; it’s a clumsy system that doesn’t work as well as that in VW’s Alltrack models and isn’t on-par with Subaru’s permanent all-wheel drive. Still, for most drivers, it’ll likely keep them from ending up in the trees.
That said, if you do want to take the Kluger ‘off-road’ then be warned its traction and stability control systems don’t work very well when one or another wheel becomes light, say, when you’re driving across a ditch on an angle. Because stability and traction control (two separate things) are on at the same time, meaning you can’t turn off stability control and leave traction control on, they end up, more or less, fighting against each other.
What about safety features?
The refreshed Toyota Kluger continues the old car’s five-star ANCAP rating, the test was based on the 2014 model and applies to all vehicles built and sold from November 2016. It scored 35.57 out of 37.
Standard Kluger safety features include seven airbags, reversing camera, reverse-parking sensors, anti-skid brakes with brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution, stability and traction control, and hill-start assist control. Additional premium Grande features include active cruise control, blind spot monitor, and auto high beam.
Why would you buy one?
Because you need seven seats and have owned Toyota’s for years… The Kluger isn’t cheap, especially in top-spec Grande grade and will cop significant pressure when the seven-seat Skoda Kodiaq arrives in May. That said, if you’re looking for a big and roomy, seven-seat SUV then the Kluger is well worth considering.