Toyota’s Wonderful Family SUV

The Japanese brand’s large family SUV has a lot going for it, but there was one aspect that left our testers blown away.

Toyota’s Kluger has been a staple in Australian school car parks for two decades.

It’s easy to see the appeal: seven seats, a comfortable and spacious cabin and a trusty V6 gas engine.

But Kluger’s V6 likes to drink. The new model addresses that with a four-cylinder hybrid to significantly reduce fuel bills. Our family tested the top-of-the-line Hybrid Grande.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Ian: Behold, a hybrid Toyota. In today’s climate, more in demand than diamonds, gold and free cocktails.

Jul: Covid and global microchip shortages have something to answer for.

Ian: In effect. Our local Toyota dealer told me that while the RAV4 Hybrids remain heavily oversubscribed, they have a stock of these Kluger Grande Hybrids arriving in just two months.

Jul: Maybe it’s because they cost around $82,300 on the road?

Ian: Most likely. This Grande is well-equipped but costs $12,000 more than a mid-range GXL Hybrid and $20,000 more than the GX Hybrid.

Jul: Appearance-wise, it’s attractive, especially the rear. It’s just a bit simple.

Ian: A safe and pragmatic design by Toyota. It lacks the wow factor of some rivals.

Jul: Maybe all the pizzazz was left for the cabin.

THE LIVING SPACE

Ian: Uh, apparently not.

Jul: What? I think this is good. Quilted leather seats, a sunroof and soft-touch materials throughout. And it’s huge inside.

Ian: But for $82,000 a car, I want to be bathed in luxury and technology. I would expect a digital driver display, larger center screen and wireless phone charging.

Jul: I get it, but some Toyota buyers just want simplicity and familiarity with nothing superfluous.

Ian: Well, they’ll be in the clover.

Jul: You can’t argue with five USB ports, ambient lighting, ventilated and heated power seats, pumping JBL sound and tri-zone climate control.

Ian: I like the layout. There are clever storage shelves for phones and acres of space. Legroom is cavernous in the middle seats and if you slide them forward adults can just about squeeze into the third row.

Jul: The brochure shows that beige and black interiors cost the same. The lightest for me please.

THE PATH

Ian: For a big chunk of SUV, the mix of comfortable ride and reasonable cornering ability impresses. Well done Toyota.

Jul: It doesn’t wobble like a big ute-based SUV, and it doesn’t feel bulky around town. It’s really easy to drive.

Ian: My city commute in a normal 3.5-liter Kluger V6 would make me sweat on the fuel gauge. The Hybrid returned an extremely impressive 6.2 L/100 km in the city. That’s probably half of what the V6 would consume in traffic.

Jul: This is exceptional for such a big car. And I really like not having to worry about plugging it in. The hybrid bit just works in the background.

Ian: Toyota has been doing hybrids for so long that it’s the absolute master. The battery recharges effortlessly when braking and coasting, and the electric motor assists the petrol engine when driving.

RACES

Jul: There are front and rear sensors, plus a 360-degree camera to make parking easier, but the screen isn’t as clear as some.

Ian: The entire infotainment system is in dire need of an upgrade. The hands-free tailgate is a shopping win, but it constantly beeps every time it opens or closes.

SUNDAY RACE

Jul: I would be happy on a long road trip. It’s a polished cruiser and I love how seamlessly it switches between gas and electric. No obvious interruptions.

Ian: It’s wonderfully quiet inside until you ask to be pushed. As expected, the 184kW/242Nm four-cylinder hybrid lacks the guts of the 218kW/350Nm V6, especially on hills.

Jul: It gets loud and has to work hard when you put it down. Who cares, though, when the economy gain over the V6 is so good?

Ian: Those who want to tow may growl. The Kluger Hybrid is rated for 2000kg, but I would prefer the V6 if it tows regularly. The assured handling of the four-wheel drive and the little body roll show how well it was designed.

Jul: Radar cruise control is excellent, and it intelligently slows down slightly if you turn a corner.

Ian: The head-up display is also superb, clearly showing vitals such as current speed and speed limit.

FAMILY

Jul: Lane departure warning beeps incessantly, but rear cross-traffic alert, blind spot monitor and intersection turn assist are great safety additions.

Ian: And present on all Klugers, not just our expensive top of the range.

Jul: Couldn’t fault the space for the kids either. They could move their seats back and recline them, which is ideal as they age and grow.

Ian: Both rear seats recline a bit, but you need the middle row to slide forward to give acceptable legroom. It’s claustrophobic, but tolerable for a six-footer.

Jul: Our Kluger is expensive to buy, but five servings are a bargain at $1250.

Ian: You won’t be refueling often, but it takes more expensive unleaded 95 when you do.

THE VERDICT

Jul: Not sexy inside or out, but so wonderful to live with. Incredibly spacious and easy to drive, safe and very economical. A smart choice of seven seats.

Ian: Ok, but I would get the much cheaper GX or GXL grade. I was blown away by the fuel consumption.

TOYOTA KLUGER GRANDE HYBRID AWD

THE PRICE About $82,300 by car

WARRANTY/SERVICE 5 years/unlimited km, $1250 for 5 years

ENGINE 2.5-litre 4-cylinder hybrid, 184 kW and 242 Nm

SECURITY Seven airbags, automatic emergency braking, turn assist, radar cruise control, lane keeping and blind spot assist, rear cross traffic alert

THE THIRST 5.6L/100km

SPARE PART Full size

#Toyotas #Wonderful #Family #SUV

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