Toyota has dominated 4WD and SUV markets in Australia for many decades. In October 2003 it introduced yet another vehicle to its range, the Toyota Kluger. It sits neatly in the gap between the smallish RAV4 and the relatively serious chassis-mounted Prado.
Kluger is based on a car platform, similar to that of the Camry at the time. It was toughened up to let it take part in mild to medium off-road driving. Initially it was driven by all four wheels, but a 2WD (the front wheels) was added to the range in 2007. By that time it was becoming increasingly obvious that very few Australians were buying SUVs, rather they wanted station wagons with tough looks.
The higher the grade you paid for the more off-road was the ability, partly through fancier differentials, also by electronic traction aids. Not surprisingly, low range was never part of the package.
Kluger is capable of carrying seven people in most models, though it’s best that two of them are child-size in the earliest model. Some lower grade models only had seating for five. The second generation Kluger, that arrived here in January 2007, and was larger inside.
Toyota introduced a facelifted and update Kluger in January 2010. This ran through until February 2014 when an interesting new model arrived. The USA had been by far the biggest market since day one. So the decision was made that the third generation Kluger would me made in that country.
Significantly larger than the previous models, the 2014 series is sold only with seven seats. It has good space in all of them, though the rear, not surprisingly, is still better suited to the younger travellers. Cargo space is also quite a bit larger due to the longer tail.
This US was facelifted and got mechanical improvements just two years later, but we’ve yet to see one on the used-car scene.
All Klugers are powered by V6 petrol engines, there’s no diesel option as it was always chiefly intended for the market in the US and the folks across the Pacific aren’t keen on diesels in passenger vehicles. The engine began with a capacity of 3.3 litres, which was enlarged to 3.5 with the gen-two Kluger in 2007. This unit is closely related to the one in the Toyota Aurion and in Kluger was improved in performance with each new model.
All Klugers have automatic transmission, again due to the American influence. These had five forward ratios until 2014 and six from then.
Toyota has been number on seller in Australia for more years than Holden and Ford care to remember. As such the Japanese marque is well and truly established downunder, with representation not only in the metro areas but across this vast brown land.
Spares for the Kluger may not be held at dealerships in the remote areas in the way that LandCruiser parts are, but can generally be shipped pretty well anywhere within a few business days.
Though Klugers are big vehicles with plenty of underbonnet and under-vehicle space they are relatively complex so amateur mechanics should best limit themselves to minor servicing and repairs. A workshop manual is always recommended for all but the simplest work.
As a sensible vehicle aimed at family drivers the Toyota Kluger generally sits at the lower end of its class in insurance rates. We haven’t seen major differences in premiums but it’s always smart to shop around. However, keep in mind that a long record with an insurance company may stand you in good stead if there’s a marginal claim at any time.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
More Klugers are used off road than its competitors in this light-to-medium duty class. Check underneath for signs of damage to the the bumper lower corners, scratches on the doors and guards.
While you’re under there look for sand. If you find any, taste it for salt as it may have been charged through the edges of surf – just for fun.
Check the engine starts easily, idles well and it doesn’t hesitate when accelerated hard, even when cold.
Listen for any untoward noises from the differentials, driveshafts and wheel hubs.
During the test drive find some decent sized bumps and potholes (a rough sealed road will suffice, but a bush track is better) and thump the Kluger over them. Feel and listen for body movement as it hits them. Some is normal, too much is a bad sign.
Look over the interior, particularly the back seat as kids can do horrible things to cars.
Expect to spend from $4000 to $7000 for a 2004 Toyota Kluger CV; $7000 to $11,000 for a 2005 Grande; $10,000 to $15,000 for a 2008 KX-S; $14,000 to $20,000 for a 2009 Grande; $20,000 to $28,000 for a 2011 Grande; $23,000 to $32,000 for a 2013 Altitude; $27,000 to $36,000 for a 2013 Grande; $35,000 to $47,000 for a 2016 GXL; $41,000 to $53,000 for a 2015 Grande; and $44,000 to $57,000 for a 2016 Grande.
CAR BUYING TIP
Not many SUVs ever go off road, if you do come across one it’s possibly best to give it a miss. Unless the price is right…