UPGRADED TOYOTA KLUGER: MORE POWER, LESS FUEL

2017 Toyota Kluger (overseas model shown)Toyota Australia has something for just about everyone in the SUV / 4WD field. The Kluger is aimed very much at the SUV lover who wants to transport the family in more comfort than the heavy duty LandCruiser 100 and the almost heavy-duty Prado. Kluger sits midway between Prado and RAV4 and has been popular during its 14 years downunder to date.

Now Kluger has been updated, with a facelift, new technology and increased in-cabin comfort.

By far the biggest news in the latest Kluger is that the long-running petrol V6 3.5-litre now has the added efficiency of direct-injection. This results in an increase in power of almost 8.5 per cent, to 218 kW, while torque rises to 350 Nm at 4700. The later is rather high in the rev range, but we are assured there’s plenty of grunt before then. We will get hold of a road test Kluger soon and report on our findings.

Even better is that the engine is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission so that it can be operating in the beefy part of the torque output virtually all the time.

2017 Toyota Kluger (overseas model shown)

The result of the revised engine and new transmission is that fuel consumption and emissions are down by at least 10 per cent when measured on the official cycle.

Kluger is offered in two-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive (AWD) configurations.

Though Toyota sees it as having, “a more elegant presence,” it still looks all Kluger to us. None of this sleek, stylish nonsense of the German SUVs.

Kluger GX and GXL have a new grille design with a silver-painted finish. The topline Grande gets a painted chrome finish.

Tail-lights have a sort-of sleeker look, more importantly they have standard LEDs for faster light-up. The Kluger Grande’s rear bumper gets a chrome garnish to tie in with the shiny front grille.

A new design of alloy wheels are 18-inch with five double spokes on Kluger GX, 18-inch with seven outer and seven turbine-style inner spokes on GXL, and 19-inch with 12-outer and 12 black inner spokes on Grande. Note that the spare wheels are identical to the ones on the vehicle – no el-cheapo spares here.

New body colours include silver, brown and an additional red hue. Can’t say we’ve seen a lot of the superseded models in exciting colours – various shades of grey seem to dominate – but it would be nice to see browns and red brightening our roads…

Inside, Toyota has specified upmarket materials, soft-touch surfaces and brighter accents. The GX and GXL. Grande have silver woodgrain-look garnishes. Blue LED ambient lighting around the dash and doors sounds like good fun.

Toyota Kluger GXL is the mid-spec model and likely to be the biggest seller. It now has an 8-inch screen, satellite navigation, digital radio DAB+.

Top-of-the range Kluger Grande has added safety features, now using rear-cross-traffic alert – very handy in a big, bulky SUV. It already had lane departure alert, but that’s further improved in the new model, with steering control and sway warning. It also receives front parking sensors.

Grande has a panoramic view monitor that uses four cameras – front, rear and in the side mirrors. Excellent not only for on road use and parking, but also extremely handy in tight off-road driving.

Kluger AWD variants use a Dynamic Torque Control (DTC) system to maximise traction, cornering stability and driver control while also saving fuel. The system uses information on vehicle speed, yaw rate and steering and throttle angles to control torque distribution automatically between the front and rear axles.

It saves fuel by driving only the front wheels when the vehicle is cruising, switching to AWD when needed via an electromagnetically controlled coupling in the rear differential housing. Pre-torque control can direct 10 per cent of the available torque to the rear wheels as soon as the driver starts to turn the steering wheel.

Yaw-rate feedback control can direct a different amount of torque to the rear wheels every six milliseconds, ensuring an ideal torque split – up to a maximum of 50 per cent.

All Kluger models are fitted with seven airbags, reversing camera, reverse-parking sensors, ABS brakes with brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution, stability and traction control, and hill-start assist control.

Grande includes a suite of advanced safety features including a pre-collision safety system with autonomous emergency braking, active cruise control, lane departure alert, blind spot monitor and auto high beam.

Toyota Australia’s sales and marketing chief Tony Cramb says, “The latest updates to Kluger are focused on areas that owners will appreciate – enhanced driveability, quicker overtaking, substantially improved economy and the added convenience of new features.”

Given Kluger’s long-term sales success it’s hard to disagree.

We opened this news piece on the Kluger by saying Toyota Australia has something for everyone in the SUV / 4WD field. That’s not quite right, there’s no baby SUV crossover at this time. But one is very close, so standby for the introduction of the Toyota C-HR which is due late February. We’ve been invited to the media launch and will report back from the driver’s seat asap.

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