It's new Kluger time and this one is out of the USA -- which is the only place they manufacture them these days. Now in its third generation, Kluger has won plenty of friends in Australia particularly among family buyers and the latest model should attract even attention more based on the new styling, specification, practicalities and drive feel.
Its new body utilises a revised platform from the current model and a carryover engine but there are numerous changes and upgrades to make this model better than ever. For starters, the all-wheel drive system gives way to a choice of front wheel drive only or on-demand all-wheel drive and all variants score a six speed sequential auto as standard.
Explore the 2014 Toyota Kluger range
This time around Kluger has a more imposing presence with sculpted side style lines, more pronounced wheel arches, a tapering rear end and bluff frontal treatment with trapezoidal grille and large headlights. The lower roofline with side rails contributes to an overall sportier look.
Selective use of high strength steel increases body rigidity, boosts safety and contributes to lower levels of noise, vibration and harshness inside the cabin. New Kluger is a seven seat wagon in 2-3-2 format. Load space at the rear is increased by 34 per cent compared with the outgoing model and interior room overall is more generous.
Inside has a premium look with multi fascia materials and a stitched look to the upholstery – like Camry (and Lexus). Touchpoints and the stylish dash are soft feel and chrome accents brighten the already appealing interior. A large roll top centre bin adds practicality while a large screen provides information for multiple functions including media connectivity.
Bluetooth phone and audio is standard as is a trip computer. There's extra standard equipment this time around and plenty of new technology to get excited about.
ENGINE / TRANSMISSION
We will likely get three models in front wheel drive and all-wheel drive all sharing the same 3.5-litre, 201kW/337Nm petrol V6 carried over from the current model, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.
The engine has dual variable valve timing to aid efficiency but misses out on direct fuel injection. The new auto makes up some of the efficiency leeway and despite carrying considerable more kit, new Kluger is the same weight as the current model. Fuel consumption seems about the same as before suggesting around 11.0 litres/100km on regular unleaded.
The all-wheel drive has a locking system for 50:50 torque split front to rear. They've tweaked the drive system on AWD Kluger with a torque vectoring system to make it more responsive but normal drive is to the front wheels.
This time around, Kluger, especially the top of the range model, gets some driver assistance features including blind spot monitor, lane keeping alert, radar cruise, active high beam, auto lights and wipers smart key with button start, heated front seats and plenty more.
It also has leather and premium audio along with dual climate control and other niceties. A one touch power tailgate is fitted to some models – with flip-up glass. All new Klugers have a reverse camera, LED driving lights, and either 18-inch or 19-inch alloys with a full size alloy spare.
All good on this front and a big improvement on the previous model. The six speed auto is smoother and harnesses available power and torque better than the previous five speeder. The ride and handling on the US spec cars we drove was impressive – supple, resilient and controlled over most surfaces. The vehicle's weight tells in tight cornering.
Engine performance remains a strong point as is low level of interior noise. The ride and handling package, calibrated for local conditions, is improved with a strut front and double wishbone rear suspension as well as revision to the electric power steering system. The reinforced monocoque chassis contributes to improved dynamics on and off road.
It's smoother and 30 per cent quieter than before due to hydraulic engine mounts, a new exhaust system and carefully applied sound deadening. It's big and comfy and makes an excellent long distance cruising machine that can also go moderately off road with confidence.
Like the looks, the spec, the drive feel of the new Kluger. It will be about the same price as the current model and in the same model range. A worthy family wagon.