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Richard Berry road tests and reviews the new Mazda CX-9 Azami with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
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Tim Robson heads for the hills in an upgraded version of Toyota's family-focused, seven seat Kluger SUV at its international preview in California. His road test and review includes specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
Three years after the introduction of the third generation Toyota Kluger, the large SUV has been given a mid-life refresh intended to give the Camry-based high-riding wagon more performance and better economy.
The Kluger’s sales performance, while still strong in a huge, varied category that includes the Subaru Outback, Holden Captiva, and Hyundai Santa Fe, has slipped a little in the last year against its rivals. That includes a couple from the same stable in the shape of the Prado and Fortuner, but this set of changes, though relatively minor, should convert a few more buyers in 2017.
Toyota has resisted the urge to radically overhaul the Kluger’s handsome, underplayed visage. Not everyone wants a family car that is all swoops, creases and bulging guards, after all.
The front end is the biggest beneficiary of change, with a new grille, lower bumper and redone headlight design.
The headlights also contain a row of LED globes that act as integrated daytime running lamps.
At the rear, the Kluger’s taillights will be replaced with units containing LED tubes, while the taillights themselves have been updated to include an emergency illumination function when the brake pedal is stamped hard enough.
The only other styling changes to the Kluger for 2017 will come in the form of new-design 18-inch alloy wheels for the entry level GX and mid-grade GXL, while the top shelf Grande scores new 19-inch rims.
Pricing for the three-grade range is yet to drop ahead of a late February arrival; car companies squabble with their suppliers over pricing of new cars until literally the day the vehicle is launched in many cases, and the Kluger is no different.
However, we do know that there will be some improvements – and price rises – across the board.
At the entry level, the GX receives a new engine and transmission combination (see below), as well as the new 18-inch alloys and body updates.
Its relative simplicity underplays a solid set of practical features that has endeared it to a lot of Aussie families.
The mid-grade GXL also gains a few important upgrades to bring it in line with competitors like the Mazda CX-9, including a power-operated tailgate with an opening glass hatch, DAB+ radio, satellite navigation and an updated 8.0-inch multimedia screen.
The top-spec Grande, meanwhile, scores additions to its safety suite, including panoramic camera view, rear cross traffic alert, front parking sensors and improved lane departure control with sway warning. It also gets new 19-inch rims.
Incidentally, the Grande is the only Kluger to offer auto emergency braking as standard. It’s not available on either of the lower grades, but Toyota Australia says it’s trying its hardest to add it to the other cars.
The Kluger is one of the larger seven-seaters in a broad category, and its relative simplicity underplays a solid set of practical features that has endeared it to a lot of Aussie families over the years.
The third row of seats folds flat into the floor to maximize cargo space, for example, and there are air vents and bottle holders for the most rearward of the passengers.
The second row also gets venting, along with lots of leg and headroom.
Up front, a simply massive centre console bin will hide small computer bags and purses from prying eyes, and there are plenty of cubby holes to stash stuff.
There are eight cupholders all up, along with four bottle holders. There are ISOFIX baby seat mounts on the outside pews of the centre row seat, which folds almost flat to reveal a cavernous cargo space.
There’s also a full size spare included across the range.
Although the update has netted some extra electronics across the range, there’s still no digital speedo amongst the plethora of menu items in the dashboard, which is a real oversight in this age of overzealous speed limit policing.
The foot-operated park brake, too, is an odd anachronism in this era of push-button hand brakes. Extra brownie points, though, for sun visors that actually cover the side windows properly.
The Kluger’s biggest upgrade is the addition of the latest version of Toyota’s stalwart 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine.
It’s actually the first time this (2GR-FKS) unit has been used in a Toyota in Australia, although both the Lexus IS350 and LX350 currently use it, and the next-generation Camry will also offer a version of the V6.
The 24-valve six-potter features direct fuel injection and a higher 11.8:1 compression ratio, giving the Kluger 218kW at 6600rpm (+17kW) and 350Nm at 4700rpm (+13Nm).
It’s backed by an eight-speed automatic transmission (also used in Lexus products), which combines with the engine updates to improve claimed fuel economy figures by up to 10 per cent across the various grades. The Kluger formerly used a six-speed auto.
Aussie-spec Klugers will not get the engine stop-start system fitted to overseas variants as Toyota reckons the marginal improvement in economy over the gains netted from the new engine and gearbox didn’t warrant the additional cost of the system.
All-wheel drive (AWD) variants of the Kluger are now claimed to use 9.5 litres per 100km, as opposed to 10.6, while CO2 emissions have fallen from 246 to 221 grams (of CO2) per kilometre.
Front-wheel drive GX and GXL models improve from 10.2 to 9.1L/100km, while the heavier front-drive Grande drops to 9.3 from 10.4L/100km.
Over 350km of testing in hilly terrain aboard a 2017-spec AWD Toyota Highlander (as the car is badged in the USA), directly comparable with the mid-grade GXL Kluger, we saw a dash indicated figure of 12.0L/100km.
It’s worth noting we were steering a US-spec Highlander on US roads, on US-specific tyres, in a US winter, though we were assured the suspension tune, engine mapping and gearbox matched Australian spec.
Having said that, the Yankee car mimics the neutral, largely vice-free behaviour of its Aussie cousin. Two things stand out; the Kluger is impressively quiet, even at highway speeds, and the ride is very well controlled and settled across the board.
The Kluger hides its mass and height very well, with little body roll or pitch to upset passengers. The revised engine is spritelier and perfectly matched to the eight-speed auto. We switched the tranny to Sport mode for tighter, narrower climbs and it didn’t lose its composure, which is a bonus.
There are no paddles behind the wheel to control the gears, but they would be overkill on the Kluger. There is no manual option on any Kluger variant.
The V6 is smooth and largely quiet, though its engine note when pushed isn’t exactly a siren song. It delivers its power in linear fashion, and there’s sufficient oomph there for prolonged climbing and highway merging work.
In an era where vehicles close to the Kluger’s two-tonne mass are equipped with smaller and smaller engines, it’s nice to be reminded of the advantages sheer capacity can offer.
The AWD system on our tester acts as a front driver in most scenarios, except when the rears detect slipping. They then swing into action instantly, enabling up to 50 per cent of the available torque to be sent to the rear end if need be.
The Kluger rates a maximum of five ANCAP stars and comes equipped with a reversing camera and rear sensors as well as seven airbags, while the top grade Grande offers Toyota’s Safety Sense system which includes radar cruise control, lane departure warning and guidance, a panoramic camera array and rear cross-traffic alert.
Toyota offers a three-year/100,000km warranty, and a three-year fixed year service plan costs $1080. Its service interval requirement of six months/10,000km is shorter than that of some of its competitors, though.
|Grande (4x2)||3.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||$35,400 – 45,760||2017 Toyota Kluger 2017 Grande (4x2) Pricing and Specs|
|Grande (4x4)||3.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||$37,600 – 48,620||2017 Toyota Kluger 2017 Grande (4x4) Pricing and Specs|
|GX (4X2)||3.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||$25,900 – 34,320||2017 Toyota Kluger 2017 GX (4X2) Pricing and Specs|
|GX (4X4)||3.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||$27,200 – 36,080||2017 Toyota Kluger 2017 GX (4X4) Pricing and Specs|