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Toyota Kluger Grande AWD 2017 review

EXPERT RATING
7.1
Toyota's Kluger is a wily thing. Well, it isn't. I'm not seeking to anthropomorphise a car, but its success is hard to explain if you look at its basic bang-for-buck proposition.

Toyota's Kluger is a wily thing. Well, it isn't. I'm not seeking to anthropomorphise a car, but its success is hard to explain if you look at its basic bang-for-buck proposition. It's not cheap to buy, it isn't the most stylish, and when you look at the spec sheet, there isn't a lot of 'stuff' included to help justify the price.

But they're everywhere, because Toyota sells boatloads of them. When you look at the entry-level GX, you nod sagely and think, well, there's more to a mid-40k SUV than a big touchscreen, but by the time you get to the nearly $70,000 Grande all-wheel drive AWD, the lack of obvious niceties such as LED headlights starts to look a bit mean.

I spent a week at the helm of the good ship Grande AWD to see whether that price tag is justified.

Toyota Kluger 2017: Grande (4x4)
Safety rating
Engine Type3.5L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency9.5L/100km
Seating7 seats
Price from$44,888

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   6/10

As with the rest of the Kluger range, you can choose front-wheel drive (FWD) or AWD, starting at $65,935 for the former and $69,906 for the latter.

The Grande features 19-inch alloys, electric heated and ventilated front seats, powered tailgate with separate glass hatch, wood inserts in the dash and doors, partial leather trim and a rear seat information system with 9.0-inch screen with DVD and Blu-Ray, active cruise control, power windows all around, three-zone climate control, leather trim, 8.0-inch touchscreen, keyless entry and start, six speaker stereo with USB and bluetooth, plus an electric sunroof.

Bottom line is there isn't a lot more standard equipment in the Grande relative to the GX; not when you look at the price difference. Twenty-plus grand buys you bigger wheels, an aftermarket-looking rear seat entertainment system and a bigger screen running the same dodgy media software.

Except, that is, for the safety package, which is much-expanded up here in the nosebleed section. Annoyingly, that tech isn't even optionally available on GX or mid-spec GXL. Some of the safety features only available on the Grande are standard on every CX-9, and when you spend $70,000 on the Mazda you get a lot more fruit, a thriftier-but-torquier engine, and dammit, LED headlights.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   7/10

This third-generation Kluger is by far the best-looking of the line. The previous model wasn't ugly and doughy like the first, but there was something missing. This one gets the proportions right, all the different elements working together to create a cohesive form.

It is not adventurous, but few Toyotas are. In profile it looks like a bluff SUV and from behind is identifiably Toyota, linked as it is to the RAV4 by the shape of the taillights.

Inside is far less adventurous but no less solid. It's a terrific interior as far as build quality, fit and finish goes, with eminently sensible design, and nothing to frighten or offend.

  • 2017 Toyota Kluger Grande. 2017 Toyota Kluger Grande.
  • 2017 Toyota Kluger Grande. 2017 Toyota Kluger Grande.
  • 2017 Toyota Kluger Grande. 2017 Toyota Kluger Grande.

How practical is the space inside?   9/10

Here's where the Kluger shines - it's massive in here. Seven people - well, five adults and two tolerant kids - will survive many kilometres in here, with room every which way you look and places to put your things.

Up front are two cupholders and a gigantic 24-litre console bin that doubles as an un-padded armrest. Across the dash is a shelf fit for phones, keys, glasses, rolled up newspapers for disciplinary purposes, and it's padded to stop everything rattling around.

The middle row slides fore and aft and the 60/40 split seatback tips forward to allow for rear row entry. The centre armrest has two cupholders and you've got your own temperature controls for the rear cabin.

  • 2017 Toyota Kluger Grande. 2017 Toyota Kluger Grande.
  • 2017 Toyota Kluger Grande. 2017 Toyota Kluger Grande.

The third row is cosy for most and splits 50/50, but you will luxuriate with a total of four cupholders.

Boot space starts at an underwhelming 195 litres, improves to 529 litres with the rear seats down. Get serious and fold the middle row away, and the volume rises to 1117 litres, or 1900 if you fill it all the way to the roof.

Like the GXL, the tailgate is electric, but you can also pop the glass only if you don't fancy everything falling out when you open the door.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   7/10

Every single Kluger in the range is powered by the same (2GR-FKS) 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine spinning out 218kW/350Nm for MY17.

An eight-speed automatic transmission (replacing the six-speed) transfers the power to the front or all four wheels depending on your choice.

2017 Toyota Kluger Grande. 2017 Toyota Kluger Grande.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

Toyota claims the Grande will consume 9.5L/100km on the combined cycle, and on test we recorded our best figure yet, 11.1L/100km. That was kind of a surprise considering our time with the Grande was mostly around the suburbs. The Grande is the heaviest of the range, but this result compares favourably to the 13.0L/100km-plus we achieved in the GX FWD.

What's it like to drive?   7/10

A strong V6 and a big body combine to create one of the comfiest machines on the road, with tons of space and the power to move a car full of people and things. The Kluger sits 20cm off the deck, and there's yet more height to conquer to reach the front seat. Once you're there, though, the seating position is traditional SUV territory - high and commanding, yet it's hard to see down the sides of the car. Look ahead, though, and your kingdom is laid out before you.

The engine is not only strong but smooth, revving cleanly while lugging over two tonnes. The eight-speed transmission is a delight and if you flick to the screen which shows you what the AWD system is up to, you'll see power being shuffled around, but you won't feel it. It's impressive.

The trade-off for the magic carpet ride is a roly-poly feeling that you won't get in just about anything else in the class (Pathfinder excepted), with a tendency to understeer in a fairly determined manner. It's an imperious cruiser, though. In traffic it remains as hushed as more expensive metal from Europe. Passengers will enjoy that and the fact the handling discourages you from anything other than serene, calm progress.

It's not really an off-roader (deep bumpers limit the approach and departure angles), so unless you plan to spend a fair amount of time on loose or slippery surfaces, the extra cost for AWD is a waste.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

3 years / 100,000 km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   7/10

The Kluger has ABS, stability and traction controls and brake force distribution. The Grande (finally) adds forward collision warning, AEB, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning and reverse cross traffic alert.

There are three baby seat anchor points in the seatbacks of the middle row, but none for the third.

The Kluger scored five ANCAP stars in March 2014, the highest available.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   7/10

The Kluger comes with a three year/100,000km warranty and a fixed price servicing plan will cost you $1080 for the recommended six month/10,000km visits over the first three years, which is exceptional value. The only downside is the comparatively short service intervals. Toyota also includes a year of roadside assist.

Verdict

The Grande is the top of an irritating range. Irritating because there is a $25,000 spread from bottom to top and you can't get everything you might want unless you spend top whack. It's like Toyota's product planners have had a word with the people who put together Foxtel packages to ensure maximum cash extraction.

There is plenty on offer here if you look past the spec sheet - the Kluger is the most refined and comfortable car in its class. It's the only one with a 3.5-litre naturally aspirated petrol V6 with a proper auto (the Pathfinder has a dreaded continuously variable transmission). It may not handle or be a mud-plugger, but Toyota's got you covered with two other cars around the same price in the Prado and rather less popular Fortuner. It's a car that feels like it will go forever. And probably will.

How does the Kluger Grande stack up for you? Or at $70,000, will you go Euro? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Pricing Guides

$36,980
Based on 653 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$29,488
Highest Price
$59,888

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Grande (4x2) 3.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $45,988 – 53,990 2017 TOYOTA KLUGER 2017 Grande (4x2) Pricing and Specs
Grande (4x4) 3.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $43,990 – 55,990 2017 TOYOTA KLUGER 2017 Grande (4x4) Pricing and Specs
GX (4x2) 3.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $30,588 – 35,990 2017 TOYOTA KLUGER 2017 GX (4x2) Pricing and Specs
GX (4x4) 3.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $32,960 – 41,500 2017 TOYOTA KLUGER 2017 GX (4x4) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.1
Price and features6
Design7
Practicality9
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption7
Driving7
Safety7
Ownership7
Peter Anderson
Contributing journalist

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