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Toyota Kluger GXL AWD 2017 review

EXPERT RATING
7.1
Toyota's status as one of the biggest carmakers on earth - probably the biggest - doesn't come from making rubbish cars.

Toyota's status as one of the biggest carmakers on earth - probably the biggest - doesn't come from making rubbish cars. They may not be exciting or especially cheap. Style-wise, few of them do anything but fade into the wallpaper.

The Kluger breaks one of those principles - not only is it not cheap, it's one of the most expensive in its class, especially when you consider there isn't a lot in it, and doubly so when you see the hefty price jumps between models.

The GXL is the mid-spec Kluger and the list of standard inclusions does not fire the imagination, so the question one has to ask is... why?

Toyota Kluger 2017: GXL (4x4)
Safety rating
Engine Type3.5L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency9.5L/100km
Seating7 seats
Price from$35,250

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

To step up to the GXL, you pay $10,000 more than the GX, and for $57,550 for the all-wheel drive (AWD) variant, you still roll on 18-inch alloys but with a different design and Toyota upgrades the screen to 8.0-inch and adds sat nav. 

Also along for the ride are a six-speaker stereo with DAB+ radio, keyless entry and start, electric driver's seat, heated front seats, leather accented seats, leather steering wheel, roof rails, rear privacy glass, power tailgate with glass hatch, cruise control, auto headlights, three-zone climate control, power windows and mirrors. When compared to the GX, there isn't a great deal more on board.

The screen might be bigger, but it still displays Toyota's hopeless media system. It's useable (well, mostly - the DAB interface is unfathomable) but the simple inclusion of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto would improve it out of sight. This system is a problem across the Toyota range.

Bottom line is that it's difficult to see where the 10 grand has gone, especially as it only includes one 'free' colour (the rest are $550) and not a great deal of extra equipment. A similarly-priced Mazda CX-9 or Nissan Pathfinder is better-equipped, and the CX-9 has a much better media system.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   7/10

The Kluger is classic Toyota - does what it says on the tin. Big and boxy, the body writes a cheque the interior is able to cash. This third-generation Kluger, which has been around for a few years now, is much better looking than the first two, with sharper lines and a bit more courage. Not over-Niagara-Falls-in-a-bucket courage, but more courage than the doughy first-gen ever had.

An upright, bluff grille, framed by a pair of big, stylish headlights hides the whacking great engine. It makes no attempt to hide its height or length, happy to be big and seen to be big. In profile it's as conventional as you might expect, with a rear end that makes a vestigial link to the smaller RAV4.

Inside is a typically high quality, low-adventure cabin, but there are some very classy touches along with a dodgy one or two. It's a well thought-out place but get someone to describe it to you and they'll struggle - it's quite generic.

  • 2017 Toyota Kluger GXL AWD. 2017 Toyota Kluger GXL AWD.
  • 2017 Toyota Kluger GXL AWD. 2017 Toyota Kluger GXL AWD.

How practical is the space inside?   9/10

Inside is vast, every bit of usable space has been eked out of the platform to make this a viable seven seater for families. From the base model up you've got a 60/40 split fold middle row that slides backwards and forwards quite a long way, allowing you to tune the space and bring the kids within striking, er, reaching distance. The third row takes two with a 50/50 split fold. Those rear seats are a bit light-on for padding and space, so the occupants will want to be small and/or flexible.

Front seat passengers have tons of space, two cupholders, a huge 24-litre console storage bin with a useful sliding tray splitting the space horizontally. Both doors have cupholders and storage for bits and the dash is also split horizontally, with a soft-lined shelf for things like glasses, keys, wallets and phones, which is actually rather clever.

  • 2017 Toyota Kluger GXL AWD. 2017 Toyota Kluger GXL AWD.
  • 2017 Toyota Kluger GXL AWD. 2017 Toyota Kluger GXL AWD.

Boot space starts at a modest 195 litres with all seats in play. Fold the rear row (flat) and you've got at least 529 litres (slide the middle row forward for more) and if you fold all the back seats down, you're privy to a conservative claim of 1117 litres. Fill it up to the roof and you're up to 1900 litres.

The boot is accessible via the powered tailgate or you can press a button below the window and pop the glass. This is a handy feature because when you've got all the seats up, you don't have much space. You can just open the windscreen section to ensure everything stays in the car rather than ending up on the ground.

  • 2017 Toyota Kluger GXL AWD. 2017 Toyota Kluger GXL AWD.
  • 2017 Toyota Kluger GXL AWD. 2017 Toyota Kluger GXL AWD.

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

Every Kluger is powered by the same (2GR-FKS) 3.5-litre V6 petrol producing a generous 218kW/350Nm, both figures a few percentage points higher than the older V6 introduced in 2014.

An eight-speed automatic (replacing the old six-speed) delivers power to the front, or all four wheels as tested here.

The Kluger doesn't have stop-start or any other fuel-saving jiggery-pokery.

All Klugers are rated to tow 2000kg (braked).

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

Our time with the GXL saw it mostly bashing around town, delivering 11.7L/100km against a claimed 9.5L/100km on the combined cycle. This figure included a couple of long highway runs, so it isn't too far away from the figure, but it's not a small one to start with.

What's it like to drive?   7/10

The Kluger doesn't offer the latest in technology or safety, and there's nothing particularly special about the drivetrain either. It's a simple car, although the new eight-speed transmission is superior to the old, with smooth clean shifts.

This car is unbelievably comfortable. McPherson struts up front and a sophisticated double wishbone rear means this is quite possibly the most comfortable seven seater on the market. The suspension is soft by modern standards but also quiet over the bumps. Everything is very hushed, the lack of fatigue-inducing road noise is most welcome.

Long trips in the Kluger feel like short trips (unless you're in the third row). Broken pavements, thoughtless roadworks arrangements and speed bump infestations are mere irritants rather than banging, crashing intrusions. The relatively rudimentary Toyota Fortuner can't ride this well, the Mitsubishi Outlander's rear end clangs and bumps over transverse bumps and only an air-sprung Audi Q7 can come close for ride comfort. It's that good.

The handling is another story. Competent rather than interesting. Understeer is easy to find but easy to fix. You won't be corner-carving in the Kluger because the light steering, limited vision over the front wheels and sheer heft of the thing (2045kg for the 4.89m long, 1.92m wide AWD GXL) are discouragement enough.

But up high in the driver's seat, with the kids comfortable, and settled into the relaxed gait of engine, transmission and chassis, this is a supremely calm machine.

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 arrives from the US of A with seven airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls and brake force distribution. There are three baby seat anchor points in the seatbacks of the middle row, 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

As is Toyota's habit, the Kluger comes with a three year/100,000km warranty and a fixed price servicing plan will set you back $1080 for the six month/10,000km visits for the first three years, which is exceptional value. The only downside is the short service intervals. A year of roadside assist is thrown into the bargain.

Verdict

The Kluger GXL isn't especially good value, it's not the prettiest or most advanced. It is, however, phenomenally comfortable, and built for the sort of people you expect to buy a seven seater - families. Low fuss, low noise, built like a tank and probably as strong as one, Toyota gets away with the high price because it's in those key areas where the competition is relatively weak.

Kluger buyers are easy to find and they're happy people. It's easy to see why, except I don't quite get the GXL - why is it so much more expensive for such limited gain? The GX is a better buy.

Is the Kluger's easy attitude enough to tempt you from cars with more tech swagger? Tell us in the comments below.

Pricing Guides

$36,490
Based on 571 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$28,850
Highest Price
$56,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Grande (4x2) 3.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $45,988 – 49,888 2017 TOYOTA KLUGER 2017 Grande (4x2) Pricing and Specs
Grande (4x4) 3.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $42,990 – 52,588 2017 TOYOTA KLUGER 2017 Grande (4x4) Pricing and Specs
GX (4x2) 3.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $30,283 – 35,888 2017 TOYOTA KLUGER 2017 GX (4x2) Pricing and Specs
GX (4x4) 3.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $31,499 – 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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