Toyota Kluger VS Lexus NX
- Quiet and refined
- GX is well-specified
- GXL and Grande are pricey for not much benefit
- Deeply ordinary entertainment system
- Stylish new exterior
- Top-shelf safety offering
- No need to start ticking options
- Infotainment system is very fiddly
- Not too much in the way of updates here
- F Sport looks far more sporty than it is
Like the statues of Easter Island, the Toyota Kluger casts a huge shadow over the Australian motoring landscape. It's a strong seller for Toyota, having been around for ages and is one of three large SUVs in Toyota's armory next to the evergreen Prado and disappointing Fortuner.
Competition, of course, is growing ever more fierce. Hyundai is about to drop a new Santa Fe, the Kia Sorento gets better every year and more manufacturers are joining the party. Most notably, Mazda's CX-9 is also loaded with safety gear and a potent 2.5-litre turbo engine.
The intensity of the battle became apparent in my esteemed colleague Matt Campbell's recent comparison test where the Kluger came last behind the Kia Sorento and Mazda CX-9, thanks largely to Toyota's reluctance to fit the same advanced safety features.
They heard Matt (that's what he reckons, anyway) and recently added some important safety tech to the 2018 Kluger. Let's have a look to see if it's enough.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
If Elon Musk could somehow harness the speed at which the new-car market moves, intergalactic space travel would no longer be an issue. Forget hyper-sleep pods and one-way trips that take decades, he could instead be tanning on Mars in the time it takes you to pick up milk.
And that's because new models come and go with a pace that makes the speed of light feel like dial-up internet (or worse, the NBN), and that throws up all sorts of challenges for manufacturers.
Case in point? The good folk at Lexus, who have just launched their updated NX into the premium mid-size SUV segment. And with new suspension, a touched-up grille, some cool new safety stuff and better in-car technology, it all sounds like pretty good news.
Except that, while Lexus has been nipping and tucking, key competitors like Audi and BMW, have been working on all-new models. So the question now is, has this mid-life freshening made the NX cutting-edge enough in the face of all this new competition?
|Fuel Type||Hybrid with Regular Unleaded|
The 2018 Kluger is still a very solid car, with tons of room for you and your things. And your family and their things. It remains way out in front (although the new Santa Fe is lurking menacingly) and the boost in safety gear will help ensure it stays there.
The pick of the range is still the GX which is now a much stronger proposition with the extra safety features. There's little of real interest in the higher models, you can't get better headlights (a curious state of affairs) or a better stereo, so it's difficult to understand the appeal.
The Kluger will serve you and your family well in a solid and unspectacular way. Given most of us like that in our cars, it's easy to see why it's a hit.
Does the Kluger's new safety focus do enough to lure you away from the competition? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
Enough to keep the Lexus feeling fresh in a competitive market, this mid-life update also adds plenty of value to the NX equation. Whether improved standard safety, a longer warranty than its key competitors and a fresh new face will be enough to drag buyers out of other all-new models remains to be seen, but it certainly helps keep the NX from showing its age.
Is the Lexus NX edgy enough to tempt you away from its German competitors? Let us know in the comments below.
The Kluger is handsome in a squared-off, what-are-you-looking-at kind of way. That big bluff front-end makes the car look rather bigger than it is, which is quite an achievement because it's pushing two metres wide and 1.73m tall. It's not the longest in its class, though, coming in at 4.89m.
Despite it hailing from the US, it's not too blinged-up, but neither is it CX-9 pretty. Some might find the grille reminiscent of a krill-hoovering whale or Bane from Batman, but it's certainly distinctive.
The cabin is like the exterior - nothing flash, but what you see is what you get. Materials are mostly pretty good and it leans towards thoughtful and practical rather than sexy. Normally I'd say, "just like me", but I'm none of these things.
The interior dimensions of the big bruiser match its eclipse-causing exterior. No matter your size - well, within reason - you'll find plenty of space in the first or second rows. The third row features decent space for kids and very patient adults for short trips.
If no news is good news, then things are looking great for the NX. Fortunately, then, Lexus' little SUV always cut a fine-looking figure on the road, and the small changes keep it looking sharp.
So, new stuff; the pinched-in-the-middle spindle grille of other new-look Lexus product makes an appearance, and does give the front end a cool and vaguely menacing appearance. The grille is the big news, but there are also new headlamp clusters, new alloy wheel designs and new chrome-tipped exhaust tips on the F Sport models.
Inside, the changes are significantly smaller. There's a larger keypad for Lexus' infuriating infotainment system, new interior colours and a bigger, easier-to-read clock. Put it this way, when part of the headline news inside is new, more ergonomically designed air-con buttons, you're not talking huge changes.
But the cabin still feels a bit of a mixed bag, if we're honest. The screen has grown, which is good, but Lexus persists with this weird mouse-pad style system to control it, which, despite being made easier to use this time around, is still plenty fiddly, and feels out of date compared to some of its competitors.
The big question people ask me about the Kluger is "How many seats are in there?" - every Kluger packs seven seats, with two flip-up seats in the boot. Boot space dimensions are obviously dictated by whether they're up or down. With the seats down, you've got a decent 529 litres, leaving you with good luggage capacity and a cargo cover to keep it all hidden away. Lift the seats with the straps and you've got just 195 litres, about the same as a small hatchback.
Put the second and third rows down and Toyota says you'll have 1117 litres, but I reckon that's conservative.
The cabin is well-planned for families. Every row features cupholders - front and middle rows have a pair each, while those banished to the third row score two each, a total of eight across the car.
Back in the front row, the tectonic split in the dashboard is lined with a soft rubbery material, making it a great place to sling phones, keys and odds and ends. Between the seats is a massive 24-litre storage bin that a small grandparent could ride in. On second thoughts, that's probably not a great idea.
The 4640mm long and 1870mm wide NX is actually pretty spacious wherever you sit. Up front, there are two cupholders separating the driver and passenger, along with a strange box-shaped storage space with a (somewhat suspicious) mirrored lid. There's also a central storage bin, which, in the upper-tier models, is also home to a wireless-charging pad, along with a power source and USB connection.
Step into the back seat, and head-, leg- and toe-room (behind my 172cm driving position) is generous enough for longer trips, and the pull-down divider that separates the rear seat is home to two more cupholders, with room in each of the four doors for bottles.
There are vents (but no temperature controls) for backseat riders, and an ISOFIX attachment point in each window seat, but there are no power or USB ports on offer.
Boot space is an easy-to-load 500 litres, and that number swells to 1545 litres with the 60/40 rear seats folded flat.
Price and features
There are three models in the Kluger range and how much you pay will vary depending on your thirst for standard features. Our price list features RRP prices and are a guide only - your dealer might be convinced to reduce the cost.
The GX opens with the lowest price - $44,500 for the 2WD and $48,500 for the 4WD. Specs include six-speaker stereo, 18-inch alloys wheels (no 17-inch alloy wheels anymore), front and rear air conditioning, Bluetooth, forward and reverse camera, active cruise control, rear parking sensors, remote central locking, auto headlights, power windows and mirrors and a full-size spare wheel.
The GXL adds an lazy 10 grand in comparison to the GX - $54,950 (2WD) and $58,950 (AWD). The GXL adds a GPS navigation system, DAB digital radio, rear-cross traffic alert, keyless entry and start, partial leather seats, and electric tailgate with separate glass hatch.
The Grande - again, for a further 10 grand plus, is available for $65,646 (2WD) or $69,617 (AWD). You'll get the same satellite navigation as the GXL, 19-inch rims, electric sunroof, rear-seat entertainment system with 9.0-inch screen and Blu-Ray and heated and ventilated front seats.
The entertainment system is powered by a 6.1-inch touch screen in the GX and 8.0-inch in the other models, which also include satellite navigation. The software package is distinctly 2006, painfully so in the GX. The system includes AM/FM radio, CD player and USB. There's no DVD option, however.
Colours include 'Crystal Pearl' (white), silver, 'Rustic Brown' (looks better than it sounds), 'Predawn Grey', 'Rainforest Green', 'Merlot Red' (dahling), 'Deep Red', 'Cosmos Blue' and 'Eclipse Black'. All but the black are $550 extras, which is not modest but not extortionate either.
Toyota's accessories list is well-stocked, with items like nudge bar (which is remarkably well integrated), side steps, cargo barrier, roof racks (no roof rails, though) and various plastic shields, driving lights, floor mats, towbar, parking aids and blind spot monitor.
You're out of luck if you want a Toyota-branded seat belt extender or bull bar.
For comparison, the cheapest CX-9 is $700 less (than the GX), but with a higher spec level, while the fully-loaded Azami is also around $800 cheaper (than the Grande) but - again - better-equipped.
The Korean rivals, while older and slightly smaller, are significant cheaper - the Kia Sorento is priced from $42,990 to $46,990 while the Santa Fe starts at $40,990 and finishes at $57,090 (albeit not a petrol V6). All these cars are well-equipped, with more modern features and tech.
The NX still arrives in three trim levels; the entry-level Luxury, the performance-styled F Sport and the top-of-the-range Sports Luxury, and there are two unchanged engine options; a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol unit (which is fitted to 300-badged cars) or a 2.5-litre hybrid setup (in the 300h-badged vehicles). The NX is still available in two- or all-wheel drive.
Sadly, though, the extra kit has come at a cost, with price increases across most of the range.
The entry-level (although it sure doesn't sound like it) Luxury cars will set you back $54,800 for the NX 300 and $57,300 NX 300h in two-wheel drive, climbing to $59,300 and $61,800 respectively if you spring for the AWD models.
New stuff includes auto-dipping wing mirrors, a bigger 10.3-inch multimedia screen controlled through a larger and allegedly easier to use remote-touch controller, a shark-fin antenna and new interior colour and material choices. That all joins the existing 18-inch alloy wheels, 10-speaker stereo and leather-trimmed seats.
The big news, though, is the standard inclusion of the Lexus Safety System + package across the range, but we will drill down on those details under the Safety sub-heading.
Step up to the F Sport trim and the cost of entry climbs to $60,800 for the NX 300 and $63,300 for the NX 300h in two-wheel drive (the first time that's been offered), and $65,300 and $67,800 for the AWD cars.
And for that money you'll add a new variable-suspension set-up (a system borrowed from the Lexus LC500), along with four driving modes and performance dampers at the rear. Inside, expect a vaguely sporty focus, with new paddle shifters, metal pedals and new scuff plates. A wireless phone charger arrives here, too, along with a head-up display, heated and cooled front seats and better multi-LED headlamps.
Outside, the sporty wand has been been waved over the F Sport's exterior, with more aggressive front and rear bumpers and a reshaped grille.
Finally, the NX range tops out with the Sports Luxury, which is only available with AWD and will set you back $73,800 for the NX 300 and $76,300 for the NX 300h.
That not-insignificant investment buys you the same variable suspension setup as the F Sport cars, but adds some genuine niceties like a leather-trimmed interior, a full-colour head-up display and a 14-speaker Mark Levinson stereo. You'll also find a moonroof (which is a sunroof, in case you're wondering).
Engine & trans
Across the range, Kluger buyers are treated to the same engine specifications - a 3.5-litre V6 petrol. The big unit devlops 218kW/350Nm to help move the two-tonner.
As to whether the V6 features a timing belt or chain, it's the latter. The engine uses standard (OW-30) oil and 0-100km/h acceleration times are around nine seconds.
Towing capacity is the same for each model, coming in at 700kg for unbraked trailers and 2000kg braked. We haven't yet carried out a towing review.
Yes, the model name climbing from 200 to 300 suggests bigger engines and more power, but both under-the-bonnet options are unchanged for this facelift.
The 300-badged cars arrive with a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine, producing 175kW at 4800rpm and 350Nm at 1650rpm. It pairs with a six-speed automatic, and can drive either the front or all four wheels - the latter adding about 60kg to the kerb weight. Expect a 7.3 second sprint to 100km/h in FWD cars, and a 7.1 sec sprint in AWD models.
The 300h cars make use of a naturally aspirated 2.5-litre engine good for 114kW at 5700rpm, and that pairs with an electric motor that lifts total outputs to 147kW and 270Nm. And it's here where the benefits of all-wheel drive shine, with the all-paw cars fitted with a bonus motor at the rear, producing an extra 50kW and 139Nm - although that bonus power is only intended to help with initial traction, and doesn't impact overall outputs.
The hybrid engine pairs with a CVT auto and can be had in two- or all-wheel drive, but performance times aren't quoted.
For its engine size and overall weight, fuel economy is always going to be marginal and continues to be the Kluger's weak spot. For the front-wheel drive, Toyota claims 9.lL/100km on the combined cycle. The heavier 4x4 version recorded an official combined fuel consumption figure of 9.5L/100km.
These mileage figures would be a stretch - in a week of gentle suburban running around in a GX AWD, we copped a figure of 13.7L/100km.
The fuel tank capacity is a handy 72 litres, meaning a decent run between fills, especially when you're out on the open road.
Obviously, without a diesel engine, there are no diesel fuel consumption figures.
You'll be utterly unsurprised to hear the hybrid version is the easiest on fuel, sipping 5.6 litres per 100 kilometres on the claimed combined cycle, and 5.7 litres should you opt for AWD. Emissions (C02) are a claimed 131g/km, 133g/km for the all-paw cars.
The turbocharged petrol will use 7.7 (2WD) or 7.9 (AWD) per hundred kilometres claimed/combined, and emissions are pegged at 178g/km (2WD) or 184g/km (AWD).
You never really forget that the Kluger is a big unit. Ground clearance is a not-inconsiderable 200mm and the turning circle a fairly lazy 11.8 metres. People don't seem to mind that it feels big, and is one of the few in the segment that I feel like I'm climbing up into with my 183cm (six-foot) frame rather than stepping in.
From behind the wheel you can practically see the curvature of the Earth you sit so high. Fire up the near-silent V6 and you're struck by how incredibly smooth it is. Also smooth is the ride - the long travel suspension is probably exactly the same as it is for our American cousins vs, say, Hyundai's habit of setting up its cars for Australia.
Everything is soft and squidgy but in a reassuring way, even the warning beeps aren't too shrill or irritating. The steering is light and with the occasional moment of vagueness but again, it's all very predictable. The brakes, though a bit spongy at the top of the pedal, are more than up to the task of washing off speed in the unlikely event you've overcooked things.
The engine continues unchanged. There's enough horsepower to get you going and hold a decent clip, it will keep you out of trouble and do what Toyotas generally do - look after you. Performance is hardly the key point of the Kluger - it weighs in at a fairly unapologetic 2005kg in AWD form - but, as I say, there's ample power to keep you moving.
We're yet to perform an exhaustive off-road review, but our experience is that the Kluger has reasonable off road ability.
It's anything but an overhaul, but the little changes don't dent the NX's on-road appeal.
While genuine sportiness still feels elusive, we tested the NX over a huge variety of road surfaces, and it always felt connected and involved, if never quite sporty.
Yes, the tyres will moan and the front end will begin to push wide if you insist on asking too much of it, but drive it as 99.9 per cent of its owners will surely do and the suspension (re-tuned in the entry level model, or all new in the top-tier cars) does an absolutely fine job of sorting out bad road surfaces, while still offering enough dynamic poise to keep you confident on twisting roads.
Lexus tells us that a key focus for this update was ride and handling - hence the suspension adjustments and upgrades - and general NVH (in other words, how quiet and comfortable it is in the cabin), and while it's possibly not quite as cocooning as we were expecting, the cabin is still a nice and refined place to spend time.
In short, it remains an easy and trouble-free drive, only now with plenty of bonus safety stuff that will step in if required.
The Kluger arrives from the US with seven airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls and rear parking sensors.
The 2018 Kluger is really about the battery of new safety features in the lower models. Added to the GX and GXL are pre-collision warning, forward AEB, lane departure warning, active cruise and auto high beam. GXLs also pick up a blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert. As you can imagine, the Grande has the lot.
There are three top-tether anchors for the middle row as well as two ISOFIX points.
As before, the ANCAP safety rating stands at a maximum five stars, awarded in November 2016.
The NX's safety credentials can't be questioned, with this mid-life update sharing the best of the safety kit right across the range.
Every NX now gets the Lexus Safety System+ package as standard, which includes AEB, active cruise and a lane-departure-warning system. All that stuff joins blind-spot motoring, rear cross-traffic alert, trailer-sway control and an upgraded reversing camera with a new widescreen mode.
The Lexus NX received the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating when crash tested in 2015.
Toyota's three year/100,000km warranty also comes with a fixed price servicing plan. It seems the Japanese company can get away with the short warranty because of the long-held reputation for reliability and few problems or faults.
I've certainly never heard complaints from Kluger owners, or Toyota owners generally for that matter. Having said that, Hyundai and Kia both smack Toyota out of the park for warranty length and in Hyundai's case, lifetime fixed price servicing.
Service costs are fixed via Toyota's 'Service Advantage' pricing. For the Kluger you'll pay $180 per service for the first 36 months or 60,000km. You'll have to visit the dealer every six months or 10,000km for the stamp in your owners manual, which is always good for resale value.
Few owners report any genuine issues, such as engine problems or tranmission problems.
The NX is covered by Lexus' four-year, 100,000km warranty, and the Japanese brand will offer you a loan car during each service, or pick up and drop off your car from your home or work. Which is lovely.
Service intervals are pegged at 12 months or 15,000km, with the first one free of charge.