Although it’s old and due for replacement, the Toyota Kluger has proved to remain immensely popular with Australian SUV buyers. It’s part of the Japanese manufacturer’s SUV best-seller trifecta, including the LandCruiser Prado and RAV4.
Now it’s in runout mode, Toyota has put the Kluger range on sharp drive-away pricing. And we’ve got the most cost-effective ticket right here: the 2020 Toyota Kluger GX.
With a list price of $44,850, the GX specification sits almost exactly 10 gorillas less than the mid-spec GXL at $54,950. Throw another 10 grand in the pot, and then you’re looking at the top-spec Grande at $65,519.
Another option for buyers to consider is the driveline. While front-wheel drive is standard, you can opt for all-wheel drive for an extra $4000 on top of the prices above. This is a fairly typical AWD system for SUVs, with front wheels driven under normal conditions.
When the car senses wheel slip (or you press the AWD lock button, which isn’t a true diff lock), the rear wheels start to receive some torque.
With a new model on the horizon, you won’t be paying these kinds of numbers any more. What we are looking at here (GX AWD) is now advertised for $46,990 drive-away, with the range starting from $42,990 (for a GX 2WD) drive-away. So that’s a coupe of grand off the asking price, with all of your on-road costs waived. Not too shabby on first inspection, let’s have a closer look at what’s included.
Although it’s not yet confirmed, you can bet your bottom dollar the new incoming Kluger will include Toyota’s immensely popular hybrid technology in a bid to reduce fuel consumption. None of that yet with the current model, however.
Toyota’s widely used and well-liked 3.5-litre ‘2GR’ petrol V6 is employed, which makes 218kW at 6600rpm and 350Nm at 4700rpm. Happy with non-premium 91RON fuel, that power runs through an eight-speed automatic transmission.
No fancy leather or electric adjustment on this jigger: cloth seats with manual adjustment might not seem very luxury, but they’re comfortably commodious. There’s no leather or otherwise premium materials about to enrapture occupants, but the more important points of practicality are served up with healthy portions.
Much of the dashboard is made up of a long shelf that's perfect for accumulating all the stuff you’d probably live without. There’s a small hatch for your power cables, with 12V and USB hiding below in another storage nook.
There are a couple of cupholders aside the gear shifter, and one of the biggest centre consoles in the business: 24.5L accessible via sliding hatches. For perspective, I could fit six takeaway food containers straight in there, and close the lid.
Add in big door cards and a decent glovebox, and you’ve got plenty of stowage for your day-to-days.
The 6.1-inch infotainment display is basic and lacking modern tech or touches. Along with the urethane steering wheel, the small and old screen is the biggest indicator that this is the entry model. Higher specifications get some nicer materials about the place, and an 8-0-inch display with native navigation.
Like other specs, there’s a small multifunction display betwixt the analogue speedometer and tachometer, but it’s lacking the handy addition of a digital speedometer.
What it lacks in spec, the Kluger does make up in raw space. Even with long-limbed folk up front, the Kluger is able to provide a mountain of leg room and head room in the second row. The seats have a 60/40 split, and slide a long way fore and aft.
This specification gets second-row air-conditioning controls (vents are in the roof), with a single 12V plug below in a small storage nook. Once again, it all feels a bit old and basic, but the bones and practicalities are solid. And the most important element for a large SUV in my opinion (space) is in hefty supply.
The third row is decent, with enough accessibility and space for semi-regular usage. Like most other third rows, it’s not as outright spacious as the front two rows, but is good enough. Curtain airbags extend to the third-row occupants, as well.
Beyond that, three-row boot size is listed at 195L. Doesn’t sound big, but you could easily fit a big load of groceries or a couple of suitcases in there. Flip the third row into the floor, and that space grows to 529L. Or, probably more than you’ll ever need.
Updates in 2018 saw the introduction of additional safety features across the range, including autonomous emergency braking (with pedestrian detection), adaptive cruise control, automatic high-beam and lane-departure warning. Compared to some other updates across the Toyota range, the Kluger doesn’t have Toyota's very handy traffic sign recognition.
That comes atop of the previous fittings of, well, not much. The reversing camera is good quality and helps the generally good visibility of the big bus, along with rear-only parking sensors.
In terms of crash safety, the Kluger has a five-star ANCAP safety rating from 2014, scoring 35.57 out of a possible 37 points in the old test criteria.
Electric steering yields a decent 11.8m turning circle, along with a generally easy to live with nature. There’s a doughiness when turning off-centre, although not enough to make it feel overly vague – just a bit relaxed.
The ride is equally liveable. Overall, it’s tuned for comfort. Most bumps and undulations are absorbed well, with only big hits noticeably throwing the body off-kilter. It’s not in any way tuned towards sportiness. This is a family hauler not trying (or pretending) to be anything but exactly that.
Some body roll is apparent when going around corners as a result, but Toyota has made the right decisions in terms of putting comfort and suppleness first.
That 3.5-litre petrol engine provides ample acceleration for this Kluger’s 2045kg of kerb weight. You can see why in lighter applications, and with the aid of a supercharger, Toyota’s V6 can become quite an acceptable sports car powerplant. Not so much here, but over 200kW is certainly enough grunt on tap for your typical day-to-day driving.
In good news for the Kluger, there’s enough grunt in the lower and middle ranges to not require gluttonous revving for everyday driving. It’s there, however, with peak torque easily accessible despite the lofty rev requirements.
The gearbox plays a good game of responsiveness when needed, without overplaying its hand when cruising sedately.
In less good news, it can be a thirsty engine when driven in stop-start conditions around town. While we saw consumption numbers up into the 13 litres per 100km range, we also saw tens with some highway stints thrown in.
Officially, Toyota suggests 9.5L/100km on the fuel sticker, which might be a touch optimistic. Safe to say, an effective and efficient hybrid system would be a near-perfect fit.
Toyota’s warranty of five years and unlimited kilometres bodes well for those who want to pile on the miles, and the capped-price servicing program through Toyota’s dealerships.
It’s listed at $200 per visit for your first six visits, which are required at 10,000km (or 12-month) intervals. It grows from there, with a couple of notably hefty visits by the time you reach 120,000km (or six years).
The Kluger used to be a little bit of an expensive proposition, especially as the competition got newer and newer. Now this base specification is in runout spec, it feels a bit more like good value. Although the AWD system can prove handy in some situations, you can be even thriftier and opt for 2WD if you don't plan on leaving the blacktop.
If you are happy to live with the low-rent interior and lack of advanced infotainment, the Kluger GX still has the good bones of an effective and practical family hauler at a much sharper price.
The 17-inch alloy wheels and a couple of exterior chrome splashes make it look pretty good from the outside, as well. It’s safe, spacious and easy to live with.