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Drive Life : January 28th 2011
1HERSA1 F014 DriveLIFE road test 14 Friday, January 28, 2011 The Sydney Morning Herald TOYOTA KLUGER GRANDE Richard Blackburn discovers mid-sized needn't mean middle of the road for the newly tweaked family mobile. J You can't argue with Toyota's dominance of the SUV market in Australia. Close to one in four SUVs sold in this country last year wore a Toyota badge, despite the invasion of new models from rivals in recent years. Almost 30 brands sell SUVs in Australia but visit any caravan park in Australia during summer and you'd swear the Japanese giant had a monopoly. The oddly named Kluger -- which conjures up images of German handguns and nightmares on Elm Street -- has been a quiet success story for the brand best known for the LandCruiser, Prado and RAV4. Launched in 2003, it was the first mid-sized crossover vehicle based on a car platform. The appeal was obvious: seating for up to seven people, car-like ride comfort and a big, tough exterior that looked a million miles from dowdy people-movers. Toyota refined the formula in 2007, adding a price-leading front- wheel-drive variant for buyers who didn't need the off-road ability. Late last year, the Kluger had a minor facelift, with revised exterior styling, price reductions and more equipment on some models. The top-of-the-range Grande got a $414 price reduction, more gear and revised woodgrain finishes. WHAT DO YOU GET? At $65,490 the top-spec Kluger isn't cheap but you do get plenty of equipment for your money. There's three-zone airconditioning, with individual controls for the rear seats and vents for all three rows. The third-row seats fold into the floor at the press of a button and the Kluger's tailgate closes automatically by pushing a button too, although it makes an annoying beeping sound as it closes. The rear DVD entertainment system has a big screen and three infra-red headsets, with two headphone input jacks, so all five rear passengers can watch a movie while you can listen to something different in the front. No more long journeys with the soundtrack from the Wiggles' Big Red Car. The stereo is above average, although you can't use the car's audio menu to scroll through iPod tracks and artists. You also get electrically adjustable leather-trimmed seats, a sunroof, Bluetooth and satellite navigation. Safety is taken care of with seven airbags (front, side, curtain, driver's knee) and stability control, plus a rear-view camera. WHAT'S INSIDE The Kluger has a family-friendly interior with heaps of storage space, including a lockable glovebox, centre console and 12 cup or bottle holders. Rear legroom is generous and the second row of seats can be slid back and forth. The third row also split-folds for better load flexibility. The front seats are comfortable, while the third row is comfortable for younger children and adults on short journeys but the makeshift middle seat in the second row (it can be removed and replaced with an armrest and storage area) provokes the odd complaint. The dash layout and entertainment/sat-nav menus are user-friendly, with big dials, clear read-outs and plenty of trip information. The new model gets more woodgrain and is tastefully finished, although there's still plenty of hard plastic. Space is limited behind the third row seats but the split-fold tailgate is handy. UNDER THE BONNET Toyota's 3.5-litre V6 is one of the best in the business but the new model gets a tweak, with engineers redesigning the engine mounts to cut noise, vibration and harshness. Despite having to shift more than two tonnes (and a fully loaded trailer on our test), the six proved willing, able and impressively smooth. It's not overflowing with bottom-end torque but once it gets moving it's rarely upset by a hill or overtaking manoeuvre. The five- speed auto is effective at holding gears and changing on cue. Fuel consumption with a trailer, seven occupants and their luggage hovered at about the 14 litres per 100 kilometres mark on the freeway, but with the trailer un- hitched, it was possible to be in the 10L/100km range on the freeway, suggesting the official consumption of 11.6L/100km is achievable. Around town it uses about 14L to 16L/100km. ON THE ROAD The Kluger is a big, comfortable and refined highway tourer. It insulates occupants well from potholes and corrugations, although has a tendency to float over bigger bumps. When the road turns twisty, the big Toyota betrays its weight and soft suspension settings, pitching under brakes and leaning noticeably through corners. The steering also feels a little heavy in town, while lacking feel at speed on the open road. You don't expect razor-sharp responses from an SUV but the Kluger is off the pace. The cabin is impressively quiet. VERDICT The Kluger is hard to beat as a family wagon. It's comfortable, has loads of space and the DVD entertainment system is a godsend for long journeys. Don't expect it to be fun to drive but it eats up distances with little fuss, has an impressive safety arsenal and is relatively frugal for a petrol vehicle of its size and weight. The only thing lacking is a more efficient diesel variant. FORD TERRITORY GHIA Price $57,890 Engine 4.0-litre 6-cyl, 190kW/383Nm, 6-spd auto, AWD Fuel use/CO2 emissions 12.9L/100km, 307g/km Safety Four airbags and stability control Pros Class-leading road-holding; clever interior. Cons Thirsty; beginning to look a little dated. Our score JII SUBARU TRIBECA PREMIUM Price $56,990 Engine 3.6-litre 6-cyl, 190kW/350Nm, 5-spd auto, AWD Fuel use/CO2 emissions 11.6L/100km, 275g/km Safety Six airbags and stability control Pros Punchy engine; decent road manners. Cons Third-row access tight; curtain airbags don't cover third row. Our score II MAZDA CX-9 GRAND TOURING Price $63,133 Engine 3.7-litre V6, 204kW/367Nm, 6-spd auto, AWD Fuel use/CO2 emissions 11.3L/100km, 270g/km Safety Six airbags and stability control Pros Good road manners; strong engine; classy interior. Cons Ride a bit sharp at low speed; thirsty around town. Our score I THE COMPETITORS THE DETAILS Price $65,490 Country of origin Japan Engine 3.5-litre V6 Power 201kW Torque 337Nm Consumption and CO2 emissions 11.6L/km and 271g/km Transmission 5-speed auto Weight 2035kg Safety 7 airbags, stability control Pros Smooth, quiet V6; excellent safety package; comfortable ride; good entertainment features for the kids; easy operation of third row. Cons Sub-par road-holding, with a tendency to pitch and roll through corners; no parking sensors; annoying beep when shutting rear door; vague steering. IN THE REAL WORLD KIDS Entertainment system can play movies to five kids while you listen to the cricket. PARKING Good-size rear camera but no parking sensors. Split-fold tailgate good for tight spots. TOWING Can tow up to 700kg unbraked and 2000kg braked. V6 engine does it easily.
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