This could be the pick of the Kluger range, with a long list of standard equipment and a fuel-saving hybrid powertrain. But, it comes at a price…
There’s a new Toyota Kluger in town, and it’s picked up a fuel-saving hybrid powertrain for the first time.
Following in the extremely successful footsteps of the RAV4, Camry and Corolla, the 2021 Toyota Kluger promises to reduce fuel usage without a significant jump in asking price.
And we’ve got what could be the most pragmatic and popular choice of the 2021 Kluger range: GXL specification, with the all-wheel-drive hybrid powertrain.
Just to recap, three specifications of 2021 Kluger are available: GX, GXL and Grande. All three are available with a 3.5-litre petrol V6 powering either the front wheels or all four wheels. Hybrid power, on the other hand, is only available with four driven wheels.
After the likes of the Prius range, the aforementioned models, plus Yaris, Yaris Cross and C-HR, the Kluger is the eighth and biggest hybrid-powered Toyota in the Australian line-up.
And if you were wondering, Kluger comes via the German word ‘klug’, which means smart or clever. Toyota picked this name up because the Kluger’s international name, Highlander, is trademarked for a trim level by Hyundai in Australia.
|2021 Toyota Kluger GXL Hybrid|
|Price as tested (before on-roads)||$63,350|
|Engine||2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol with three electric motors|
|Petrol power/torque||184kW (combined), 142kW at 6000rpm, 242Nm at 4400rpm (petrol)|
|Fuel type||95RON premium unleaded|
|Front electric motor||134kW/270Nm|
|Rear electric motor||40kW/121Nm|
|Transmission||Continuously variable automatic|
|0–100km/h (claimed)||8.4 seconds|
|Towing capacity||2000kg braked|
|Cargo (VDA, to window line) third row up||241L|
|Cargo (VDA, to window line) third row down||552L|
|Cargo (VDA, to window line) second and third row down||1150L|
|Consumption on test||6.4L/100km|
|Competitors||Kia Sorento GT-Line, Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander, Mazda CX-9|
The new Kluger adopts Toyota’s new TNGA-K large platform shared with the likes of the Camry and RAV4, although stretched to suit the big seven-seat SUV.
The petrol proponent of the powertrain is Toyota’s latest-generation ‘Dynamic Force’ engine, in a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder size. It runs on 95RON unleaded fuel and makes 142kW at 6000rpm and 242Nm at 4400rpm.
This is joined by 134kW/270Nm front and 40kW/121Nm rear electric motors fed by a 6.5 amp-hour nickel-metal hydride battery.
Compared to a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, this so-called closed-loop hybrid has no charging capability. Instead, the battery is charged through driving, coasting and braking. Drivers only need to worry about filling up the fuel tank, which should be a little less frequent.
Combined maximum power is 184kW, but no combined torque figure is quoted.
And for those who want to do some light off-roading, a ‘Trail’ driving mode will tailor drive, brakes, throttle and gearbox to suit some light off-roading. We didn’t do any off-road testing this time around, but the Kluger should be capable of handling some basic low-traction situations reasonably well.
Standard equipment that the GXL gets – also shared with the entry-level Kluger GX – includes LED headlights, tail-lights and DRLs, 18-inch alloy wheels, 8.0-inch infotainment display with smartphone mirroring, keyless entry and push-button start, automatic headlights and automatic wipers.
For the extra spend, GXL models gain powered and heated front seats, tri-zone climate control, synthetic leather upholstery, power tailgate, a 7.0-inch part-digital instrument cluster, and native navigation in the infotainment display.
Misses compared to the top-of-the-range Kluger Grande are a panoramic moonroof, hands-free opening for the power tailgate, ventilation for the front seats, head-up display, a panoramic-view monitor, leather-accented seats, a premium 11-speaker JBL sound system and 20-inch chromed alloy wheels.
Our as-tested price: $63,350 before on-road costs, which sits between $54,150 for GX Hybrid and $75,400 for Grande. Hybrid power is the most expensive powertrain choice costing $6500 more than 2WD V6 and $2500 more than AWD V6.
The good news is that while the hybrid powertrain might lack the overall urgency of Toyota’s 218kW 2GR V6, it brings tangible benefits in terms of fuel economy.
I averaged 6.4 litres per hundred kilometres during our time with the 2021 Kluger Hybrid, which compares reasonably well against the claimed 5.6L/100km on the combined cycle. Toyota claims highway consumption of 5.6L/100km and a flat 6.0L/100km for urban usage. The worst I saw on the urban crawl was 7.8L/100km.
Mind you, this was after nearly 40 minutes to drive less than 7km across the Sydney Harbour Bridge and into the CBD, so about as bad as conditions can get. And using just under eight litres per hundred in a big seven-seat SUV, I’d call that a win.
Also worth noting is that the Kluger has grown in every direction compared to the previous generation: 4966mm of length leaves the new Kluger 76mm longer, and 1755mm of height is 25mm more than the previous model. The width also increased by 5mm, and the wheelbase has grown by 60mm (2850mm).
Sitting on a new platform, the Kluger proved to be a comfortable and quiet abode, when the kids weren’t hollerin’ too much. The 18-inch alloy wheels are wrapped in plenty of Toyo-sourced rubber, with the taller sidewalls adding comfort and absorption around town.
Electric steering isn’t overly light, feeling direct and responsive. It suits the application of town and highway driving well.
Another good element is the tuning of the driving aids, which aren’t so onerous they get quickly turned off. Adaptive cruise control feels seamless, and lane-departure warning doesn’t get in the way of (what I would call) normal, safe driving.
The combination of petrol and electric power is – typical of Toyota hybrids – quite seamless. Electric motors handle slow acceleration up to a point, and the introduction of petrol power doesn’t yield any jerks or abruptness.
Faster acceleration utilises all power sources at once, and there’s enough acceleration to not be embarrassed. It’s not as fast as the V6, but I reckon it’s fast enough.
The bigger and heavier Kluger doesn’t do as much electric-only driving as something like a Corolla, but that’s all elementary because the efficiency gains are plain to see.
Infotainment has Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and DAB+ digital radio, as well as buttons and dials for common functions. The 8.0-inch display is large enough to be functional, but it’s clearly set into a space for a much larger screen, as offered overseas but not in Australia.
Safety credentials get a big boost with the Toyota Safety Sense suite of features landing in this latest-generation Kluger. The combination of cameras and radars power autonomous emergency braking, traffic sign recognition, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and lane centring. There’s also a rear-view camera, along with front and rear parking sensors.
Also worth noting, the autonomous emergency braking works for pedestrians (day and night) and cyclists (day), as well as intersections.
The Kluger’s interior is perhaps a little demure in comparison to the interiors of comparably priced competitors like the Kia Sorento, Hyundai Santa Fe and Mazda CX-9, but you can’t knock the functionality and liveability of the layout.
There are some nice carryovers from the previous-generation Kluger inside, which help the everyday practicality. I like the shelf built into the dashboard, complete with a hole to plumb your phone cable. And the sliding lid of the big centre console also works well.
Infotainment controls are made easy through the buttons and dials that surround the screen, and the operating system is one that’s easy to navigate. Likewise, climate controls and the multifunction display in front of the driver feel modern and easy to use.
The second row is commensurably spacious and comfortable, with good comfort and versatility on offer. Seats have a 60/40 split, and can be slid fore and aft via low-mounted levers near the door. Extra levers let you easily slide and tilt the seat forward in one swoop, which offers decent access to the third row.
Before we get into the third row, there are a few extra amenities to cover off: twin USB outlets, air vents in the roof and controls on the centre console. You can fit two bottles in each door, and something like a wallet in the handle above. There are cupholders in the flip-down armrest, and the floor mats are a decent-quality carpet.
Also, the relatively small transmission tunnel allows for plenty of leg room for the piggy-in-the-middle, but broader adults will rub shoulders a little.
The third row can fit adults, provided that the second row slides forward a little to free up some space, and you’ll also need to eat into boot space by tilting the third-row backrests a little. Complainers will still likely complain after a period, but the stoic will say it’s alright.
Road-trippers and regional buyers will appreciate the inclusion of a full-sized spare wheel, and the additional storage bins in the boot for small items. There’s a dedicated spot for a luggage blind, and four tie-down points for the boot, plus air vents and cupholders for the third row when occupied.
Boot capacity grows from (VDA) 241L up to the belt line as a seven-seater, up to 522L with the third row stowed. Open it up to van mode and you’ve got 1150L at your disposal.
And in recent news, the Kluger picked up top marks in recent ANCAP safety testing.
Servicing is capped at a very reasonable $250 per visit for the first five years and 75,000km, with 12 months and 15,000km between each visit.
And along with a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, Toyota extends its coverage of the engine and driveline to seven years, provided that owners “properly serviced and maintained per its warranty and service book”, and aren’t commercial users, while the hybrid battery warranty extends up to 10 years with an annual hybrid health check.
And that wraps up an extremely compelling case for the Kluger as a large family car. Other options in the segment might do a better job of offering an interesting interior design with superior materials and aesthetics, but the Kluger hits the nail firmly on the head in crucial areas: it’s cheap to run and maintain, is safe and comfortable, and has an interior that is capable of squeezing in seven with solid amenities.
The Kluger GXL’s pricing does put it within reach of top-spec competitors like Kia’s Sorento GT-Line and Hyundai’s Santa Fe Highlander. And, don’t forget Mazda’s old-but-solid CX-9. Buyers are in a good position, then, to choose something that suits their own tastes.
2021 Toyota Kluger GXL Hybrid review