Sure, outside Japan and Australia the Toyota Kluger XU20 was called the Highlander or the RX’s budget cousin, but I’ve decided that the Kugler needs it’s own review so you will eat sh&t with pickles.

So I am going to talk mostly about the Australian Toyota Kluger XU20 because I really doubt that someone from Japan will accidentally find this online septic tank. They should’ve called it the Highlander in Australia aswell but Hyundai owned the rights to that name so they had to go with Kluger instead because you need an aussie name for an aussie car. Or atleast to the closed bed version of the 4Runner, as this was the main ideea.

An ideea that was both succesful AND profitabile, much like how tampon companies invented women in order to sell more tampons or bathroom companies invented genders to sell more bathrooms. It was big, it was cozy, it was comfy, it was reliable. The Kluger was designed with comfort and on-road in mind, as opposed to the rugged 4Runner, and it was Toyota’s best selling truck in Australia until the smaller Rav4 arrived. But for that period of time, from 2003 when the Kluger was released in Australia, and 2006 when the Rav4 arrived, the Toyota Kluger XU20 was THE Toyota to have.

So what’s so different about the Kluger instead of the Highlander?

  • Technically they are the same car, and not just technically but also literally. Unibody construction, MacPherson suspension at the front and independent suspension at the back, kind of like the minivan – 2 in front, 5 in the back.
  • No time for weak engines, as Australia is also a land of the free, where people drive real trucks with real engines so the Kluger missed out on the 4 cylinder petrol and even the entry-level V6 petrol. I mean, the 3.0 V6 petrol was available at lunch but was quickly retired 1 year later when the japanese realised that they need bigger muscle so they brought over the 3.3 V6 3MZ-FE, which is effectively the only engine available for the Toyota Kluger XU20.
  • Some interior modifications, the big one being that the Kluger had the center console integrated in the dashboard right from the bat, whereas the Highlander had this feature introduced as late as 2004 when Ween was singing the ending credits of the Spongebob Squarepants Movie. And Shrek 2 was released. Man, those were the days. Actually, forget about this review, Imma go watch some Shrek, it’s much better and entertaining than whatever’s happening here.


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Toyota Kluger XU20 Engines


  • 3.0 V6 1MZ-FE of 203 horsepower – On the Kluger it had a limited run so I won’t talk about it, much like how I don’t want to talk about alot of things.
  • 3.3 V6 3MZ-FE of 225 horsepower – The Kluger finally arrived in 2003 in Australia and this was the bread and butter of Toyota, a big engine made to take on the rivals such as the Pilot. Fairly reliable but known for cooling issues and possible overheating in high temperature areas and Australia might be on that list. So make sure that everything in the cooling system department is in working shape, from thermostat to radiator to the coolant level.


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Toyota Kluger XU20 Reliability Issues

  • It chugs down on refrigerant in hot weather so keep an eye on the refrigerant level. This also applies to the engine heat management aswell, from thermostat to radiator to coolant so make sure to inspect from time to time.
  • Suspension tends to fail like you fail your parents when you get black out drunk every weekend. Because the front suspension can fail every weekend. Not all of it, but it’s so complex that there’s always something to fail somewhere. And since we’re on the subject on suspension, it’s not the best car to take corners with, as the press graciously showed it by rolling over during the tests. Some say it was a hoax, some say it was intentional, all we know is that the Kluger is not the most agile wheeled apartment in the world, but I suppose that the rolling wine country deserves a rolling car.


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Toyota Kluger XU20 Verdict

It may not have been perfect, but the Kluger got it’s foot in the SUV world and it was Toyota’s best selling model until the Rav4 arrived. It may not be the most adapted to the australian roads, but it was definatelly a comfy, practical and reliable SUV for straight line driving and gentle cornering. But let’s be honest, who buys a Kluger and thinks “Mmm, yes, I will go gas gas gas with it on the Gillies Range Road.”. And it paved the way for the future models, which were much improved.


Which engines do I recommend? Reallistically the 3.3 V6 3MZ-FE was the only option so yeah.