Car Review: It’s Opples and Aranges with Mitsubishi Triton Exceed and Toyota Kluger Grande

2014 Toyota Kluger Grande

No, that’s not a misspelling, I’ve deliberately used opples and aranges to highlight there’s differences and similarities between the top of the tree cars, in their category, from Mitsubishi and Toyota. The Triton Exceed is the top of the range for the newly revamped dual cab ute whilst the Kluger Grande is atop the pile for that range from Toyota. 2015 Toyota Kluger Grande rearLets compare apples with oranges to see why we have an opple and arange as A Wheel Thing compares the two.

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The Kluger range is fully petrol and suffers from economy issues. It’s a 3.5L V6 and slurps 91 RON petrol quicker than a Friday arvo tradie at the pub necks his beer. A Wheel Thing averaged 11.0L per 100 kilometres from the Grande…from 95% freeway work. That’s unforgiveable in today’s driving environment.
The Tritons are now almost exclusively diesel (there is a couple of 2.4L petrols) and it shows; at 2.4L capacity also it sat at around 8.0L/100 kilometres and was on a predominantly urban usage cycle.2016 Mitsubishi Triton Exceed engine
There’s 201 kW from the Kluger at 6200 revs, the Triton offers 133 kW at 3500. Torque from the Toyota is 337 Nm at 3700 rpm with the four door ute twisting 439 Nm at 2500 rpm. Transmissions were both self shifters, a six ratio ‘box in the Grande and a rejigged five cogger for the Mitsubishi.Kluger engine
Toyota claims, per 100 kilometres, 10.6/14.4/8.4L for combined/urban and highway from a 72 litre tank. Mitsubishi says 7.6L per 100 km on the combined cycle from a similarly sized (75L) tub.

The Suit.
The Triton hasn’t really undergone a massive overhaul; Japan’s current design philosophy is chrome and it showed, with a bright silver grille taking pride of place at the front, bisecting the slightly reprofiled headlights. 2016 Mitsubishi Triton Exceed frontThe test vehicle supplied was also kitted with a rear canopy cover and roof mounted storage, as it had been used for what all proper four wheel drive vehicles should do. It went travelling to the Simpson Desert, courtesy of a four wheel drive magazine and the toughness showed with no major squeaks or rattles, bar the passenger seat moving somewhat as the car moved around.

The rear tray looks almost unchanged bar the tail lights: in profile the top part of the assembly leans forward into the metal whilst directly from the rear the once rounded look is now an angular shape, looking most like it’d been pinched from another Japanese two/four door ute maker… there’s also a strong crease line from the headlights joining the rear, compared to the previous model’s smoothness.2016 Mitsubishi Triton Exceed profile

In overall looks it’s more of the same but newer. Dimensions say it’s a hefty unit: 5280 mm in length make it one of the longest vehicles readily available in Australia, plus 1815 mm in width and 1780 in height add to the Triton’s imposing presence. Wheelbase? Well, that’s big too, at 3000 mm…Whack in the weight of 1965 kg unladen, to boot.
To add to the visual appeal, there was sidesteps and front bar; it’s a beast and makes no apologies.2016 Mitsubishi Triton Exceed rear tray

The Kluger has been in its current guise for a while; the vehicle supplied was fresh, with about 500 klicks on the clock when picked up. It’s a big unit too, at 4865 x 1925 x 1730 mm (L x W x H) with a near 2.8 metre wheelbase (2790 mm). It weighs a bit, too, which may account for the economy, as 2065 kilos unladen doth not make a lightweight.2015 Toyota Kluger Grande profile

The profile is boxy, angular, moving away from the relatively smoother and slightly curvy previous iteration. There’s a hint of cab forward, with a shortish bonnet compared to the overall cabin length. The window line is familiar, with Camry/Aurion hints plus there’s privacy glass as well. There’s a tailgate lid spoiler and the tail light assembly has hints of Lexus. The front is bluff, upright and in the eyes of the beholder for looks…

On The Inside.
It’s here that the two cars take a stronger divergence. The Exceed needs, quite simply, more bling, whilst the Grande comes with seven seats, sunroof, DVD player (roof mounted and with cordless headphones), heated and ventilated seats, fully adjustable steering column with paddle shifters and a somewhat unusual dash styling, with a curved shape at odds with the hidey hole styling.
In between the driver and passenger sits a huge console, big enough to hide some small bottles or cans. A brushed aluminuim accent surrounds the air vents, info screen and aircon controls, whilst the tabs around the screen are basic and bare looking in black and white plastic.

The dash design, as stated, is odd; there’s a beautiful, sinuous wave shape to the binnacle, only to meet an inset for the clock at the top and a wrap around to the airbag cover, whilst below is a storage locker that simply doesn’t fit with the look of the rest. But at least there’s tech like Blind Spot Alerts to give the driver something more positive.

The Exceed benefits from an updated dash but lacks in presence. There’s the piano black surrounds for the infotainment system, push button start, machine made leather, dual zone aircon and a powered driver’s seat. The seats are better than before, with more padding and support to the hips and thorax, with both getting the standard array of airbags including one for the driver’s knee.2016 Mitsubishi Triton Exceed dash

2016 Mitsubishi Triton Exceed consoleBoth don’t suffer from room, with rear seat passengers in both able to stretch comfortably. The Kluger is a seven seater, with simple pull straps to raise the pews, whilst, normally, there’s an uncovered tub for the rear section of the Triton, but in this case it was a three windowed canopy. The tub itself is huge, with more than enough room to toss a sleeping bag and rubber mat to sleep on whilst not knocking the noggin should you sit up.Kluger rear seatsKluger cargo

The Exceed may be at the top of the ladder but to look at the cabin you wouldn’t know it. There’s a real lack of appeal visually, with nothing to catch the eye and make the statement. Not all buyers of off road capable utes with dirty the car or themselves and this really could do with a higher level of visual velcro.

On The Road.
Kluger Grande is a suburban off roader; it’ll see speedhumps and puddles way more than it will any beaches or muddy tracks. There is a 2WD version, the 4WD supplied gets a lockable centre diff. The Triton, on the other hand, is equipped with an electronic 4 wheel drive selector. Operated via a dial in the centre console and displayed on the small colour dash screen via sybols, there’s a clear indication of two wheel drive, four wheel drive and high and low ratios, plus locking centre and rear diffs for getting down and dirty off road.

The Exceed was taken to A Wheel Thing’s test track, a combination of sand, gravel, muddy ruts, rocks and undulating surfaces. To say it coped with that terrain is a huge understatement. Kluger would struggle in the same environment and it’s not a terribly difficult off road track.

The Kluger’s transmission is smooth and slurs through the ratios with barely a hiccup, but the go pedal needs a good prod to get the two plus tonnes moving at anything other than a crawl. Although the Kluger feels, seats of the pants, effortless, it’s clear the lack of lower down the rev range torque hurts. There was a hint of fuel in the tank after 490 klicks were covered; as mentioned before, virtually all driving was freeway based therefore hardly stressing the drivetrain in a suburban stop/start environment.

As one would expect, the ride and handling of the Kluger is well sorted, with minimal roll, dive and squat, plus the brakes grab well enough under most circumstances to haul its mass up. Brake pressure was suitable for the Grande, with engagement almost straight away. Steering is light for the Grande’s size, but not to the point of feeling over assisted or disassociating the driver from the road.

2015 Toyota Kluger
2015 Toyota Kluger

The Triton is big, boofy, solid in its feel on the road but definitely no ballet dancer. Even with the earth rotating torque the diesel generates, the five cogger does its best to hobble the grunt. Acceleration is moderate from standstill but rapid enough once on the run. Even under full pressure, the diesel is relatively refined, quiet and will haul the Triton along nicely.

The auto has been given an overhaul, so although a touch ancient in basic design, it’s smoother and slicker in changing. The package works well and is certainly economical enough, although one wonders how an extra ratio would go. Under hard throttle, it drops smoothly and quietly back one, two, ratios, before launching forward.

Engaging the transfer case is simple; stop, neutral, select, watch the screen…all four paws grip and the Exceed ploughs through and over nonchalantly. It’s fun, agreeable and relatively stress free.2016 Mitsubishi Triton Exceed wheel
On tarmac…the brakes need work. There’s an inch of travel before they pads bite and then not well. More than once there were some sharp breaths as the rear of the car in front arrived quicker than was safe. It was reported to the dealership that the car was sourced from, just in case.

Steering, again, is light with enough weight to talk but not leave the driver wondering where the front wheels are going, and being a rear wheel drive off road capable working ute, it’s leaf springs at twenty paces at the rear and a touch tight at that.

The Wrap.
Apples and oranges or, in this case, opples and aranges. Why? They’re the top of the range, both four wheel drive capable and have a number of similar features like push button start and satnave, leather seats, kneebags and so on. But they’re different in that one is a proper off roader whilst the other would faint at the sight of a six inch deep muddy puddle. But one offers a DVD player and a suitable interior whilst the other….doesn’t….

They’re designed for different markets, different people and therefore will have different appeal. The Triton wins on economy and true dirt ability, the Kluger wins for features but sucks badly for economy.
Consumers, it’s your call.

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