An otherwise wonderful car totally ruined by an appalling transmission
Before the first service, the car was missing badly, had a dreadful transmission hesitation lasting 2 seconds on occasions, surged badly, and was impossible to drive smoothly.
A complete new wiring harness was fitted, following a Technical Service Bulletin from Toyota. This fixed the engine miss, but all the other problems remain to this day.
Toyota is unable to fix any of these other problems, all of which are transmission related. To make matters worse, they refuse to acknowledge these are problems, calling them a "normal operational characteristic". I was then told that a fix was being worked on. I have learned that they have been trying to find a fix since 2002. This problem is seen in a small, but significant number of Toyotas and Lexus with the 3.0 or 3.3L engine and 5 speed auto.
I really want to like this car, but the problems with the transmission are so bad, and Toyota Australia's attitude so abysmal that I would get rid of it today if only I could avoid the huge hit on my lease.
At certain speeds when I give the accelerator about 50% or more pressure, the transmission just sits there for 2 seconds. The engine then revs to over 5000 rpm, and then suddenly bangs into gear with an almighty jolt. The problem is unpredictable, and very unsettling. I consider it to be a major safety issue, and it has caused me to have 3 near misses in 5 months. My wife simply refuses to drive the car, and I have had to totally modify how I drive to allow for the dreadful lack of responsiveness.
In addition to the transmission lag on moderate to hard acceleration, it is almost impossible to drive the car smoothly when slowing down and speeding up at speed humps, traffic lights, tight corners etc, as the car can't work out which gear it should be in. This car is supposed to have class-leading smoothness. My particular car is simply appalling.
Toyota claims that the car falls within normal operational parameters; I have driven 10 year old Korean cars with better transmissions than this.
In the US, the National Highway and Traffic Safety Authority is currently deciding whether to mount a full investigation into this problem. This follows hundreds of reports of similar problems on various Toyota and Lexus user web boards. Several cars have been replaced under lemon laws or arbitration due to this problem.
I stress that most Klugers (and Camrys and Lexus RX330s) do not seem to have this problem, or if they do, it is only mild. I have driven several of these cars and only one other was affected like mine. Be aware however that if you are unlucky enough to get a lemon like mine, Toyota will not want to know you.
Transmission aside, the car is almost perfect. It has a fabulous ride, is very quiet, and is reasonably comfortable, although someone taller than 180cm might be a bit cramped as the driver's seat doesn't move back very far.
It handles better than other similar priced crossover 4WDs apart from perhaps the Ford Territory. It is quite roomy without being too huge on the outside. Economy is OK - about 14L/100 km in mixed driving, and when the transmission behaves itself, it is surprisingly quick.
I think the sound system is a bit ordinary, and I'm not a big fan of the dash or front grille, but overall it is a sensible, practical design.
But oh, the transmission in my car is a shocker. Until Toyota acknowledge and fix this potentially dangerous problem, I cannot recommend this otherwise very good car.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? No
Review Date: 21st February, 2005