Drive Car Of The Year
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Best Large SUV 2022

Large SUVs – along with medium SUVs – are very much the family battleground for Australian buyers in 2022. Competition has never been fiercer.

The large SUV segment is broad and varied in Australia. Consequently, it’s one of the toughest battlegrounds for market share, but also one of the more complex to break down for testing.

In one sense, sales are dominated by road-focused SUVs like the Toyota Kluger, but the segment technically includes more off-road-capable offerings like the Toyota Prado and Ford Everest.

Whereas Aussie families once road-tripped our vast continent in Holden Commodores and Ford Falcons, the large SUV is now the vehicle of choice for buyers wanting a practical, spacious, well-equipped family hauler. That multi-faceted expectation on the part of the buyer means an SUV that may once have been more rudimentary and less polished, now needs to tick a multitude of boxes.

Such buyer demand means the segment is thriving, and that also means just about every manufacturer wants a piece of it – including the luxury mainstays. Narrowing our field down to three finalists was tough enough. Arriving at one winner came after a lot of testing, and plenty of spirited debate centred on pricing, specification, warranty and ownership costs.

Our three finalists are all, in their own way, excellent offerings in this hard-fought segment. Toyota’s evergreen Kluger makes the grade, along with the excellent Kia Sorento, and segment newcomer the Hyundai Palisade.

Winner: Toyota Kluger

What we love
  • Refinement, comfort and space
  • Quality driving experience
  • Strong equipment levels across the range
What we don’t
  • Base model doesn’t get power tailgate
  • Step up to Hybrid is expensive
  • Warranty doesn’t match Kia’s seven years

We don’t envy the position Toyota was in when it came to revising the Kluger. Already the most popular vehicle in the segment, it would have been easier to make a meal of it than improve upon the popular outgoing model. And yet, in typical Toyota fashion, the new Kluger makes evolutionary steps forward, and makes a good thing even better.

With 2WD petrol, AWD petrol, and AWD hybrid, the only thing missing from the Kluger range is a diesel. However, the efficiency of the hybrid drivetrain counters that and ensures there’s a Kluger to suit most buyers. Starting from just over $47,000 before on-road costs, the Kluger range runs up to just over $75,000 before on-road costs for the range-topping Hybrid.

Across the range, the Kluger is comfortable, capable and enjoyable to drive. Whether you’re rolling around town or heading off on a long-distance road trip, the Kluger is a high-quality family conveyance. Inside the cabin, there’s space and comfort for the family, with a versatile cabin offering plenty of storage and Toyota’s usual sense of quality and ruggedness.

The non-hybrid engine is a naturally aspirated 3.5-litre V6, which makes 218kW and 350Nm mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Toyota claims 8.7–8.9L/100km depending on the variant, but around town you’ll use more than that.

The Hybrid, which is our pick of the range, uses a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder engine, as well as electric motors for a combined power output of 184kW. Small electric motors give the petrol engine a boost and deliver power to the front wheels via an e-CVT automatic, while a larger electric motor drives the rear axle on demand.

Despite its undeniable quality and the ways it competes so strongly in the segment, there are subtle areas where the Kluger could be even better. Stepping up to the Hybrid does add a hefty premium, which might be a bridge too far for some Aussie buyers. We’d love to see the entry grades get a useful electric tailgate, and it’s fair to say that Kia’s standard-setting seven-year warranty would be something Toyota could emulate.

However, the popularity of the Kluger in such a competitive segment comes as no surprise and is no accident. It’s a worthy winner of the 2022 Drive Car of the Year Best Large SUV award, even in the face of new, quality competition.

Finalist: Kia Sorento

What we love
  • Quality interior with plenty of tech
  • Strong and efficient powertrains
  • Comfortable and capable
What we don’t
  • Steep price hike for the PHEV
  • No airbags for the third row
  • Some specification grades could have more standard equipment

Last year’s overall winner remains sharply competitive 12 months later, and is a worthy finalist that pushed the Kluger all the way. The Sorento is still popular among Australian buyers, with good reason.

With the addition of an all-wheel-drive plug-in hybrid (PHEV) model, the Sorento offers a broad cross-section for Aussie buyers. The range starts with the 2WD petrol, before moving to an AWD diesel model, with a total of nine different variants on offer. Pricing starts from just under $49,000 before on-road costs and rounds out at just over $79,000 before on-road costs for the PHEV. A mid-grade petrol or diesel shapes as the smart choice for family buyers.

The petrol engine is a 3.5-litre V6 generating 200kW and 332Nm with a conventional eight-speed automatic. Kia claims 9.7L/100km, but you’re more likely to use low 12s around town. The diesel engine is a 148kW/440Nm 2.2-litre unit mated to an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission, which is one of the smoothest we’ve tested in any platform. Kia’s claimed fuel use of 6.1L/100km in diesel variants is impressive for a large SUV, with 7L/100km very realistic day-to-day.

Kia’s seven-year warranty remains a strong point, but so does the execution of the cabin, the integration of the infotainment technology, and the quality of the driving experience. One area the Kia gapped the other finalists was in braking performance, where it was a full 3m sharper to stop than both the Palisade and Kluger.

The Sorento could do with some minor tweaks to specification to strengthen the offering even further, and the step up to the PHEV model is prohibitive. Further, we’d love to see airbag coverage extend into the third row.

There’s no doubt, though, that the Kia Sorento remains a competitive option that sits up near the top of the large SUV segment across our range of testing variables. We’ve put the Sorento through its paces over a variety of roads and disciplines since its launch, and it has impressed every time.

Finalist: Hyundai Palisade

What we love
  • Once in, the third row is comfortable
  • Clever storage throughout the cabin
  • Comfortable around town or on the open road
What we don’t
  • Accessing the third row isn’t easy
  • Limited luggage space with third row in use
  • Not as efficient as segment leaders

A recent shuffle of the range, along with price revisions, made the Hyundai Palisade more attractive, and an even more impressive finalist for 2022 Drive Car of the Year. Like the Kia Sorento, the Palisade pushed the Toyota Kluger all the way for the title of Best Large SUV.

Available in seven- and eight-seat configurations, the Palisade offers Hyundai buyers an SUV that is demonstrably larger than the popular Hyundai Santa Fe. Like the other finalists, there’s 2WD and AWD to choose from – petrol and diesel respectively. Pricing starts from just over $48,000 before on-road costs for the price leader, and tops out at $75,000 before on-road costs for the full-fruit diesel.

The 3.8-litre six-cylinder engine is meaty on the road with 217kW and 355Nm on offer, and an eight-speed automatic. Claimed fuel use is 10.7L/100km but expect to use 14.0L/100km around town. The 2.2-litre diesel engine makes a solid 147kW and 440Nm, and is backed by the same eight-speed torque converter automatic transmission. Claimed fuel use is 7.3L/100km and you won’t use too much more than that in the real world. 

Access to the third row isn’t as easy as it could be, but once you’re in, it’s the most comfortable of the three Large SUV finalists. There’s plenty of useful, well-placed storage throughout the cabin, and the seats are as comfortable around town as they are on longer trips. If you need a versatile family SUV, the Palisade’s cabin is a strong point.

There isn’t a huge amount of luggage space with the third row in play, but if you’re primarily a four- or five-person family, the Palisade feels like a large SUV in terms of space. Crucially, though, it doesn’t show its heft driving around town where it gets about like a smaller SUV would.

As is expected, Hyundai’s integration of technology, infotainment system, and ergonomics are all first-rate in the Palisade, and it makes for an enjoyable daily driver or road trip companion in terms of the way driver and passenger interact with the vehicle.

While the Palisade doesn’t ultimately win the award, it pushes the other two finalists all the way with a mix of value, driving quality, standard specification and ownership equation. It might be new to the segment, but the Palisade has hit the ground running.

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