Tak­ing on big boys

Warwickshire Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE - By Robin Roberts

THE world of se­ri­ous, big 4x4 lux­ury SUVs is an ex­clu­sive one, and they don’t come much more ex­clu­sive than the SsangY­ong Rex­ton.

“What?” is a ques­tion I rightly an­tic­i­pated from a num­ber of driv­ers when I sug­gested the same point to them. It begs ex­pla­na­tion, so here we go.

To put the com­pany into per­spec­tive and where it sits along­side Korea’s bet­ter known Hyundai and Kia mod­els, SsangY­ong is the coun­try’s old­est ve­hi­cle man­u­fac­turer and was founded in 1954.

To­day it’s 73 per cent owned by In­dia’s Mahin­dra & Mahin­dra engineering com­pany and is cur­rently the only 4x4 and SUV spe­cial­ist man­u­fac­turer in Korea. It has also shared some de­vel­op­ment with an­other long es­tab­lished brand which is prob­a­bly bet­ter known – Mercedes-Benz.

There’s a com­par­a­tively small range of three Rex­ton mod­els shar­ing a com­mon en­gine with choice of sixspeed man­ual or seven-speed au­to­matic

TEST DRIVE SSANGY­ONG REX­TON ELX

trans­mis­sion, with five or seven seats from £27,500 to £37,500.

Our model was a seven-seat ELX with au­to­matic trans­mis­sion at £34,000 in metal­lic paint and fit­ted with the tow­ing pack.

The four-cylin­der en­gine packs mod­est power out­put for the 2.2 tonne kerb­weight but it de­vel­ops 420Nm for good pulling power once un­der way through the seven gears.

It’s not im­mensely pow­er­ful, more ma­jes­tic than mighty, and at higher rev­o­lu­tions the en­gine noise does in­trude to be­come more ob­vi­ous than the con­stant lower vi­bra­tions from the road and sus­pen­sion.

The per­for­mance is re­spectable rather than rapid when you look at the 0-60mph time but the way it gets there is im­pres­sive with the au­to­matic gear­box slip­ping smoothly and qui­etly through the ra­tios and then set­tling down to a very re­laxed mo­tor­way cruise at the le­gal limit.

Steer­ing and stop­ping is easy and the han­dling is good once you come to terms with the slight pitch­ing and rolling.

The size be­comes ap­par­ent only when look­ing for an ur­ban park­ing space and bumpers tend to stick out of con­ven­tion­ally sized park­ing boxes. The car’s on-board sen­sors and cam­eras keep you out of trou­ble when ma­noeu­vring.

In­side, the size is ap­pre­ci­ated with a lot of legroom in front and be­hind, though the two rear­most fold­away seats lack reach and sup­port and are for very oc­ca­sional use only. There’s good ad­just­ment on the front pair and a com­fort­able shape and sup­port.

The flat­ter rear bench type seat does not of­fer the same lo­ca­tion but it is also good at sup­port­ing long legs and the head­room is ex­cel­lent through­out.

I liked the high flat loadbed to the lug­gage area, its shape and ca­pac­ity, which could be grad­u­ally in­creased to over 1,800 litres. Tail­board pic­nics be­come more of a fam­ily feast in the back of the Rex­ton.

Its height as you pull up into the cabin of­ten draws com­ment, as it does when you drop down to exit, but it means you have a very good view of the road and sur­round­ing traf­fic, the waist­line is low, win­dows deep and both lights and wipers do a very good job.

For the driver, the ma­jor con­trols worked eas­ily and the sec­ondary switches were well set out, with big di­als in front and a good sized cen­tral con­sole for the in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem, im­pres­sive heat­ing and ven­ti­la­tion and odd­ments space. Large door bins and seat pock­ets added to the fam­ily friendly feel of the Rex­ton.

We only tried it on a mildly de­mand­ing off-road course but its good ap­proach and de­par­ture an­gles, wheel ar­tic­u­la­tion and abil­ity to go slowly when needed and rapidly re­spond when nec­es­sary were im­pres­sive.

On the road you can de­cide how re­spon­sive you want the trans­mis­sion to be and it will not dis­ap­point, with easy mode se­lec­tion.

The Rex­ton can ac­tu­ally stand wing to wing with its Ger­man and Bri­tish ri­vals in the big SUV class and not look or feel out of place, ex­cept you’ll have a lot more money in the bank to cel­e­brate buy­ing one and join­ing the ex­clu­sive coun­try set. Model: SsangY­ong Rex­ton ELX auto Price: £34,000 Me­chan­i­cal: 181ps, 2,198cc, 4cyl diesel en­gine driv­ing four wheels via 7-speed au­to­matic gear­box Max Speed: 115mph 0-62mph: 11.9 sec­onds Com­bined mpg: 34 In­sur­ance group: 29 CO2 emis­sions: 218g/km BiK rat­ing: 37% War­ranty: 5 yrs/un­lim­ited miles

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