SUV equivalent of easy listening
WHY WE’RE RUNNING IT
To find out whether a big, separate chassis, part-time all-wheel-drive SUV still has a place in the world
Having thought that the Rexton would forever consume at least a gallon of diesel every 30 miles, and often noticeably more, I’m now surprised by it consistently breaking through the 30mpg threshold. True, this is hardly economical in absolute terms – and the figure is aided by my driving it more languidly than I do most other cars – but this is undeniably an improvement, and perhaps may yet be bettered. It makes the occasionally obvious shortcomings of its olde worlde undercarriage easier to bear.
Mind you, a couple of friends clambered aboard the Ssangyong recently and both were impressed by the space and luxury of its cabin. I then waited for them to comment on its ride but neither did, although I’ve noticed over the years that most car users are surprisingly impervious to jerking suspension. I wish I could say the same for myself, but as my colleague Steve Cropley also concluded, the Rexton’s ride forcibly diverts you from the conclusion that this is a very pleasingly furnished, tough and useful SUV that otherwise makes a strong case for itself. It’s also proving utterly reliable and fault-free, aside from the inability (most probably mine) to get the infotainment system to import my contacts from my smartphone.
So I have now done what blokes never want to do – look at the instructions – and discovered that despite the owner’s pack containing a handbook as thick as a headstone, the guide to the infotainment system occupies another volume that’s not in the car. So this will remain a mystery until I get one.
No need to delve into the big fat book to understand the facilities offered by the message display in the instrument cluster, however. Operated from the steering wheel, it provides tyre pressure status, trip data, a digital speedo, nav directions and more, besides enabling you to adjust the car’s settings. These include the degree of tilt you wish each door mirror to perform when reverse is engaged, to the volume of assorted warnings.
You’ll be pleased to hear that the ‘computer-on, it’s a new dawn’ bongs confirming the obvious – you have opened your Rexton’s door; you have turned on its ignition – can be banished. Still, they’re not as irritating as the pretentious ‘Power Beauty Soul’ message that used to greet Aston drivers on start up, or assorted Mazdas texting dashboard hellos and goodbyes at you. Am I getting curmudgeonly? Probably, but the Rexton will serenade you with plenty more bings and bongs if you drift from your lane, fail to buckle up or generally behave in a way that might undermine your right to sit behind the wheel. None of these was enough to prevent my reversing into a painfully solid object recently, so maybe I should shut up.
What doesn’t make much noise is the Rexton’s drivetrain, which is impressively quiet at a cruise. You can barely hear the diesel, or what must be substantial volumes of air being batted away by the Ssangyong’s big, bluff frontage. That’s part of what encourages you to drive this car in the languid way previously alluded to, along with the high-altitude view, which sometimes allows you to see a lot more scenery than you otherwise would. And despite being reasonably well-endowed with seven Mercedes made gears, the Rexton is not one for darting about, the transmission quite often allowing the engine’s revs to sink well off boost.
There’s no Sport mode, although you can flick your way through the gears via a little tab on the gearlever’s side. Better, though, to accept that the Rexton is the automotive equivalent of slow radio, enjoy the view out and indeed, the view in, such is the luxuriant ambience of its cabin.
Rexton to the rescue: our hero jump-starts a dormant Citroën AX GT
Accessing our phone’s contacts is beyond us; ride in rear is poor