The SsangYong Rexton. It’s a name familiar to many, but the SUV that now wears the designation exhibits no resemblance to its forbearers.
Currently in its fourth-generation, SsangYong’s seven-seater is back in Australia and it lands ready to cut across segments to build a following.
While the Rexton has often been described as unique due to the styling of previous generations, the descriptor can now be used with a different meaning. You see the Rexton is something of an anomaly as it straddles segments, it can’t be confined to just one category.
Firstly, for the uninitiated, the Rexton is SsangYong’s family SUV that was designed and engineered to be a proper off-road SUV, it’s not a derivative spawned from a ute like the majority of its rivals.
As a result of its off-road ability, it’s logical to think the Rexton will battle for buyers against the Isuzu MU-X, Toyota Fortuner and Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, however, that’s far too simplistic a view.
Yes, the Rexton utilises body-on-frame construction, but it doesn’t carry any of the agricultural vibes that often accompany this style of SUV. The styling and finishing of the Rexton will also see it cross-shopped against the likes of the Hyundai Santa Fe and Mazda CX-8.
The entry-level EX can be had for $39,990 drive-away, its 2WD only and gets power from a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine producing 165kW and 350Nm. The EX was unavailable to drive at the launch.
Standard equipment on the EX includes autonomous emergency braking, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, high beam assist, rear parking sensors, 18-inch alloy wheels and an 8.0-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The combination of specification and price will lure buyers to the EX, but those shopping value will find more to like in the higher grades.
EXL and Ultimate variants swap out the petrol engine for a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel unit shared with the Musso delivering 133kW and 420Nm. A Mercedes-Benz sourced seven-speed automatic sends power to a switchable 4WD system with proper low-range ratios.
Opting for the EXL ($46,990 drive-away) brings blind spot monitoring, lane change assist, rear cross-traffic alert, additional airbags, tyre pressure monitoring system and a 7.0-inch digital driver’s information display in the instrument cluster.
Moving to the Ultimate adds 20-inch alloys, a sunroof, powered tailgate, HID headlamps, leather trim, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, rear air conditioning controls, 360-degree camera, stainless steel scuff plates and speed-sensitive steering. At $52,990 drive-away, it’s the Ultimate that hits the right note.
Style-wise, the Rexton is innocuous, SsangYong has let go of the peculiar designs of the past. The brand’s new design language is far more aesthetically pleasing.
Open the door and it’s the unexpected calibre of the interior that impresses the most. Beautiful leather work, contrast stitching and a myriad of soft-touch materials decorate a sophisticated cabin that feels unquestionably premium.
Dig a little deeper and there’s substance to match the style. The seats are comfortable and the tactile experience of the various controls reinforce the unanticipated sense of luxury.
Things are good in the back too. There’s plenty of room and charging points for those in the rear, although those in the third-row will build plenty of character on long trips.
Settling in for a stint behind the wheel takes no time at all. The drivetrain is responsive with crisp shifting from the Merc-built seven-speed automatic. The transmission keeps the engine noise at an unobtrusive level to optimise efficiency.
Speaking of efficiency, the claimed consumption figure on a combined run is 8.3L/100km. At the conclusion of this test, which consisted of highway and slow off-road driving, the average consumption sat at 11.3L/100km.
Along with the cabin presentation, the level of refinement as the speedometer climbs is nothing short of superb at this price. NVH levels are remarkably low even when the drive reaches dirt.
Other than the extra attention paid to comfort and presentation, the Ultimate’s speed-sensitive steering gives it a substantial advantage over the EXL when it comes to low-speed manoeuvrability. Urban dwellers will appreciate the reduced resistance when driving through town.
The body-on-frame construction tends to jostle slightly when a large bump or divet is hit. The suspension tune which is on the softer side and the 20-inch wheels exacerbate the sensation. Turn onto a well-maintained surface and the Rexton gets along without a fuss.
For a local flavour, SsangYong is developing a local suspension tune which will be available in 2019.
There was no opportunity to test the Rexton’s towing performance at launch, it’s rated to pull 3500kg, something its road-focused rivals are incapable of.
Heading into the rough stuff is where the Rexton scores another win. Over a brief off-road drive, the Rexton showed plenty of promise. Genuine low-range capability sets things up nicely and the car was able to hold traction on a slippery section of bush track which gives the driver confidence.
Those keen on exploration will be happy to know all grades also pack a full-sized spare tyre in case trouble strikes.
Any serious ambitions of wilderness taming need to be tempered, the 224mm of clearance along with the approach and departure angles of 20.5- and 20.0-degrees respectively will suit the buyer wanting a proper all-rounder but will be too low for proper enthusiasts.
This is where the Rexton will find its market position, as a legitimate all-rounder. It can go further into the scrub than the Santa Fe, Sorento and CX-8. Push those rivals to one side and the Rexton is more refined and far more upmarket in its presentation than the Fortuner, MU-X and Pajero Sport. The SsangYong blends the best of both worlds to offer something unique in a crowded market.
Another factor that sets the Rexton apart is after sales support. SsangYong is backing every model in its local portfolio with a seven-year, unlimited kilometre warranty, seven years’ roadside assistance and seven years’ of transparent service costs. No other off-road SUV gets anywhere near that.
Sharp drive-away pricing and extensive ownership credentials are powerful statements of intent that will put the Rexton on many shortlists. However, it’s the combination of versatility, capability, comfort and a long spec sheet that will put the big SsangYong in the frame of the most astute buyers.
2019 SsangYong Rexton Ultimate Specifications
Price from $52,990 drive-away Engine 2.2-litre turbo-diesel Power 133kW @ 4000rpm Torque 400Nm @ 1400-2800rpm Transmission seven-speed automatic Combined Fuel Consumption 8.3L/100km Tank Capacity 70L Length 4850mm Width 1960mm Height 1825mm Wheelbase 2865mm Kerb Weight 2233kg Ground Clearance 224mm Turning Circle 11.4m Service Intervals 12 months/20,000km Warranty seven year/unlimited kilometre
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