Car review: An imposing beast

By Steve Berry

SsangYong have been manufacturing vehicles for more than 60 years and specialises in rugged SUV and off-road vehicles, with the Rexton being their flagship model.

It’s an imposing beast too. This large SUV comes as a full seven-seater in EX and ELX trim, while the range-topping Ultimate is five-seat only for those wanting maximum luggage space.

The EX comes with the option of six-speed manual or seven-speed Mercedes-Benz developed automatic transmission, 17in alloy wheels, manual air conditioning, smart audio system with 8in screen, power/folding door mirrors, front and rear parking sensors, automatic headlights and wipers, cruise control, and electronic safety features including forward collision warning, au-tonomous emergency braking system, lane departure warning, high beam assistance, and traffic sign recognition. On-the-road price starts from just £28,495.

The ELX has five seats as an option and adds 18in alloy wheels, dual zone and rear air condition-ing, a Supervision instrument cluster, Tom Tom navigation with a 9.2in screen, speed sensitive power-assisted steering, heated steering wheel, rear privacy glass, nappa leather upholstery, heated and powered front seats, Smart key, electro-chromic driver’s mirror, and nine airbags. OTR prices from £32,995.

Step up to the Rexton Ultimate, and you get seven-speed automatic transmission, five seats, 20in alloys, HID headlights, LED fog lights with cornering function, interior mood lighting, stain-less steel door finishes, 3D around-view monitoring, lane-change assist, blind-spot detection, and rear-cross traffic alert, quilted nappa leather, heated and ventilated memory power seats, and smart electronic tailgate. OTR price is from £38,495.

All models come with an impressive seven-year, 150,000-mile warranty and a 2.2 litre diesel engine providing 181 PS and 420Nm of maximum torque which gives a towing capability of up to 3.5 tonnes – and with prices typically 10 percent lower than the likes of the Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento the SsangYong should definitely be on any caravaners shortlist.

But is this new, fourth-generation Rexton all muscle with no finesse? Previous models have looked and felt a little agricultural but I’m happy to report this new model has had a major overhaul.

I’ve spent some time with a seven-seat ELX model and outwardly it certainly looks fresher. For such a large SUV it is also, thankfully, restrained in its looks with a lovely cohesive appearance to the front where the radiator grille and headlights blend together.

The bright body detailing and wheels help convey a more prestigious feel while at the rear there are LED rear combination side lights, an air spoiler with high-mounted LED stop light and LED number plate lights.

Inside the step-up in quality is again notable. With a well-balanced design the ambiance is fresh, contemporary and well laid out with a choice of seating including full nappa leather trim which is quilted on the top-of-the-range Ultimate model.

The driver’s seat is eight-way power-adjustable with the front passenger seat six-way power-adjustable. There are heated seats and also ventilated front seats on the Ultimate model which also features auto closing (automatic door-locking when the key is carried away from the car).

There is now an advanced infotainment system which includes DAB radio and even Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for device mirroring. The impressive list of standard kit on the ELX model also includes a rear-view reversing camera on the 9.2in. screen and also features TomTom navigation.

The air-conditioning is dual-zone and fully automated with fine dust filters to all three rows of seats, while rear-seat passengers also get their own USB connector and 220V inverter.

The large cabin offers very generous shoulder and headroom and I can imagine five adults can travel in comfort on even longer journeys. Knee room is particularly good for those in the second row of seats, but unsurprisingly not so good in the third row.

The second row of seats splits 60:40 with a folding centre armrest and gives relatively easy access to the third row of seats which also fold individually 50:50.

Rear boot space with the seats down (five seat model) is 1,977 litres, and 820 litres with the seats up. The seven-seater isn’t far off those figures, although with both rows of seats upright you’ll find luggage space seriously reduced.

On the road is where you begin to get a feel for the other side of the Rexton’s personality – its ruggedness.

The Rexton’s four-wheel drive system draws on SsangYong’s years of experience in 4WD technology. For greater fuel economy the car features part-time 4×4 with power delivered perma-nently to the rear wheels. Front wheel drive can be selected as required with high ratio, and low ratio as and when the off-road conditions become more demanding.

It also features special electronic safety aids such as hill start assist and hill decent control, and is best-in-class for approach and departure angles of 20.5 degrees and 22 degrees respectively.

The Mercedes-developed auto gearbox works well although down-changes are a little hesitant and the 2.2 diesel unit gets quite vocal toward its rev limit but is certainly no worse than rivals and trapping along on the motorway doesn’t present any problem.

SsangYong should certainly be congratulated for bringing their flagship model bang up to date while keeping the price impressively competitive.

RATING: ****

AT A GLANCE: SsangYong Rexton ELX Auto 4WD
OTR Price: £34,995
Engine: 2.2 turbo diesel
Power: 181 PS
Transmission: 7-speed automatic
0-62mph: 11.9 secs
Top Speed: 115 mph
Combined Economy: 34.0 mpg
CO2: 218 g/km

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