Shropshire Star

SsangYong Rexton W - off-road pedigree and refinement

SsangYong's seven-seat Rexton proved a big, rugged 4x4 needn't be prohibitively expensive. The improved W version only re-inforces that point.

SsangYong Rexton

Want a large SUV which can walk the walk as well as talking the talk? What about one you probably aren't familiar with, SsangYong's Rexton W?

If you're secure enough in yourself not to care too much about badge equity and want a large, capable, well-equipped seven-seat 4x4 for sensible money, it makes a lot of sense.

Increasingly, large luxury SUVs are all about image, all about badge-equity, all about fashion.

Or at least most of them are. Here's one that's more practically grounded.

The W end letter is a designation for this 4x4's 'Worldwide' remit, a sales challenge that'll certainly be helped by the fact this much-improved car is now equipped with the key thing it always needed – a properly modern efficient diesel engine.

This 2.0-litre Euro 5-compatible e-XDi unit is all SsangYong's own, a powerplant which keeps the torque and pulling power of its predecessor while adding lower running costs and greater refinement.

At the same time, the brand has updated this car's interior, smartened the looks and added extra equipment, all part of a package of changes which in the Rexton W, have brought us a far more modern, up-to-date product.

Of course, its core values haven't changed. This car will still tow better than most of its competitors.

It's still better suited than many of them to really rough off-roading. And it's still built to out-last you.

If SsangYong has succeeded in sugaring these practical virtues with an efficient bit of modern tinsel, it could have a very appealing product indeed on its hands for the right kind of buyer.

Most modern SUVs are usually marketed as being very 'car-like'. This one isn't. Climb up into the commanding driving position and, rather refreshingly, it feels like exactly what it is, a tough, solidly-built go-anywhere 4x4 that isn't frightened of a bit of hard work.

The Rextons I've driven in the past have always been like that, but this one has also added a layer of sophistication to its driving manners which was missing before. And SsangYong's own 2.0-litre e-XDi diesel engine is a lot more refined than the rattly old 1990s-vintage Mercedes lumps used in previous models.

I wouldn't want you to assume from this that the South Korean brand has turned this car into some kind of BMW X5 or Mercedes M-Class rival.

It hasn't – nor does it wish to. The point I'm trying to make is that SsangYong has narrowed the gap to big SUVs of the modern era whilst retaining the kind of go-anywhere practicality most of them can only dream of –and doing so at a fraction of the price.

Pitch a Rexton W into a corner and you'll notice the rather over-assisted steering and yes, there'll be plenty of lean and understeer. Not significantly more though than you'd expect to get in, say, a Mitsubishi Shogun or even a pricey Land Rover Discovery.

It's not precious about getting up to its axles in mud either. The tougher the terrain, the better the Texton likes it thanks to its solid ladder-framed chassis and heavy duty low ratio 4WD set-up that splits the torque equally between front and rear axles to provide all round traction and ensure optimum grip even in the most challenging conditions.

Though what really matters here is what lies beneath the refreshed panelwork. A neater chromed grille framed by projector headlamps gives this SsangYong a much more contemporary look. It certainly isn't one immediately suggestive of a budget brand.

Underneath it all though, is the thing that counts, a tough ladder-framed chassis.

A proper off-roader should have a commanding driving position – as this one does. There's a big, imposing leather-trimmed steering wheel too: this is certainly old-school SUV motoring. But then in some ways that's rather refreshing.

And in the second row? Well for the kind of money SsangYong is asking, you'd expect something pretty cramped.

Instead, what you get is a car whch, thanks to a wheelbase some 30mm longer than a Toyota Land Cruiser costing nearly twice as much, offers decent space for two or three folk.

The Rexton W line-up sees an entry-level SX variant at around £22,000, but most will want to find another £2,500 for the leather-lined SX variant.

With that version, you can specify the Mercedes-sourced T tronic five-speed automatic gearbox which would cost an SX buyer another £1,500.

All models come with seven seats and the same 155PS 2.0-litre e-XDi diesel engine.

In other words, we're talking the kind of money here that wouldn't even get you an all-wheel drive diesel version of a small RAV4 or Freelander-style soft-roader.

By David Banner

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