First Drives

17 October 2012

Driven: Mahindra-SsangYong Rexton AWD automatic

It's been a long time coming, but the Mahindra-SsangYong Rexton is finally here and we've driven it!

Manish Sarser
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It was at the Auto Expo when we first laid eyes on the SsangYong Rexton. It looked big, had presence and if you looked at the grille, it was not ashamed of its lineage. You see the Rexton is based on the Mercedes M-Class of the late 90s. But we weren’t sure if its ancestor’s grille was such a good idea. Fast forward to today and you’ll see Mahindra has been busy. What you see here is the third-generation Rexton. It isn’t really mechanically different, but that’s because most of the changes have happened on the outside.

There’s an entirely new face. Gone is the Merc-inspired grille, you get new headlamps, redesigned bumpers and a generous helping of chrome. It gives the Rexton a distinct identity. The rear too gets redesigned tail-lamps, but the glasshouse remains the same. We’re not complaining because the Rexton is certainly pleasing to the eye even if it isn’t as eye-catching as one may like. We’ve driven the AWD version. It is powered by a 2.7-litre common rail motor that puts out 184bhp and it comes coupled to a five-speed automatic transmission.

Start it up and refinement is decent, but not class-leading. The engine is smooth, but diesel clatter is present especially when you rev the motor hard. Out on the road, the Rexton responds well-enough to the throttle. 0-100kph comes up in 10.62 seconds which isn’t too bad, but it isn’t as quick as the Hyundai Santa Fe. The five-speed gearbox also isn’t as quick as you’d like. It encourages a leisurely style of driving and you’ll be disappointed if you’re expecting lightning-quick shifts. There’s a tip-tronic mode that has an unusual button on the gearstick rather than proper defined gates for manual shifting. You can also change gears from buttons on the steering wheel!

Out on the road, the Rexton feels quite smooth. Ride quality is good, but we’ll reserve our judgement till we get it out on some real roads. But one thing is certain, the Rexton’s been tuned to provide a soft ride. Throw it into a corner and the soft setup shows up. There’s noticeable body-roll and the front runs out of grip pretty soon. The soft setup amplifies the weight transfer as you put the Rexton through its paces. The light steering feels great at slow speeds but feedback could have been better. As long as you don’t drive the Rexton like a hooligan, it complies without much complain. But try and get frisky and it’ll complain with a loud squeal from its tyres. Nimbleness isn’t its strong point and we felt little brother XUV provides better body control.

On the inside, the Rexton is quite the nice place to be in. The beige and black combination looks and feels good. Quality of materials is surprisingly good and you get loads of equipment too. Powered driver seat with memory, automatic climate control, automatic headlights and wipers, ABS, ESP to name a few. There’s a third row as well. But the seat is placed too low and robs the passengers of under-thigh support and is best used for short journeys. Boot space even with the third row in place is better than the competition.

The Mahindra-SsangYong Rexton makes for a good package if you’re going to be chauffeur-driven all the time. It’s fairly comfortable and comes crammed with equipment. It may lack finesse dynamically, but at Rs 19.67 lakh*, it does become a little hard to ignore. There’s also a cheaper five-speed manual, part-time 4WD available for Rs 17.67 lakh*. More in TopGear’s upcoming issue.

*Prices are ex-showroom, Mumbai without Octroi.

Tags: mahindra, ssangyong, rexton, rexton awd

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