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Review: SsangYong Rexton

Driven January 2013

Review: SsangYong Rexton

After months of dilly-dallying, Mahindra has finally taken the covers off its not-so-well-guarded secret. We first saw the SsangYong Rexton at the Delhi Auto Expo. Back then, we weren’t impressed by the face, especially because it looked like a rip-off of an old Mercedes. But this wasn’t a coincidence.

You see, the Rexton is really based on the Mercedes M-Class of the late ’90s. What we have here is the third-gen Rexton. It comes with a facelift that gets rid of the old grille.

You also get new headlamps, bumpers and alloys along with a generous helping of chrome. And it seems to have worked. The earlier Rexton was not ashamed to show off its roots, but thankfully, with the new grille, you’ll have to look really hard to tell that the Rexton is an old Mercedes M-Class underneath. All that aside, the Rexton does have presence largely due to its size. Stand it next to the Toyota Fortuner and turns out, the Rexton is 50mm longer and 60mm wider. There is a subdued Korean flavour to the lines – it isn’t fantastically stylish but it doesn’t offend anyone.

Inside is where you really start appreciating the Rexton. Because it’s unlike any Mahindra you’ve seen. The quality levels are a couple of notches above that of the XUV500. While the XUV’s cabin is a bit of a styling overdose, the Rexton looks mature and relatively understated. The dash is finished in a combination of beige and black. The faux wood trim really livens up the interior.

You get steering-mounted controls for the audio system and you can change gears from buttons on the steering wheel. Even the buttons feel superior in quality. Equipment levels are also pretty good and you get a whole host of features, including ESP, ABS, sat-nav, airbags, automatic lights, wipers, powered driver seat with memory function, Bluetooth connectivity and a touchscreen display.

There are three rows of seats too. The front row is the best, the middle row has enough legroom even though the floor is slightly high. The last row, however, isn’t something you can really use. It sits flat on the floor, so your knees are always in your mouth. Even the dedicated blower with controls won’t make the third-row passengers happy. The Rexton is best used as a five-seater with the last row reserved only for emergencies.

If you take a look at the brochure, you’ll see some impressive numbers. It comes with a relatively large 5-cylinder 2.7-litre common rail diesel that pumps out 184bhp and 402Nm. Refinement levels are only decent, though. Even though the vibrations are kept well in check, the mechanical clatter does come through into the cabin when you give it some stick.

We’re driving the automatic, which is an old-school 5-speed torque converter. The manual is also a 5-speed but the engine is detuned to 162bhp and 340Nm. Anyway, out on the road the automatic doesn’t feel particularly quick. The gearbox shifts leisurely and doesn’t like to be hurried. Upshifts are acceptable, but kickdowns can be a bit lethargic. There’s a tip-tronic mode that has an unusual button on the gear lever instead of the conventional gates for manual shifting.

The problem is, every time you get off the throttle, the engine immediately goes to idle. Not only does it rob you of engine braking, it also blunts throttle response in stop-and-go traffic. You can choose the manual mode, which does provide you a bit of engine braking. But there’s no denying the fact that the 5-speeder doesn’t like hustling through the ratios.

On an open road with the throttle mashed, the Rexton will hit 100kph in 10.25 seconds, which is quite respectable, especially given its size, but it isn’t as quick as Hyundai’s Santa Fe. With a maximum speed of 194kph, cruising around at 120kph all day long is child’s play. On fuel efficiency, expect the Rexton to deliver 6.5kpl in the city and 9kpl out on the highway.

But with all this get-up-and-go, it’s a shame the Rexton has a suspension setup tuned more for ride quality than outright handling. It rides quite well. The massive tyres absorb most irregularities with ease. But sharp ridges can catch it out, and if you hit a series of large undulations, there’s noticeable pitching too. But it is quite comfortable and won’t wear you out over longer journeys. Straightline stability is also pretty good.

In corners, however, the Rexton ensures you know you’re straddling the edge of physics. There’s considerable roll and you run out of grip fairly soon, with the ESP having to come in and fix your mess every now and then. On dry roads, the AWD system didn’t really seem to make its presence felt, we’ll have to wait and see how it performs on a slick road. The light steering doesn’t help either and provides less feedback than you’d expect. But the Rexton will suffice if you’re not aiming to drive like those WRC blokes.

The Rexton RX7 retails for Rs 24.26 lakh (on-road, Mumbai) and is slotted between the XUV and the Fortuner. If you’re more inclined towards the manual, it’ll set you back Rs 21.62 lakh (on-road, Mumbai). On size, the Rexton competes with the big boys from Chevy, Toyota and Hyundai. But it undercuts them on pricing by a good margin and has better equipment to boot. This and the automatic transmission (albeit old school) make a good case for the Rexton. Sure, the dynamics aren’t the best and the brand doesn’t have snob value, but we’re not sure you can ignore the kind of bang you get for your buck with the Rexton.

The numbers
2696cc, 5 in-line, 184bhp, 402Nm, diesel, 5A, AWD, 0-100kph - 10.25seconds, 30-50kph - 2.15seconds, 50-70kph - 2.67seconds, 80-0kph - 28.23metres, 194kph, 7.75kpl, Rs 24.26 lakh (on-road, Mumbai)

The verdict
Packed with equipment, at a mouthwatering price. If you want a big soft-roader that won’t eat into your wallet, and you don’t care about snob value, buy this.

Manish Sarser

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