It’s a doozy, the five-year/150,000km factory-backed warranty that comes with South Korea’s fourth-generation (G4) SsangYong Rexton – no other automotive brand in New Zealand offers such a new-vehicle pledge.
It’s sure to mean mainstream nameplates – Toyota, Ford, Holden, Mitsubishi and others – selling seven-seat SUVs with switchable two- and four-wheel drivetrains will have to make a little room in the segment for the new Rexton.
Not just because of the big SUV’s warranty alone, but, at $59,990 for the entry-level Sport model and $67,990 for the better-equipped SPR, the G4 Rexton stacks up as a no-nonsense model with genuine town-and-country credentials, more so than the outgoing model.
For starters, there’s braked towing capacity of 3500kg, up from 2700kg in the G3 Rexton and between 500-1000kg more than many SUV rivals. One reason for the heavier towing load is the use of 82 per cent high tensile steel in G4’s architecture; G3 had 16 per cent.
There’s shift-on-the-fly drivetrain: 2High, 4High, 4Low. There’s hydraulic steering, a tell-tale rack with reasonably quick gearing, welcome in a heavyweight SUV.
Add in predictable road manners, plenty of interior room, practical switchgear, a mix of electronic safety aids and gizmos – obviously more in the SPR then the Sport – 20-inch wheels with a full-size spare, nine airbags …
It’s a big critter, too, the G4 Rexton, longer (4850mm), wider (1960mm) but not quite as tall (1825mm) as the Toyota Prado (1845mm), one of the town-and-around vehicles SsangYong importers Great Lake Motor Distributors (GLMD) is gunning for. (Toyota NZ has sold more than 14,600 Prados since the first model arrived in 1996).
GLMD is taking a shotgun approach to identifying Rexton’s competition, in that it’s aiming at everything that falls inside and outside its price range: Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento, Holden Trailblazer and Colorado 7, Toyota Fortuna and Prado, Isuzu MU-X, Mitsubishi Outlander and Pajero Sport, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Ford Everest …
There’s an interesting aside here: Colorado 7, Fortuna, MU-X, Pajero Sport, Everest are all SUVs spun off existing ladder-frame ute chassis. The reverse applies to Rexton: it is built on a dedicated SUV chassis, with a ute to follow on the same bed next year.
GLMD managing director Deon Cooper was confident all along that G4 Rexton would be a high-quality vehicle. “But it has surpassed all expectations,” he said. “Everybody who has driven it is amazed at the quality, comfort, space and driving dynamics it offers.”
Cooper won’t get too many arguments, although responses to his own endorsements will be more objective. Rexton, through its previous three generations, has earned a solid reputation. I know a news cameraman on call 24/7 for a TV station that swears by his third-generation model. It hasn’t missed a beat in three years.
Rexton has used one Mercedes-Benz powertrain or another since the first-generation model landed here, in 2001-02. The engine and gearbox are part of a supply agreement that goes back many years before giant Indian conglomerate Mahindra & Mahindra bought 70 per cent of SsangYong in 2011. The Benz link is evident elsewhere in the Rexton.
The latest model uses a 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel with a seven-speed auto’, a Euro6 powertrain found throughout the Benz world, from sedans to coupes to SUVs.
The engine is carried over from the outgoing Rexton, although it’s been reworked to deliver a tad more power and torque – 133kW/420Nm against the previous model’s 130kW/400Nm. It’s quiet, too, quieter than many rivals.
A brief run at the launch on town and country roads around South Auckland showed up ride/handling characteristics pretty good for 2.2-tonnes of slab-sided body on a ladder chassis, a truck-like underpinning abandoned by most SUVs – except for a handful of rural workhorses – in favour of car-like monocoque design.
Rexton’s double-wishbone/coil springs arrangement up front and the solid axle/multi-link rear helped the SUV flow untroubled over sweeping, settled surfaces on standard 20-inch wheels, but it got a bit fidgety when the road deteriorated.
Get entry a bit skew-whiff into tighter, country-road corners and Rexton, under light braking, would immediately wallow a bit, which called into question body control.
But balance the throttle with the necessary steering adjustments from the responsive hydraulic helm and, whatever the direction and surface, G4 Rexton was consistently easy to place on the road.
Inside the cabin, a 9.2-inch touchscreen houses the hi-res reverse camera and infotainment display, and features Apple Carplay and Google Android Auto, as well as Bluetooth phone and audio functions.
Seating in the Rexton Sport is trimmed in leatherette, while the SPR adds electrically adjustable Napa leather-clad seats with three memory settings as well as heating and cooling functions.
Also featured on the Rexton SPR are dark-tinted privacy glass in the rear, a 7-inch instrument cluster, smart key entry and exit and a smart tailgate with a hands-free opening feature, offering drivers with arms full of shopping access to the rear hatch without the need to put the bags down.
The Rexton SPR features AEBS (autonomous emergency braking system), LCA (lane change assist), LDWS (lane departure warning system), HBA (high beam assist), and many high-tech safety and convenience features.
• A rear-drive Rexton using a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine delivering 160kW/312Nm and mated to an Aisin six-speed auto’ will go on sale in NZ in January. It will have a braked towing capacity of 2800kg.Price is likely to be either side of $50,000.