Open Ssangyong style! Ok, those are the first words that come to mind when you think luxurious Korean SUV. But truth be told the Mahindra Ssangyong Rexton really does give you that luxury appeal, in a somewhat retro fashion. That feeling probably has to do with the fact that somewhere in its heritage there’s a proud Mercedes M-Class.
In fact, the resemblance is striking to the Mercedes parentage – so much so, that if you just replaced the nondescript Ssangyong logo on the grille with a three-pointer star, you could fool quite a few into thinking it’s a Mercedes! Also watch: Mahindra Ssangyong Rexton VIDEO review
CarToq got to live with and experience a Mahindra Ssangyong Rexton RX7 automatic all-wheel drive for a few days and over 300 km, and we must say the vehicle is pretty impressive. Considering its price tag of Rs. 20.2 lakh ex-showroom Delhi, it is pretty good value for money as well. Also read: Mahindra Ssangyong Rexton launched
Attractive, bling styling and looks
The Mahindra Ssangyong Rexton has the looks to stand out among its peers. And fit and finish is top notch – very unlike other Mahindra vehicles. Ssangyong has gone so far as to place a “Rexton W” monogram on the left D-pillar to symbolize this vehicle being a “work of art”. It has dollops of chrome all around – with a large imposing chrome grille, flanked by swept back twin-beam headlamps that have projectors and L-shaped LED parking lamps. The bumper houses integrated turn indicators and foglamps in a single unit.
From the side the Rexton looks pretty aerodynamic for an SUV and there are subtle chrome inserts to highlight the design. The rear is a bit quirky – with its small port-hole type quarter glasses in a Z-shaped C-pillar, which also gives the rear windscreen a wraparound effect. The large 16-inch alloys on our Rexton came shod with 255/70 R16 Hankook Dynapro tyres, that look good, but aren’t really great for road grip. The tail-lamps also have LEDs in them and look nice, while the rear has plenty of badges – Ssangyong, RX7, AWD-AT, Rexton by Mahindra.
The Rexton is a pretty long vehicle, measuring 4755 mm in length, 1900 mm in width 1785 mm in height. It’s slightly bigger than the Toyota Fortuner in length and width, but not in height, which is what makes it look more compact and sleek in comparison. It’s shorter than a Ford Endeavour though. But the selling point? 252 mm of ground clearance – way more than the Toyota Fortuner and the Ford Endeavour. Also read: Mahindra Ssangyong Rexton vs Ford Endeavour
The Rexton has traditional remote-operated keyless entry with the remote buttons integrated into the key. Step into the Rexton and you are greeted with luxury. The all-beige leather is top-notch. The door pad arm rests are also wrapped in leather and feel soft to the touch. There are plastic faux-wood inserts in the dash and door panels, which look classy and are of high quality. Everthing fits flush, and there are no unsightly panel gaps. The steering wheel in leather and faux wood, is lined with buttons for the music system on either side – and looks classy. The switches all have a solid feel to them.
There are some quirks, like the placement of the handbrake – it’s closer to the passenger than the driver, and the middle-row seats are split 60:40, but in a left-hand drive country configuration.
The driver’s seat is power adjustable – with an eight-way adjustment and three memory settings. It also has lumbar support adjustment, and feels quite snug to sit in. The steering only has a tilt adjust function, but it’s easy to find the perfect driving position.
Step into the middle-row and you’ll again notice the attention to detail all around. The seats feel comfortable and there’s decent legroom, although tall passengers may complain of some lack in under-thigh support due to the high floor. But compared to the Ford Endeavour or even the Toyota Fortuner, it feels much better. There’s also a drop down armrest that adds to the comfort.
Flip the middle row seat – preferably the right-side one as it is smaller (a 60:40 split, but with the smaller seat on the right), and step into the third row. Now here there is a problem. There is virtually no difference in height between the seat base and the floor – which means you have to sit with your knees raised high. Adults will find it pretty uncomfortable and even children wouldn’t want to use it for too long. There are creature comforts such as magazine nets and a separate blower for the third row with independent control, but it’s best to keep the third row folded flat and free up plenty of luggage room.
Even with all three rows in pace, there’s still space for a couple of bags. There’s also a neat little box under the boot floor for tools and other knick knacks, but this increases the loading height to quite an extent. Also read: Can the Rexton challenge the Toyota Fortuner?
Just enough comfort features
The Rexton is loaded with features one has grown to expect in an SUV in this price segment. In terms of safety it comes with four airbags, traction control, ABS and hill-descent control, with all-round disc brakes. It also features cruise control, steering audio controls and power-folding mirrors that are integrated with the driver’s power seat memory settings. It only has single-zone automatic climate control with vents in all three rows and separate blower control for the last row. Automatic headlamps and rain sensing wipers function just fine. There is no multi-function display as such, with the LCD odometer display only showing tripmeters, odometer, gear-position indicator and illumination.
Mahindra has used a Kenwood infotainment system in the Rexton to bring it up to date. This system features GPS navigation from MapmyIndia, Bluetooth phone connectivity and has USB/DVD/MP3/Aux-in connectivity with a touch-screen interface. There is a provision for a parking camera, but the Rexton doesn’t have one. It only comes with audio-only parking sensors at the rear. It has three 12-volt power sockets – all three in the front, one on top of the dash, one with a cigarette lighter and one in the passenger foot well!
The highlight is the fully-electric tilt and slide sunroof, which gives the Rexton a touch of class and adds an airy feel to the interiors. The sunroof was a warm welcome as the sun cut through the thick rain clouds on a winter’s day in Delhi.
Unhurried pace, biased toward soft ride
The Rexton RX7 variant is powered by a 5-cylinder 2.7 litre (2696 cc) diesel engine with a variable geometry turbocharger, putting out 184 bhp of power at 4000 rpm and 402 Nm of torque at 1600-3000 rpm. This is mated to a five-speed automatic transmission and a permanent all-wheel drive system with 60% power going to the rear wheels and 40% to the front at all times. The engine and gearbox have Mercedes Benz lineage in them.
The five-speed automatic features a tiptronic manual mode when shifted to the side in D. In manual mode, you can either shift gears using the D- and D+ buttons on the steering wheel or with a small flick switch on the shifter using your thumb. The gearbox also has a “Winter” setting with a light on the dash indicating this. Using Winter mode ensures the vehicle moves away gently in second gear to prevent wheel spin in case you were driving in snow.
Insert the key into the Rexton and you are greeted with a number of chimes – key warning reminder, seat-belt reminder etc. The engine fires with muted rumble. Sound insulation is excellent and the engine is hardly intrusive. The five-cylinder engine sounds smooth and refined. Shift into D (there is no other forward drive mode) and the Rexton moves off gently. Power comes on in a very relaxed fashion, and the automatic gearbox takes its time shifting from one ratio to the next. If you stomp on the accelerator in a hurry, the Rexton doesn’t respond equally fast. There is a bit of a lag from the time you press the pedal to the time the engine actually responds. That said, the Rexton does not like being driven like that – it wants you to go easy on the throttle, gently nudging the brute forward. Overtaking becomes a bit of a bother, as you need to push the pedal a second or two before you would normally do it in any other vehicle.
But once you get up to speed, the Rexton feels as if it can cruise for kilometres on end without a fuss. An indicated 80 kmph comes up at about 1700-1800 rpm. The electro hydraulic steering is extremely light at slow speeds and the vehicle has a surprisingly tight turning radius at under 5.5 metres.
However, when you pick up speed, is where things get a little too soft. The all-independent suspension on the Rexton is tuned toward ride comfort. Missing a speedbreaker or two doesn’t unsettle occupants, and such obstacles are dismissed with a mere thud that’s hardly felt. But when you get to windy roads or fast turns – that’s when you really got to slow it down. Body roll is quite perceptible and it feels like a boat in choppy waters. Entering a tight turn at close to 70 kmph and the wheels begin to squeal, the Rexton leans over and the traction control and stability program begin beeping. It’s all very easy to manage from the driver’s seat, but your passengers are going to have a heart attack or two. The brakes are good, but there’s quite a bit of nose dive as well.
The Rexton is a relaxed cruiser. No sudden manoeuvers, no hurried overtaking and it can carry you in comfort without a fuss – probably great in the hands of a chauffeur, while you sit back and doze in leather-wrapped comfort, gazing at the clouds through the sunroof. Also read: 4 most value for money SUVs in India
Mild off-road prowess
The Rexton RX7 is not really a hard-core offroader. It has plenty of ground clearance, but the tyres are road biased and there is no low-ratio gearbox on offer. We did venture off-road, but only in mild conditions – with some slush and sand, and big puddles of water after the recent rains in Delhi. There was a fair bit of wheel spin felt, but the Rexton made it through without too much of a fuss. But it’s better suited to matter-of-fact commuting and long trips in the countryside. Also read: List of 4×4 SUVs in India
Not great on fuel economy
The Rexton isn’t the best when it comes to fuel economy. That mammoth 2.7 litre five-cylinder diesel is a guzzler. It has a claimed fuel economy of 11.18 kmpl according to ARAI data and a huge fuel tank that can hold 78 litres of diesel. During our road test, when we filled up, we were dismayed to see the fuel economy just above 8 kmpl. Well, that probably had to do with our mixed driving conditions, but don’t expect anything over 10 kmpl in the Rexton.
What we think
The Mahindra Ssangyong Rexton is a luxury SUV at an affordable price. It undercuts its chief rivals – the Ford Endeavour and Toyota Fortuner by a fair margin, and is loaded with features, making it good value for money. On paper, it also has more power than its rivals, but this power comes on very gently. It has a claimed 194 kmph top-speed, but it’s most comfortable when you are cruising at about 120 kmph down an expressway. It’s silent, it’s plush and it feels well-built. It’s probably one of the few SUVs we’d recommend as a chauffeur-driven SUV, it’s not one for the enthusiast. Drive it Ssangyong style! Also read: Mahindra says no Ssangyong Korando this year
What we like
* Comfort and styling
* Good sound insulation and build quality
* Value for money appeal
What we don’t like
* Lazy engine response
* Plenty of body roll
* Third row seating position