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Rexton ready for action
Rexton ready for action
Rexton ready for action
Rexton ready for action
Rexton ready for action
Rexton ready for action
Rexton ready for action
Rexton ready for action
Rexton ready for action
Rexton ready for action
Rexton ready for action
Rexton ready for action
Rexton ready for action
Rexton ready for action
Rexton ready for action
Rexton ready for action
Rexton ready for action
Rexton ready for action
Rexton ready for action
Rexton ready for action
Rexton ready for action
Rexton ready for action
Rexton ready for action
Rexton ready for action

Rexton ready for action

Chris Russon, 2017-08-13

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DRIVING through the demilitarised zone that divides North and South Korea sounds a crazy idea in the current climate of red alert.

Yet with the world seemingly on a knife edge, the South Koreans appear unfazed by all the sabre rattling.

And when you are the nation's leader in off-road vehicles, the muddy tracks criss-crossing the banks of the Hantangang River that snakes alongside the DMZ are a natural location to show off your latest creation.

So with its eyes on the skies - in more ways than one - Korean all-wheel-drive specialist SsangYong is moving very much upmarket with its all-new Rexton SUV.

Packing almost as much refinement as a Range Rover, the new Rexton is good enough to change perceptions about a brand that has made its name in Britain at the budget end of the market.

And true to form, SsangYong is pitching the Rexton at a price which makes it something of an SUV supernova.

The five model line up will start from £27,500 when the new Rexton arrives in the UK this October with the range topping automatic - complete with Mercedes-Benz gearbox and Bentley-esque quilted leather upholstery - costing £10,000 more.

That's enough to cause ructions on the SUV scene - and the Rexton is a big car, almost as large as an Audi Q7.

It is new territory for SsangYong and in keeping with such elevated status, the company is about to become part of the international equestrian fraternity as the new title sponsor for the Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials which kick off in September.

Among the so-called hunting, shooting and fishing set, the Rexton is well placed as a capable 4x4 that can tow up to 3.5 tonnes and can be had as a seven seater in all but top grade Ultimate trim.

The Ultimate model is five seats only and features a whopping 820 litre boot, extending to 1,997 litres with the back seats down which makes it one of the most cavernous cars around.

From a practical perspective the Rexton is quite a proposition and it is decked out in a way that sets new standards for SsangYong.

The quilted Nappa leather used in the seat coverings extends to the dashboard and it's all set of with high gloss black trim in the centre console and around the switches.

Ultimate specification also features a 9.2-inch high definition touchscreen housing TomTom sat nav technology and a communications set up compatible with both smartphone systems.

Driving aids include lane departure warning, blind spot monitors and automatic emergency braking while the electronic parking brake includes an automatic function - another high end feature.

There is even a surround view camera system which comes into its own when manoeuvring, hitching up a trailer or off-roading where a split screen display can show the terrain around the vehicle.

It is unexpected grandeur from the Korean marque and the feast of features goes on with the likes of a heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats and a 220-volt power inverter housed in the back of the centre console.

For SsangYong the new Rexton is a sea change and points to future models having a significant impact in the UK.

In its homeland SsangYong has the same revere for 4x4s as Land Rover does over here and the latest Rexton is already proving a hit with sales hitting the 7,000 mark in just two months since it was launched in May - that's more than the previous model sold in Korea in the whole of last year.

In Britain the Rexton will be available only as a diesel and powered by SsangYong's 2.2-litre Euro 6 engine introduced a couple of years ago.

Developing 181ps and with a good amount of pull from as low as 1,600 revs the Rexton has a top speed of 115mph and a 0 to 60 time of around 11.5 seconds.

SsangYong claims an official fuel return of 34.8mpg from the seven speed automatic and 36.2 for manual models. The seven seaters are slightly thirstier and emissions range from 204 to 218g/km.

A 2.0-litre petrol version is in production but that model is still under evaluation as far as Britain is concerned. A brief drive on the SsangYong test track showed its mettle but also pointed to significantly higher fuel consumption in the 20s.

With the new diesel Rexton Ultimate we drove from the SsangYong factory on the outskirts of the South Korean capital Seoul to the edge of the free world some 30 miles to the north in the DMZ.

Despite heightened security there was little evidence of abnormal military activity and apart from frequent checkpoints guarded by South Korean soldiers, all that was evident was a lone helicopter thwacking its way through the skies above the river.

In fact, the area doubles as a tourist attraction with guided tours and visitor centres in the DMZ telling the story of the Korean War of the 1950s and life on the divided peninsula since.

On and off road the Rexton made a fist of the job. From an engineering point of view it is not the most modern of set ups but it works and works properly with a 4x4 system that is selected manually and has low ratio gears.

The Rexton is 15ft 11ins long - some five inches shorter than a Range Rover - and sits high with almost nine inches of ground clearance.

Approach and departure angles of 20.5 and 22.2 degrees make it a serious all-terrain vehicle if needs be.

Under normal conditions the drive is to the rear and the automatic models come with independent rear suspension which coped adequately as we made our way alongside the river close to the border town of Panmunjom.

Sitting on 20-inch wheels did not appear to unsettle the ride and noise levels inside were well suppressed when cruising on open roads.

Overall we saw an average fuel return of 33.7mpg, close to the official figure and nothing to be sneezed at from a large SUV which weights the best part of 2.2 tonnes.

This is the fourth generation Rexton - a feature highlighted by an embroidered G4 logo on back of the front seats - and since it first arrived in 2001 it has developed a loyal following among drivers who need a big and practical 4x4.

By any measure the new Rexton is an awful lot of car for the money and like all SsangYong cars it comes with the best warranty going covering the vehicle for five years regardless of mileage.

For SsangYong it is a turning point especially in terms of fit and finish and all-round quality.

With a new Musso pick-up on the way next year followed by a replacement for the Korando compact SUV the year after, it's a brand with big aspirations and certainly aiming high.

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