Siddharth feels that the revolutionary new Rexton holds tremendous promise for Mahindra.
The Rexton has been the flagship of the SsangYong Motor Company since its debut in 2001. The first generation (Y200) was built using the first Mercedes-Benz M-Class (W163) platform, which was a ladder-on-frame chassis. Along with the platform, SsangYong also received engines and transmissions under license from Daimler. This was the result of an agreement and partnership that SsangYong had with Daimler since 1995. The car was designed by Giugiaro, and in 2003 also went on sale in Europe. The Rexton is the reason for whatever success SsangYong has had globally. It received a major facelift, but was already an ageing workhorse when Mahindra took control of SsangYong in 2011. Nevertheless, the Rexton W (a second facelift) was introduced in 2012, and this is the version we got in India.
SsangYong has taken a conscious decision to push through another ladder-on-frame car, instead of going the monocoque route. So, the new Y400 gives us an all-new, modern and capable Rexton. Now, since the last Rexton didn’t do as well in India as Mahindra had hoped, there was a lot of speculation that this new car wouldn’t be sold in India at all – and indeed that the SsangYong brand would disappear altogether. The latter may well be true, but what I can tell you is that we will be getting this car in India – and, in all likelihood, this fiscal year itself. But it may not be badged SsangYong. Instead, it’ll likely be launched as a Mahindra model. The idea would be to take on the market leader – the Toyota Fortuner – head-on. But being new is one thing – the question is whether the company has done enough to make the 2nd generation Rexton a strong adversary to the established models?
So I travelled to South Korea, and visited SsangYong’s Pyeongtaek headquarters and manufacturing facility. The immediate feeling I got when I walked in was a sense of urgency – an energy and a buzz since the entire company is focused on the new Rexton. Production is full swing, as the SUV-maker prepares for the car’s launch in Korea, and then its subsequent debut in other markets – most crucially in Europe. It’s being called the G4 Rexton in Korea – alluding to the fact that SsangYong see this almost as a fourth generation – given that the first gen went through 3 iterations. The car, in fact, sports a prominent G4 badge as its main logo on the rear door, while the front grille and wheels have an updated SsangYong logo.
The first impression you get of the new Rexton is that it’s an attractive, contemporary design that instantly screams fullsize SUV. The designers have gone for a sleek, yet butch, look. However, there are some very obvious carryovers from the Tivoli in the face and the flanks. The bulge along the rear fender, which comes into the rear door, will most definitely tell you the two cars are related. The shut lines and paint job on the new Rexton will also instantly impress. And, for me, that was heartening since this new car is trying to imply a departure from the old and ageing fleet at SsangYong. The same feel is carried through to the interior. This variant, which is the top spec, sports everything from a large 9.2-inch touchscreen to wood veneer. The matte wood is married well with the use of polished metal and black plastic. The instrument console also features a 7-inch information display between the two dials. The dash and seats have a more high-end feel than the previous car and the contouring on the seats is well carried out. There is an enormous sense of space, and I suspect a lighter palette would do the trick to enhance that spacious feel even more.
The variant we tested had the new e-XDi220 or 2.2-litre turbodiesel engine. There is also a 2-litre petrol on offer, which makes 222bhp. But since that’s not relevant in the Indian context, I chose to spend time with the diesel Rexton. The unit makes 183bhp and puts out 420Nm of peak torque. That torque kicks in as low as 1,600rpm and carries through to 2,600rpm. This affords you better driveability.
Having barely spent any time with this car, the difference is like chalk and cheese. The first generation Rexton managed to be reasonably refined, but still carried a lot of the clunky feel ascribed to previous generation SUVs. What’s really nice to see is that everything that was lacking in the past seems to have been methodically addressed whilst developing this model.
It’s the ride quality that’ll impress you straight off the bat. Sure, this brief test drive was on a short test track inside the SsangYong premises, but I can still vouch for the car’s ride and handling. The new chassis is stiffer and it will take some convincing to believe that it’s not a monocoque shell. The car glides along the tarmac and doesn’t have any pitch or roll. The lack of bounce also means tighter cornering and you don’t get a sense of the car’s bulk or its 4,850mm length – unlike how you would in, say, a Fortuner. The 2.2-diesel also does the job well, even though it’s only an upgraded version of the previous motor. It has overcome the slightly wheezy quality that it displayed on the Rexton W, and so doesn’t run of breath at speeds over 120km/h.
The car’s 4Tronic four-wheel drive system is a carryover from the Rexton W, though it’s been completely recalibrated. For the most part, the driving duties are carried out by the rear wheels. It only sends power to the front only when it encounters low-grip or slippery conditions. But, then, it will spend most of its life on the tarmac anyway – given the fact that most buyers don’t really go off-road. The powertrain is well married to the new 7-speed transmission, though, given how responsive it is, I would have preferred the option of paddle shifters. Of course, the gearbox does have a tiptronic function – so you can use that to manually shift up or down. But, in this case, the tiptronic is operated by a small toggle switch on the side of the gear lever.
Overall, the new Rexton will be a surprise given what we’ve come to expect from SsangYong. Why this car makes sense for Mahindra is simple really. It’ll provide the brand with a car that will add not only a larger, more premium car to its arsenal – but, more importantly, also showcase a more modern and globally contemporary product in terms of engineering, design and finish.