Since its introduction in Malaysia six months ago, the SsangYong Rexton has certainly been selling well: 606 units were sold during 2002, an impressive number for a newcomer to the market. The reason for its quick acceptability has a lot to do with the attractive pricing as well the fact that there is Mercedes-Benz technology in the SUV.
The 606 units sold were of three versions – the RX230 with a 4-cylinder 2.3-litre petrol engine and the RX320 with the 3.2-litre 6-cylinder petrol engine, and a 2.9-litre turbodiesel RX290.
From market feedback, it seemed that customers liked to have the smooth 6-cylinder engine performance but did not like the idea of paying so much for the RX320 (no thanks to the high import duties). This led Competitive Supreme to persuade its principal in South Korea to produce a righthand drive variant of the RX280, with a 6-cylinder 2.8-litre engine. To date, there has only been a lefthand drive variant which has been sold in China.
The new RX280 is positioned above the RX230 and with a fairly attractive price of RM180,018 (private registration, metallic paint, excluding insurance), it will certainly win over many customers and contribute significantly to the 1,000 SsangYong vehicles the company aims to tell in Malaysia this year.
Power output from the 2.8-litre engine, which has licensed Mercedes-Benz powertrain technology, is 148 kW/201 ps at 5900 rpm with 277.5 Nm of torque at 4700 rpm. Like the other Rextons, the RX280 has a 4WD system which can alternate between 2WD and 4WD at speeds of up to 70 km/h. Only a 4-speed automatic transmission is offered.
In terms of styling, the RX280 is no different from the other Rextons and shares the same stylish body styling designed by Italdesign, the well known studio in Italy. Unlike the increasing number of new SUVs which have monocoque construction (like a passenger car’s), the 7-seater Rexton has a body-on-chassis (BOC) construction. BOC is the ‘traditional’ form of construction for 4WDs and is typically used for the bigger models. While it may not offer the rigidity of a monocoque body and is heavier, BOC still has its merits and has not been discounted as a valid form of construction for ‘serious’ 4WDs.
To ensure that its ride quality is up to the luxury standards the model promises, coil spring suspension is used for all four wheels with a fully-independent double wishbone front suspension and 5-link axle location at the rear.
The standard equipment is comprehensive and includes ABS, traction control, sunroof, leather upholstery for the seats, woodgrain trim, and dual front airbags. P255/65R16 tyres on alloy rims are also standard.
Now that the supply situation for the Rexton has stabilized and Competitive Supreme is able to get enough units to meet demand, it has been able to offer registered units to the press for testing, so look out for our impressions in the near future.