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First drive: SsangYong goes premium with Musso XLV

SsangYong confirms upmarket positioning in Australia for Musso XLV due in May

SsangYong logo3 Apr 2019

By JUSTIN HILLIARD in SEOUL

SSANGYONG Motors Australia has confirmed that the long-wheelbase version of its Musso dual-cab pick-up, dubbed XLV locally, will have increased pricing and specification over its short-wheelbase counterpart when it enters showrooms in May.

 

Speaking to journalists last week in Seoul, South Korea, SsangYong Motors Australia communications and product planning manager Andrew Ellis said the Musso XLV will naturally be positioned higher than the Musso – but with a twist.

 

“Our plan is to have a Musso for everybody,” he said. “The short-wheelbase will be entry, mid and top, and long-wheelbase will be entry, mid and top.

 

“There will be a definite change (in specification) between entry short-wheelbase and entry long-wheelbase. We’ll release those specs closer to the launch.”

 

The entry-level, mid-range and flagship Musso grades are named EX, ELX and Ultimate respectively, but SsangYong Motors Australia is working on whether the same nomenclature will be used for the Musso XLV.

 

While specification will mostly be shared between the Musso and Musso XLV, the latter’s extra equipment is likely to include dual-zone climate control, four-way power-adjustable lumbar support for the driver’s seat and a premium gear selector.

 

Australia will miss out on the Pantheon grille that was revealed on the Korean-market Musso XLV in January, although if buyers are interested, it may be offered as a dealer-fit accessory in future.

 

In regard to advanced driver-assist systems, autonomous emergency braking will be standard range-wide for the Musso XLV, while its flagship variant will also feature surround-view cameras.

 

Crucially, the Musso XLV’s entry-level grade will feature leaf-sprung suspension, while the mid-range and flagship variants will instead mimic the Musso and use coil springs, according to Mr Ellis.

 

“We still see the coil spring as a bit more of a city ute, more of a refined ute,” he said. “So, now we’ll have that great entry-level leaf-sprung workhorse, but with some nice features inside.

 

“And if we get the pricing we want, it’s going to be sharp. I think we’ve proven already, when we mean sharp pricing, we mean sharp pricing.”

 

The short-wheelbase Musso is priced from $30,490 driveaway in entry-level manual EX form, while the flagship automatic Ultimate commands a $9500 premium.

 

Mr Ellis added that the Musso XLV will need to justify its higher pricing beyond being 310mm longer (with +110mm wheelbase length) and 15mm taller than the regular Musso.

 

“We will be charging more for long-wheelbase,” he said. “So we need to add more features in for the customer … in addition to the greater carrying capacity and size of the vehicle.”

 

The Musso XLV’s tub is 310mm longer than that of the Musso, at 1610mm, while width (1570mm) and height (571mm) are shared between the two. As such, SsangYong Motors Australia claims it is the longest in class.

 

Mr Ellis said the brand is hoping to match the Musso’s 3500kg maximum braked towing capacity with the Musso XLV, which is rated at 3000kg overseas but is currently being worked on by an Australian third-party specialist.

 

“We are waiting on final sign-off from Trimotive, who are doing the work for us on long-wheelbase,” he said. “We’re working towards getting the maximum we can.”

 

The Musso XLV’s maximum payload for its leaf- and coil-sprung grades is 1025kg and 913kg respectively, with the latter representing a 143kg improvement over the Musso.

 

Just like the Musso, the Musso XLV will come standard with a 4x4 driveline. Asked if SsangYong Motors Australia plans to offer 4x2 variants for either model, Mr Ellis said neither are expected “at this stage”, despite plans being put in place late last year.

 

“It’s there, it’s an option, but we want to get 4x4 right first,” he said. “We’re not discounting (4x2) yet.”

 

While Mr Ellis said he believed that the Musso XLV will prove to be more popular than the Musso, which is currently the brand’s best-selling model in Australia, he stopped short of specifying a sales target.

 

“Going on the feedback we get from (dealers), the feedback we get through our social media, everyone is looking for this long-wheelbase ute,” he said. “(The dealers) will back me up. There’s so many questions about it.”

 

Mr Ellis said supply issues that have faced the Musso since launch are beginning to subside, making it less likely that the Musso XLV will face the same roadblocks.

 

“We’re getting more and more,” he said. “The factory is getting better and better at it. The pipeline is building for us, which is nice. We’re working on it.”

 

Given how impressive the Musso is on local soil, GoAuto quickly accepted the offer to test the Musso XLV in Korea ahead of its launch Down Under.

 

The increase in size between the two is immediately noticeable in the metal, with all of the stretching taking place behind the C-pillars, with the larger tub adding even more versatility.

 

It’s a similar story inside, which is very good news. The highly specified production example we drove with coil springs was luxurious with its Nappa leather upholstery and soft-touch dashboard, both of which are in keeping with the lifestyle brief.

 

Sure, the Musso XLV can be specified as a rough-and-ready pick-up, but even the hard plastics look premium and occupants are kept comfortable, nonetheless, thanks to the inches of legroom and headroom behind our 184cm driving position.

 

In fact, the near lack of a transmission tunnel means three adults can sit abreast the manually folding and reclining rear bench with ease. You cannot do that in many of its rivals.

 

In order to cope with the extra size, examples of the Musso XLV fitted with the Aisin-sourced six-speed torque-converter automatic transmission feature a more potent version of the Musso’s 2.2-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine.

 

Maximum torque swells by a handy 20Nm, to 420Nm from 1400-2800rpm, while peak power holds steady – regrettably – at 133kW at 4000rpm.

 

While examples optioned with the six-speed manual don’t get the extra punch, they might have trouble pointing out what they’re missing, because without driving the pair back-to-back, neither could we.

 

The Musso XLV accelerates at a leisurely pace, which is fine for day-to-day driving, but if you want to get a wriggle on you’ll be wishing there was more top-end power. Nonetheless, it is one of the most refined and quietest diesels we’ve tested in a pick-up to date.

 

We are yet to sample the manual, but it might be the pick of the two transmissions, as the automatic changes gears too slowly for our liking, even if each upshift and downshift is smooth. Plus, even with the redesigned gear selector, the awkward switch-shifter remains.

 

Its calibration also leaves a bit to be desired, noticeably pausing before kicking down when full throttle is applied, which is especially annoying when powering out of corners.

 

It is worth noting that our test drive was brief, split between Pocheon Raceway, about an hour north of Seoul, and the highway and urban roads on the way back to the capital city.

 

Furthermore, the example we drove featured the Korean tuning for its steering and suspension, and not the European set-up the Musso XLV will launch with in Australia before local tweaks are finalised and fitted, so it’s difficult to say how it stacks up on the road.

 

Nonetheless, the Musso XLV proved to be a comfortable highway cruiser on South Korea’s high-quality tarmac. A few brief encounters with uneven and unsealed roads showed that the rear end can be jittery when unladen, but not catastrophically so.

 

The same can be said of dirt tracks, with the Musso XLV navigating with composure a very light off-road course that including corrugated stretches and a steep but small hill.

 

The circuit exposed the Musso XLV as not the most confident handler when the going gets tough. Pitch and roll are pronounced as weight is shifted from side to side and end to end, requiring constant micromanagement to keep things on track.

 

In any scenario, though, the Musso XLV’s steering has good feel and is well-weighted and fairly quick, which makes it feel like a passenger vehicle to drive, despite its considerable size.

 

Having now experienced the Musso XLV, we feel SsangYong Motors Australia is onto another winner, as offering buyers the choice of a short- or long-wheelbase pick-up will be a big drawcard in the market.

 

It really doesn’t matter which one you pick, because you can’t go wrong.


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