Back in 2005, manufacturers were beginning to want a slice of the large sedan market in Australia. Typically, the large sedans prominent in Australia were Ford’s Fairlane and Holden’s Statesman. The Chrysler 300C was also beginning to make an appearance. However, one extra player appears in 2005 and quietly left the market in 2008 after selling just 100 cars.
Here is the Ssangyong Chairman CM600S. Under the unique Korean lines is actually a modifed Mercedes W140 S-class, with an S320 3.2L inline six cylinder engine made under licence in Seoul. There’s Benz running gear underneath too. Now the W140 Benz was the last of the massively over-engineered German sedans, before the accountants took over and less robust models were produced in the later 90s.
The Chairman is the Korean equivalent to Toyota’s Century – in South Korea, it’s the car to be seen in if you’re a patriot and you’re a successful CEO. A car very much built for the passenger, rather than the driver; it was never destined for success in Australia where our market is almost exclusively self-drive.
None of this matters on the used market today, however. Because of the car’s rarity, you can find well looked after Chairmen, often with very low mileage, for a budget price – a similarly equipped and cared for Stateman, for instance, will cost you nearly three times more.
Since it’s really a bigger, heavier W140 Benz – it drives rather like an old S-class. The five speed automatic transmission whirrs away quietly and gets the car smoothly up to speed. The engine has 162kW and 310nm of torque, so it will easily keep pace with the traffic and win a traffic light grand prix start if it has to.
But that’s not the way to drive and enjoy a Chairman. Ideally, you’ll sit in the reclining leather armchairs in the rear, where at the touch of a button, you can slide the front passenger seat forward, adjust the radio or 6 stack CD changer, or on selected models, even enjoy a back massage. There’s even an airline inspired tray-table fitted!
If Geeves is on holiday, however – rest assured that driving the Chairman is a relaxing experience. The long wheelbase and cloud-like suspension iron out any jagged road lumps and bumps and the car is at its best wafting you along serenely.
Where the Chairman loses its composure, however, is on twisty mountain roads. Despite having plenty of power on tap for climbing hills, the heavy body and pliable suspension mean you must brake hard for each hairpin, roll through the bend and then accelerate out fairly hard to keep up momentum.
Dual front SRS airbags and twin side airbags, with ABS, traction control and stability control keep everything safe and the simple climate control up front is easy to control and works well in the background.
Bottom line? A well made classic big sedan that works exceptionally well in traffic or out on the highway. If you like big, bold cars – but are tired of the higher prices or mileage that are often associated with them, keep your eyes open for a used Chairman. Just tell people it’s a Benz!