SsangYong Musso XLV 2019 elx

2019 Ssangyong Musso XLV review

Australian first drive

More wheelbase, more tub, more good?
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Ssangyong’s presence – and workhorse range – in Australia gets a shot in the arm with the arrival of the long-wheelbase Musso XLV. Take a regular Musso, add 110mm to the wheelbase and 310mm of overall length, and you’ve got yourself an XLV.

The Musso XLV comes with introductory pricing that mostly apes its smaller, shorter sibling. There is drive away pricing across the range, kicking off at $33,990 for the manual XLV ELX. Opting for an automatic costs $35,990.

Move up to the Ultimate specification, and you’re looking at $39,990 bundles as standard with an automatic gearbox and coil sprung rear axle in lieu of leaf springs. Ultimate Plus sits at the top of the tree, going for $43,990.

Levels of specification are pretty impressive, even at the lower end of the game. Safety in particular is quite good. There’s comfortable fabric seats in the ELX, along with usual suspects like a reversing camera, cruise control and steering wheel audio controls.

All units share a nice infotainment system, which measures 8.0-inches in size and has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity in the Ultimate and Ultimate Plus.

Ultimate specification adds a 7.0-inch display in the instrument binnacle.

Heated and vented faux-leather seats appear in the Ultimate model, while the Ultimate Plus gets real leather and electric adjustment. Rear seats are heated, too.

The big news, obviously, is the change in size. An extra 110mm of wheelbase and 330mm of tub length means the Musso XLV measures 5405mm long, with a 3210mm wheelbase. The extra length adds additional weight as well, with a kerb figure of between 2160 and 2170kg depending on specification.

The tub now measures 1610mm long and 1570mm at its widest point. There’s a 12V socket in there, along with tie-down points at each corner. For reference’s sake, the short-wheelbase Musso has a 1300mm tub length.

If you're serious about loading stuff up on the XLV, you'll be happy to know an accessory aluminium tray is in the works, however Ssangyong wasn't able to provide launch timing for it just yet.

Changes to the Musso XLV's size and suspension mean payload has improved compared to the regular Musso, while the 3.5-tonne towing capacity remains intact. Payload measures up to 1020kg on the ELX, which is an impressive figure for the segment. Higher specification variants equipped with coil springs bring carrying capacity down to 800kg.

What’s good to know is that the Gross Combination Mass (GCM) is on the generous side. Leaf spring models offer 6,370 kilograms of GCM, which means there is still 710kg of payload at full towing capacity or 3150kg of towing potential with a full payload.

Coil spring models don't fare as well, with a 6130kg GCM meaning there's 460kg of payload remaining at max towing capacity or 2910kg of towing capacity left with a fully-laden tub. Both have 350kg tow ball capacities.

If I’m going to be picky, I would prefer to see that wheelbase extended commensurate with the increased length of the tub. The centreline of the rear axle is still in the first third of the load space, which isn’t ideal. Having it at the centre, or even towards the rear a little, would be the best for a loading and lugging vehicle.

The driveline of the Musso XLV hasn’t changed, sharing its engine and gearbox with the shorter Musso. That means it’s Ssangyong’s own Euro VI 2.2-litre turbo-diesel, which makes 133kW at 4000 rpm and 420Nm from 1600-2600 rpm, running through six gears (manual or auto) and a part-time four-wheel drive setup.

Power delivery is reasonable, certainly enough to get the long Korean moving without feeling slow. Overall refinement is impressive, especially for a 'cheap' 4WD ute.

Both the automatic and manual six-speed gearboxes are quite good. The manual is geared slightly shorter, giving you around 2000rpm in the top ratio at 100km/h. In the automatic, it’s more like 1500rpm. The manual is an easy operator, with a long-ish but light clutch throw and smooth shifts. The automatic, likewise, is nice and steady with its decision making.

Steering feedback and control is pretty good on the fixed-rate ELX and Ultimate models, with speed-variable steering added to the Ultimate Plus model. It’s settled, and pretty on-point for a 4WD ute.

The long wheelbase Musso’s suspension tune has evolved since our April drive, with some tweaked spring rates. The good news is that both leaf springs and coils are nice performers on-road, surprisingly smooth on winding country blacktop and rough dirt alike.

In a strange turn of events, the leaf-spring suspension felt a bit more composed overall. A longer wheelbase helps soften the impact of a stiff rear end, but the Musso XLV feels impressively supple to begin with. The leaf pack itself only comprises of a few main leafs, with a helper that comes into play when loaded: a basic form of two-stage suspension.

Great, I hear you say. What about loaded performance? Unfortunately, we don’t know just yet. I was close to doing some load testing at the launch, but bad weather and timing put an early end to our laden testing.

Also, towing is another big question mark. It stacks up well on paper, but we'll know more when we get to spend more time with the vehicle.

When combined with a quiet and compliant drivetrain, the Musso XLV is a real surprise in terms of overall refinement. Cheap pricing is often a good excuse to overlook a clattery diesel, wind noise and tyre roar.

You'll forgive more when the ute is deemed a cheap and simple tool, however, that’s not the case with the Musso XLV.

The driveline in particular is very quiet and unobtrusive, even when you bury the accelerator and make it work. The gearbox doesn’t get particularly flustered in normal driving. In terms of refinement, it’s up there with more accomplished utes like the HiLux and Ranger, but is lacking in outright performance.

We didn’t spend enough time with the Musso XLV to get an accurate reading of fuel economy, but something slightly higher than the indicated 8.6L/100km would be a good benchmark to start on. Manual models claim an official 8.2L/100km while automatics are rated at 8.9L/100km.

Low range is decently low for your basic off-road driving. Like the Musso and Rexton, there’s not a huge amount of ground clearance, especially now there's more wheelbase and rear overhang. There’s no traditional locking diffs, rather a reactive Eaton MLocker. It locks up the differential when it senses more than 100rpm of difference between the wheels. It’s handy, but not as adept at low-speed crawling.

However, easily the biggest letdown are the tyres for straight off-road. While the rubber is definitely beneficial on-road, our testing conditions (clayish, wet stuff) was slipperier than a political promise. For basic off-roading, the XLV is plenty good enough. Not having silly vulnerable side steps that poke out and down, ripe for damage, is refreshing.

It’s worth noting Ssangyong is working on a localised suspension tune to be rolled out at a later date, along with some kind of OEM-backed suspension kit for increased clearance. While they can’t offer a timeline, the kits should be easily retrofittable.

Let’s talk safety. Ssangyong tell us that an ANCAP rating is coming, but didn't offer a timeline as to when. What we do know is autonomous emergency braking, lane change assist, rear cross traffic alert, blind spot detection and front vehicle start alert are all present and accounted for. There are six airbags throughout the cabin, with the curtain airbags covering the full length of the cabin.

On the downside, there’s a positively archaic and unsafe lap-only centre seatbelt in the back. It's a serious oversight by Ssangyong if you’re planning on the full contingent of five souls aboard. But hey, at least the two safe rear passengers have air vents, and even heated outboard seats in higher specifications.

While we are there, the second row space and comfort is pretty good. It's the same as the Musso SWB, and scores well for seat comfort, legroom and headroom.

Other nice options ticked for convenience are: a decent 360-degree surround-view camera (on the Ultimate Plus), Android Auto and Apple CarPlay through an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system. Cabin ergonomics and practicality is all pretty good. The electric seats have nice adjustment of thigh support, but the fabric XLV seats are also quite good. The only real cabin comfort failing is a lack of reach adjustment for the setting column.

The Ssangyong Musso XLV certainly swings its strongest punch at the lower end of the pricing scheme. The fact that you’ve got a good sized tub, nice interior and refined driving experience for around the mid-30’s is impressive. Add in a seven-year warranty and lots of active safety, the Musso does stack up where it counts for a working vehicle. We’ll hold full judgement for when we can fill up the back and throw something onto the tow ball.