Monday, November 11, 2019

Review: 2019 SsangYong Musso Grand 2.2 4WD A/T


Funny how the market has changed lately. Considered more as tools of the trade before, pickup trucks are now easily found on the high street, too. Driven by accessible prices (thanks in large part to the Philippine government) and an impressive array of creature comfort features, most see them now as sensible family vehicles or for some even status symbols as opposed to being mere utilitarian haulers they once were. This has led to the pickup truck segment to be the country’s fastest growing segment, and now, one of the most hotly contested as well. Everyone wants a piece of it, including this peculiar Korean carmaker, SsangYong.

Now, while SsangYong did release a version of the Musso in 2018, the two-wheel drive configuration and stubby bed made it more of a niche choice than a real, bonafide fighter in the segment. And while it had the right ingredients like a refined drivetrain and surprisingly good ride, compared to the dizzying array of choices elsewhere, buyers were easily dissuaded.



Realizing the Musso’s shortcomings, SsangYong comes out with this: the Musso Grand, and just how other Korean makes attach the word, “Grand” to a nameplate, the Musso Grand is basically a larger, beefier version of the Musso. At P 1.650-million, it’s priced smack in the middle of everyone else’s top-range 4x4 offerings. Cheaper than a Ford Ranger Wildtrak, Isuzu D-Max, or Mitsubishi Strada GT, but more expensive than a Nissan Navara VL or Toyota Hilux G, will the SsangYong have you dancing and dining on K-Pop and samgyupsal, or are you better off with J-Pop and sushi (or Taylor Swift and a sandwich)?

Staring with how it drives, the Musso Grand feels more sophisticated than the average pickup truck. Though it doesn’t completely shake off the truck vibe, because it was derived from an SUV first, it’s actually pretty adept on road. Not only is the steering surprisingly precise, it actually controls any urge to tip over through corners. However, its resistance to lean comes at a price: a mixed bag of a ride.



Unlike its short wheelbase version, the Musso Grand doesn’t benefit from a sophisticated rear coil spring suspension; instead, it gets traditional leaf spring ones. And since engineers probably wanted to keep the pitching and rolling as contained or controlled as its more luxe counterpart, they had to stiffen everything up. As a result, there’s some shuddering that enters through the steering column, and some shimmies that make it through the seats, despite the thick 70-series tires. Lumpy as it is in the city, bring it to the highway, and it feels pretty stable and planted. Remarkably, the uneven ride is the Musso Grand’s one and only weakness, because in every other department, it does well.

Using the 2.2-liter e-XDi 220 engine, shared with the Rexton and Musso, the Musso Grand feels perfectly comfy both in town and out on the open road. It’s relatively quiet too, even when pushed hard. In this respect, the Musso outclasses everyone else, a testament to how far SsangYong has gone with their powertrain. The accompanying Aisin-sourced 6-speed automatic also judges shifts well, though it must be noted that the manual shift override is poorly executed as a +/- rocker switch on the gearlever. Fuel economy is average at 8.33 km/L at 16 km/h.



SsangYong vehicles of old conjure up images of a low rent interior, but that actually isn’t the case. There’s a good spread of soft-touch plastics on the dashboard, and areas touched regularly. The buttons too, for the most part, operate precisely as well.

The seats in the Musso Grand are mounted quite high, and with that, visibility all around is quite good. Judging its size is easy thanks to its large side mirrors and deep windows making it easy to slot through traffic. Moreover, rear visibility is also quite good thanks to the generous rear glass, thin pillars, and of course, standard rear camera (no sensors, though).



This top-trim Musso Grand 4x4 is genuinely well-loaded with features such as front powered and ventilated seats, dual zone climate control with rear vents, brown leather on the thrones, and an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The most defining feature of the Musso Grand though is the pickup truck segment’s one and only sunroof.

Up front, head and leg room are plentiful, and the interior is so broad, it actually makes holding hands while in traffic impossible. The rear seats too are pretty roomy with good headroom for all three passengers. The middle occupant gets a nice flat floor, while the two outboard ones get enough knee room to make even long trips comfortable. More than just space for warm bodies, the Musso Grand also has a number of sizeable storage areas, too.



The Musso Grand’s real appeal though is found in its now impressive cargo hauling capability. Compared to the smaller Musso, the Musso Grand gains 310 mm of extra length which makes it the longest one-ton pickup truck in the market today: 5,405 mm—even longer than the Ranger Raptor. The extra length is concentrated at the back, which can now accommodate 1,434 liters of cargo. Additionally, payload capacity is up to 1,025 kilograms.

Pickup trucks aren’t generally known to be the most sophisticated vehicle, but that didn’t stop SsangYong from putting a complete array of safety features in the Musso Grand. Though it doesn’t have any driver assist tech like forward collision warning or blind spot indicators, it does have 6 airbags, ABS with EBD, and electronic stability control with hill descent control—items usually absent in some of the more popular Japanese choices. It’s a shame though that the middle rear occupant will still have to live with 2-point lap belts in this day and age.



As pickup trucks become more lifestyle-oriented vehicle than an outright commercial vehicle, brand conscious buyers will certainly need a lot of convincing to part their money for a brand like SsangYong. To combat this, the Musso Grand, like all other models from SsangYong’s stable, come with a 5-year / 100,000-kilometer warranty as well as a free 3-year / 60,000-kilometer free preventive maintenance service package. It may not completely satisfy skeptics, but for those who’re willing to try, it may make for a painless ownership experience.

Beyond its generous warranty and free service though, the Musso Grand is surprisingly good in many areas, particularly drivetrain refinement and interior quality. It remains to be seen whether these are enough for SsangYong to carve inroads in the pickup truck segment, but at least they’re enough to get them noticed in an increasingly crowded segment.



2019 SsangYong Musso Grand 2.2 4WD A/T
Ownership 2019 SsangYong Musso Grand 2.2 4WD A/T
Year Introduced 2019
Vehicle Classification Pickup Truck
Warranty 5 years / 100,000 kilometers
The Basic
Body Type 4-door Pick-Up
Seating 5
Engine / Drive F/4WD, Low, Locking
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 2.2
Aspiration Turbocharged
Fuel Delivery Common Rail
Layout / # of Cylinders I4
BHP @ rpm 181 @ 4,000
Nm @ rpm 420 @ 1,400-2,800
Fuel / Min. Octane Diesel
Transmission 6 AT
Cruise Control Yes
Fuel Economy @ Ave. Speed 8.33 km/L at 16 km/h
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 5,405
Width (mm) 1,950
Height (mm) 1,820
Wheelbase (mm) 3,210
Curb Weight (kg) 2,195
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, Double Wishbone
Rear Suspension Leaf Spring
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Disc
Tires Nexen Rodian HTX 235/70 R 17 T (f & r)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 6
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes, with EBD
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors No, with Rear Camera
Front Seatbelts 3-pt ELR with pre-tensioner x 2
Rear Seatbelts 3-pt ELR x 2, 2-pt lap belt x 1
ISOFIX Child Seat Anchor Yes
Other Safety Features Hill Start Assist
Hill Descent Control
Exterior Features
Headlights HID
Fog Lamps Yes, Front
Auto Lights Yes
Rain-sensing Wipers Yes
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjust Tilt
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment (driver) Electric, 8-way, heated/vented
Seating Adjustment (front passenger) Electric, 6-way, heated/vented
Seating Surface Leather
Folding Rear Seat Yes
On-Board Computer Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes, with Fold
Proximity Key Yes
Climate Control Dual Zone, with Rear Vents
Audio System Stereo
Aux
USB
Bluetooth
Apple CarPlay
Android Auto
# of Speakers 6
Steering Controls Yes

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