Musso XLV Ultimate in the 4x4 Australia shed

How does the SsangYong Musso perform under the 4x4 Australia long-term microscope?

2020 SsangYong Musso XLV Ultimate
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Part 1: Rhino Charge

We get a SsangYong Musso in the shed to play with.

IF YOU’VE been reading this magazine over the past six months, you will know we’ve been pretty impressed with the latest SsangYong Musso. While it’s pretty easy to say that a $38,000 double-cab ute is a lot of car for your dollar, it’s not just the bang for your bucks that draws us to the Musso.

This latest model Musso, which came out in Australia in the middle of 2019, is one of the best-driving utes in the highly competitive 4x4 ute segment. Folks are quick to joke when we say we like the Musso, but that soon changes after they ride in it.

This has prompted us to add the Musso (a Korean word for rhino, in case you were wondering) to our 4x4 fleet. We’ve gone with the XLV variant with its 110mm longer wheelbase and massive cargo tub over the standard model. We also chose the mid-spec Ultimate for its coil-spring ride and comfort, and better equipped interior.

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While the Ultimate is the mid-spec, it is loaded with features you’ll be paying a lot more for in other 4x4 utes. Heated and vented leather seats, and a big eight-inch screen in the dash with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto feeding an eight-speaker audio system, all in a cabin that feels (and is) much wider and more spacious than any other ute on the market.

The VW Amarok might come close to the Musso in cabin width, but there’s certainly no rubbing shoulders with the front seat passenger as you get in Benz X-Class or Mitsubishi Triton.

The Musso doesn’t miss out on any safety tech and is up there with the Triton as one of the best-equipped utes in this regard. Standard kit includes all the features you expect including electronic stability and traction control, Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), forward collision warning, front vehicle start alert (FVSA), lane departure warning, tyre-pressure monitoring system (TPMS), front and rear park assist, blind spot detection, Lane Change Assist (LCA) and Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA).

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We have found the lane departure warning to be overly sensitive and annoying on narrower roads, and thankfully you can turn its chime off. FVSA was a new one for us and is an alert that lets you know when the vehicle in front has moved on when sitting in traffic if your mind is elsewhere.

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We always love a good TPMS for keeping us informed of the pressures in all the tyres, particularly when you’re on rough roads that can be hard on tyres.

A nice touch to the Musso’s TPMS is that it randomly flashes up the current situation of the tyre pressures. We’ve only noticed this happening once in the first two weeks of driving this car, but it’s a great feature. How often do most of us check our tyre pressures?

The mechanical package comprises the 420Nm 2.2-litre diesel engine backed by a smooth eight-speed auto and part-time four-wheel drive.

The rear locking diff is an auto-locking unit and not driver-selectable, but has proven to be very effective in past tests.

WhichCar brings a Musso to the Deni Ute Muster...

We loaded the Musso up with some factory accessories that come from some well-known brands including the Ironman 4x4 suspension kit and underbody protection, Redarc Tow Pro brake controller, factory tow bar and tonneau cover.

These are all factory-backed and dealer installed, and fully covered by SsangYong’s excellent seven-year warranty.

We look forward to putting this Rhino to work over the coming months and getting a true feeling of what it’s like to live with.

THE DATA

TOTAL KM: 563km
DATE ACQUIRED: July 2020
PRICE: $37,990 - $42,848.90
AVERAGE FUEL USE: 10.3L/100km


Part 2: Stuck in the 'Burbs

New Maxxis RAZR tyres and some light-duty use for our SsangYong.

WITH the Melbourne lockdowns restricting us to a five-kilometre radius of home, we haven’t been able to put many miles on the SsangYong Musso XLV this past month, but it is proving to be a comfortable urban commuter.

The extent of our travels have been the commute to the shops and back, and we’ve appreciated the big, comfortable interior space, heated seats, and the large screen and clear reversing camera that help us slip into the parking spaces at Woollies.

Despite being bigger than some of the other utes in its class, the Musso is easier to park than most, thanks to its expansive glasshouse and visibility, and the aforementioned rear camera and parking sensors.

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We did squeeze in a bit of off-roading with the ‘Rhino’ when we headed out to the Melbourne 4x4 Training & Proving Ground, but before we did we replaced the tyres that came on it with a set of Maxxis’ new AT811 RAZR tyres.

We were mighty impressed with the RAZR MT772 muddies when we had them on our Ranger and when we saw the AT811s at the SEMA Show last year, and we were keen to try them out. The new all-terrain RAZRs only landed here in July, and when we saw the ATs had launched in Australia we queued up to get a set.

Of course, being an all-terrain tyre the 811s are a less-aggressive tyre than the 772 and deliver a better on-road driving experience, but Maxxis took some of the tech from the muddy and applied it to the AT to give it a more purpose-built appearance.

Aggressive side biters sit in between deep shoulder lugs for improved off-road traction and sidewall protection, and these are aided by the relatively open design of the chunky tread blocks across the tread face.

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All but one size (33.105R15) in the 21-size range of AT811 RAZRs are light-truck construction, with a durable 10-ply rating and 3-ply sidewall for strong resistance to punctures and damage.

We replaced the Musso’s tyres with RAZRs in the same 265/60R128 size as OE spec, albeit these are LT tyres. These retail for $310 to $320 per tyre, so shop around to find the best deal on them. We had them fitted by our good friends at Competition Tyres & More in Murrumbeena, Victoria.

Initial impressions on wet and dry roads are that they are super quiet and comfortable, with nothing to really challenge them in commuter conditions. At the proving ground they made light work of the gravel, mud and rocks found around the property at road pressures.

Having the more aggressive tyres on the already capable Musso makes a good thing better, allowing us to take it more places. So we’re looking forward to getting out to some more challenging terrain once the pandemic lockdown lifts, to see how both cars and tyres perform.

THE DATA

TOTAL KM: 643km
KM SINCE LAST MONTH: 70km
AVERAGE FUEL USE: 11.7L/100km


Part 3: Making Musso Memories

Understanding what Aussie drivers do with their vehicles is something Korean carmaker SsangYong has quantified - 27/10/20

ANOTHER month of Victorian lockdowns has meant another month of us not being able to go far in our Musso XLV. In fact, we still haven’t had to put any fuel in it.

While we haven’t been able to put the Musso to much use it has been interesting to read a survey recently commissioned by SsangYong on how Australians are likely to use their vehicles over a seven-year period.

SsangYong chose seven years as that’s how long its vehicles are covered by the factory unlimited-kilometre warranty.

While there might be people who will have questions about buying a vehicle from a relatively small importer such as SsangYong, that seven-year warranty should certainly allay any fears about the vehicle’s quality and dependability.

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On average, Australians drive 13,400km per year, so that’s 93,800km over the seven-year warranty period.

“Across seven years, an average Australian driver will make 5063 individual trips,” according to Stevan Dimitrovski, the national marketing manager at SsangYong Australia.

“They’re likely to pop the boot 1343 times, play 3167 songs, make 877 hands-free calls, and have 302 unique arguments over directions.”

Relating this to our experience with the Musso XLV; it has a tailgate and not a boot and the tailgate is locked via the central locking, a very handy feature not found on many popular 4x4 utes.

Playing music, making hands-free calls and seeking directions is easy in the Musso thanks to the Apple CarPlay and relatively large eight-inch screen.

The eight-speaker sound system fitted within the Musso XLV Ultimate is a step above most popular utes as well; some of them only offer two speakers! But we do wish the sound system had more volume as I often find it already at its max when I go to crank it up.

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SsangYong’s ‘Long Drive’ study also found that across that seven-year period, men are expected to take 692 more trips than women (5424 compared to 4732) and the blokes are also expected to open windows more (2162 times) compared to women (1820 times). Australians are predicted to reverse park 1569 times on average over seven years.

Interestingly, 98 per cent of Australians are likely to harbour memories of their cars associated with life milestones or family occasions, rather than memories about their ‘new car’ experience.

This is particularly relevant for a go-anywhere adventure 4x4 ute like the Musso; you’re more likely to remember what car you were in when you conquered the Simpson Desert’s ‘Big Red’ sand dune than elements of getting a new car.

What’s that other saying? No one remembers the time you got 10L/100km fuel economy.

Equipping the Musso with factory-backed accessories such as the Ironman 4x4 suspension, underbody vehicle protection and all-terrain tyres, as we have done on the XLV, furnish the Musso for such memorable adventures. All the accessories are also covered by the same seven-year factory warranty.

So far the lockdown is creating memories for all the wrong reasons. We’re just itching to break free from the suburbs and set out on some memorable adventures in the Musso.

THE DATA

TOTAL KM: 771km
KM SINCE LAST MONTH: 128km
AVERAGE FUEL USE: 11.9L/100km


Part 4: Back to Work

We're finally getting our and using the Musso as intended - 22/12/20

AFTER months in a hard Victorian lockdown and being tethered to the suburbs, we’ve been able to venture a bit farther afield in the Musso, using it as the photographer’s car on a worker permit.

This allowed our snapper Alastair to drive it up to Lederderg for these pics and later down to Gippsland to shoot Anthony’s Patrol for the cover of this issue.

Just as the Musso has been a comfortable and easy car to live with around town, it works well for these little day trips and light off-road use. The spacious cabin is well-equipped in this Ultimate specification and, as it is the long-wheelbase XLV model, the massive cargo tub easily accommodates any gear we need.

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On the day these photos were taken we had the new Mazda BT-50 there to shoot, and driving the two back-to-back you quickly appreciate the wider cabin of the Musso that gives a much bigger feeling inside the car.

It’s also quieter inside and after sampling both the BT-50 and Isuzu D-Max siblings around the same time, I’ve got to say the Musso is much more refined in the cabin with less noise from the engine and lower NVH levels all-round.

We weren’t comparing the two utes on the day but as an indicator, where the Mazda scraped its side-steps cresting a large hump, the SsangYong cleared it, but it did touch its tail on departure; a price you pay for the larger cargo space.

Even with its optional Ironman 4x4 suspension package raising the ride height around 45mm, the Musso still feels low. That said, it is an essential option for anyone wanting to use their Musso off-road.

While the rear overhang is something you need to be wary of when off-road, the benefit of that massive tub (300mm longer than the standard Musso) is how much you can fit in it.

Being allowed farther afield allowed me to pick up some wheels and tyres and five 265/75-15s fit in there easily, with room for two more and you’d still be able to keep them all under the tonneau cover.

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Having the weight of these wheels and tyres in the tub also softened out the all-coil spring suspension a bit for a more comfortable ride.

Like any one-tonne ute the Musso can be a bit choppy in the ride department when there’s no load on board, but a light load like this balances it out nicely.

In XLV Ultimate trim like our car, the Musso has an 880kg payload. If you need more, the lower-spec ELX model with leaf springs under the back gives 1025kg payload with all 4x4 Mussos having a 3500kg towing rating.

Getting out of town allowed us to put a more respectable 700km on the Musso XLV and the highway driving dropped the fuel use down to a 10.9L/100km average.

The more time we spend in the Musso and the kilometres we rack up in it, the more we think this is the most underrated ute in its class and definitely one that buyers should check out before they pass it by.

THE DATA

TOTAL KM: 1428km
KM SINCE LAST MONTH: 657km
AVERAGE FUEL USE: 10.9L/100km


Part 5: Breaking Free

We leave suburbia behind and take a long-overdue off-road day trip - 14/01/21
Words: Tristan Tancredi

FOLLOWING months of hibernation, Netflix and food deliveries, it was great to get out again and enjoy the Victorian sunshine and clock up some proper mileage in our long-term Musso.

We say that as a big slab of our time spent with the Musso has been whittled away during lockdown, with the Korean dual-cab mainly sitting in the carpark, and used sparingly to pick up groceries and Bunnings orders.

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With restrictions lessened considerably over the past month or so, we decided to point the Musso to Healesville and beyond to Toolangi, to dust off the cobwebs and take a long-overdue off-road day trip.

Located at just over 70km from Melbourne via blacktop, Toolangi is a sweet spot for off-roaders looking to escape for a weekend – or just an afternoon, really.

With a selection of interweaving off-road tracks – ranging from mild to somewhat wild – the region is lush with vegetation, and well-used by four-wheelers throughout the year.

Being a weekday on our jaunt, though, we had the place to ourselves.

On the tarmac drive to reach the dirt, the wide, spacious interior and securely heated and vented front pews (no height adjustment for the passenger) make the Musso a comfy vessel for the occasion – though the cheap plastic clothing the dash is to be expected.

That there was a fair bit of weight in the Musso’s extended tub – courtesy of some used wheels and tyres editor Matt picked up on the cheap – made the ute feel well-connected to the bitumen.

This particular Musso is the XLV variant, which means it has a longer wheelbase (by 110mm) and a bigger cargo tub than the standard model.

Despite its size, though, rear parking sensors and a rear camera make it a cinch to park. It also has the Ironman 4x4-developed suspension setup, which can be purchased and installed from the factory.

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You really feel it off-road, too, with the Musso feeling well-connected to terra firma on undulating backroads. On some of the more challenging climbs, the Musso had no issues keeping up with a 2020 Toyota Hilux cab-chassis we had along for the ride.

The 4WD system is easily manipulated via a dial on the centre console, with 4WD High able to be activated on the fly.

There are a few nit-picks, though, including the sensitive driver assistance systems such as lane departure warnings and a chime that alerts the driver when the vehicle in front of them has departed.

The alarm button on the key fob is also too big and obtrusive - and accidentally pressed on numerous occasions.

There are a few upcoming trips planned with our long-term Musso, so stay tuned to see how it coped with end-of-year festivities.

THE DATA

TOTAL KM: 2761km
KM SINCE LAST MONTH: 1333km
AVERAGE FUEL USE: 9.0L/100km


Part 6: The Great Escape

The Musso is loaded up and heads to the mountains, only to have its freedom cut short by a sudden border closure - 05/03/21
Words: Matt Raudonikis

IT FEELS like all the monthly reports we did on the Musso through 2020 ran along the lines of ‘Sorry, but we’re in lockdown and have only done 15km this month’ or ‘Pulled a quick daytrip to the outskirts of town between lockdowns and the Musso feels great’.

Thankfully, the end of 2020 and into the New Year gave us some freedom to use the SsangYong as it is supposed to be driven, but there was still another border restriction to throw a curveball.

Before we knocked off for the Christmas break, we took the opportunity to take the Musso out on a road test with the updated Hilux, which you may have already read about in this magazine. Once the holidays started and travel restrictions were eased, we were finally able to take the Musso bush on a camping trip. Even then, a border permit was needed should we venture out of the state and want to get back into Victoria again.

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A few days up on the Snowy River were planned and I loaded the Musso up. The tie-down points and 12-volt outlet in the massive cargo tub were put to use to secure and power the ARB fridge, and the load space easily accommodated gear including swags, camp chair, water drum, space cases, etc. All covered under the soft tonneau cover. Why they made the spars that support this cover in three pieces is beyond me, as they come loose and fall apart when simple one-piece spars are no fuss.

DAVID vs GOLIATH: Musso vs Hilux

The Musso’s spacious cabin has always been welcoming, and the vented and cooled seats proved their worth while travelling under the hot summer sun. At the same time, the manual air-conditioning seemed to struggle to pull the temp down when returning to the car after it was parked in the sun, even with everything cranked to maximum.

Another deficiency for travelling is the lack of USB ports, as the single one in the console isn’t enough in this day and age. You need to have your phone plugged into it for music and maps, which leaves nowhere else to charge any other appliances. Other than these minor gripes, the Musso is a great place to spend long days behind the wheel.

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Driving impressions reflect what I said in the road test in this magazine, but the suspension certainly feels much better when there’s some gear in the back. Another mention of the TPMS; on a 40˚C day the tyres were obviously heating up on the tarmac, and once we hit the mountain twisties it wasn’t long before an alarm sounded with a warning of ‘High Pressure’ in one of the rear tyres. I couldn’t have timed it better really, as we were about to hit the dirt and it was time to drop the pressures anyway, but just another reason to make me think this is the best OEM-fitted TPMS I’ve seen.

Speaking of the tyres; the Maxxis RAZR A/Ts have proven to be an excellent choice for this car. They have been quiet and smooth around town, steer well on the twisty roads, and were surefooted and well-planted on gravel roads and low-range off road. Some of the High Country tracks heading up from the Snowy River are steep and rocky, the perfect place to damage a sidewall on a lesser tyre, but the RAZRs have come away unscathed and there’s still a lot of life left in them yet.

The lockdowns threw another spanner in the works as Victoria closed its border again on New Year’s Eve, requiring a quick pack-up and hasty retreat back south. Once in Victoria, we enjoyed the road south from Corryong to Benambra, its many twists, turns and climbs a joy to take in the mighty Musso.

Part 7: Chasing Stars

The Musso is put to work as a video support rig on 4X4OTY - 16/04/21
Words: Matt Raudonikis

OUR Musso XLV continues to prove its worth as a reliable and capable tool for whatever job we task it with. Be it picking up parts, trips to the hardware store, daily commuting or heading off-road, it has always been up to the job.

Most recently the Musso was called upon to be the transport for the media team on our 4X4 Of The Year road test. This meant hauling three guys and all their camera and camping gear away on a five-day trek, chasing the best new four-wheel drive vehicles of 2020.

The 4X4OTY test was conducted in the Victorian High Country and we took in some of the steeper and more scenic tracks to test the mettle of the contenders and capture the best imagery available in the region. Chasing vehicles that most consider far more capable than the Musso certainly put the SsangYong to the test.

The Musso XLV was among the finalists for 4X4OTY in 2019 when it surprised the judges with its performance. It wasn’t in contention this time around, but having to chase and overtake the convoy of contenders time and time again over the week sure put through its paces.

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The car we had on 4X4OTY in 2019 had the standard suspension and our only comment to SsangYong after testing was that it needed a lift and better suspension, to which they replied: “You should drive one with the optional Australian-developed suspension it in.” We took them up on the offer and our Musso XLV is equipped as such, giving it around 40mm extra clearance over standard.

Still, the Musso banged and scraped over some of the rockier tracks in the mountains more so than the other cars on this drive. Thankfully we also equipped it with the optional underbody protection, which, along with the suspension kit, was also developed here by Ironman 4x4. The metal plate under the engine now bares a few scrapes and marks where it ground out over the rocks, but it did its job and protected the car’s vitals.

The Musso XLV could really use some protection between the axles, as the long wheelbase of the XLV (110mm longer than a regular Musso) leaves the belly of the car susceptible. A plate beneath the fuel tank would be good idea as our one is now dented and the mounting strap damaged. The chassis rails also show scrapes, but they are sturdy and undamaged.

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Our Ford Ranger-owning video director Matt Bourke spent most of the time behind the wheel of the Musso on this trip and said, “It went everywhere we asked it to with only a few underbody scrapes, but that’s due to the tub being so long.

“I was rather impressed with it to be honest. For the money it’s not a bad ute with all the creature comforts, leather heated and cooled seats, and Apple CarPlay.”

Videographer Cam Inniss spent plenty of time on the back seat and commented, “I thought the backseat was quite comfy for a ute, plenty of room back there.”
Cam also mentioned the quiet on-road ride which is something we’ve commented on several times, particularly when compared to other utes in this class.

The 2.2-litre diesel engine isn’t a rocket, but it is one of the most refined four-cylinder units you will find in this class.

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Part 8: Workin' for the Man

The Musso continues to impress our less-experienced crew - 07/05/21
Words: Matt Raudonikis

OUR Musso continues to serve as my daily transport and back-up vehicle for the photographic team when we’re away on shoots. Photographer Alastair Brook has taken it out on a few shoots of late and was also among the team in it on the 4x4OTY road test in the Victorian High Country.

Alastair said of his time in the Musso, “It’s pretty capable with the off-road tyres. Even a newbie such as myself could get up stuff others needed a couple of goes at. Plenty of toys included for the price point; heated and cooled seats and CarPlay in a car that size for the price point is commendable. The dash is good and I like the occasional reminder of the tyre pressures.

“The ride is decent and on-road manners are quite good. The space in the back serviceable; probably more so than that rental Hilux we had on the Flinders trip.”

4 X 4 Australia Reviews 2021 May 2021 A Brook 210204 5016
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Those off-road tyres Alastair was referring to are the Maxxis RAZR AT811 all terrains that we fitted early on in the test, and they are performing excellently covering all sorts of terrain and holding up well.

The RAZRs are the same 265/60-18 size as the OE tyres that SsangYong fits to the Musso, so there was no trouble fitting them and they have given us peace of mind when travelling out on the tracks. And some of those High Country tracks were rubber punishing rocky!

They have around 5000 kilometres on them now and still look as new. That said, the Musso’s standard tyre-pressure monitoring system (TPMS) is showing that the driver’s rear has a slow leak in it which we’ll have to investigate before we head out of town again. The TPMS reminds us of this every time we get in the car and is a great feature.

4 X 4 Australia Reviews 2021 May 2021 MUSSO HILUX 006
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A few of the drivers of late have mentioned that the Musso can be tricky to park, partly because of its size but also that the rear corners of the tub are relatively high. At 5.4 metres long, the Musso is longer than most cars even other double-cab utes and it does hang its tail out beyond the marking in the local car parks.

So yes, it does take a bit of extra care when negotiating such places but front and rear parking sensors plus the reversing camera, make the job a lot easier. The image from the reversing camera is bright and clear on the large in-dash screen.

KM THIS MONTH: 6521km
AVERAGE FUEL USE: 11.2L/100km

 

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Editor, 4x4 Australia
Journalist
Alastair Brook
Photography
Christian Brunelli
Photography

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