Friday, 19 October 2007

Tried and Tested: SsangYong Actyon Sports XDi 200

By Dr Long

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I must admit I was really impressed (somehow!) by looks of the new SsangYong Actyon SUV at the last Bangkok Motor Show. My close pal – a big time Toyota freak - finds it hideous even though its miles better looking than the knights-and-armour themed Kyron sibling. In short, this is one vehicle that you can easily say “I think I’ll pass” if you can’t get beyond its unique (some would say odd) looks.

Imagine my curiosity when SsangYong’s sole importer and distributor in Malaysia, Competitive Supreme Sdn. Bhd. launched the Actyon - sans the SUV-coupe’s rump – just a few months back. They even advertise their first pick-up, called Actyon Sports, with a somewhat ambitious tagline: “The Luxury Sports Utility Truck”. Well, their marketing guys may have gotten a little overboard with the tag “luxury” and “sports”, but the truck is surprisingly good and well-appointed with many first(s)-in-class, provided you could digest that shark nose and steely stare of those slanty-AND-rounded headlamps.

I am saying it’s good because of the grunty amount of turbo-diesel torque from a low 2000rpm that shoves the 2tonne vehicle meaningfully. Though the 4-speed gearbox has a strange initial lag before it takes off, the truck can be quick once it gets going. Overtaking manouvres are a breeze and I found myself shooting past other vehicles quicker than in my supercharged E-Class! In-gear acceleration is impressive as I found that gears hardly need to downshift from the 3rd or 4th cog.

SsangYong’s turbodiesel lump, dubbed XDi 200, is really superb, with that Garrett variable geometry turbocharger plus 3rd generation common-rail fuel injection. The Mercedes-Benz derived oil burner is silent, responsive and powerful. For those who absolutely must know the tech figures: they are 141ps @ 4000rpm and 310Nm @ 1800 – 2700rpm. The fuel gauge sank slowly after I had traveled interstate, on highways and even ventured into my dad-in-law’s rubber and durian plantations! Much as I tried to burn up the full-tank of diesel, I had failed miserably. (Something I had achieved easily over one other weekend in another brand of truck).

Mostly the ride is supple albeit a little too wobbly due to its body-on-ladder frame structure, I guessed. Very minimal road noise, silent cabin and a really cool (literally!) auto-climate A/C scored further points for this new SsangYong. Vibrations from the diesel engine were not palpable on the door trim, steering and front headrests. Soft touch surfaces are generously splashed on the dashboard, door trim, centre-console lid and armrests. Much has been said about the first-in-class rear five-link axle with coil-spring suspension, in place of the usual heavier-duty leaf springs. So, does it work for better ride comfort for the rear occupants? Yes and convincingly so.

The rear bench can accommodate three adults in reasonable comfort, while the backrest (with adjustable individual headrests) isn’t as upright as the rest of the pick-ups. However, the coil springs didn’t do much for improved handling as I reckoned the Triton tracks better around corners (especially in '4H' mode). That said, my advice is to leave the Actyon SUT in ‘2H’ drive mode for all tarmac outings. You’d get a better balance with just RWD propulsion and hence more neutral handling. To be fair, I must say the Actyon Sports is a very stable and capable highway cruiser. It will breach highway speed limits easily and will soldier on to near-190km/h if you absolutely squeeze the throttle on that longer bit of deserted road. Interestingly, both gas and brake pedals appear to be suspiciously similar to corresponding items found in three-pointed star models. While we are at the driver's footwell here, I did find the absence of a proper footrest tiring on longer drives.

The other little discovery was that the suspension may have been made to ride better above 80km/h or so, because going over speed strips can be rather jiggly at lower rolling velocity. My suspicion is the lack of tightness the body – especially at the flat bed part – bonds with the ladder chassis. While parked, closing the door hard can even bring about a little scuttle of the body sideways. I could still recall testing the behemoth Stavic MPV a little over 3 years ago (for another local auto mag), but I didn’t feel so much of such ‘wobbly’ sensation. Not satisfied, I had briefly checked out the Coupe version of the Actyon at SsangYong’s Bangsaria showroom. I found that the SUV ‘cocoon’ bodyshell held up better against this door-closing-test. Ditto for the SsangYong Kyron SUV, by the way.

Well, I guess paying RM133k vs RM93k does have its additional perks. For what’s it worth, the SsangYong Actyon SUT (Sports Utility Truck) is definitely worth a second look for its refined, powerful but frugal engine, if not for its brutish and unique visage or executive sedan-like cabin specifications.

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