The tightest head-to-head battle we have ever had in over 18 years goes to these robust ladder-framed mid-size SUVs: the updated Ford Everest in Titanium+ packaging with its traditional coil-sprung rear live-axle (with Watts-linkage) versus the surprise hit all-new 2nd generation SsangYong Rexton 4×4 with its 5-link fully independent rear suspension! The editorial debates began immediately after Chris Van Hoven picked me up for a meeting while driving the top-spec all-new SsangYong Rexton. As soon as I sat in the new Rexton, I fell in love with the upscale interior design with caramel leather with abundant quilted stitching. The all-new Rexton is a looker inside and out. Then the memories came rushing right back; Chris and I did get a glimpse of what was to come back in 2016 when we were part of a small Philippine media group that was invited to South Korea by SsangYong/Berjaya Motor Philippines, Inc. (SBMP) after their big reintroduction into our market.
As I took in the scenic South Korean landscape on that trip as a passenger, which is very rare, I was able to observe and admire how loyal and passionate the Koreans are for the products that they build. The vast majority of vehicles on the road were, and still are, domestic products. And if you had any doubts about their reliability and build-quality, you will certainly see a multitude of older models from the 1980’s still on the road, which were mostly SsangYong! The SsangYong Motor Company is currently the fourth largest South Korea-based automobile manufacturer following Hyundai, KIA, and Chevrolet respectively. Now a healthy subsidiary of Mahindra & Mahindra Limited, they have the funding and collaborative engineering to embolden their goal to be the very best Korean automotive manufacturer. SsangYong is actually the second oldest automotive brand in Korea having been established in 1954, a decade after KIA, followed by Hyundai in 1967. In order to hasten the journey to worldwide commercial success, SsangYong has made the critical and decisive move to concentrate their efforts on their known strengths in the primarily SUV/Crossover markets, and the new Rexton is the clearest representation of these culminated efforts.
Until its latest batch of vehicles, SsangYong’s aesthetic designs have not been a strong feature that appeals to markets outside of Korea. Unlike Hyundai and KIA who definitely have a considerably more Western design philosophy, SsangYong has always embraced their country’s roots which I now understand and appreciate more after that media trip. Getting past design issues, which are relative, SsangYong vehicles are best known for their robustness and reliability.
SsangYong still has healthy ties with Mercedes-Benz beyond just brand-engineering strategies so this 2nd generation Rexton test unit uses a Mercedes-Benz 7-speed automatic gearbox mated to a very healthy 2.2-liter turbodiesel. SsangYong’s engine, which is supposedly also technically inspired by Mercedes-Benz, closely mirrors the powerplant from Hyundai/KIA in terms of refinement and power but does generate less. Thankfully, in the Rexton, that slight power deficiency is optimized by the very smooth and well-spaced ratioed transmission so it feels almost as strong as a Hyundai Santa Fe or KIA Sorento. The most impressive mechanical feature though is the suspension. Because of the new rigid quad-frame Advanced High Strength Steel (AHSS) chassis that SsangYong first applied to the new Grand Musso pick-up truck, the on-road ride is the very best in the segment despite the modest Hankook DynaPro HP2 255/55R20 105H tires. The extensive NVH efforts in the Rexton are immediately obvious and make the cabin experience in this regard the very best in the segment. Even with Ford’s Active Noise Cancelation technology, you can still hear a lot of road noise; thankfully, the new engine is far more charismatic than the old noisy engine that it replaced.
Beyond the classic “splitting hairs” debates among the C! editorial team, these two outstanding products absolutely represent the finest efforts for the genre from both manufacturers. I would have never predicted that the automotive universe would somehow direct these brands directly against each other. The very popular and award-winning new Ford Everest got such subtle visual updates that you all would be forgiven if you couldn’t point them out in 30 seconds. I’ll make it easy; the changes are the obvious new 20” alloys wrapped with the same Goodyear EfficientGrip SUV 265/55R20 107T tires (it should be the 106V-type though for better grip and better sustained speed), new more intricate front grille, Bi-Turbo badging, new exterior colors, and new front bumper for the exterior. For the interior the leather is now black to match the sea of black plastic, it finally gets smart-key ignition in place of the old standard turn-key, autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, hands-free liftgate, and everything else is mostly carried over. Without a doubt, aesthetically, the Rexton is a more refined and better-looking ladder-framed SUV compared to the Everest. Even the ambient interior lighting is better in the Rexton.
Both new models come in two variants, these top-spec versions that are up against each other are separated by P69,000.00 with the Ford being more expensive. The 4×2 Rexton sells for P1,730,000.00 but it does NOT have A LOT of standard equipment like the smart keyless entry, front seat ventilation, the fabulous premium leather, uses smaller 18-inch wheels and more. The less powerful single-turbo 4×2 Everest in contrast sells for P1,995,000 which is a staggering P265,000.00 more than the low-spec Rexton, however with the Ford, you get 90% of the equipment of the top variant and it makes almost the same power as both SsangYong variants together with a 10-speed gearboxThe 6-speaker 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system on the Rexton is visually as good as the 10-speaker Everest’s SYNC3 system but it does not sound as good and as comprehensively equipped. In the trunk, the Everest has the better third-row power adjustment and versatility with better visibility and overall comfort, but the Rexton is much easier to get in and out of, and actually has a larger capacity. The Rexton has a slightly longer wheelbase with a wider body than the Everest but the overall interior volume is greater in the longer-bodied Ford, which also comes with a panoramic moonroof that helps create an even more comfortable cabin environment. The front seats of the Rexton are better designed and more comfortable than the Everest’s. The second-row seat of the Everest can be adjusted to create more legroom for the third row, folded flat or maximize comfort while the Rexton’s second row can either be only tilted or folded. The third-row rear climate-control vents on the Rexton come from one direction and are located low in the right-side passenger panel, whereas the Ford has the vents evenly separated in the ceiling.
Thus far, the Everest has only a very slight edge above the Rexton because of its more interior space, extra 10-liter fuel tank, and better standard equipment. Where the Ford breaks cleanly away is its outright dynamic performance. The Rexton is the ride-comfort king in the segment, but its handling, because of the softly sprung short-travel suspension, can conversely be sloppy. The brakes are sufficient but not great either. The Rexton’s brakes should be much larger and stronger especially when it is loaded with people and cargo. The Everest’s brakes are strong and carried over as well as the suspension tuning but now it is at least 50 pounds lighter and can tow over 100 kg more thanks to its new superior twin-turbo 2.0-liter engine mated to an excellent 10-speed gearbox. The results from using the drivetrain, first enjoyed in the Ranger Raptor, are an at least 15% improvement in fuel efficiency with at least 20% less carbon emissions, almost a second better acceleration across the entire powerband compared to the previous inline-5 3.2-liter, and more intense off-road ability which the Rexton struggles to pull-off. The lower Rexton does have four-wheel-drive but the attack angles are much less aggressive and the part-time dual-range system is not as robust as the Ford’s. The taller Ford gives you way more confidence and ability off-road compared to the Rexton. The water wading depth of the Rexton is 350 mm (some tests suggest it may manage up to 600 mm) while the Everest is 800 mm.
Thus, the final verdict for me came to this: for my money and my requirements of maximum space, the most comprehensive list of standard equipment that includes safety and entertainment, and optimal dynamic performance, it is the new updated Ford Everest Titanium+ 4×4. A very strong second in this head-to-head battle and above all else in its class at the moment, as close as it could possibly get because of its packaging, refinement, quietness, and ride comfort: the SsangYong Rexton 4×4.
Specification – 2020 SsangYong Rexton 4×4
Engine: Inline-4, 2157 cc, dohc 16V, Direct Injection Intercooled E-VGT Turbodiesel, 7-speed AT
Max power: 178 bhp @ 3800 rpm
Max torque: 310 lb-ft @ 1600-2600 rpm
0-100 km/h (0-62mph): 11.1 sec.
Top Speed: 185 km/h (116 mph) Governed
Fuel Mileage: 10.4 l/100 kms. City / 6.9 l/100 kms. Highway
Price as tested: PhP 2,230,000.00
C! RATING 9.5/10
+Good-looking inside and out, well featured, the quietest and most refined in its class, best on-road comfort in its class.
-Lacks optional but desirable equipment, engine power could be much stronger.
Specification – 2020 Ford Everest Bi-Turbo Titanium+ 4×4
Engine: Inline-4, 1996 cc, dohc 16V, Direct Injection Intercooled Twin-Turbodiesel, 10-Speed AT
Max power: 211 bhp @ 3750 rpm
Max torque: 369 lb-ft @ 1750-2000 rpm
0-100 km/h (0-62mph): 9.4 sec.
Top Speed: 205 km/h (128 mph) Governed
Fuel Mileage: 9.4 l/100 kms City / 6.8 l/100 kms Highway
Price as tested: PhP 2,299,000.00
C! RATING 10/10
+The new overall standard-bearer in its class, full-featured, most dynamic in the segment.
-Little annoyances here and there, overall design getting dated, needs more refinement.