January 31, 2020 By Nicolas A. Calanoc Photos by Randy Silva-Netto & the author

The 2019 Mid-Size Ladder Frame SUV Round-Up

We rounded up the four latest mid-sized ladder frame SUVs in the market

This class has been the often-inquired category for very good reason.

It basically is a car that can handle the greatest number of practical things. It’s a large SUV, making it capable of carrying seven passengers, a lot of cargo, and traversing flooded areas and uneven roads without second guessing. What makes this class enticing is that if you choose the 4×2 variant, you can save roughly 10 to 15 percent from the 4×4’s total. For those who know that they will be using it for mostly on-road application, it only makes sense for us to compare the latest four Mid-Size Ladder Frame SUVs.

In the past, we usually get the 4×4 variants and put them through rigorous tests to see which one would reign as the winner. This time around we did things a little differently, wherein it was all about the lifestyle they had to offer. So here you won’t see performance data charts that would make an engineer weep with joy. Instead, we drove around in these vehicles as consumers would to nail down what each of these vehicles offer to their target markets. At the end of it, we understood their respective personalities so that when you, the consumer, are deciding on which Mid-Sized Ladder Frame SUV to get, you will know exactly which one fits your personality best.

Nissan Terra 2.5L VL 4×2
All Things Equal

You’ve got to hand it to Nissan Philippines; when the people give their constructive criticism, they listen and listen well. With a refreshed Nissan Terra 2.5L VL 4×2 in our hands, it was such an easy car to love. It now sports an 8” Infotainment Screen that coincides with their Intelligent Mobility. This means that driving around the metro even with such a big car is made easy, especially if you need to squeeze into tight spaces. This infotainment system also allows the connection of your smartphone, whether it’s Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, making a seamless experience of using your phone while on the move. Mechanically, the car hasn’t changed much, and that is a good thing.

Its 2.5L engine boasts a lot of horsepower and torque since it was also made for the 4×4 variant. When we did our soft-road tests, the Terra had no issues in going through soft roads or going over curbs. It inspired confidence even on the highway with its 7-speed automatic transmission.

The Nissan Terra 2.5L VL 4×2 is the kind of car that is a jack of all trades but master of none. The interior was the plainest and it wasn’t the fastest nor the best handling among the four, but it did everything a Mid-Sized Ladder Frame SUV should be doing. Despite its plain interior, Nissan Philippines did a fantastic job updating the infotainment system, which really matters. Sure, it may not be the fastest, but it was confident to drive and overtake. And sure, it may not have been the best handling, but this was easily at the top of our list to be in. For those who are looking for a well-balanced Mid-Sized Ladder Frame SUV, the Nissan Terra 2.5L VL 4×2 is the one to be looking at.

Ford Everest 2.0L Turbo Titanium 4×2
The Multi-Tool

Ford too went to the drawing board and made a second refresh on one of their popular models: The Ford Everest. The results will leave you impressed. Despite its small 2.0L powerplant, this car can throw the punches required to beat the soft roads least taken. The Ford Everest 2.0L Turbo Titanium 4×2 has probably the best interior in its class because of the cohesiveness in materials and design from the panels to the 8″ Infotainment system that uses Sync 3. It too has Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which allows the phone functions to be accessed through the screen.

For those who like getting a little dirty, the Ford Everest gives you the confidence you need to traverse through tough terrain and high humps. It may not be the prettiest looking, but it certainly has the tough look that reflects its capability. When you mix that with its powerful light engine, it does fantastic work on soft road. There were some instances where I was able to confidently bring it through light trails.

The Ford Everest 2.0L Turbo Titanium 4×2 is perfect for the sensible adventurer, enough to go off the road but not too far to be called the middle of nowhere. If there is one thing we do have to point out is that it feels like the 10-speed transmission may have too many gears for the 2.0L engine. When the gear is settled, the Everest drives well and is frugal, but there were some instances (soft road and uphills) when the car couldn’t decide what gear to be in. Other than that, this car was made to be tough and work hard. Clearly, the Ford Everest 2.0L Turbo Titanium 4×2 was aiming to be the SUV for those who want to be able to maximize mild off-road capability without breaking the bank while still having all the gadgets and gizmos.

 

SsangYong Rexton 4×2
New Kid on the Block

The SsangYong Rexton 4×2 is based on their pickup called the Musso. In our pick-up comparo, we found that it was a very comfortable experience thanks to its platform using its Advance High Strength Steel. The Rexton is no different, offering a very smooth drive all throughout. It utilizes the 2.2 L e-XDI and a 7-speed 7G-Tronic automatic used by Mercedes-Benz, which results in a smooth and predictable drive whether in the city or on the highway. Just like everyone else, it comes with an 8” infotainment screen that is both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay ready.

For SsangYong’s second attempt in making a Mid- Size Ladder Frame SUV, it is safe to say they hit every mark with a level of sophistication while everyone else is aiming for rugged. Its design cue has a likeness to premium vehicles with its piano finishes and faux wood trims. It does look classy, but they also are fingerprint magnets, which is something to consider. Other than that, we have to say that the SsangYong Rexton 4×2 took us by surprise.

The more we drove it, the more we enjoyed it because it delivered a smoothness that hasn’t been brought to this competition. The suspension felt on the sedan-like side. The power delivery never fell short. The gadgets and gizmos were abundant and useful. But because this SUV takes an elegant approach, it didn’t inspire much when it came to off-road work. When going through obstacles, the driver had this level of worry even if the car was capable. We would probably put that into the placebo effect of such a elegant interior. When you consider all that at its price, it’s difficult to say no to the SsangYong Rexton 4×2 if you are looking for value for money. For those either looking for value for money or an SUV that speaks sophistication, the SsangYong Rexton 4×2 should be in your consideration.

Mitsubishi Montero Sport GT 2.4D 2WD
Ralliart Heritage

This is the latest among the competitors to come out of the market. Just like the other two, the Montero Sport GT 2.4D 2WD has been refreshed to compete for the incoming 2020. It’s interesting that the Montero Sport has always been one of the best SUVs to drive because of the way it was tuned by the consultation of rally experts. So, in the spirit of “why fix what isn’t broken,” what did they change this time around?

The Montero Sport GT 2.4D 2WD has mostly aesthetic changes, but that doesn’t mean it ends there. For starters, they have hands-free access to the tailgate with the movement sensors in the corners of the rear bumper. It also comes with an 8” infotainment system that too has Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The Montero Sport GT 2.4D 2WD has this new 8” Color LCD Meter Cluster that was placed to make it feel advanced like a cockpit of a fighter plane. It does have a long list of displays you can customize, making the buyer have the driving experience he wants. My only gripe about it is that the resolution of the screen could be better. Sure, it maybe eight inches, but if the pixel density isn’t enough, it just makes it feel off. But that’s already nitpicking the vehicle.

Overall, the Montero Sport GT 2.4D 2WD is the most responsive in power and control. The moment you grab the steering wheel and drive, the Montero Sport takes every turn the way you want to with such deliberate agility. And having that quality on a Mid-Size Ladder Frame SUV isn’t easy. So props to Mitsubishi for accomplishing that. For those who want to enjoy the most driver engaging SUV in this class, the Montero Sport GT 2.4D 2WD is the one to get.

Conclusion

It’s amazing that despite these vehicles taking similar shape and form, all these mid-size ladder frame SUVs have different personalities that cater to different audiences. From the well-balanced Terra to the sophisticated Rexton to the tough Everest to the agile Montero Sport, it’s hard to go wrong with any of these vehicles. But when you consider your personality and pair it to a vehicle that distinctly matches you well, you end up with a vehicle that elevates your lifestyle to a more practical and enjoyable level.

Specifications

2019 Nissan Terra 2.5L VL 4×2

Engine: Inline-4, 2488 cc, dohc 16V, Common Rail Direct Injection, Variable Turbocharger (VGS), 7-Speed Automatic Transmission

Max Power: 190 bhp @ 3600 rpm

Max Torque: 332 lb-ft @ 2000 rpm

0-100 km/h (0-62mph): 11.0 sec.

Top Speed: 170 km/h (106mph)

Fuel Mileage: 11.0 km/L Overall

Price as Tested: PhP 1,919,000.00

Plus: Well-balanced SUV in every aspect, good looking

Minus: The interior feels outdated compared to the competition

 

2019 Ford Everest 2.0L Turbo Titanium 4×2

Engine: Inline-4, 2442 cc, 1996 cc, dohc 16V, Direct Injection Intercooled Turbodiesel, 10-Speed Automatic Transmission with Select Shift

Max Power: 176 bhp @ 3500 rpm

Max Torque: 310 lb-ft @ 1750-2500 rpm

0-100 km/h (0-62mph): 9.8 sec.

Top Speed: 200 km/h (124 mph)

Fuel Mileage: 12.0 km/L Overall

Price as Tested: PhP 1,995,000.00

Plus: Tough performer for the adventurous type, interior and equipment are top in class

Minus: Could use improvement on power response

 

2019 SsangYong Rexton 4×2

Engine: Inline-4, 2157 cc, dohc 16V, Direct Injection E-VGT Turbodiesel, 7-Speed Automatic Transmission with Drive Mode (WS)

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: 195 km/h (116 mph)

Fuel Mileage: 12.1 km/L Overall

Price as Tested: PhP 1,730,000.00

Plus: Bang for buck, a very premium interior

Minus: Its low stance makes it more of a soft-roader for city drives

 

2019 Mitsubishi Montero Sport GT 2.4D 2wd

Engine: Inline-4, 2442 cc, dohc 16V, Common Rail Direct Injection, MIVEC, 8-Speed Automatic Transmission with Sports Mode

Max Power: 178 bhp @ 3500 rpm

Max Torque: 317 lb-ft @ 2500 rpm

0-100 km/h (0-62 mph): 10.0 sec.

Top Speed: 176 km/h (110 mph)

Fuel Mileage: 12.3 km/L Overall

Price as Tested: PhP 1,998,000.00

Plus: Driver’s kind of SUV, very smooth and capable at the same time

Minus: LCD meter cluster could be better in pixel density

 

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