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Ssangyong Rexton EX – towing a caravan - review.
We previously had a Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian which we used to tow our caravan, but it was 10 years old and as we do a lot of towing, our last big trip down to Marrakesh in 2020 was over 5,700 miles, I decided that I’d replace it whilst it was still in great condition, before we had any problems. I should mention that the maximum towing limit for the L200 was 2,700 kgs. The towing limit for the Rexton is a massive 3,500 kgs.
We are ordinary people, SWMBO is retired and I’m semi-retired, we aren’t rolling in money, so any replacement had to be a reasonable price, and I had to be sure it would do the job, as if I made a mistake we couldn’t just go out and get another vehicle. This new vehicle I felt would be the last big diesel towing vehicle we would be able to buy before ‘electrification’ stepped in and put a stop to our long caravan trips.
We tow a Swift Challenger 635, twin axle caravan at 7.98m long and with a MTPLM (maximum technically permitted laden mass -the caravan's weight plus all your caravanning gear) of 1715 kgs. So, it needs a hefty tow car. The caravan has an Al-Ko stabiliser hitch and Al-Ko ATC (ATC stands for Automatic Trailer Control. It's an electronic anti-snaking system for touring caravans. The device was developed in Germany by the AL-KO Kober Group, which is best known in the UK caravan industry for making caravan chassis).
Of course, how a vehicle tows the caravan is only half of the story. The other half is, will it carry all the equipment that you need to take? You can read about that here: https://www.ssangyongclub.co.uk/forum/index.php?/topic/29846-rexton-packed-for-car........
Our trip with the caravan to try out the Rexton as a tow car was for a long weekend at Scone next to Perth, a journey of about 150 miles each way. So, long enough to get the feel of the vehicle. The route being; out of our village (about 35 miles north of Inverness) 7 miles onto the A9, down to Perth, through Perth out to the campsite at Scone. This would give a mixture of small twin track country roads, then the A9 taking us up over The Black Isle, down to Inverness, then south over the Cairngorms. Giving the Rexton a taste of single carriageway ‘A’ roads interspersed with dual carriageway and 5 miles or so of city driving and some long power sapping climbs.
It was with some trepidation that I hitched up for the first time as this was intended to be at least a 10-year relationship that would take SWMBO and me, the dog, Lola (a chihuahua) and our caravan all over Europe and into Africa, and if I had it wrong, then it would be a relationship headed for the motoring divorce courts!
I ‘motor-movered’ out of the drive and up to the fixed tow-ball (fitted by the dealer and a Ssangyong recommended accessory) and on she went. The L200 had leaf springs at the rear and a ‘nose weight’ (allowable weight on the tow ball) of 115 kgs, the Rexton has coil springs and a ‘nose weight’ of 128 kgs, and I was wondering if the back end of the Rexton would go down under the weight on the hitch. Slightly, was the answer, not as much as the L200 did by any means. I had a hitch weight of about 85 kgs on the caravan.
I put the auto box into drive, let off the electronic brake, lightly touched the throttle and we were away. All felt well with no obvious pull on the car as we drove through the village. To get out of the village is a right turn up quite a steep hill for about 200 yards before turning left onto the B road that takes us towards the A9. Quite a good test here with a pull up from a dead stop, and up she went with no problem at all. I was starting to feel relieved.
I’ll mention here that the weather was abysmal with wind and driving rain, not ideal towing conditions and it would get worse as we drove across the Cairngorm Mountains. I can tell you now that I have really appreciated the ‘automatic’ windscreen wipers and they were put to good use that day.
The next 7 miles is twin track country roads and is fairly flat. No problems here, the caravan followed as it should and the Rexton didn’t seem to notice it there.
We then turned onto the A9 and gently accelerated up to our speed limit on a twin carriageway road at ‘national speed limit’ of 50 mph (being really honest I was cruising at about 55 mph to keep the traffic flow going). It did this without any fuss and I could feel that there was plenty of power in reserve. I could hardly notice the 7-speed gearbox doing its job, which is how it should be. There was no bounce from the back, as we sometimes got with the L200, all was smooth and stable.
Twenty odd miles later we were at the Dornoch Firth bridge and crossing the firth, after which comes the first proper climb, up and over The Black Isle. The Rexton just kept cruising effortlessly along. Halfway up, traffic was held up by a slow car driver for about half a mile. When they turned off, a touch on the throttle saw us smoothly back to cruising speed.
We reached Tore roundabout and had to stop for traffic on the island. This meant that I had to accelerate onto and around the island to get back into the traffic. This caused no problems for the Rexton, and it seemed as lively as when it was travelling solo.
From Tore roundabout is dual-carriageway and I easily accelerated past a couple of slow vehicles to 60 mph. It cruised easily at 60 mph and there was plenty in reserve. So, we crossed The Black Isle down to Longman Roundabout at Inverness, where once again I was able to accelerate away round the island and onto the dual carriageway south.
A mile or so past Longman, the A9 begins a long slog of about 3 miles climbing up to Daviot. This usually necessitated manually changing the L200 down to 4th or even 3rd gear to get some momentum up for the climb. The Rexton took this in its stride, easily maintaining 60 mph and passing a couple of HGVs and a car. At Daviot the road goes down hill for a short stretch before the long climb up to Slochd summit, which again the Rexton took in its stride, effortlessly maintaining its legal speed limit.
We continued on the A9 past Aviemore with alternate stretches of twin-track and dual-carriageway, with varying degrees of gradient as you climb over the Cairngorms, and the Rexton just wafted along, easily keeping up with other traffic. Indeed a few times I was able to pass slower vehicles with ease.
Then we saw stop lights ahead and was sat stationary for about ten minutes as we saw a solid line of traffic disappearing into the distance and very little travelling north. There had been a serious RTC, Road Traffic Collision), the police no longer refer to them as RTAs (Road Traffic Accidents) and the road was blocked in both directions somewhere by Dalnaspidal. Any of you who know the A9 in the Highlands will know that there is nowhere to divert traffic to, so we sat and crawled forward, sat some more, crawled forward a bit, and so on for two hours! Looking on the positive side, this was giving the Rexton and caravan a good workout for stop start motoring, and it coped excellently with no fuss or complaint. Oh, the joys of an automatic gearbox!
After two hours the road was cleared and we were swiftly away again, reaching the outskirts of Perth about 15.30 hours. We drove into Perth for some city driving.
Perth re-gained its city status in 2012 in honour of the Queen’s diamond jubilee (the UK government had downgraded Perth from a city in the late 1990s, and you wonder why the Scots aren’t that happy with Westminster).
Anyway, enough politics.
Perth was quite busy and the route through to Scone (pronounced scoon as in soon, not scone as in jam & cream) takes in many roundabouts, traffic lights, changes of lane, pedestrian crossings etc., so the Rexton had a good city workout which it passed with flying colours. It was easily able to accelerate itself and the caravan from traffic lights and onto roundabouts. It was responsive and stable.
We arrived at the campsite (Camping & Caravanning Club) within Scone Palace grounds, very impressed with the performance of the car. For your information it was a C&CC club rally organised by Fife DA.
Three days later we were off back home again doing a reverse of the downward route. Here I reversed the Rexton up to the tow ball – the reverse camera is a real help as you can actually see the tow ball, making it easy to get hitched up. So, the same roads but the other way round. What had been ups were now downs and what had been downs were now ups, and fortunately this time there were no road blockages. Also, the weather was dry this time, which in the Highlands is always a bonus!
The Rexton just seemed to effortlessly tow the caravan. It was stable and seemingly unaffected by the 1,715 kilogrammes hanging off the back. I know it is a cliché, but I’m going to say it anyway because its true – you hardly knew that you were towing a caravan! No longer was I towing a caravan and holding up following traffic, indeed I often found that I was getting held back by a slow driver or vehicle (karma for getting in other drivers’ way before, I suppose).
It was a stress-free journey back home, helped by having a tow car that I could just put into fully automatic and let the gearbox do its job. Talking of the gearbox, it quietly and simply did its job without any fuss. Most of the time you didn’t even notice it change gear. I had to listen out and watch for the rev change when it did so on a long climb.
I now have every confidence that when fully loaded with camping gear and with the caravan on the back, our next trip down through Europe to North Africa will be a breeze (well towing-wise anyway) as there are always adventures to be had on such a trip.
So, can I say that the Ssangyong Rexton is a good tow car, well in all honesty no, it is an awesomely brilliant tow car! If you are looking for a big beast to tow a large caravan, then look no further than the Ssangyong Rexton.