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Ssangyong Musso 4WD Road Test.

The Musso is promoted as a family four wheel drive and the family liked it - "it's cool", the family said, "civilised". The driver had some preconceptions that the Musso was going to be "just a car", raised up a bit and with four wheel drive. Well, it does not have the off-road ability of a Unimog but it is quite capable with very respectable axle movement, has a low-first ratio of 32.1:1, is much more comfortable than a 'mog, and is not a wimp.

1997 Musso 2.3 manual

The test car was a recently released (late 1997) 2.3L 4-cyl Musso loaned by Mercedes Benz which has a major stake in Ssangyong and distributes the four wheel drives. It is priced at the magic $39,990 figure ($Aus) where entry-level IGM Jackaroo, Jeep Cherokee, Land Rover Discovery and the rest are found. The engine is a Mercedes Benz design, as fitted to their E230 E-class saloon.

Interior

The first impression of the inside is of plenty of room. There is a good view of the road thanks to the seating position and the sloping bonnet. The seats give firm grip at the shoulders when cornering and the driver's is adjustable for height and lumbar-support. What is really striking is the room for rear passengers. A six-footer in the rear seats has ample leg room even if the front seats are well back, and the sitting position and the view are good. If you have big teenagers or like to take friends or relatives four wheel driving this is a real plus. (If you have ever suffered in the rear of a 4Runner you'll appreciate it).

 interior of Musso 2.3
rear interior view 

The front seats recline and the rear seats fold either backwards or forwards to make a bed or to give a flat load area. There are four tie-down points for heavy items of luggage being carried behind the rear seats.

The small, sporty steering wheel is height adjustable. The driver's hand falls naturally to the gear lever; shifting was new-car stiff, particularly when cold, but that will loosen up. Selection of four wheel drive and low-ratio is by a 3-position switch in the dashboard.

Turning the ignition on, one is greeted by ice-cream-van chimes unless the driver has the seat belt on. (I bet the source of the noise often meets with an "accident".) The engine will not start unless the clutch is fully depressed but this is hardly annoying because it is good practice to start a manual car with clutch depressed anyway. The clutch has a long travel and, with a foot-rest to its left, is quite close to the brake pedal. It was a bit crowded down there for size 10 `Rivers' shoes, a good Australian brand and not particularly chunky. An inch off that foot rest would not be missed.

Mechanical

2.3 litre motor

The 2.3 litre engine is a 4-cylinder, 4-valves per cylinder, double overhead cam design, a licensed version of the motor found in the Mercedes Benz E-230. (The same unit is fitted to the short wheel base Korando 4WD.) 60kph in 4th gear corresponds to 2000rpm. The Musso will chug along at 50 or 60kph in 4th quite happily but there is not a lot of spare power at those revs for a steep hill. It grumbles at large throttle openings below 1800rpm, being much happier switched to 2500rpm and really coming on song above 3000rpm; the red-line is at 6000rpm. Maximum power is 104kW at 5400rpm, maximum torque 220Nm at 3800rpm. The four wheel driver needs to be aware of these characteristics and to select a low enough gear to keep the revs up when driving on steep trails.

All engine accessories are driven by one multi-ribbed belt. Alternative occupants of the engine bay are a 2.9L diesel (recently offered with a dealer-fitted turbo-charger kit) and a 3.2L 6-cylinder petrol engine, so there is lots of room for the 2.3. An enormous 85 amp-hour battery sits near the fire-wall.

back to back

Musso (right) is lower and wider than Mitsubishi's Pajero (left) that has inspired so many four wheel drives in this class.
4wd.sofcom.com/4WD.html

4th gear is 1:1, 5th being a 15% overdrive, 0.85:1. 4th gear and 3000rpm equate to about 90kph and 5th, at the same rev's, to about 110kph. Sound proofing is good but you are aware of the engine at these speeds unless the 4-speaker radio is on. The engine drives a viscous-coupled fan and there is a second electric fan in front of the radiator. This electric fan comes on frequently with the air-conditioning and is noisy outside the car but not inside it.

The transfer case on this entry-level Musso is a 2-speed, part-time four wheel drive unit. In two wheel drive, power passes straight through the transfer case to the rear axle, the automatic free-wheel hubs unlocking and the front propeller shaft being stationary. Four wheel drive (high) can be selected on the move at up to 80kph by the switch on the dash-board. It is necessary to halt before selecting low-ratio. The electrical mechanism also requires the clutch to be fully depressed. This prevents any mechanical mayhem but takes a little getting used to.

On The Move

The rack and pinion steering is light thanks to power assistance - very good for parking given the P235/75R15 tyres, but rather too light, like most cars these days, at speed. There is some feedback from pot-holes. Front suspension is double-wishbone with torsion-bar springs; the rear end has a live-axle with coil springs and 5-links, ??? --> including a Panhard rod for transverse location. The suspension will soak up bumps, be they speed-humps or ruts, but the front damping is on the soft side. The Musso is manoeuverable and handles competently but can be unsettled by bumps in the middle of a corner.

4WD

rear quarter view

The lowest spot on the Musso, tyres excluded, is the rear differential at 195mm ground clearance. The Kumho P235/75R15 tyres have an overall diameter of 29" (2x235x0.75/25.4+15). The diff' is also on the centre line, where the track-crown is highest. Clearance under the front sump-guard is about 210mm, although the independent front suspension is depressed by loading and braking. Perhaps this does not matter for a "family 4WD" but the Musso would risk getting hung-up on deep ruts made by the common 7.50"x16 (31" diameter) tyres fitted to Landcruisers and the like.

At 2085mm over the exterior mirrors, the Musso is quite wide, although the mirrors will fold in; the black/blue speckle paint-job would soon collect scratches from the undergrowth if drive down narrow 4WD tracks; heck, that's what you buy it for.

Suspension travel is good for its class, more articulation coming from the coil-sprung rear live-axle than the double wish-bone front end.

Features

This base model Musso comes with air-conditioning, 4-speaker radio-cassette, central locking, alloy wheels, power exterior mirrors, electric windows, and height-adjustable seat-belts. The driver's door-lock also locks/unlocks the other doors, and the rear tail-gate, although no single interior point controls all of the door locks. The intermittent-wipe setting of the wind-screen wipers has an adjustable delay and also varies automatically according to road-speed - useful for stop/go conditions in drizzle.

4-speed automatic transmission brings the price up to $42,000. The top version of the 2.3L has ABS brakes, wood-grain trim and leather bound steering wheel - $44,100.

Extra "kiddy" seats are available for fitting in the load-space; they face forwards and fold away to the sides. The Musso has a modern gutterless roof design so roof-racks are of the permanently attached variety - there are two local options, the Oris carries 60kg and the Rhino 100kg.
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Ssangyong Musso 2.3 1997

  • station wagon, 5 seats, 4 doors, driver's air-bag
  • loa: 4640mm, width: 1905mm, height: 1735mm
  • wheelbase: 2630mm, track: 1510mm/1520mm, grnd clearance: 195mm
  • turning radius: 5.53m
  • weight: 1835kg (unladen), GVM: 2520kg, towing: 750kg (unbraked)
  • 2295cc, petrol, 4-cyls, mpfi, 4-valves/cyl, dohc
  • bore: 90.9mm, stroke: 88.4mm, c.r.: 10.4:1
  • power: 104kW at 5400rpm, torque: 220Nm at 3800rpm
  • transmission: 5m/4a, 2-speed transfer case (1.0:1 and 2.48:1), part-time 4WD (manual)
  • suspension: indep'-torsion-bars/live-coils, brakes: disc/disc
  • tyres: 235/75 R15, fuel-tank: 72L
  • price: (Aus)$39,990 manual as tested; $42,000 automatic; $44,100 with ABS
  • Competition: GM Jackaroo, Mitsubishi Pajero, Toyota Prado
  • Also available as 2.9L diesel or 3.2L 6-cyl petrol

See other Musso, Ssangyong or Korando pages



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