In what might be called the ultimate ‘test drive’, five all-new SsangYong Rexton SUVs have completed their 50 day, 13,000 kilometre drive from the SsangYong factory at Pyeongtaek in South Korea, via Beijing and the Silk Road.
All five cars arrived in Frankfurt in time for press day at the IAA motor show, with two of the cars completing their epic journey at the SsangYong Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials in Oxfordshire.
Designed to test the vehicles in extreme conditions, the Rexton Trans Eurasia Trail travelled through ten different countries, including China, Kazakhstan and Russia, before arriving at the beautiful Blenheim estate, completing the 6 stages into which the trail was divided. The journey, enabled journalists to fully experience the driving performance, durability, and competitiveness of the Rexton before its official launch at the global markets.
As stated by the CEO of SsangYong Motor Mr. Johng-sik Choi at the kick-off ceremony “We organized this kick-off ceremony in order to commemorate the first footsteps of Rexton Trans Eurasia Trail," and added, "It will be a roadshow to establish a foothold to promote the outstanding performance and quality of Rexton, and we will secure SsangYong's position in the global large SUV market through successful launch in Europe."
The first part of the journey, themed as “Nomadic travel through Central Asia”, gave a chance to test Rexton’s different driving modes as result of the challenge presented by different terrains and quality of the roads. Climbing into the mountains, driving through clouds, moving up to the sky…The team reached altitudes of over 2,000 meters, driving along the shores of the Sayram Lake, testing the vehicles in off-road conditions.
At this stage, the Rexton proved itself to have the necessary torque and power for off-road driving conditions while offering a comfortable space in which to enjoy the experience and the views.
Reaching Khorgas at nightfall and crossing the Chinese border early in the morning the next day, the team was able to reach Kazakhstan without any incident, being the third country that the Rexton Trans Eurasia Trail crossed after South Korea and China.
Kazakhstan, with its 2.7 million square meters of country size, roughly the size of Western Europe, presented a major challenge for the Rexton’s durability and reliance, as it took six days for the team to reach the Russian border.
It was time for some Belgian journalists to drive the Rexton, accompanied by Bart Hendrickx, PR Manager for Ssangyong Motors Middle Europe, on their way to Astana, the capital of the country. With a long trip ahead, the fact that the Rexton is equipped with ventilated front seats and an automatic gear box was very welcomed by the expedition.
The biggest test of the trip so far was faced on the way to the Charyn Canyon, where the expedition was intended to stay for the night. Before reaching their accommodation, the team had to drive four kilometres from the road along a narrow path in between rocky peaks to reach the yurts which could only be afforded by 4X4 or SUV vehicles, due to its steep and gritty state.
Here the Rextons were switched into four-wheel drive for the steep climbs up, gravel-strewn paths, and used hill descent control, which allowed for a smooth descent at a steady speed in rough terrain without the driver having to use the brake pedal.
The trickiest part was passing through some narrow gaps in the rocks, where the Rextons had to proceed with extra caution. At such junctures, the 360 camera/around view system was crucial, as it allowed the drivers to see how much space there was on each side of the vehicles and avoid any mishaps.
Then, after several nights in business hotels, the group enjoyed the new experience of sleeping in a yurt enjoying the peace and quietness of the park where they all slept peacefully.
Next day, the team tackled the longest day on the road so far on its way to Balkhash, where they arrived around midnight. During the course of the day, the expedition faced some more incredible landscapes as they drove next to Balkhash Lake, one of the largest lakes in Asia, stopping in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city, for lunch.
As the team was stepping closer to Astana, it was apparent that the roads suddenly became smoother and more modern.
This was just before the Rexton Trans Eurasia Trail started its third stage with Russia on its horizon. The aim was for the Rextons to go through the heartland of Russia before ending up in the city of Ufa, where the team would be reaching halfway of its trip at the heart of Eurasia challenging the Rexton’s endurance, comfort and drivability.
As soon as the Ssangyong Rexton Trans Eurasia Trail team left Astana, the crew entered into the forested mountains of the country’s north.
The gleaming silver Rextons hugged the curving mountain roads as they ascended into Burnaby National Park at which point, they had been for around two weeks on the road, after departure from Seoul, through China and much of Kazahkstan’s territory on its approach to Russia.
After some off-road driving through the green hills and staying the night in Petropavyl, the expedition was able to reach the Russian border next day early in the morning on its way to the industrial city of Chelyabinsk, where the team spent the night.
Leaving Chelyabinsk the following morning, the Rexton’s navigation system was showing a 364 kilometres route ahead before getting to Ufa. The driving itself was full of twists and turns, as the cars were traversing the Ural Mountains undertaking a demanding journey.
Despite the tough terrain, the ride in the Rextons was smooth. “The seven speed automatic gear box provided by Mercedes Benz is well-matched with the car concept, for long distance travel. It’s smooth. It’s not so sporty but it’s very smooth, there is no friction” said Olivier Panissaud, CEO of Ssangyong France who joined Stage 3 along with some French journalists, who tested the Rexton driving.
Vitoldas Milius, the guide of the team during this stage of the Trans Eurasia Trail, has driven in these same roads many times before, and was really impressed with the capabilities of the Rexton “First of all the Rexton is big enough to be comfortable for four people on a long drive, and offers comfort for people of all kinds of complexion,” Milius said. Furthermore, he stated “And not only for sitting, is very well equipped.
In some cars, when you get in, you spend a long time looking for what you need. In the Rexton, everything is just in front of you and very easy to find.” Besides “One important thing is that it is quiet. All cars have engine noise, aero dynamic noise and the noise of the tyres. Those kind of noises can cause a driver to become tired, but the Rexton is very quiet and this is not a problem.”
The team was also fortunate not to have a single mechanical problem while crossing the Urals. CH Lee, business director of SMS Korea and in charge of the planning of the Rexton Trans Eurasia Trail, said, “Before the trip, we discussed a lot about potential mechanical problems, bringing a lot of spare parts as a preventive measure. But there haven’t been any problems; the Rextons have been really reliable.”
So far, the journey had brought the Rextons across a wide variety of environments and road conditions, from the deserts of western China, to the steppes and canyons of Kazakhstan, and through the mountainous forests of Russia.
Next up was Stage 4 of the Trans Eurasia Trail, where the expedition continued tackling Russian landscapes, under the theme Tracing Russia on Four Wheels, which was ended in Moscow, Russia’s historic capital. On this stage of the travel the Rextons were forced to drive on the narrowest, most poorly maintained roads of the trip so far, with many potholes and deep ridges. On top of that, the roads connecting the Russian cities where the convoy was intended to pass, were almost all made up of only two lanes, with a lot of traffic. On such two lane roads, it was necessary for the drivers of the Trans Eurasia Trail to take caution on maintaining a straight trajectory and remain in their lane, assisted by the Rexton’s Lane Departure Warning System, which uses a camera mounted on the front of the Rexton in order to identify lane markings and warning the driver whenever the vehicle begins to step out of it.
At this stage journalists from Sweden and Italy joined the delegation bringing the number of the members up to 17, the largest crew so far. The Rextons were able to easily accommodate all participants and their luggage, while still keeping the ride comfortable.
Baletti led a group of four Italian journalists on an off-road excursion along the Volga River outside of Tolyatti, the first stop of the stage. He stated “There was mud and sand, and the car was really good. I think it’s a good car for every kind of road.
The Trans Eurasia Trail had now covered a vast distance over three countries, maintaining safety and stability all the way through. “The roads on this trip have really been a test for the car, but we haven’t had a single issue along the way.
The Rexton is appropriate for the rural areas in Sweden, due to its towing capacity and four-wheel drive actions,” said Jakob Lundin, CEO of Ssangyong Sweden. The Rexton has a towing capacity of 3 ton, one of the best in its class.
The last day of stage four lead the team to the city of Moscow from where the journey went west, entering the European phase of the Trans Eurasia Trail.
Stage 5 had the theme of Exploring Baltic Sea Countries, passing through countries on the shores of the Baltic Sea including Latvia, and Lithuania, ending in Warsaw, Poland from where the team finally headed to Blenheim Palace.
Mr Johng-sik Choi, CEO of SsangYong Motor who travelled to Blenheim Palace to greet the teams, said: “This all-new, fourth generation Rexton is a major step forward for the brand. The Trans Eurasia Trail gave us the ultimate test drive opportunity, and a superb way to launch the car in Europe. This was a huge challenge for the cars and their drivers, and the ultimate test of performance and reliability. The cars equipped themselves brilliantly.”
Heralding major advances in style, quality, safety and technology, this all-new SsangYong Rexton will be officially launched in the UK next month. It is a large, D/E-segment authentic 4×4. Representing a huge step forward in every area – exterior looks, interior ambience, structure, safety and performance, this new car stays true to SsangYong’s core brand values with extremely competitive pricing.