The Toyota Fortuner and the Ford Endeavour have long been the beasts of choice if you wanted a full-size automatic SUV. The new SsangYong Rexton could change that
Indian car buyers just can’t seem to get enough of big and brawny SUVs, and with good reason. These big beasts provide a degree of protection in our difficult driving conditions, their imposing size makes them impressive to look at and the hardy suspensions and high ground clearance mean they are ideal for our poorly maintained roads.
The Toyota Fortuner, since its launch in 2009, has simply demolished whatever little competition it faced. At one point Toyota even had to put bookings on hold to clear the large backlog of orders. The combination of burly SUV looks, immense road presence, a torquey diesel and Toyota’s efficient after-sales service and dealer network made the Fortuner the success story it is today. To keep the momentum going, Toyota gave it a facelift this year and plonked a new two-wheel-drive automatic variant into the range.
Another contender in this segment is the rugged Endeavour, which is based on the tough-as-nails Ford Ranger pick-up truck. It may not be as fresh looking as a Fortuner and may not have had the same amount of success, but this all-but-indestructible SUV has such strong fundamentals that it has plenty of tough, go-anywhere appeal.
The latest addition to this segment comes in the form of the new Rexton, the first product from Mahindra-owned SsangYong to be launched in India. M&M is betting big with its latest SUV and is looking to break the Fortuner’s stranglehold on this segment. The SsangYong promises a lot; it comes with a much cheaper price tag than the Toyota (in true Mahindra fashion), this RX7 version comes loaded with features to keep its occupants happy, and this car has some amount of pedigree too—it’s based on the first-gen Mercedes-Benz M-class.
But which is best, the attractive and popular Toyota, the strong-as-a-stone-house Ford or the new Rexton?
What are they like to drive?
These cars are expected to deliver more than adequate performance and, with big, hulking diesel engines under the hood, none of them really disappoints. On paper, the Fortuner and Rexton are much more powerful than the Ford, and this gives them a big advantage right off the bat.
The Rexton is powered by a 2.7-litre, five-cylinder, Mercedes-Benz-sourced engine, mated to a five-speed automatic gearbox. SsangYong has improved the