Considering this model line is only 17 years old, a mere hiccup in automotive years, and its pistons can only collectively hold approximately 2.157 liters (rounded off to 2.2), SsangYong still managed to give the Musso plenty to brag about.
While the ‘looks’ are still a work in progress, remember that this is just a second generation unit that debuted last year at the Geneva Motor Show, after a 13-year hiatus.
Its whole bonnet takes after the Rexton, which is the Korean automaker’s mid-size SUV that also shares the same body-on-frame platform with the Musso. It doesn’t borrow the modern mesh found on the Rexton’s grille. Instead, it has several horizontal slots and a single chrome bar in the middle that holds the marque’s twin dragon logo in the center. The front glass is angled enough to look sporty and aerodynamic, as is the slightly sloping roof, but it still seems pretty boxy when viewed from the side.
From the halogen headlamps, the bold fenders blend perfectly with the shoulder line to create a clean and neat look all the way to the rear. What is a little odd, or unique depending on how you look at it, is the rear doors that extend some three inches beyond the glass to cover the base of the C-pillar. It already sports 18-inch wheels but judging by the wheel well, you could go an inch or two bigger for sure. Rounder from the nose with some pinched lines on both sides of the hood just above the fender, it does enough to look modern but is still some ways away from more modern pickup truck designs.
The interior’s two-tone brown Nappa leather with orange stitching seems a little flashy for a pickup but it does have its merits. Vibrant is one, plus it gives the cabin a more fun vibe and that’s just for starters. The equipment layout and overall design feels like I was inside a posh SUV instead of on a truck. Metallic accents look great around the air vents and the eight-inch touchscreen LCD with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The dashboard is topped with soft-touch materials and the steering wheel has audio/telephony controls on the left, and switch for the trip computer on the right. It comes with heaters on the seats and on the leather steering wheel, which it can do without in this country, but the ventilated eight-way adjustable power seats will be highly appreciated. Aircon controls knobs and buttons look very elegant and right below it, very well positioned and spaced I might add, are the USB and AUX-in ports.
As great as this cabin looks, what’s under the hood is what makes it fun to drive. Paired with an Aisin six-speed automatic transmission with manual mode, the turbocharged diesel engine is highly responsive and smoothly delivers 181 PS and 420 Nm of torque even in regular Drive mode. There’s Power mode for a more heightened performance and Wet to enhance grip and traction during the rainy season.
What I can’t stress enough though is the perfect pairing of the Musso’s powertrain. Like two peas in a pod, the engine and transmission work so well together that shifting feels so seamless, like it has two clutches. Acceleration is immediate without the roughness trucks are known for and while you feel it changing gears, it does so without any palpable shift shock and loss of power. The result is an exhilarating rush every single time on the open road and even during overtaking maneuvers. How often do you say that about a truck?
Don’t expect too much by way of comfort though as this is still a truck first despite the crossover-type drive. It doesn’t handle EDSA’s bump and grind very well. Without any load, the cargo bed shimmied more than I expected it to, which sent the NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) levels up.
It’s a minor trade-off, one I would gladly give up again to keep the powertrain performance. Pure city driving netted me 7.5 kilometers to a liter of diesel fuel. Save for past media off-road drives, this is probably the most fun I’ve had in a 4×2.
It is not a steal at Php 1.495 million, but with what the cabin offers and that silky-smooth powertrain to take you to work every day, the 2018 SsangYong Musso 2.2L AT 4×2 is mightier than you think.
Text and photos by Eric Tipan