When the Ssanyong Musso was first brought to the market in 1995, Ssangyong was by no means a household name, yet the Musso – aptly meaning ‘rhinoceros’ in Korean – was not merely another inexpensive Korean-made vehicle. Indeed, the Ssangyong Musso was developed as part of a joint partnership with Ssangyong and the world-renowned automotive giant Mercedes-Daimler, which produced the engines found in this five-door utility vehicle.
Later models do not include Mercedes components, yet the Ssangyong Musso remained an attractive buying prospect, with the addition of more modern engines appearing – despite the severance of the company’s agreement with Mercedes – in the shape of 3 turbo-diesel variants.
In terms of appearance, the Ssangyong Musso has always stood out with its angular yet elegant body shape and a windscreen that was raked back to give it a sportier image that was very much at odds with its rivals.
Although the Ssangyong Musso was given a minor facelift in 1998, the model did not actually change a great deal throughout its 10-year history, after which – in 2005 – it was discontinued and replaced with the Ssangyong Actyon.
When first introduced, the Ssangyong Musso was available with a choice of a 3.2L (in-line 6-cylinder) Mercedes-Benz petrol engine M104 engine, as well as a M111 2.3L inline 4-cylinder petrol engine. A choice of diesel engines came in the form of 2.3L 4-cylinder and 2.9L 5-cylinder variations.
The 2.3L model is undoubtedly the most sedate of all the Ssangyong Musso models. With a top speed of only 143km/h and a languorous acceleration time (0-100km/h in 21.3 seconds), this base model differs sharply in these respects to the other models in the range.
Fuel economy also left a little to be desired, with the 2.3L model using a combined fuel consumption of 13.11L/100km, as well as being awarded a Green Star Rating of 2 out of 10.
Of the later models, the 2.9DT diesel model showed a marked improvement in all regards. Fuel economy was improved to 8.81L/100km and was according given 4 out of 10 Green Star Rating, despite the fact that CO2 emissions were still very high at 235g/km.
Acceleration is also improved in the model tested – a 2004 2.9TDT version. Testing showed that the vehicle had a top speed of 166km/h and an improved, if still sluggish, acceleration time, managing 100km/h in 16.9 seconds, with a torque of 256Nm at 2400rpm and an output of 88kW at 4000rpm.
The 3.2L petrol model was – Ssangyong claimed at the time of release in 1998 – the most powerful 4x4 in its class, yet during tests the Musso had to be driven hard to show its true muster. Torque is 310Nm at 3750rpm, maximum power is 162kW at 5550rpm, and acceleration is also markedly increased, managing 0-100km in 10.1 seconds.
With regard to handling, the Ssangyong Musso’s suspension in our test models proved a little soft, leading to a bit of wallow over rough roads and a slight sag in the rear. To be honest, the Ssangyong Musso perhaps performs less well as an off-road vehicle and more as a cruiser on the highway, illustrating great handling at touring speeds. The 3.2L model is especially good for over-taking, doing so with an aplomb that is perhaps not surprising considering the power of its engine.
If looking for a used Ssangyong Musso, look out for suspension, exhaust, and chassis issues as well as for signs of off-road usage. There will be less need to test the engine or gearbox as these have proven to be of outstanding quality.
Standard kit on the Ssangyong Musso was truly outstanding throughout its lifespan, with power steering, central locking and engine immobiliser, climate control, and power windows coming standard on early models, along with heated wing mirrors and rain sensing wipers. Extras included 43cm alloy wheels cruise control, remote keyless entry and ignition, and driver’s airbag.
Compared to a Land Rover Discovery, the Ssangyong Musso is arguably a more expensive-looking and classier vehicle despite the obvious 4x4 pedigree of the former. Compared to a Jeep Grand Cherokee, the Musso outperforms it in several departments and remains much less expensive, despite the presence of proven quality under the bonnet and arguably more desirable aesthetics.
Depreciation is arguably an issue for owners of the Ssangyong Musso, with this relatively unknown brand often failing to hold resale value in the same way that an actual Mercedes-branded 4x4 would. Yet the Ssangyong Musso undoubtedly provides substantial inverted value for a 4x4 of such quality.