Our long term loan SsangYong LWB Musso Rhino takes centre stage for a final encore.
Twitching curtains, that’s how our legendary tester Charles Godfrey would memorably begin m any of his must read reports on the latest commercial vehicle to be delivered to his home address for knowing appraisal, more than twenty years ago. In the present Covid 19 obsessed climate of course, nosy neighbours have an all together different connotation with reports of scuffles between feuding lockdown breakers… So one could easily imagine some local intrigue when an old friend recently turned up on our doorstep under the cover of a dank and dark January afternoon.. If you have been following our 2020 adventures with our lockdown companion the SsangYong Musso Rhino pickup you will know that after successfully helping us through those first tentative trips to the local shops, a visit to the park, an outing to the seaside and then Halleluiah, a country pub you will know that we were rather dismayed to see it disappear into the sunset just before the Christmas break. But fear not, those nice people at SsangYong have extended the loan so we can enjoy its qualities a little bit longer and in particular put it through its paces in what had so far escaped us … a proper off road driving experience.
We took it to a favourite spot in deepest rural Bedfordshire where weeks of heavy rain had softened up the ground sufficiently to test the Rhino’s full 4x 4 credentials. Always wise before embarking on such an adventure, we went over SsangYong’s official figures just to check things like wading depth which was just as well because on the LWB it is around 220 mm. This is noticeably lower than other pickups on the market and the deep sill covering doors and large side steps also reduce the ground clearance, but even so the chassis is deep and offers good protection for the transmission.
The all wheel drive system is part time selectable 4×4 with locked centre differential and a low range mode. The rear differential has electronic traction control, but no manual lock for dealing with really slippery conditions although it is difficult to imagine the average builder encountering anything on site which the Rhino couldn’t comfortably deal with.
Part time 4×4 means its rear wheel drive only by default and this is the only way it should be driven on the road- and though engagement of one of the two wheel drive modes is simply a mater of twisting a knob by the gear lever, you do have to put the vehicle in neutral before selection.
We didn’t attempt to push our luck too much, as some of the trim could be vulnerable to more extreme green- laning attempts but traction is good, there’s plenty of power in reserve for climbing hills and the light steering means that you are not constantly fighting against the vehicle on steep slopes.
All round visibility is also important when it comes to putting yourself in these types of environment and again the Rhino compares favourably with other similar vehicles we have driven over the years in harsh terrains. Regular exposure to more extreme conditions would clearly require an upgrade on the road based continentals which are standard on all but the limited edition models .
Its far to say, thrills and spills have been decidedly thin on the ground these past few months but for a couple of hours at least, we were happy to be fully locked down in” gear” four with a companion. that takes everything in perfect isolation. .