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SsangYong Chairman 2005 Review

Way back when, for reasons best known to those involved at the time, Mercedes entered into a commercial arrangement with the Korean manufacturer.

The deal involved providing technical and engineering support to SsangYong products, a symbiotic relationship which has offered decidedly mixed benefits to the German luxury manufacturer.

The association first produced the Musso and Kurando off-roaders based on older ML platforms and drivetrains and sold, for a short time, through Mercedes-Benz dealerships. Look closely and you can still find the odd Musso with its SsangYong badging replaced by the three-pointed star. Take one to your local Mercedes dealer and watch them flinch.

For its latest visitation on the Australian market SsangYong has chosen the luxury Chairman, a Mercedes impersonator par excellence. The Chairman looks for all the world like a slightly out of focus Mercedes-Benz E or S-Class from a decade ago.

The stretched platform takes the overall length of the Chairman out to an impressive 5135mm, of which a fair degree is overhang, with a wheelbase of 2900mm. The ageing 3.2-litre twin-cam inline six offers a moderate 162kW and 310Nm which drives the rear wheels through a five-speed automatic.

The engine tries hard, but with some 1800kg to shift, it has its work cut out. Acceleration is moderate, there is a reluctance bordering on refusal to kick-down by the gearbox and when asked to give maximum effort the engine leans towards coarseness. With a damper strut front suspension and a subframe-mounted multi-link rear coupled to an electronic control unit to moderate the body movement, the Chairman offers what is a surprisingly compliant ride on its 16-inch wheels.

The safety package features twin front and side airbags, and electronic stability program and ABS with brake assist.

The dash, dials and switches are in keeping with the Chairman's Mercedes genes, with the exception of the faux-wood trim which is possibly the worst seen in a car over $11,990. Still, a large part of understanding the Chairman's characteristics is knowing that it is primarily designed as a chauffeur-driven ride in Asia for ... well, chairmen.

The drive characteristics are predicated by providing rear passenger comfort rather than sharpness and driver enjoyment.

To that end the Chairman's steering is as vague and dissociated as any car recently driven. Interior room, particularly in the rear, is generous and there are copious quantities of luxury touches such as reclining rear seats, heated and cooled drink-holders and rear-seat adjustment for climate and audio.

Add leather upholstery, eight-way adjustment for the powered driver's seat with memory, seat warmers for all five seats, rear parking assistance and a good quality 10-speaker sound system and the value equation on the Chairman's $56,990 sticker price starts to take on more meaning.

Set against the local long-wheelbase stars — the Statesman V6 ($56,550) from Holden and Ford's 4.0-litre Fairlane Ghia ($58,625) — and Chrysler's new 300C ($53,990) the Chairman holds its ground on an equipment-for-equipment comparison. Where it suffers is in not having a reputation to speak of and as a drive proposition in a market which is almost 100 per cent owner-driver.

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Range and Specs

3.2 3.2L, PULP, 5 SP AUTO $3,190 – 5,060 2005 Ssangyong Chairman 2005 3.2 Pricing and Specs
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