1996 SsangYong Musso 3.2 petrol from Australia and New Zealand
Great car at any price if you get rid of the Mercedes bits
The car has always had problems with the engine and front end. The front end was easily fixed. It kept losing the nuts that hold the upper wishbone(?) in place; just put a hose clamp on the thread (after putting on a new nut).
The car is difficult to start, intermittently won't accelerate, and now runs extremely rough. The engine has overheated twice with the temperature gauge showing normal operating temperature (about half way). The head was replaced ($2000), the water pump has been replaced 3 times ($700 per pump) and is now making noises again and is only 6 months old.
The fuel economy is poor; I get about 350 km to 60 litres as compared to my old carburettor, 4 litre Landcruiser that gets around 500km to about 70 litres.
The overheating may be due to all the pipes and galleries that have clogged up with corrosion, even though the cooling system has the proper coolant in it. A mechanic says it is probably electrolysis, which is known to happen in these cars (apparently caused by a bad earth on the motor, so you may want to install an extra earth lead from the motor to the chassis or battery).
The check 4WD light keeps coming on and no one can tell me why.
The six stacker CD player is great when the car is stopped :( Go over a few bumps and it can't track the CD.
The tailgate struts have failed and are too short for the tailgate, resulting in many bruises on my head from the poor opening height (and bruises on my back from the tailgate shutting by itself).
The plastic clips and bits perish quite quickly under the hood.
The car is very comfortable to drive (except for the lack of feel for the road through the steering).
Its features are/were advanced for the time of manufacture.
I'm not a fan of the plastic wood-grain trim, but it's not a big deal (some Landcruisers now use a similar trim ).
Off road it's quite impressive, but being so comfortable you tend to miss out on the "off road experience".
The reclining rear seats are great for those long trips, but don't tell the kids as they will be playing with them all the time!
Back seat arm rests, nice, but we never used them.
The sun roof is nice, but it would be nice to have a movable liner between the glass and my head on those hot Australian summer days.
Climate control rather than just A/C is great.
The Mercedes bits are of poor quality and extremely expensive; the 3.2 litre is too small for the weight and therefore uses more fuel than you expect.
The nuts keep falling off the front end.
I can't adjust the headlights so that they provide good high beam coverage without compromising the low beam (blinds other drivers).
Does not hold a good resale value; depreciates about $2000 per year and that is not including the cost of parts and maintenance.
I'd love to keep the car, but the upkeep on the Mercedes bits is just too expensive and too often. I would love to get the motor fixed (again), but the cost is greater than the value of the car.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? No
Review Date: 22nd May, 2015
16th Mar 2017, 08:40
Seems odd. The 'Mercedes bits' seem quite reliable and reasonably priced. I make a point of getting new spares from Mercedes instead of Ssangyong because they are cheaper and better quality. The powertrain is all Mercedes Benz in 95 - sometime in 98 models, at some point after that, Korean made stuff built under license crept in.
My Musso has 212,000 on it now. I've only had it a few months and it's not been trouble free, but I got it for $500 after the last owner couldn't figure out why it wouldn't start (OVP relay as it happens - very common problem). The water pump had been replaced before I got it (still have the old pump) and the engine doesn't seem to overheat, though the gauge never seems to go above half way. Head was rebuilt when the timing chain let go (warning signs ignored apparently). The engine is fine, however there are two problems that are still in work. Firstly it's missing; this is likely to be a coil pack and it will be replaced after confirming the plug connector and plug are OK. Each coil does 2 cylinders and there is no distributor at all. The ECU controls the coil packs directly. The other issue is a lack of power at low revs, specifically, if you try and make a U turn on a road with any kind of camber, with the A/C on and full lock on the steering, the engine will just stop after refusing to respond to the throttle. Partly fixed this by replacing the throttle body with a S/H unit (99k km on it), as I suspected a faulty throttle position sensor. This cured several other issues and improved this somewhat, but it is still a problem. HFM was replaced and had no effect.
At present there is a question mark over the camshaft (not crankshaft) position sensor. The computer is giving me P codes for 'cam position sensor unrecognised or implausible'. The sensor was replaced when the head was rebuilt (chain coming off broke it) and I suspect it has not worked since. I have taken it out and checked the gap to the trigger tab on the camshaft and it's set at the correct .5mm gap. The sensor looks fine, but still get the error. I suspect it's either just plain faulty or possibly just the wrong unit. This model (despite service manuals that say otherwise) does NOT use a Hall Effect device here (3 wire) but a 2 wire inductive pickup similar to the crankshaft sensor. I have a used one out of another Musso on the way to try.
I also get an occasional code for the camshaft actuator (the ECU adjusts the inlet valve timing while the engine is running to get better performance ). I have not removed this yet as I suspect it may be due to the sensor issue confusing the ECU. Again I have a known good unit from another Musso coming to try if needed.
Aside from some minor electrical issues, mostly due to standing around for a couple of years (door switches for courtesy lights and some windows), windscreen washer pump dead and an interesting issue with the wipers - frozen solid - took the air intake box under the windscreen off and saturated the arms and joints with WD40 - that fixed it - again a disuse issue. The rest of the switches etc responded to WD40 treatment (eventually in the case of the front door courtesy light switches which required several soakings) and everything else in the vehicle works again now (even the A/C is working fine).
Other issues are cosmetic. Clear coat had it on bonnet and roof, one rear door dress panel has come off as the plastic clips that hold it on have failed (trying to source those). One rear quarter trim is having a similar issue, but overall no big deal.
If you have a 95-97 Musso, a really handy bit of kit is a laptop computer with an app called HFMSCAN. It is Russian (where it seems there a lot of Mussos and 90s Mercs) and is specifically written to read the VDO ECU and at least some of the later model Bosch ECUs in later Mussos, though I have not tried it with those myself. In the free form it will allow you to read the errors from the ECU and clear them to see if they recur after doing work on the vehicle. It requires a Vag-com 409.1 OBD2 to USB dongle (or a cheap Chinese copy seems to work fine) that is normally used for VW, Seat and a couple of other makes. When combined with HFMSCAN, it will allow you to read the ECU for the Musso 3.2l engine and as a bonus, the mid 90s Mercedes with the same engine. My dongle cost $7.80 from China and it works well. Standard OBD2 or other than a Vag Com unit or close copy will not work as they do not have the necessary protocols built in. You also need a 14 pin round (Ssangyong diagnostic port) to OBD2 adapter cable - again off eBay for about $12 or so. The writer of HFMSCAN also remanufactures an OBD2 Wifi dongle that will translate the VDO ECU data into something any OBD2 app (for Android or PC) will understand. About $85US. He will also build, for a fee, a customised data file for your Musso ECU for HFMSCAN that will let you monitor live engine data (as the modified WiFi dongle does). I plan to get that done soon. http://www.hfmscan.com/en/index.html will tell you all about it. Hope this helps.
My only headache so far was getting parts out of Ssangyong - unless it's specifically a body part only they have (in which case I suggest a wrecker), if you are happy with S/H parts, wreckers are your friend or if it needs to be new, Mercedes Benz give vastly superior service (based on personal experience) and the price is reasonable. Most engine parts will have a Mercedes Benz part number on them. Quoting this will help a lot, but most things are common with mid 90s 320E or 320S Benz vehicles. The throttle body seems to be the same as an S class as they have the same Benz part number.
Overall I'm happy with the Musso; after these minor issues are fixed it will be excellent. Yes, it's a little heavy on fuel, however it develops 217hp so I'm not sure where the 'too small an engine for the size of the car' comes in, as this is significantly more than a comparable 4l Landcruiser. We use ours to tow a horse float (a bit over two tonne with horses) and a previous owner used it for towing car trailers - they are rated for 2.5 tonnes on the hitch, and with that much power, they do it well when they are going well.
Other jobs on this one include new brake pads (wear light is on in dash) and probably disks as well as they look a bit sad and the right front CV joint is 'clicking' - probably due to loss of lubricant and/or dirt getting in as the boot is split. Aftermarket replacements also exist for these and many other parts - eBay is your friend.
I like the vehicle and my wife loves it. Your mileage may vary of course.