The history of the appearance of the TagAZ Tager model today is known mainly to those who were interested in it. Not everyone will remember that in 2006 Taganrog automobile plant decided to expand the range of assembled vehicles, and not at the expense of partners, but by buying out from the Koreans tooling for the production of the Korando model that was being taken off the assembly line. SsangYong gave its consent, and two years after the retirement of the second generation Korando, produced from 1996 to 2006, in Russia appeared the first generation of its twin under the name Tager. Its life was not too short – the car was in production from 2008 to 2014. However, sales and production volumes were lower than expected, so the project can be considered only conditionally successful. And how successful could be the search for such a car in the secondary market today?
We can not hope for perfect preservation of the SUV body. Even the Korean original was not an example of corrosion resistance, and taking into account the age of 15-25 years there is nothing to be surprised. Localization in Taganrog has added to this the quality of metal, paint and assembly, so that with local cars in the age of 7-13 years you can see quite similar problems. Especially the lower contour of the car suffers noticeably. Sills are actively rusting and rotting, and the regular running boards additionally collect dirt and water and can hide the extent of the problem for years until they rot themselves or are removed for inspection. The edges of the arches corrode under the plastic overlays – at best you can find rusted fender corners under them, at worst you can find fringe left over from the body metal. In the cavities of the arches, especially in the rear, rust is hiding, and often through too. The Corando, due to its age, is more likely to have holes in the arches and underbody. Front fenders, under which also accumulate moisture, are rotting from inside, so it’s worth to look at the joint between the front body pillar and fender at least. The doors will almost certainly have rust under the plastic molding, and the black side window frames sometimes peel off.
At the front, in addition to the fenders, rust can be traditionally found on the hood and windshield frame. At the back, the trunk door is in the risk zone. It sags because of heavy spare wheel, and rust inevitably crawls out from under the bracket of spare wheel and from under door opening handle. And also behind the rear lights there are big niches, where dirt and rust accumulate, especially if there is no or damaged rubber cover underneath. It is necessary to mention a frame, because Korando and Tager are frame off-roaders. The frame itself of course suffers from corrosion, especially in the rear part, so it is worth checking it for through damage, and for license plate integrity for successful registration. And also here it is necessary to inspect the body mounts: there are a lot of them, and they are destroying over time together with the mounts, provoking a knocking.
Another issue relevant to the owner of both Korean and Russian versions of the SUV is the body parts and exterior trim. Korando is not the most popular SUV, so there is almost no choice of non-original components, and original ones are not only expensive, but also very rare. If you can buy a windshield for domestic production for 5-6 thousand instead of the original Korean for 15-16 thousand, then with many body parts the situation is much more complicated. For example, a rotten front fender will make you spend 20 or even 30 thousand rubles waiting for a month or a half, a bumper will also cost 30 thousand rubles if you can find it, and a hood or plastic moldings that surround the whole car perimeter can not be found at all. And it is even a mystery where to look for back doors for 5-door body Tager, which was not present in Korean lineup.
SUV’s running gear is rather simple: in front there is independent double wishbone suspension with torsions as elastic elements and behind – continuous axle with springs. And the move to Russia has not changed the manufacturer of the rear axle: it is Korean, from Tongil. Suspensions in general are quite reliable and cheap to maintain, although there are some difficulties. First of all it concerns the paucity of assortment of non-original components. However, what can be found is inexpensive, and even in original version. For example, you can buy a rear lever for about 3 thousand, as well as spring and shock absorber. Silentblocks are available in a wide range, so a rebuild is realistic. Ball joints in the front are changed separately from the levers and are available for 700-1000 rubles for a non-original. But even here there may be small surprises – for example, the front upper lever assembly can be found, but the lower one is difficult. In general, rotted levers can be a good bargaining chip. In addition, when buying, it is worth questioning in detail the owner about the volume of suspension modifications. The simplicity of design and poor choice of aftermarket parts pushes many people to experiment and tuning, especially in province, where spare parts are not so available. As a result, it can be a hodgepodge of everything, which according to an owner, can improve characteristics. Springs are made of everything, from UAZ and Gazelle to Gelandwagen and W140, shock absorbers are selected by length, and silentblocks can be adjusted by dimensions and rigidity.
The brakes here are also simple. In the front they are of course ventilated discs, and in the back you can find not only discs, but also drums. The prices for consumables are very generous: you can buy non-original disks literally from one thousand rubles, as well as a set of pads. Caliper repair kits cost the same money, and in the original version. In general, if the brake lines are not rotten, and the calipers have not yet seized up tightly, there is nothing unsolvable here. The same can be said about power steering. Simplicity of construction promises minimum problems, and if it breaks, you can buy the original Mando rack for 17-20 thousand. The pump is available non-original for 5-7 thousand. In general, a check of oil condition, hoses integrity and noiselessness of the pump is obligatory as always, but one can be not afraid of getting burnt.
The all-wheel drive of Tager is made according to part-time scheme with permanent drive of rear axle and front axle, connected rigidly. Therefore, improper use, like driving fast on asphalt on four-wheel drive may “condemn” transfer gearbox, thus it is necessary not only to test, but also to listen and to check cleanness of oil. Weak places in all-wheel drive scheme are vacuum clutches of front wheels’ connection and electric drive of low-speed gearbox activation. Vacuum drive often bothers the owners so much, that they change front hubs for mechanical, with manual switch on. Well and taking into account the same love to tuning, it is necessary to find out before buying, what else has been added by years and owners to a design of a full drive. Sometimes it comes to serious modifications like transition to permanent four-wheel drive with installation of transfer case and rear cardan from SsangYong Musso, blessing they can be installed practically without changes.
Both the Korando and Tager had a choice of transmission. The basic transmission was five-speed manual, and for an extra fee you could get a four-speed automatic: either 722.3 from Mercedes-Benz or M74 from Australian company BTR, which later under the name DSI was bought by Geely. The last gearbox was also available for Tager. Of course, the 722.3 automatic transmission, assembled under the license from Mercedes-Benz, is more reliable and durable, and the simplicity of design, which has no control electronics, is good for it. Such units with regular oil changes and intermediate maintenance can go up to half a million kilometers. Telling the truth, taking into account age of Korando and complete ignorance of service history of the box today the main advantage is serviceability and relative cheapness of restoration. However, the unit from BTR has showed itself quite good, so it can be considered a good choice for Tager.
Especially against the background of chronic and practically incurable problems with the manual transmission, which the “original” Korando did not have, but appeared in the “successor”. The main problems were with synchronizers, and almost all gears, and rebuilding, which the factory had to master to fulfill the warranty obligations, usually did not help. The crunching, cracking and sometimes total inability to shift the gear led the owners to despair, and the inability of the manufacturer to solve the problem aggravated the situation. The main solution in this situation was to change the gearbox either to automatic – the same BTR M74, or to the “original” manual from Korando. Buying a Tager with manual transmission today, you should pay maximum attention to the owner’s stories and check the work of the transmission.
The engines of both Korando and Tager were quite a lot, and most of them are units assembled under license from Mercedes-Benz. Gasoline versions are four-cylinder 2.3-liter M111 and inline six M104, which in its entirety passed from Korean to Russian. Diesels are four-cylinder OM661 (maiden OM601) by 2.3 liters and 2.9-liter five-cylinder OM662 (aka OM602 in Mercedes). On the Tager model was added a four-cylinder diesel engine DA26, which TagAZ produced by itself and put in everything, including a light truck Master. Let’s briefly go over all engines to understand what to prefer.
Gasoline engines M111 and M104 are almost a win-win option, especially if you can find a live six-cylinder engine. After all, structurally M104 is the same engine that was installed on W124 and W140. Both engines have a cast-iron block, a reliable chain timing and a simple design. If to keep the intake clean, the crankcase ventilation system and cooling system (it is especially important for the “six”), even a four-cylinder engine can go more than half a million kilometers before overhaul. Of course, now it is too late to believe in miracles, especially when buying Korando, but there is still a chance to find an engine with good remaining service life. And in an extreme case it is possible to find a unit at a salvage yard for reasonable money.
The diesel engines from Meredes-Benz are also good. True, these are very old pre-chamber engines, leading their history from the beginning of the 1980s, but for the undemanding driver in operation it brings mainly pluses. There are mechanical injectors, mechanical fuel injector with chain drive, but turbocharging is added, what gives traction at low revs and liveliness as a whole. Thus, the supercharger has not made the engine significantly more expensive in maintenance: one can buy a new turbine Garrett for 30-35 thousand, which is a little bit, and cartridges for repair are available for 7-10 thousand. The rest costs pennies by today’s standards: original injectors are available for 4-5 thousand per piece, and mechanical fuel injection system cannot be bought new, but can be repaired. But the engine DA26 of TagAZ own production is worth to avoid. Even if you leave aside its bad reliability and service life, there is no spare part for it: the origin of the unit is obscure, and the repair usually turns out by searching and collecting all the remains of these diesels from all nearby scrap yards to scrape together some parts from each of them. Not surprisingly, it usually ends up with replacement of the motor with the same OM602: it is not more expensive, and in operation incomparably better.
And now, having briefly understood what Tager differs from Korando and what in general you can expect from these cars, let’s try to make a portrait of the optimal exemplar. If you are not afraid of difficulties with body parts and the selection of some other parts, then taking into account the commonality of the engines and automatic transmission, you can look for a car younger – Taganrog assembly. Quite a logical choice will be a petrol Tager with the engine 3,2 liters and automatic transmission. On sale it is still possible to find a well-groomed car from the first owner – approximately such.
Well and if you want “original” car, instead of “replica”, it is possible to save 100-150 thousand and look for not young Korando. The offers for sale are many times less than for Tager, but here diesel cars make two thirds of all market volume. So, approximately such automobile with 2,3-liter diesel engine and automatic transmission would be not bad variant. And only time will show whether it will be more reliable, than the copy of the Russian assembly.