Proton X90: Ample power, lots of comforts

Proton’s largest three-row seating sports utility vehicle is not a sluggish beast once you get to drive it.

Small displacement turbocharged engines powering dimensionally expansive vehicles might not be a new trend but with the Proton X90, you might just have to take a second look.

It’s definitely no compact sports utility vehicle (SUV) being a seven-seater that commands flagship status for the range that includes the X70 and entry-level X50.

To dispel this notion of the X90 being under-powered with a 1.5-litre turbo engine, Proton organised a drive to Gambang that took in both urban and highway driving plus an unscheduled detour of about 30km of B-grade roads, due to the big sinkhole along the Karak highway.

Accommodating seven people comfortably on board is within the X90’s forte but like most SUVs in this category, this is mostly good for short day trips in which only light holiday paraphernalia is brought along.

That’s because the storage space with the third-row backrests up is only good for a picnic basket and some compact luggage and items.

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If you want to bring more luggage by folding down the 50:50 split third-row backrests, you have to reduce the number of people on board to five or six at most, depending on the seating arrangement for the respective model (there are four in all).

As the Proton drive involved four media people to a vehicle, it was just right after lowering the third-row seatrests for our respective bags and work paraphernalia.

The X90 we drove came with the seven seating arrangement being the 1.5 TGDi BSG Premium; the other variant in the media drive was the top 1.5 TGDi BSG Flagship with second-row captain seats, thus accommodating six people on board.

Between them, the kerb weights are 1,743kg for the Premium model and 1,740kg for the Flagship which is lighter with one fewer seat.

The 1.5-litre engine is a turbocharged direct injection three-cylinder unit that also powers the X70 and X50 but in the X90, it comes with the 48V Electric Motor Synergy System (EMS).

The engine itself delivers 177PS and 255Nm that is available from a low 1,500rpm while the EMS provides an additional 13PS and 45Nm.

Channelling engine output to the front wheels is a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with manual mode.

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Given that the X90 tips the scale at more than 200kg above the X70 that we drove to Desaru, Johor a year ago, we admit having initial doubts about the same engine, albeit with a bit more oomph, powering a heavier SUV.

That feeling melted away when we took off from Proton’s COE (Centre Of Excellence) along the Kesas Highway as the 1.5-litre TGDi engine with EMS was up to the mark giving the X90 an effortless pace.

It was when we hit the acce­­lerator pedal hard to overtake that we encountered a similar engine lag that we experienced in the X70 last year.

This was well and good when driving along highways as we could endure the mild lag to pass slower vehicles but not along the narrow, winding B-grade road to our lunch rendezvous in Janda Baik.

The slower road speed uptake due to this turbo lag that didn’t allow an immediate build-up of engine power forced us to be more cautious when attempting to pass slower vehicles.

On the open highways, you could revel in some robust driving although the higher frequency of police speed traps currently was duly noted.

During the times that we were crawling in heavy traffic, we put the Intelligent Cruise Control (ICC) to use; the X90 came to a stop when the system detected the vehicle ahead doing so.

However, we had to prompt the accelerator pedal to get moving again as the ICC does not have that “move again” function.

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The X90 is a quiet vehicle to drive and ride in, with the turbulent wind noise along the roof largely tolerable.

This was interrupted somewhat by the intrusion of road noise, in particular the varying pitch generated over the respective road surfaces, some louder than others.

From the second-row perspective, we had the pleasure of dozing off while the others drove as the Nappa leather seats were well-padded and contoured to provide comfortable seating.

Likewise, the dimensionally bigger X90 (over the X70) also gave us that much more legroom to lounge in on this long-distance run.

The X90’s overall length is 4,830mm against the X70’s 4,519 and its wheelbase is 2,805mm against 2,670.

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While its ride was comfortable and composed on the highway, our sinkhole detour that covered some rather poor B-grade roads made for a slightly jarring experience from the second-row perspective.

Other than that, the X90 should find appeal from those who sought a bigger SUV to accommodate more people on board in good comfort without paying the earth for it.

The X90 Premium variant that we had two days of driving experience goes for RM144,800 on-the-road without insurance; you add another RM8,000 or so for the Flagship.

Proton X90 1.5 TDGi BSG Premium
Engine: 1,477cc, inline 3-cylinder, 12-valve, DOHC, turbo direct injection, 48V Motor Synergy System
Maximum power: 177PS at 5,500rpm
Maximum torque: 255Nm from 1,500 to 4,000rpm
Electric motor output: 13PS and 45Nm of torque
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch
Features: Six airbags, full LED auto headlamps, front sequential turn signals, LED fog lamps, power tailgate with nearby auto open, Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD), Auto Brake Hold, Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Traction Control System (TCS), Hill Hold Assist (HHA), Hill Descent Control (HDC), Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Rear Collision Warning (RCW), Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Stop and Go, Intelligent Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Lane Departure Prevention (LDP), Lane Centering Control (LCC), Emergency Lane Keep Assist (LEKA), Lane Change Assist (LCA), Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), Auto Park Asist (APA), 360 Camera with 3D Display, Nappa leather steering wheel and seats, front power and ventilated seats, full LCD instrument panel, 12.3-inch Touchscreen Monitor, wireless charger, Voice Command, Online Navigation, Online Music Streaming, Online Weather Forecast, Smartphone Connectivity, Bluetooth Connectivity, 4G & Wi-Fi, Proton Link App, 19-inch alloy wheels
Price: RM144,800 (on-the-road without insurance)

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Proton X90 1.5TGDi Premium (7-seater)
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