In the competitive fold of 7-seater SUVs, where space, power, and safety are paramount, Proton has made a significant entry with the introduction of the X90.
The SUV model in its Premium guise demonstrates Proton's commitment to meeting the expectations that its name implies, offering a vehicle that not only meets these requirements but does so with style and finesse.
Before the end of 2023, the X90 in particular made a significant entry into the mid-size 7-seater SUV segment, joining the likes of the Chery Tiggo 8 Pro, Mahindra XUV700 AX7 L, and Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace, among others.
In its Premium specification, the Proton X90 makes a strong case for itself as the first electric-assisted Proton model equipped with impressive features and respectable driving manners.
Whether one harbours admiration or scepticism towards its looks, the X90 unapologetically redefines the portfolio of Proton vehicles and places the marque on a brand-new level.
Inside, the X90 Premium’s interior is top-notch for the most part and makes use of artificial leather on the seats, door panels, and dashboard. Proton has chosen tradition over trend, using buttons and knobs for various vehicle controls, which I prefer to functions that are otherwise integrated into the infotainment system.
The Proton X90 Premium, while boasting a host of impressive features, does present a few areas of concern. Notably, the absence of a dedicated volume button, which necessitates control via steering wheel-mounted buttons, could be seen as a drawback. The lack of integration with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto further compounds this issue.
The 10-inch infotainment system employs an application known as QDlink. While this provides some basic functionality, it tends to lag in output. Furthermore, the application casts the user’s smartphone screen onto the system, potentially raising privacy concerns. These aspects warrant consideration for those prioritising a seamless user experience and privacy.
There is enough space inside, but like most 7-seater SUVs of today, the boot space is almost nonexistent with the last row raised. The third row, though, is big enough for two adults to sit back comfortably for long stretches thanks to above-average headroom and legroom, with the inclusion of rear climate control functions and two USB ports to make travelling a breeze.
Powering the Proton X90 is a 1.5-litre 3-cylinder turbo petrol engine with 140kW and 300Nm that is paired with a 48-volt electric motor synergy system for improved efficiency, emissions, and performance.
It operates as follows: while the vehicle is coasting, it seamlessly shuts off the engine and restarts it as soon as it detects the additional input required to climb an incline. The transition is almost unnoticeable, and according to Proton, the mild-hybrid system adds 9kW and 45Nm of extra boost, which, if I am honest, does lead to a marginal improvement in performance, especially during overtaking or when taking off from a stop.
On the open road, the X90 is a fantastic cruiser with solid handling capabilities and comfort for all seven passengers, thanks to the 7-speed DCT gearbox that smoothly shifts through the gears.
On the flip side, even with the mild-hybrid system aboard, the X90 remains a thirsty cat and averages 10.1l/100km. This figure casts a shadow on its claim to efficiency, particularly within the realm of SUVs, and raises the question of whether the resources allocated to developing a hybrid-assisted system couldn't have been better spent elsewhere.
While it's brimming with impressive technological equipment and superb road manners, the X90 serves as a reminder that even amidst such sophistication, outright perfection remains elusive.
Proton has upped its game as of late, and the X90 is proof of that. It hammers the point home with impressive levels of tech and exceptional style while offering impressive driving manners. With a price tag of R644,900, it’s easy to forgive it for its gremlins.