Though we have yet to see Proton produce something with their recent joint venture with Suzuki and the three remaining models due for debut this year, this latest development sparks an ever bigger interest – for now.
Proton held a media preview of their new future drivetrain line-up, which saw Chairman Tun Dr. Mahathir and some members of the media sitting in to witness the first firing of the new engine – over Skype that is.
The first firing signals the beginning of the thousands of gruelling hours and millions of ‘lab kilometres’ that these engines will be put through in order to prove their worth when it comes time to power the myriad of cars that we Malaysians are eagerly waiting to drive.
The engines in question here aren’t your ordinary engines that you’d normally find in a present-day Proton, but rather the company is developing a range of GDi (Gasoline Direct Injection) engines that comes in various displacements with or without the addition of a turbocharger. They range from 1.0-litre to 1.5-litre engines and either in three or four cylinder guises. The goal is to build an engine that’s proudly Malaysian yet crucially Euro 6C compliant.
The marque is spending over RM600 million in this pursuit. That figure will cover the cost of R&D and extensive testing of six engine variants over the course of 40 months. Proton has stationed over 20 of their brightest engineers in the UK alongside engineers from Lotus and Ricardo who’ll be working shoulder-to-shoulder to develop the new powertrain range. Proton expects a single variant of the six to be launched in just 30 months’ time. Better get cracking.
Strict competition from global manufacturers based in Malaysia and the current market situation has seen a major shrinkage in Proton’s market share. If you can’t beat them, join them. And that’s exactly what they’re doing. Developing new and up-to-date technology that will enable Proton to compete better amidst an ever-challenging and evolving market, be it at home or abroad.
The program sprang into life sometime in March 2015 and Proton’s engineers have done well in keeping up with progress of the project. The national carmaker sought the expertise of British engineering firm, Ricardo whom happen to have all the facilities that one would need to build, test and run an experimental engine. After all, Ricardo does it for a living (amongst others). And once the preliminaries are done with, Proton will transfer the project over to its British sports car arm, Lotus for further testing. If all goes well, by September this year, the contingent moves back home for the final leg of testing.
Not much is known of these engines as yet, but Proton is looking to slot these engines into cars as soon as 2018, if not earlier by end-2017. What we know thus far is that these engines will feature a Dual VVT system, and will replace rubber timing belt for the likes of a chain in order to bring down maintenance cost and increase durability. Furthermore, service intervals can be stretched out longer, giving more value back to the buyer. The six variants that are slated for development are as follows:-
- 1.0-litre 3-cylinder VVT (Variable Valve Timing)
- 1.2-litre 3-cylinder VVT
- 1.3-litre 4-cylinder GDi (Gasoline Direct Injection)
- 1.5-litre 4-cylinder GDi
- 1.3-litre 4-cylinder T-GDi (Turbo Gasoline Direct Injection)
- 1.5-litre 4-cylinder T-GDi
Apart from the Euro 6C compliancy that the brand’s engineers are gunning for, a reduction in fuel consumption of 25 percent and a hike in power of around 20 percent are on the table. No point in spending hundreds of millions of Ringgit in developing new powertrains when the gearbox does no justice, which is a point that many Proton owners are wailing over. Fret not however, for there is a new torque-converter CVT transmission in the works, developed by Japanese manufacturer Jatco.
While we anxiously wait for more updates on the engine development, be sure to read our take on which Proton-Suzuki model that we will most likely see introduced soon!