2023 Proton X90 first drive – Decent ride, but hard to hide that 3-cylinder sound

With 2023 being the 40th anniversary year for local carmaker Proton, its upcoming Proton X90 is quite the car to coincide with the occasion. It is after all, Proton’s first electrified or New Energy Vehicle, and introduces several Proton-first features. We’ve been given a chance to drive the Proton X90 up Genting Highlands, and here’s what we think about it.

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2023 Proton X90 Comfort – Specially tuned for Malaysian roads

One of the main highlights of the Proton X90 would be its multilink rear suspension which has actually been specially developed for the Malaysian market. The Geely Haoyue, which the X90 is based on, runs a torsion beam setup. Having driven the car for approximately 100 km, the X90 rides comfortably and feels decently planted at high speeds. There’s not too much body roll and the X90 makes for a nice large family SUV. On bumpy roads, most of the undulations are well absorbed.

You may be wondering if the new suspension setup has affected the cargo or cabin space of the Proton X90. We’ve asked the engineers at Proton, and fortunately, no compromise has been made in that department. It is a costly development on Proton’s side that was done in the middle of the X90 development project. Prioritising ride and comfort, Proton made the costly decision to fix a multibeam suspension setup for the rear wheels of the Proton X90.

2023 Proton X90 NVH – Satisfactory

As we were given the liberty to drive on the Karak highway in this yet-to-launch large SUV, we did take it up to some decent highway speeds. Wind noise and road noise are actually minimal, given the speculated sub-RM200k price of the car. With its only technical rivals being cars like Mazda CX-8 and the Hyundai Santa Fe, the NVH levels of the X90 is satisfactory and would impress you if you’re used to driving the usual budget family car.

If you were cruising on the highway, it would be easy to forget that the Proton X90 is powered by a 3-cylinder engine. Yes, the X90 is powered by a 1.5-litre TGDI engine that gets assistance from a Belt Starter Generator. It is only when you floor the car that it brings out that 3-cylinder noise, which almost sounds like a diesel unit. Some of the media members have reported that the sound is louder from the third-row seats, which are nearer to the exhaust tip.

2023 Proton X90 Performance – Sometimes you’d forget its 3-cylinder engine

The X90 is a cruiser, being able to keep its revs below 2,000 rpm at highway cruising speeds. It is actually a relaxing driving experience, making you almost forget that under the hood is a 3-cylinder engine. And this is basically what Proton calls a ‘Smart Glide’. Accelerating from high speeds, however, can feel a bit laggy.

Going uphill, the X90 felt rather light on its feet (given that it is a large car by Malaysian standards). Sure, it makes quite the noise, but it didn’t feel like you were lacking power. We drove the car up Genting Highlands with 4 adults in the car, and the power and torque were sufficient. At lower speeds, Proton calls it the “Dynamic Boost”, and at higher speeds, it is called the “Full Boost”. We’re pretty sure, it is the “Full Boost” that really brings out the X90’s engine noise.

Just to recap, the Proton X90 runs a mild hybrid (MHEV) system which consists of a 1.5-litre TGDI engine that makes 177 hp and 255 Nm. The Belt Starter Generator (BSG) makes 13 hp and 45 Nm. Combined, the system makes 190 hp and 300 Nm. Paired with the engine is a 7-speed DCT.

2023 Proton X90 Interior – Mature, spacious, and ergonomic

As for the cabin of the X90, it does have a nice premium feel to it. The colour scheme is mature, which is perhaps boring to some, but very much to my personal liking. Fit and finish is decent and the seats of the X90 are comfortable without being too soft. The seats even have a headrest flap like the ones you find on aeroplane seats

Catering to all passengers, the X90 comes with AC vents for all three rows. The X90 gets a 12.3-inch touchscreen head unit that has a decent resolution. In the Executive and above variants, it comes with a 360° which is very helpful. Space is decent in the X90 as it is actually a proper 7-seater SUV and not a 5+2 seater car. In the third-row, those below 170 cm should not have an issue with getting comfortable.

The Proton X90 is due to launch in Malaysia this year, and it is a rather significant model for Proton being the brand’s first hybrid car. The X90 is already open for bookings at Proton 3S and 4S centres nationwide.



  1. In its home market, the Geely “Haoyue is only offered with a torsion beam-type rear suspension. The more upmarket and recently-launched Geely Haoyue L, on the other hand, offers a multi-link-type rear suspension.” Quoted from WAPCAR…perhaps the writer can elaborate on the “costly development costs by Proton”


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