Friday, 1 June 2012

Proton Exora Bold (Turbo) tested

There is this often heard saying of old wine in a new bottle. Also, such old wine may have been aged longer to perfection to blend in better with the new storage vessel.

Such may be the case of the long-serving Campro 1.6L petrol engine from Proton - powering the Gen-2, Satria and Persona. Now BOLD-ened with a low-pressure turbocharger and mated to a CVT transmission, plonked into this latest Exora variant.

Although no longer new in the market, the Exora Turbo (as it is known in Thailand) still serves up quite a few tricks up its sleeve. One being more cavernous/versatile than the ubiquitous Perodua Alza. Second, it is now packed with a more grunty 205 Nm of twist to things.

In this age of downsizing with turbocharging, Proton seems to have done the right thing by going the way of CFE (Charged Fuel Efficiency) along with a more efficient CVT tranny. However, direct fuel injection is discreetly absent although the 4-pot sounded clattery, much like a DFI unit on idling. Also mysteriously absent in its upgrade is the timing chain for the cam-shaft drive and the omission of CPS, variable valve timing.

Interestingly, this petrol lump behaves much like a turbodiesel. It's coarse on initial take-off with good low-end pull from 1,700rpm onwards. Then, it runs out of breath by 4,500rpm or so. In the course of accelerating, the engine note changes from being buzzy to a growl -which will be more-at-home in a Satria Neo - to a boomy hoarseness circa 5,000 rpm. The redeeming factor though is there is adequate power for a sprightly drive, overtaking and maintaining momentum even up gradients.

Comfort and suspension-pliancy wise, there is no complaint whatsoever, seeing that Lotus Engineering has sprinkled its suspension-tuning wizardry here nonetheless. It's firm yet pliant, with a manageable roll into corners, but that's fine since this a family-oriented, entry-level MPV. No excessive pitching or dips on hard-braking, no nasty surprises. Similarly, braking power is sufficiently assuring, unlike the old Gen-2' items. Like before with the 'old' Exora, I haven't discovered the fame "Handling by Lotus" DNA in this MPV - as expected.

What is glaring though is the creaks, rattle and squeks abound in the cabin of this tester. For the record, this Exora Bold CFE has only done some 5000kms. Also annoying is the - possibly - front right lower suspension arm grunting/groan at certain steering position and going over some road humps. Perhaps this particular test unit has been abused much and prematurely in its service life.

The Exora is quite a big vehicle actually, longer from bumper-to-bumper than a Toyota Innova. Its interior is also airy and capacious. With the last row of seats folded down, luggage lugging capacity is usefully flat and wide. Once again better than Innova and of course, the Alza which don't offer split folding of its 3rd row at all.

These practical factors alone scored good points for the Bold CFE, along with turbocharged zippiness still makes it a relatively good buy as a budget 2nd car (MPV) in a family. Pity there's still some doubt about its build and fit quality though.