EVs and Alternative Fuel, Feature Stories, Hybrids, Technology

Petronas EV Fluids Symposium – thermal management development and its impact on EV performance


Electric vehicles are fast becoming a necessity in the line-ups of automakers in order to meet emission regulations that are set to become stricter in the coming years. This is evident in major markets like Europe, the United States and China, which are aiming to reduce vehicle CO2 emissions by as much as 30% (or more) by the year 2030.

Even though that is still a good number of years away, in the short- to mid-term period (before the year 2025), the industry is still experiencing a low adoption rate of EVs, with FEV Consulting reporting a global share of just 2.3% as of right now.

While drivers for electrification may differ by region, it’s obvious that consumers overall are still showing a lower acceptance for EVs today, with one of reasons being a general lack of product attractiveness when compared to cars with internal combustion engines.

Comparing the usage characteristics of EVs and ICE-powered cars in the attached table, we can see the pros and cons of each, with the latter currently having a number of advantages over the former. While ICE-powered cars face no issue with their power source (petrol or diesel in their fuel tanks), EVs are limited by the capabilities of their on-board batteries and electric motors.

Like most electronics, thermal management is an integral part of operation, and this extends to EVs as well. With efficient thermal management, the disadvantages of EVs can be alleviated to improve upon their shortcomings, which in turn, could help make them more attractive to customers.

That was the primary topic of PETRONAS’ inaugural EV Fluids Symposium, which was held at Petronas Lubricants International (PLI)’s Global Research and Technology Centre in Turin, Italy. Just like several major automakers, PETRONAS has committed itself to reduce its impact on the environment, introducing its Carbon Commitments plan in 2012. Since then, the company has successfully reduced its carbon footprint by almost 13% from 2017.

More recently, in 2018, PLI pledged 75% of its R&T investment towards developing innovative solutions that contribute to reducing CO2 emissions. In fact, the company has used its expertise to develop fluids and lubricants catered specifically for EVs, which are marketed under its Iona banner, and are currently working on providing new solutions that aim to further improve their capabilities.

As such, the one-day event organised by PETRONAS served as a good platform for lubricant companies, automakers, OEMs and automotive suppliers to gather and share future EV technology trends, their market relevance and the role of fluids in the evolution of e-transmission and battery technologies.

To understand the role that thermal management plays in EVs, we must first understand the primary systems that make them move. In most modern EVs, these include the electric drive unit (EDU) and the batteries themselves.

Electric drive unit

Electric drive units are mainly comprised of three main components, namely the electric motor, a reduction gear and inverter (or power electronics). The e-motor typically consists of stationary (stator) and rotating (rotor) parts, with the latter being the one that generates rotational speed (between 12,000 to 20,000 rpm) when current is sent through the e-motor.

The mechanical energy is then reduced via a reduction gear, which are typically single- or dual-speed units, before drive is sent to the wheels, Meanwhile, the inverter provides current to the e-motor from the battery, and governs the e-motor and torque generated by the system.

As it stands, there are different cooling solutions for EDUs that already exist, with the most simplistic being air cooling. This method sees the e-motor and inverter be cooled by fresh air, which can be further supplemented by air-conditioned cooling, while the reduction gear is lubricated (separately) with a transmission oil.

A more common approach is water-glycol cooling, which is used to cool the inverter and e-motor – the latter primarily involves cooling a water jacket around the stator, but in certain cases, the rotor shaft is cooled as well. While the fluid is in close proximity to electronic components, there is no direct contact between them. Like air cooling, the reduction gear is lubricated separately with a transmission oil.

Another method is hybrid cooling, where the inverter and e-motor stator are indirectly cooled by water-glycol, while the e-motor rotor shaft and reduction gear have one combined oil circuit. In this system, selected parts like the e-motor rotor and stator windings are directly cooled by oil, and can be linked to the water-glycol circuit by a heat exchanger.

Lastly, and the most complex, is direct oil cooling, where all components share the same oil cooling circuit, beginning from the inverter, to the e-motor, and the reduction gear. Based on testing conducted by FEVs, direct oil cooled e-motors showed improved performance, providing a 30% increase in continuous power delivery over those that used a water jacket for the stator.

It’s clear then that with higher cooling performance, the continuous power delivery rate of the e-motor can be increased or the unit size can be reduced while delivering the same continuous power. The latter is not only beneficial from a packaging standpoint, but also in terms of pricing as less materials are needed to build the e-motor. This can help lower the initial purchase price of EVs, increasing their attractiveness to customers.

While it may sound simple enough to just douse everything in oil and call it a day, there are a few requirements that need to be met when it comes to this approach. Due to the speed at which e-motors operate, the thermal properties of the fluid used need to be significantly higher, and the transmission oil used in reduction gears alone just aren’t up to par with what’s required for the e-motor. Secondly, e-motors are faced with high electrical currents in operation, and the fluid must have dielectric properties so as not to cause a short circuit.

Next, ensuring the fluid has a high level of material compatibility is important to ensure it doesn’t promote corrosion or oxidisation of the components and insulation found in the EDU. Even with all these requirements, there’s still a need to ensure that the fluid used provides adequate lubrication to minimise wear and tear.

For now, there are no real optimised e-fluids that can fulfill all these requirements, which is why PETRONAS is focusing its resources to develop a solution. Of course, this isn’t an easy feat, as we haven’t considered a number of promising technologies that can further influence the thermal management solution of EVs and fluid requirements moving forward.

Among the key advancements currently in development include silicon carbide inverters, improved insulation materials, more powerful e-motors, high-voltage EDUs, new magnet materials and multi-speed transmission (reduction gears).

Batteries

With EDU thermal management being a complex issue on its own, there’s also the matter of keeping the batteries that supply power to the EDU cool as well. As we know, batteries operate best within a certain temperature window, with extremely high or low temperatures being detrimental to batteries, not only in terms of their ability to deliver power but also their longevity.

Most EV batteries adopt a modular structure consisting of cells and modules contained within a battery pack. In operation, cells generate a lot of heat at their primary contact terminals and core, and with repeated usage, result in temperature gradients within the cell that have an affect on battery health. While temperature gradients are inevitable, minimising their scale is important to reduce increased aging of the batteries.

Current cooling solutions share some similarities with those used for EDUs, with air cooling being the most basic method, where air is passed through the pack, directly cooling the cells or modules within.

A more common method used is to run refrigerant or water-glycol through cooling pipes or plates that run along the base or between the modules. This indirect cooling method typically involves the cooling circuit be combined with the car’s conventional air-conditioning system. Models such as the Audi e-tron and Tesla Model S rely on this method, with the former using a cooling plate under the battery pack, while the latter features a cooling channel between the modules.

Possible future solutions for mass-market EVs involve using dielectric cooling fluids, which are non-conductive, and allow for direct cooling to be applied, mitigating the potentially high temperature gradients within a cell. This can be achieved by either submerging the cells fully in fluid, or targeted cooling of areas that generate the most heat like cell tabs (or busbars). In existing cooling solutions, this isn’t possible, as the coolant (be it water-glycol or refrigerant) cannot be in direct contact with cell tabs lest a short circuit occurs.

More efficient thermal management can benefit batteries in more ways beyond just improved longevity. As fast charging has become a common feature in EVs, higher cooling performance can allow for longer high charging power to be maintained – thermal limitations place a limit on the time an EV can be charged at its maximum power. Additionally, batteries kept under ideal temperatures are able to delivering their maximum possible range and performance more effectively and repeatedly.

Unfortunately, dielectric battery cooling solutions are currently rather expensive and their low fluid performance characteristics means they have yet to be used in mass-market EVs. With continued development, dielectric battery cooling fluids provide improved fluid performance characteristics and be cheaper to manufacture.

Conclusion

It’s clear that there’s more to explore in the world of e-mobility, especially for companies such as PETRONAS as well as automakers, OEMs and automotive suppliers. Evolving technologies and new fluid requirements will require new test methods that have yet to be standardised across the industry, and the EV Fluids Symposium acts as a catalyst for greater things.

What is certain is that thermal management has such a significant role in EVs today and in the future, and PETRONAS is looking to develop solutions, which are part of its second-generation Iona range that meet the needs of the partners it collaborates with. There’s a lot of potential in EVs, and no company wants to lag behind in this relatively new frontier.

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Cars, Feature Stories

The paultan.org Top 10 cars of the decade – Matthew


Every time this year we, the writers at paultan.org, seclude ourselves into our respective mental caves to jog the memory of some of the most extraordinary driving experiences in the past 12 months. More often than not, the standout experiences often feel short-lived, but such is the workings of time, fleeting and precipitous.

My tenure as an automotive journalist has only been for the better part of seven years, and I sometimes wish I’d kept a personal log of each car I’ve driven, especially if we were tasked to recount the most eventful drives of the decade. But such a list doesn’t exist, which makes my Top 10 all the more… authentic, if you will.

So, as a convenient way of excusing my laziness, allow me to present you with my Top 10 most significant four-wheeled memories of the decade. This honestly took a few days, so bear in mind that the 10 aren’t arranged in order (despite being numbered, in line with the format), because they each carry an indelible, intrinsic weight.

10. Audi R8 V10 Plus

While not the kind of showstopper its predecessor was, the second-generation Audi R8 is a recurring blockbuster star with more substance than meets the eye. The engine, the exhaust sound, the snappy gearbox, the brake’s sheer stopping power, the utterly balanced handling (if not slightly tail happy when wrung), the build quality… everything was made to excite the senses. Everything.

I’d been lucky to have driven Audi’s halo car twice, both times at the Audi driving experience centre in Neuberg, Germany. It’s unfortunate that the R8 isn’t officially sold here in Malaysia, because as much as it is a left-field option compared to the Porsche 911 and the Mercedes-AMG GT, the R8 is truly a special machine to wield for most occasions.

9. Suzuki Swift Sport

I didn’t think much of this tiny hatch at first, but all doubts and preconceived thoughts got blown out the water as soon I plonked myself in the hot seat of the manual variant. For under RM100k, the second-generation Swift Sport was one of the earliest sporty hatches I had driven, and boy what a hoot it was.

It’s old-school fun, unpretentious, and genuinely capable even at its limits. The 1.6 litre NA engine gives great top-end shove (and noise too!), the stick snaps joyfully into place, and the car turns exactly how you want it to, when you want it to. If you could get a used one today, I suggest you jump at it!

8. Proton Saga

You must be thinking, why did Matt choose the Proton Saga over the decade’s most popular, best-selling national car, the Perodua Myvi? And why the 2016 model over the 2019 model? What about the Bezza? Valid questions I assure you, but it’s to do with the fact that I haven’t driven the 2019 Saga, plus the lasting impression of the 2016 model during my brief one-day excursion with it sometime back.

To me, the Saga’s finest trait has everything to do with how it’s sprung, from shock absorbency to the way it manages lateral forces. The chassis isn’t new, but carried over from the 2008 Saga BLM. That gives engineers more time to refine the platform without investing too much into R&D, plus the ride and handling folks at Proton learned from some of the best guys in the industry.

It’s far from the perfect car, but once you’ve got the platform dialled in, more time and effort can be spent improving on other aspects of the car, such as build quality, and perhaps more importantly, upgrades such as the new Hyundai-sourced four-speed auto and class-leading touchscreen infotainment system.

7. BMW M2 Competition

BMW’s decision to spin the E82 1 Series coupe off into its own 2 Series line-up couldn’t have come at a better time. It won’t sell in droves because the base car is deliberately made for enthusiasts (minus the front-wheel drive MPVs, of course), and consequentially the whole range gets the dullest modern-day BMW cabin. Not quite befitting of the times, but it’s a driver’s tool. The Ultimate Driving Machine.

A few laps around the 16-turn Kyalami race track in Johannesburg, South Africa, sealed the deal for me. Brake hard in a hairpin, the nose gives, but regaining composure is as instant as lifting your foot off the brakes, thus providing maximum traction as you floor the gas on the exits. The M2 Competition is magic; the purest and most distilled offering in the Bavarian stable. If there’s one BMW M car I’d have in my dream garage, this would be it, no questions asked.

6. Porsche 718 Cayman GTS

If I’m privileged enough in this life to personally own a Porsche, I’d have the 981 Cayman GT4. I’m sure it would’ve made this list had I driven one, but my virgin Cayman experience was in the 718 GTS. While Porsche’s most sought after sports car is the physics-defying rear-engined 911, its midship offerings are nothing short of exemplary.

The Cayman isn’t a match in terms of mechanical complexity and luxury when compared to the 911, not by a mile, and its 2.5 litre turbocharged engine isn’t quite as dramatic at the top of the rev band. But as a whole, there’s always thrust when you need it, and the Cayman is more predictable, raw, and dead accurate. I’d normally prefer an automatic gearbox – or PDK in this instance – for cars with over 300 hp, but I’ll happily row my own gears in a Cayman till the day my legs give way.

5. Ford Ranger Raptor

On the other end of the spectrum is a gargantuan four-wheeler, one so excessively talented that no other rivalling pick-up truck in its class could hold a candle to. Not when it comes to dirt driving, I should say.

It took Ford Performance some 50 months to create a new platform different from the regular Ranger, and all mechanical components other than the engine mounts are unique to the Raptor. It’s all over-the-top stuff, but nothing really comes close. Can you fly over a crest, land as gently as a dove, then flick the wheel into an actual drift off-road in another pick-up truck? Yep, I thought so.

4. Proton X70

Proton’s first ever SUV is also the automaker’s second model to make my Top 10 list, and for good reason. The value with which the X70 offers is unheard of in the Malaysian auto industry, and I pretty much told anyone who has considered the C-segment SUV to plonk the cash down for one. There’s hardly any downsides if you think about it objectively, unless you’re not a fan of the design, or that it’s just too sizeable to drive around comfortably.

I could write a separate piece on all which I like and dislike about the X70, but some of its most distinguishing features are ride comfort (if a bit floaty, but that’s okay), refinement, build quality, luxurious brown Nappa leather seats, and onboard tech. What other SUVs in the same class get the similar breadth of functionalities that can be called upon simply by saying hi?

3. Mercedes AMG GT 63 S 4-Door Coupe

This is definitely one of the most challenging cars I’ve reviewed. It’s got bleeding edge tech, from engine to chassis management, and a brilliant multi-clutch automatic gearbox. It has more traction than your driving experience can defy, so powerful you forget it can do everything else a car could besides rocketing standstill launches, and so luxurious you sometimes forget the cabin can be as comfortable and pleasant as a CLS.

The GT 4-Door is an all-in-one, and it’s the most powerful AMG model ever made. For some people, this is the GT they’ve been waiting for, but at RM1.8 million it’s nearly twice the price of the E 63 S, which really isn’t much less of a beast than the monetary difference suggests. Having said that, AMG could do as they please, because clearly, I’m a fan. Plus, that M177/M178 4.0 litre engine is really one of the best V8s in existence.

2. Kia Forte

I know I said this list wasn’t arranged in any order, and it’s true, save for the last two entries. We’ll start with my own daily driver, the 2011 Kia Forte, which will go down in history as one of the greatest landmark moments for an automotive brand. The C-segment sedan was the first to feature a full redesign, sporting a timeless shell that Europeans find more palatable than any Kia that came before it. That, was a new dawn.

Peter Schreyer, a German designer most well-known for penning the first-gen Audi TT and Mk4 Volkswagen Golf, vacated his coveted spot at Volkswagen as design chief to lead Kia’s global design team in 2006. After successfully overhauling the group’s passenger car line-up, he went on to become the first foreign presidential-level employee in the company. It’s much deserved, I think, but it’s worth noting that he doesn’t actively design every Kia/Hyundai model, but merely oversees his design teams.

If having my personal car in this list of 10 is biased, then I’m guilty as charged. I’ve put on over 210,000 hassle-free kilometres on the car that will be turning nine in April, and never once has it broken down or failed on me. The two-year old Daytona Grey coat helps mask many obvious signs of wear in the cabin, but beyond that, its unfailing will to serve puts to bed the all the haunting tales of yore. Looking at it, I probably won’t need a new car anytime soon, and I’ve got Schreyer to thank for penning its timeless design.

1. Lotus Elise S

We’ve come to the final entry on this list, and driving it was by far the most eventful moment of my career, almost fateful too, I dare say. Many have asked, “what’s the best car you’ve ever driven?” More often than not, the words “Lotus Elise” often yielded curious stares that led to a prompt Google search, but yes, the S3 Elise S is one car I clutch very dearly to heart.

If adoring the M2 Competition and 718 Cayman GTS gave no indication as to the kind of cars I like, then the Elise embodies every sporty aspirations I want in a car. It’s nothing but sheer unadulterated fun, from the brutality of the vibrations to the instant throttle response. I may not have pushed the car to its limits, but even half-arsing it was recipe for some much-needed adrenaline rush, especially when the days feel long.

A used Elise S doesn’t go for much, so if I ever want to scratch that itch, I could fetch one for less than what a brand new Mazda 3 costs. Who knew that, for a guy who in his teenage years used to lust for cars like the Nissan GT-R, Ferrari 458 Speciale, and Pagani Huayra, would settle for a little-known sports car powered by a puny 1.8 litre four-cylinder Toyota engine?

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Cars, Feature Stories

The paultan.org Top 10 cars of the decade – Jonathan


As the clock stops on the second decade of the second millennium, the dawn of this particular new year gives all of us a pause to reflect on some of the joys we have experienced not just over the past 12 months, but the past 10 years. For us writers here, this gave us a unique opportunity to look back on the best cars we’ve driven, with our special 10-car retrospective we have here. It makes for quite a list, if you ask me.

I joined the industry (at this website) at the beginning of 2014, meaning that a little less that half of the decade had already passed before I saddled up. Even so, I managed to document some of the biggest births, upsets and upheavals of the era – the dawn of the SUV craze, the fall (and rebirth) of the hybrid vehicle market in Malaysia, ever-increasing safety standards, and the inevitable march of electrification.

Through it all, I managed to drive some of the most exciting and important cars ever produced, making corralling a list of only 10 cars extremely difficult. But eventually I managed to pick out the ones that have stood out, and they range from the affordable to the absolute pinnacle of motoring. Right, here goes.

10. GK Honda Jazz/GM6 Honda City

It’s hard to put into words just how accurately Honda nailed it with the third-generation Jazz hatch and fourth-generation City sedan back in 2014. The company ditched the five-door’s perennially cutesy design in favour of a sportier and more aggressive look that appealed to boy racers everywhere – especially in this region. Its decision to more closely align the four-door’s development with the global Jazz model was also inspired, giving the car a more sophisticated look and feel compared to a contemporary Toyota Vios.

Taking a petrol City – dressed in gorgeous Passion Red Pearl – for a spin over Christmas served as a reminder of what has made the duo such a success, and much of it came down to the powertrain. The 1.5 litre VTEC engine was sprightly, free-revving and surprisingly frugal, and in stark contrast to most other CVTs out there, the one in this car was a willing enabler, reacting like a stepped transmission when I asked for more power. It was also decently comfortable and displayed un-Honda-like levels of refinement.

It hasn’t been all smooth sailing. Honda’s insistence of using cumbersome touch-based controls over the past decade – which can be traced back to these cars – is something it’s still trying to walk back on. Meanwhile, a spate of problems on its high-tech Intelligent Dual Clutch Drive (i-DCD) hybrid system led to recalls and seeming curtailed its rollout in other markets, Malaysia remaining its sole export destination outside Japan.

Despite those issues, the outgoing Jazz and City are some of the strongest products from Honda in recent memory, but even that hasn’t stopped the brand from returning to old habits. They may share the same platform, but the new Jazz and City have once again diverged – the former going back to looking friendly and cute, the latter being tweaked more for regional tastes. Time will tell if this recipe will be a right one.

9. Honda HR-V

If the City and Jazz showed that Honda could read a market well, then the HR-V proved that it was borderline prescient. The Hip and Smart Runabout Vehicle might not have been the first modern B-segment crossover on the market, but when it arrived in 2015 it offered everything seemingly every customer was asking for – funky SUV looks, a tall driving position and a reliable, no-nonsense engine and transmission.

And it came just as Malaysians were becoming more affluent and ready to splurge, with pricing that didn’t break the bank. When I drove it in Thailand before the launch, I predicted that it would obliterate its then rivals, the Peugeot 2008 and Ford EcoSport, and it did – it sold in numbers the others could only dream of.

Looking back, it’s easy to see why. Apart from the fact that the H badge practically sold itself, the interior was commodious and filled with lots of practical touches, including a huge, easy-to-pack boot and the Jazz’s awesome Ultra Seats. The latter’s impressive drivetrain was also augmented by an even stronger 1.8 litre engine, which meant that the HR-V was brisk enough to keep up with our cutthroat traffic.

It’s telling that despite Honda Malaysia’s ongoing troubles and the onslaught of talented, capable rivals, the HR-V continues to sell well. The house that Soichiro built is going to have a hell of a time trying to replace it…

8. Jaguar F-Pace

One does not kick off a global test drive on a ferry in the picturesque Bay of Kotor and not make it on this list. The Jaguar F-Pace may still be a bit player in the grand scheme of things, but this pull-out-all-stops event in 2016 not only showed just how much bravado this British institution still had, but also how much importance it had placed on its first ever SUV.

Driving across the Montenegrin landscape was like descending into a dream. The rocky outcrops that dotted the coast – set against a killer mountainous backdrop, no less – appeared to have been lifted straight from a movie set, on top of which lay kilometre after kilometre of snaking tarmac. To cap it all off, we stayed at the beautiful Sveti Stefan, which appeared like a jewel in the Adriatic Sea. No, our job still isn’t all fun and games.

But the car was something else. The F-Pace was marketed as a high-riding sports car, and while the claims of being a plus-size F-Type were a little over the top, it handled the litany of hairpins with aplomb, with an agility rarely seen in the class. It was the engine, however, that stole the show – the 3.0 litre supercharged V6 sounded every bit as rorty as you’d expect, which was handy given the many tunnels on the route.

Jaguar may never rise beyond relative anonymity in Malaysia (it would take a lot to break the BMW-Mercedes hegemony), and its parent company may not be in such good health at the moment. However, products like the F-Pace show that Coventry has its place in our future. It’s a company that zags when the rest of the industry zigs, and in a world that is becoming increasingly homogenous, we could use a little spice.

7. F30 BMW 3 Series

You could probably have accused BMW of playing it safe when it unveiled the F30 3 Series back in 2011. The sixth generation of the benchmark sports sedan wasn’t a world away from the E90 that preceded it, and it certainly didn’t break the mould of a car central to Munich’s original Ultimate Driving Machine mantra.

But it moved the game on in the areas that mattered. The F30 was the first 3 Series to be powered exclusively by turbocharged engines, and my were they effective – always buttery smooth and exceedingly torquey, even though they lacked the aural drama of a naturally-aspirated straight-six. It also possessed excellent road manners, deftly mixing ironclad body control with supreme ride comfort.

It also didn’t hurt that its sharp suit was extremely handsome, or that the iDrive infotainment system had evolved into a paragon of functionality and usability. But it wasn’t perfect – its interior felt cheap next to newer rivals, and its shocking lack of refinement simply didn’t cut it in a car with luxury pretensions.

Even so, the car marked a watershed moment for the premium segment. Its immense popularity, both here and around the world, pressured competitors into building better rivals, and the result were the mightily impressive W205 Mercedes-Benz C-Class and B9 Audi A4. The new G20 may have arrived to take its place, but the F30 still holds a special place in my heart.

6. Toyota GR Supra

This probably wasn’t what purists had in mind when Toyota said it was going to revive the Supra. We knew it was going to develop the car with BMW, but did it really have to take the engine too, lock, stock and barrel? Did the interior have to be hastily assembled from parts bin components that F30 owners would be familiar with? Surely that would be an affront to such a hallowed nameplate?

I was just as sceptical as the rest of you, but I knew I had to drive the car with an open mind, understanding and acknowledging the role BMW played in engineering and building it. And once I got that out of the way, the penny dropped – this was a competent and engaging sports car that knew few equal.

It all started with the engine. Despite being muffled by a turbocharger, the B48 3.0 litre straight-six still made all the right noises, accompanied by its silky power delivery and potent punch of torque – a real iron fist in a velvet glove. Yes, it did feel very BMW, but you can’t argue with a powerhouse as effective as this.

The chassis was more than able to keep up, and it was here where Toyota’s magic shone through. For all the hardware it shared with the G29 Z4, the Supra also exhibited some of the keenness, a certain lightness to its movements, that it shared with other sports cars the company makes – some of which you’ll read later on. At the end of the day, the new Supra is an accomplished machine, and at a time where seemingly every new car is an SUV, shouldn’t the emergence of any new sports car be celebrated, whatever the badge?

5. F56 MINI 3 Door/F55 MINI 5 Door

Ask the general twenty-something layperson what car they aspire to own, and nine times out of ten, the answer would be a MINI. The ultimate hipster brand is something of a status symbol for the young and upwardly mobile, with a unique design and identity that resonates with the fashion forward.

As someone who appreciates aesthetics myself, the traditional MINI Hatch was a car that I was drawn to, especially in its current F56 (F55 for the five-door) form. It might have grown to ridiculous proportions this time around, but it was still very stylish, and the creative use of ambient lighting – especially the centre ring around the infotainment display – only added to the visual appeal.

But it was the driving experience that blew me over. The latest model was perhaps a more mature and comfortable proposition compared to its predecessors, but it could very much still carve up a good road. The steering was slick and incisive, and the taut chassis meant it could follow my every whim. I drove my first MINI not long after I took this job and ever since then, I was hooked.

Even now, nearly six years later, I still get a rush whenever I get a chance to get behind the wheel of one. The facelift arrived last year and introduced even more dashing Union Jack tail lights and a dual-clutch transmission that shifted quicker than the previous automatic, making for an even better steer. I’m infatuated by it, and not gonna lie, I still lust for one.

4. Toyota 86

Not as much as I want a Toyota 86, however. I know, how original, right? This small, rear-wheel drive sports car is just about every enthusiast’s pick for a fun and relatively attainable daily driver (so much so that even my colleague, Gerard, purchased its Subaru BRZ twin), but as someone who had never driven one, I had to know what all the fuss was about.

So once our coverage of the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show was done, I stayed on, rented a manual unit from Toyota itself, and set about tearing up and down the Mecca of every fan of Japanese performance – the Hakone Turnpike. What followed next was six hours of utter joy, with nothing but me and my trusty red steed as company. Even the pouring rain did little to dampen the fun.

The iconic touge road was everything I expected it to be – fast, punctuated by tight hairpins and littered with towering bridges that offered fantastic vistas of the valleys below. It was also autumn, so the trees (and the road) were covered in gorgeous auburn leaves, making the 86 look très cool as it blew past.

Speaking of which, the car was a superb companion. The gruff boxer engine and recalcitrant gearshift action were quite apparent when I was just pootling along, but once I hustled the Toyota up the mountain road, they all faded into the background. It really showed that on a good road, all you need is an engine at the front, power going to the back, a manual shifter and a chassis that you can fling into the corners – I could not ask for more. I said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

3. W463 Mercedes-AMG G 63 (2018)

If there’s any car that doesn’t need to make apologies for itself, it’s the Mercedes-AMG G 63. On the face of it, that whole statement seems preposterous – an SUV whose entire purpose of being is to be a go-anywhere, do-anything mountain goat of an automobile, dumbed down with a raucous V8, huge wheels and suspension tuned more for road holding than rock crawling. It’s a machine full of compromise.

Yet, there’s an inexplicable appeal when it comes to a car that is this extravagant, this thuggish. It exudes a certain character that just by looking at it, you’d know exactly what it’s all about. People can’t help but be swayed by its charm, even though they don’t share the image or live the lifestyle that its owners are known for. There’s a reason why it’s Hafriz’s dream car.

Me? Being more of a fan of svelte, delicate sports cars, I wasn’t entirely sure if a car with such a brazenly loutish look should have a place in the automotive world. But it only took a few seconds with the fettled Geländewagen for me to completely fall in love. How could I not when, every time I mashed the throttle, the car would almost pop a wheelie before spearing off into the horizon?

The backing soundtrack, meanwhile, was pure muscle car, all eight-cylinder growls and pops and crackles. But it was the way it bent the laws of physics that beggared belief – somehow, this tower block could corner with something approaching composure and maybe even verve. A G-Class that’s this fast and can handle within an inch of a Porsche Cayenne? A recipe for quite a drive, if you ask me.

2. Proton X70

So good was the Proton X70 that, even if it didn’t have the national carmaker’s badging, it would still have been a strong contender on this list. But it was the way it confounded expectations – both the company’s own and of Chinese cars – that nearly gave it top billing.

Let’s break down some of its considerable qualities. It was a good-looking SUV both inside and out but, more importantly, its build quality wasn’t just excellent for a car designed and built in the Middle Kingdom, but excellent full stop. Its use of genuinely premium materials also lifted it beyond the realm of the mainstream – it genuinely could compete with those of more expensive brands.

However, it was the way it drove that placed it as high as it did. Many a Proton were criticised on this site not because they were in any way bad to drive, but because the refinement just wasn’t plain good enough. Not this one – the X70 was so hushed at highway speeds and so good at absorbing even the biggest of potholes that we were all stunned when we drove it.

To top it all off, it was well priced and packed with plenty of neat technologies, including a suite of driver assistance systems, a slick and responsive infotainment system and the headline-grabbing Mercedes-style voice control. It’s no wonder the X70 almost singlehandedly reverse Proton’s fortunes, and with more updates coming for the locally-assembled model this year, we can’t wait to try it all over again.

1. Lexus LC 500

This may sound a little cheesy, but the Lexus LC 500 was a car that tapped into all of my deepest desires. Of all the cars that I’ve had my hands on for nearly six years, this latest luxury coupé from Toyota’s premium offshoot was by far and away the one that stuck to me the most, despite the short time we had together.

It did so, of course, by being achingly gorgeous. As an incredibly busy design, the LC should have been a disaster, but somehow it all worked. The body was long, low and wide like a supercar, and the riot of lines and angles simply accentuated the visual drama, giving this car a show-stopping quality. It’s a look that burns into your subconscious straight away, like your first crush in high school.

Fortunately, driving it did nothing to shatter the illusion. It drove exactly how I had expected it to be, dancing gracefully through the corners thanks to the sharp steering, rigid chassis and towering grip, yet still maintaining enough pliancy to absorb the bumps.

And my, oh my, the sound. The 2UR-GSE 5.0 litre naturally-aspirated V8 made the most musical of noises, the guttural roar inducing goosebumps and tingling spines everywhere it went. It was the most visceral of experiences, goading me to drive it harder and harder just to hear more of it. As the best drive I’ve ever had, it’s going to be hard to beat. Roll on the next decade…

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Cars, Feature Stories, Ford, Isuzu, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Volkswagen

2019 year in review and what’s to come in 2020 – Ford, Isuzu, Mitsubishi, Subaru and Volkswagen in Malaysia


After reporting on how the premium brands fared in 2019, we continue with the fourth edition of our year-end recap, where we now shift our focus to other carmakers that are also part of the local automotive landscape, which include Ford, Isuzu, Mitsubishi, Subaru and Volkswagen.

While some brands focused on strengthening its core offerings, others have been more active by improving their operations to retain loyalists while enticing newcomers. So, let’s take a closer look at each of the five aforementioned brands to see what they have done, and what we can expect from them in the year to come.

Ford’s Power Rangers

The Blue Oval had a relatively quiet 2019, with the latest Ranger being much of its focal point after it was first introduced in the year prior. In March, the performance-focused Raptor variant in the pick-up truck line-up received two new colour options, with Absolute Black and Arctic White joining the existing palette for a total of four colours.

Later in October, Ford dabbled in the e-commerce space by partnering with Lazada to launch the Ranger Splash in conjunction with the site’s 11.11 Shopping Festival. The model featured a number of extra goodies over the existing 2.0L XLT Plus variant, and was limited to just 19 units, with every single one snapped up promptly after sales began.

Another limited-edition version of the Ranger would arrive in December, with the launch of the 2.2L XLT Special Edition in December. With a number of additional equipment and features over the regular 2.2 XLT Automatic variant, the model is currently being offered in limited units, although the exact amount wasn’t revealed by Sime Darby Auto ConneXion (SDAC).

In 2020, we are expecting the facelifted Mustang to finally make its debut here after being previewed at the 2018 Kuala Lumpur International Motor Show. At the time, the updated pony car was originally scheduled to go on sale here in 2019, but nothing has materialised up until now.

Additionally, the Ranger received a small update in Thailand in November that also includes the availability of a new FX4 2.2 Hi-Rider variant, which is a possibility for us, along with other equipment revisions. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that we’ll see the latest generations of the Fiesta and Focus to make their way here.

Isuzu D-Max gets a new heart

It was a long wait for Isuzu fans, but in 2019, the company finally introduced the latest-generation 1.9 litre Ddi BluePower turbodiesel engine in Malaysia, with the D-Max pick-up truck being the first model to get it here.

The introduction of the oil burner comes as part of the pick-up truck’s second facelift in the country, with the RZ4E-TC 1.9 litre common-rail four-cylinder unit replacing the old 4JK1-TCX 2.5 litre unit – the 4JJ1-TCX 3.0 litre turbodiesel is retained.

Aside from a lower road tax that comes with the smaller displacement, the downsized mill is superior to the 4JK1-TCX by offering better performance – 150 PS and 350 Nm versus 136 PS and 320 Nm – as well as a 19% improvement in fuel efficiency, with a combined consumption figure of eight litres per 100 km.

However, just a month after the facelifted, second-generation model went on sale in Malaysia, the third-generation of the pick-up truck celebrated its global debut in Thailand. Completely overhauled with new technologies and a revised design, it isn’t known when and if the latest version of D-Max will make its way to our part of the world.

Pick-up truck aside, the MU-X could get a second update to match the Thailand-spec model, which is now powered by the 1.9 litre Ddi BluePower turbodiesel engine, matching the engine line-up of the D-Max it is based on. The seven-seat, ladder frame-based SUV first arrived in Malaysia in 2015, and was given its first facelift in 2017.

Mitsubishi Triton gets a new face, continuous updates

Like Ford and Isuzu, Mitsubishi prioritised its own pick-up truck, kicking off 2019 with the launch of the facelifted Triton in January. Highlighted by the company’s imposing “Dynamic Shield” face, the entire Triton range also shares a 2.4 litre MIVEC turbodiesel and four-wheel drive, with a choice of six-speed automatic or manual transmission depending on the selected variant.

The Triton would continue to be revised over the year, with new features being introduced, like the Flying Sports Bar, digital video recorder, all-round monitor (ARM) as well as support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

The passenger-centric version of the Triton would later be joined by the workhorse version with the Quest making its debut in November, with the low rider truck being powered by a 2.5 litre commonrail turbodiesel as opposed to the 2.4 litre MIVEC unit.

A limited-edition version of the Triton would arrive in early December with the launch of the Knight, which is based on the range-topping Adventure X variant, with just 120 units being made available. While it matches the Adventure X in terms of price, the Knight benefits from additional accessories and unique touches to make it stand out.

Going into 2020, Mitsubishi could be poised to finally introduce the Xpander as an alternative to other seven-seat crossover MPVs in Malaysia like the Perodua Aruz, Honda BR-V and Toyota Rush. The model first made its global debut in Indonesia in 2017 before arriving in Thailand a year later, but has yet to be launched here.

Subaru EyeSight comes to the popular Forester

In terms of launches, the most significant for Subaru this year was the fifth-generation Forester, which we had the chance to try out on a journey from Penang to Bangkok. Not only does it ride on the Subaru Global Platform (SGP) like the XV, the Forester also became the second model in the local line-up to come with the EyeSight suite of safety driver assistance systems after the Outback.

Another model that made its debut in 2019 was the XV GT Edition, which gets several aesthetic enhancements to give it more visual presence compared to a standard XV. These 17-inch two-tone alloys, front and rear bumper lip extensions, side skirts, a roof spoiler and two-tone leather seats. The XV GT Edition also comes with a side view monitor system, with cameras located on the lower half of the side mirrors to give a better view of what’s beside the vehicle.

Other initiatives made by Subaru over the course of the year were focused on improving the customer experience, including updating its flagship showroom in Petaling Jaya. The company also began offering a more comprehensive five-year/100,000 km warranty for vehicles registered from April 25, 2019 onwards, and switched to Motul lubricants since January.

In the year to come, we’re expecting the sixth-generation Outback – first revealed in April 2019 – to make its way to Malaysia. The latest iteration of the jacked-up wagon rides on the SGP, which is also used for the upcoming, second-generation Levorg, although the latter has yet to make its debut in production form.

There’s also the Forester GT Edition, which was previewed during this year’s Subaru Palm Challenge in Singapore, and follows the same path as the XV GT Edition with a number of visual improvements. A more distant possibility is the availability of the EyeSight suite for the XV in Malaysia, although we’ve previously been told this won’t happen until the crossover receives its first major facelift.

Of course, Subaru has yet to reveal a global facelift for the XV, but it should be noted the Impreza – on which the XV is based – did get an update in October. so a facelift for the crossover might not be far off.

Saying goodbye to the iconic Volkswagen Beetle while waiting for new sedans

It was a busy 2019 for Volkswagen, as it kicked off the year by improving the ownership experience with the launch of the Volkswagen Cares app and the accompanying Volkswagen Care Plus membership programme for owners with a vehicle that is five years and older.

This was followed by an update for the Tiguan, with the SUV gaining the advanced Active Info Display as well as revised LED tail lights. The Sound & Style Editions of the Golf, Passat and Tiguan arrived later on, with existing owners also offered the chance to outfit their vehicles with some of the enhancements found on these models later on.

July marked a bittersweet moment for the brand, as it bade goodbye to the iconic Beetle with a limited-run model called the Collector’s Edition as well as a massive party that saw 405 Beetles – both new and classic – gathered.

Volkswagen would continue to improve the ownership experience again in the same month by providing the Passat and Tiguan with an additional two years free maintenance. The company would also open the order books for the Arteon in July, a few months after the fastback model made its first Malaysian premiere at the inaugural paultan.org Premium Auto Car Expo (PACE) in 2018.

Volkswagen’s global used car programme, Das WeltAuto, would be launched in August, providing customers interested in purchasing a pre-owned Volkswagen with peace-of-mind ownership thanks to a comprehensive 133-point check, a one-year extended warranty and one-year roadside assistance. In addition, Volkswagen cars older than five years get to enjoy Volkswagen Care Plus benefits.

The love affair with the Beetle continued in November, with the launch of the Retro Edition at this year’s PACE. Limited to just three units, the rare Beetle featured an accessories kit that includes aluminium side scuff plates, retro-style 17-inch ‘Circle White’ alloy wheels tyres, a rear spoiler and VW Tint.

For 2020, we’re expecting the Arteon to finally make its launch debut along with the facelifted B8 Passat. Originally, both sedans were supposed to arrive in the second half of the year, but it looks like those plans have been pushed back.

This post is one of several in our multi-part “2019 year in review and what’s to come in 2020” series, which covers a variety of major brands, albeit in different groupings. You can check out our earlier posts focusing on other brands as listed below:

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Audi, BMW, Cars, Feature Stories, Infiniti, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, MINI, Porsche, Volvo

2019 year in review and what’s to come in 2020 – tough year for Mercedes-Benz and BMW, but Volvo soars


Having looked at how the national carmakers and Japanese brands fared in 2019, we continue on the year that was with the premium brands. It was a mixed year for players in the segment, with most of the activity coming from the German marques, as expected. The usual duo led the way in with the introductions this year, but it was a bumper year for the four rings as well.

Things were however a whole lot quieter for many players, and although this will change in 2020 for some, it doesn’t look rosy for at least one.

A slew of Audis. Really?

The brand that has always played bridesmaid to the two other Germans made a real go of it this year, introducing no less than 10 models in 2019. Amazing, really, when you consider how quiet it has been in recent years, with only the occasional low-key introduction to signal that it was still around.

The action started in March with the debut of four vehicles, three of which were new. The Q7 received a specification update, but it was the Q2, Q5 and Q8 that made for the news, with their arrival significantly bumping up the Audi SUV count in the country at a go. The second-gen Q3, meanwhile, joined the party late in the year.

Sedans – and fastbacks – were not forgotten in the rare Audi blitz. April saw the introduction of the A3 Sedan, with the C8-generation A6 and D5 A8L entering the showrooms in June before making their working debut in August. Elsewhere, the second-gen F5 A5 Sportback and the C8 A7 Sportback went on preview for a bit before they made they were officially launched.

That’s quite a haul from Ingolstadt. Whether Euromobil continues to play aggressive in 2020 remains to be seen, but Audi fans surely won’t complain if it does. In terms of what’s coming, the facelifted B9 A4 should be one of the highlights next year.

Monthly debuts from BMW

BMW Malaysia started out their campaign in January with two M Performance Editions, which essentially signed out the F30 330e and F15 X5 xDrive40e, and these were each limited to 300 units. Next up, the G20 3 Series, which arrived as a CBU 330i in March, and its debut also saw a full catalogue of M Performance parts being introduced.

The same month saw the debut of the G15 8 Series, and a month later, to show that the G30 5 Series wasn’t forgotten, the company brought the 520i Luxury and 530e M Sport variants into the market. The all-electric i3s was also launched in April, but final pricing was only announced in August.

In May, the G02 X4 M Sport went the CKD route (pricing revealed in June), and the G05 X5 and F39 X2 M35i went on preview, ahead of their official pricing being announced in July. The F87 M2 Competition was next up to bat in June, making its debut in Sepang, and this was followed by the X7 SUV in July.

The month also saw the G29 Z4 sDrive 30i and facelifted G12 7 Series being announced, the latter continuing on with a 740Le xDrive badge designation. In September, another variant was added to the G01 X3 range in the form of an xDrive30i M Sport model, and the G20 3 Series went the CKD route, retaining the 330i variant.

Models to look forward to in 2020 are likely to include the F40 1 Series, the F48 X1 facelift, G06 X6 and Munich’s answer to the CLA, the F44 2 Series Gran Coupe. The G20 3 Series range will also expand with the upcoming 320i, although there’s still no word on when the 330e plug-in hybrid will arrive, or whether it is even coming. Guess we’ll know in 2020.

Lexus rolls on, while Infiniti stalls

It wasn’t until June that Lexus Malaysia got into the swing of things with the refreshed NX 300, in three variant forms (Urban, Premium and F Sport). The facelift has been around since 2018, but the latest update adds on kit such as Lexus Safety System + while lowering prices.

The seventh-generation ES sedan made its debut as an ES 250 model in September, in two trim levels, Premium and Luxury. The same month saw the RX facelift making its way to Malaysia, with the RX 300 going on sale in Premium, Luxury and F Sport guise.

The coming year will see the introduction of the UX, which was first seen here in 2018 when it was previewed at KLIMS. At that point Lexus Malaysia said there were no plans to bring it in, but it looks like that has changed, and the SUV is slated for our market.

No cheer however for its fellow automaker Infiniti. With the brand languishing globally and in the midst of a restructuring (which will see it exit Europe completely and focus on the United States and China), it’s no surprise that the turnout of new models this year locally was zilch. The brand remains in the country, but with the KL showroom having closed (operations have been moved back to Edaran Tan Chong Motor premises), one wonders how long before the carmaker calls it quits in Malaysia.

The tristar juggernaut chugs along

As 2019 draws to a close, and unless something dramatic takes place in the sales charts, it looks like Mercedes-Benz Malaysia will still hold on to its best-seller title for another year, edging out BMW once more. However, this year won’t be like 2018, because the overall numbers are down for both – up to November, MAA figures reveal that Mercedes sales are down by 24% and BMW, down by 19.6%, year-on-year.

It hasn’t been for a lack of trying or products, with the introduction of new cards at every opportunity continuing to be very much the game plan. The ball started rolling with the introduction of the W213 E350, equipped with the automaker’s new M264 engine, in March. The E200 Sportstyle and E300 Exclusive, bearing new engines and kit, were also launched at that point. The same month also saw the pre-facelift C253 GLC 300 making its debut.

Next to arrive was the V177 A-Class Sedan in A200 and A250 forms. This was followed by the Mercedes-AMG C63S Sedan and Coupe facelifts, along with the AMG GT 4-Door Coupe, which went on sale here in GT 43, GT 53 and GT 63S 4Matic+ forms. Then, the W222 S 560 e PHEV came along in June at the same evebt that gave the all-electric EQC its ASEAN debut.

The AMG A35 Sedan was introduced in September, and October was a busy month for the brand, with the W247 B-Class, C190 Mercedes-AMG GT R and GT C facelifts and X156 GLA 200 Style being introduced to the market. Rounding off the new product list for 2019 was the X253 GLC and C253 GLC Coupe facelifts, which were launched earlier this month. The refreshed SUVs also debuted Mercedes me connect, which will make its way on to upcoming models.

Expect no let-up in the introductions in 2020. Among these will be the second-gen C118 CLA, H247 GLA, X247 GLB, C167 GLE Coupe and the W213 E-Class facelift. The EQC is also slated to arrive in 2020.

MINI adventures continue

The brand’s first product introduction this year was the F60 Cooper S Countryman Pure in April. This was followed by the F57 Cooper S Convertible in July. The latter was a small scale outing, with a run limited to only 20 units.

Nothing like a commemorative edition to evoke nostalgia (and add to sales), and that was certainly the case when the 60 Years Edition popped up in August. The model is a 60-unit limited-edition offering based on the Cooper S 3 Door hatch.

Elsewhere, the F54 Clubman facelift premiered in November, going on sale here in sole Cooper S form. The John Cooper Works Clubman and Countryman were also unveiled at the same time. The next year should see the MINI Electric among the new introductions heading to our shores.

Short but Swede

There were only two new Volvos coming our way this year, and both arrived towards the tail-end of it, but despite this the Swedish brand has been gaining traction – up to November, it sold 1,691 cars, 32% up from the 1,279 units it had achieved by the same time last year. Doesn’t sound like much, but when you consider that the German brands will sell less this year than in 2018, it’s a big plus on the brand’s report card.

The much-awaited third-generation S60 finally made its way here in October, going on sale in solitary T8 R-Design guise. While initial units are fully imported (CBU), local assembly is set to start later on, with no changes expected in the specifications when CKD production begins.

The XC90 facelift was the other, the refresh bringing about minor design tweaks, new kit and a bigger battery for the T8 Twin Engine, which increases the pure electric driving range, all accomplished without raising the price from before. The brand also introduced a leather dashboard for the T8 versions of the S90, XC60 and pre-facelift XC90 in August.

No new cats, nothing roving on the ground either

With no new product introductions in the past 12 months, Jaguar Land Rover Malaysia continued to sell what it had in 2019, but there should be a fair bit of activity next year. On the Jaguar front, while the I-Pace has been teased on the local website, it surely won’t be the next in.

That honour should go to the E-Pace – the SUV, first seen locally at our PACE 2018 event, was sighted in the country earlier this month, so it shouldn’t be long before it finally makes its long-awaited local debut. It will be joined by the second-gen Range Rover Evoque, which was previewed at PACE 2019, and was spotted this month undergoing vehicle type approval (VTA).

As for the new Land Rover Defender, don’t hold your breath too long waiting for it to show up that fast – any sign of it will likely be well into the second half of the year at the earliest, given that Australia only gets it in June. High right-hand drive demand might also delay timelines.

Taycan get it out fast enough

No shortage of ground activities – and customer engagement – in Sepang this year for Porsche, but in terms of product launches things were rather on the quiet side. The biggest bang was the introduction of the 992-generation 911 in July, the eighth-gen making its local debut in Carrera S and 4S guise.

Two versions of the Macan facelift were also introduced, the base 2.0 litre in June and the Macan S in August. Earlier in the year, Sime Darby Auto Performance revealed a 15-unit, limited-run 718 Cayman SportDesign edition for the Malaysian market.

Models due next year should include the Cayenne Coupe, but all eyes are of course on the new all-electric Taycan. We do know its set to arrive in 2020, but now we know around when – it’s due in around eight months. According to the folks at Porsche Asia Pacific, the first examples for Malaysia are due sometime in August, and we’ll be getting the Turbo and Turbo S first, well ahead of the entry-level 4S.

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Cars, Feature Stories, International News, Local News, Motorsports, Proton

Proton Iriz R5: Why does it use the Evo X’s 4B11T mill?


Last week, we learned a great deal about why Mellors Elliot Motorsport (MEM) chose the Proton Iriz as its R5 rallying machine. As it turns out, the Iriz platform was exactly what the famed racing team was looking for, and the Iriz R5 proved its mettle in almost every rally championship it’s involved in.

As for the engine, it’s powered by a 4B11T engine plucked from the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X, but downsized from a 2.0 litre block to the mandated 1.6 litre capacity. If FIA ruling was the dominant factor with which engine displacement was determined, why did MEM not use Proton’s Campro S4PH 1.6 litre engine as a starting point? Chris broke it down for us.

Now, according to the ex-rally champion, there’s no hard FIA ruling stipulating that an R5 race car should be powered by the same engine as the road-going car. In fact, every other participating R5 rally car doesn’t use their respective factory-fitted engine. What’s important, though, was that the engines must not exceed 1,600 cc, and there should be an FIA-approved air restrictor fitted onto the turbocharger system. This is basically a 32 mm tube which limits air flow (thus levelling the playing field), and it’s used by every other competing car.

In theory, MEM could use the Campro S4PH engine and have it modified to the same output and reliability as the 4B11T engine. That’s because the internal components, such as the pistons, camshaft, cylinder sleeves are all manufactured by MEM using race-grade materials.

As proof of concept, Proton R3 took the Campro S4PH engine and had it rebuilt to race specification, then shoehorned it into the Iriz, Saga, and Suprima S during the course of the Malaysia Championship Series (MCS) and Sepang 1000 km (S1K). That engine made over 200 hp without forced induction, and the piston dimensions were identical to that of the actual production unit. As race engines go, it was pretty reliable, too.

Again, theoretically, MEM could do with the Campro S4PH engine, but why not? Well, it all had to do with the position of the exhaust valves and ports, which in the case of the S4PH unit, are located aft of the block. This would mean that the turbocharger would have to be installed up front, which causes a series of compromises.

First, a more complicated exhaust system would have to be fabricated, and this adds unnecessary length and weight to the entire car. The pipe would also have to bypass the gearbox (which in itself is larger than the factory unit) before reaching the back, and this is where it would run into bulky hardware such as the transfer case.

The complexities don’t end there, because ideally a rally car’s engine has to be tilted by about 25 degrees backwards, a seemingly simple modification that yields better weight distribution and driveshaft alignment. These two factors are way too crucial to overlook, hence the decision to go with Mitsubishi’s all-aluminium 4B11T engine.

With the turbocharger mounted behind the 4B11T engine, MEM could fabricate a simpler exhaust system that’s significantly shorter and lighter than it would be otherwise. As a matter of fact, the heat generated from the turbo can easily be directed rearwards without the hot air coming into contact with the engine, thus creating a more stable engine operating temperature over longer periods of time.

According to Chris, the downsizing necessitated the use of smaller cylinder sleeves, resulting in the strengthening of the smaller pistons. With this reinforced 1.6 litre 4B11T engine, not only is it FIA R5 compliant, it also harks back to the production Iriz which was once available with the 1.6 litre engine.

That sorts it, then. Now, would you like to know whether MEM built the Iriz R5 independently, or if Proton had a hand or two in developing the race car? Stay tuned to find out!

This piece has been translated from the original story written by our BM counterpart.

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