November 07, 2016 @ 02:31 AM

Review: Proton Perdana 2.4L - Not past its prime yet

The Perdana shows that it can still keep up with the pack, aided by some suave styling to modernise its aged platform

Proton wasn’t coy about the replacement for the Perdana not playing a critical role in its play when the first generation went the way of the dodo bird six years ago; and who could really blame them?

Compact, affordable model were its bread and butter so why divert precious development funds into an executive sedan that wasn’t going to account for much of its sales. Those monies ended up being put to good use with the new generation of Protons such as the Preve and Iriz benefitting from it.

However, that never meant that the Perdana was dead and buried. Proton was always going to feature a D-segment model in its line-up further down the road but sans the excessive expenditures associated that is the smoke to ground-up development’s fire.

Badge engineering is nothing new in the automotive world and goes a long way in helping manufacturers produce their own distinctive models without exorbitant costs. Proton is certainly no stranger to it having laid its foundations on rebadging Mitsubishi models during its inception.

Even with many of the major auto players indulging in rebadging exercises, Malaysians tend to be overly judgemental and harsh with our national carmaker when it comes to slapping its badge on another make’s product.

Proton decided to go down this route again, selecting the discontinued eight-generation Honda Accord as the base for which the second generation Perdana would be built upon. We say ‘based upon’ because things delve beyond skin deep with substantial design revisions that completely transforms the glasshouse, reengineering the ride and handling as well as revamping the interior of a car that went out production five years ago but will have to remain relevant for another five at least.

Part of the deal with Honda came with some caveats and that included being able to significantly reshape anything above the beltline with the glasshouse now sporting no resemblance whatsoever to the donor car.

The roofline now rakes all the way to the rear; mimicking a liftback, and the boot lid that tilts up to meet it further accentuates the stretched, sloping greenhouse. However, everything below the window line is untouched which explains why the character line just underneath it remains. Even the door panels themselves are identical between the two although the redesigned greenhouse necessitated new glass.

Proton went the extra mile to infuse their own design DNA into the Perdana and the attention to detail takes some time to pick up on but comes across as genius once noticed.

The aforementioned character line now connects right to the edge of the LED taillights and the chrome strip running across the boot lid lines up perfectly with the clear lens for the reverse indicators.

Design wise, all the enhancements bring it up to date with modern design language. It isn't without its faults though as those dual faux exhaust tips just drag an otherwise contemporary rear through the mud.

A side effect of the cosmetic enhancements has seen the Perdana grow to over 5.0-metres, making it one of the longest D-segment vehicles. Nonetheless, this doesn’t translate into interior room as the added length is purely due to the bumpers.

Step inside and be greeted by a familiar cabin. Although Proton has added its touch to the cabin, it remains largely as it was in the Accord and that is nothing to be frowned upon as it’s both spacious and plush.

Among the handful of issues to nitpick would be the dual-tone colour scheme that appears a little dated and the fact that only four airbags is the most to be had which is due solely to that generation of Accord not being designed to accommodate more.

The most noticeable change comes in the form of the second screen; an Android touchscreen unit, integrated below the air-conditioning vents. Two screens in the centre of the dash makes for quite a modern-appearing interior.

Powertrains are carried over unchanged, meaning 176bhp and 222Nm of torque from the 2.4-litre i-VTEC inline-four. It might not account for much apart from bragging rights but having VTEC on your engine could still hold some weight, albeit with the wrong crowd. That could all change in 2017 though as Proton has promised that the Perdana will be powered by its very own NE01 engine by then.

Linking the engine to the front wheels is the five-speed automatic that comes with paddle shifters in the 2.4-litre variant.

Restrictions on the chassis side meant that Proton couldn't infuse much of its extolled handling traits but the switch to Goodyear EfficientGrip rubbers in 225/50R17 sizing has tightened up the ride without sacrificing too much on suppleness.

It cruises effortlessly and handles highway speeds with poise but is equally maneuvarable in city roads. Of course, given that the hardware is pretty dated, there is only so much the improvements Proton performed can materialise into.

Some minor road noise creeps in from the tyres and being an executive sedan, slight body roll is present from the supple suspension setup but apart from that, the ride displays a marked improvement over the comparatively floaty Accord.

The engine and transmission package work flawlessly together but the lack of a sixth forward ratio is glaringly obvious at highway speeds. With almost all of its peers adopting six-speed transmissions, a missing tall gear for high speeds makes its absence known. On the bright side however, the combo is a proven, reliable paring that will be supported for years to come, or perhaps just a couple more until the NE01 takes over.

As an executive car on its own, the Perdana lags behind its rivals but the pricing more than levels the playing field. Having sampled the Iriz prior also revealed some shortcomings in key equipment such as keyless entry and a start-stop button.

While it may seem menial to some, these are now par for the course in the D-segment and omitting these will draw flak that a B-segment model can be had with not just keyless entry and a start-stop button but with more airbags as well.

The Perdana fills the void for buyers that desire a basic D-segment car and are more than willing to close an eye to the lack of equipment in lieu of the presence it accords. Of course, the substantially lower pricing also helps its appeal tremendously.

Proton Perdana 2.4L
Engine: 2354cc, DOHC 16V, inline-four, variable valve timing, 176bhp @ 6500rpm, 222Nm @ 4300rpm
Transmission: Five-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Dimensions (l/w/h): 5020mm, 1845mm, 1475mm
Weight: 1535kg
Price: RM138,43

 

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