The PROTON Satria Neo R3 has just been launched, and there has been a lot of excitement surrounding the specifications and expectations. Think of it as an affordable Satria Neo R3 Lotus Racing, which was launched about a year ago.
Some of the hop-up specifications are familiar now: R3 carbon-fibre airbox, 272 degree performance camshaft profiles, exhaust system, and recalibrated programmable ECU. And some of the improvements are new: R3-design 16 inch wheels mated to Bridgestone RE001 205/45 tyres, R3 performance springs, 400C fast-road brake pads, new R3 front splitter (which looks fabulous!), R3-design red / gun-metal interior with new, lower buckets seats.
The exterior styling is very aggressive but done in good taste, and it comes in one colour: Fire Red with black roof, and dark titanium strips. As a whole, the package looks fantastic and on paper promises much. Yet there are still sceptics: RM 79,797.00 for a Proton Satria Neo?
So after all the hype, the question that everyone wants to know is: is it really that good? We’re one of the first to find out, and there’s no better place to wring a car worthy of the R3 badge than the old Bukit Putus road!
The climb up Bukit Putus isn’t as steep as Genting, but it’s a climb nonetheless and one that highlights the lack of outright power the PROTON 1.6L CPS engine has compared to more modern performance saloons which sport 2L engines. However rev it hard and whack it all the way to 7000rpm, blaze through the closer-ratio gears, and you’ll be rewarded with a sexy rasp from the exhaust and a zippiness that lacks from the base CPS car.
Flinging the car on the Bukit Putus downhill highlights the magic that is R3’s masterclass: the complete package. It goes beyond the bolt-on go-faster bits, as the car is imbued and optimised with entirely different geometry and settings. The brakes still feature ABS and EBD, but you would think they almost don’t exist as you stand on them hard and throw the rear out, the Satria Neo R3 turning with exceeding fluidity, lots more grip provided by the tyres.
Within a few corners of hard driving you’ll feel like a tarmac-rally hero: gunning the car hard to the redline, snatching gears up and down the box, diving into every corner just like Chris Atkinson. If you’re too quick, a mild lift-off and it tightens like a good FF car should. Turn-in understeer is not part of its vocabulary. Foot back on the power as you exit, the response is instantaneous and you burst out of the turn far quicker than you thought possible!
If you’re still not excited by that experience then you’re not the target market. For those that can appreciate quality performance engineering, then – just like the original Satria R3 of 2004 – the hand-finished Satria Neo R3 will keep you amused for many a sinewy road.
And if you still need more, just ask the R3 boys nicely and they’ll show you to their building where there’s even more power and performance via further upgrade packs. Plus – pssst!! – we heard rumours a turbo setup could very well be a reality very soon *wink!*