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Proton to go R-rated!

Triple R: Proton's Race, Rally, Research version of the Gen.2.

Malaysia's Proton searches for some extra cachet under its R3 performance label

2 Dec 2005

PROTON plans to sell high-performance specialist vehicles in Australia under its R3 "Race, Rally, Research" motorsport division.

Proton Cars Australia managing director, John Startari, told GoAuto last week that the Malaysian car-maker wanted to follow the path set by Subaru and its STi division in offering high-performance models that enhanced the brand message.

He said the R3 brand could be adopted across all models in the Proton range, from the Gen.2 to the forthcoming new-generation Satria and the small 1.2-litre Savvy hatch, the latter going on sale in February after its unveiling at theMelbourne motor show.

The R3 cars would have bodykits as well as engine and suspension performancemodifications.

Mr Startari said the high-performance turbocharged 1.6-litre Satria GTi could be offered under the R3 brand or as a mainstream Proton model.

"It depends on the pricing," he said.

However, he warned that if it was not available "at a competitive price, we won’t bring it to market".

Although few details have emerged about the GTi, he said a "benchmark" of 140kW had been set. And, as usual, the car will have Lotus-tuned suspension.

GoAuto understands the new Satria will be significantly bigger than the previous car, better equipped with sports seats, a Momo steering wheel, vastly improved quality levels and possibly Eibach competition springs.

The previous 103kW/164Nm 1.8-litre GTi was on sale for four years, with production ending in late 2004. It established itself as something of a low-cost cult vehicle among enthusiasts, with an initial price of $27,990.

Proton sold around 50 a month initially with sales increasing when pricing was sliced to $25,990.

Mr Startari said the company still received inquiries from current owners and prospective buyers asking when the next-generation GTi was coming.

"There is a strong following here," he said.

Despite the GTi’s cult status, he believes the normally aspirated Satria has the potential to become Proton’s volume seller, eclipsing the Jumbuck ute.

43 center imageWith the five-door Savvy and three-door Satria arriving early next year, along with the just- released Gen.2 Series II update, 2006 will usher in a more aggressive marketing push by the low-volume player.

Proton is aiming to sell about 4000 vehicles in Australia next year, a significant lift above its 2005 expectation of 2400 vehicles.

In Malaysia, Proton currently builds an R3 Satria and R3 Gen.2 and is developing an R3 Savvy.

Founded two years ago, the company’s R3 motorsport division is at the forefront of motorsport development in Malaysia.

Although still in its infancy, it has carved a niche following in Malaysian motorsport events, winning every event it participated in with the R3 Satria Street-Shoot-Out vehicle.

It was also responsible for building the limited-edition Satria R3.

The normally aspirated Satria three-door, which borrows styling cues from the Audi A3 and Alfa Romeo 147, goes on sale in March after a Brisbane motor show debut.

It will share the same 1.6-litre engine with the Gen.2 but Proton says it has been further refined. It will also remain a three-door-only offering, according to Mr Startari.

Meanwhile, the Savvy will debut at the Melbourne motor show in February with a sub-$15,000 pricetag and, it is understood, standard equipment including ABS brakes, dual airbags, a CD stereo, central locking and air-conditioning.

The small hatch has a Renault-sourced 1.2-litre four-cylinder engine developing 60kW at 5500rpm and 105Nm at 4350rpm mated to a five-speed manual with drive-by-wire throttle control.

Proton claims a top speed of 170km/h and a 0-100km sprint time of 12.6 seconds.

The Savvy is 3710mm long with a wheelbase of 2395mm. Its MacPherson strut front and beam-axle rear suspension has been Lotus-tuned for more precise handling and ride comfort.

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