Proton X90 Flagship Review: YB, Your New Official Car Awaits…

And even if you don’t happen to be an MP, the new Proton X90 does also make for a decent family hauler too. 

With Proton being our national automaker, while it tended to make more affordable cars for the people, it nevertheless also always had a top-shelf car that will be typically used by our nation’s leaders. 

Ever since the Perdana was phased out in 2020 though, we have since witnessed all of our nation’s top political dogs riding around in foreign cars while doing all their politicking. In fact, it was rather interesting to see that amid all the political chaos since the pandemic, none of the VIP cars that drove through the palace gates were from a local marque. So much for beli buatan Malaysia, am I right? 

Happily however, having spent the last few days in its Flagship variant at least, I am delighted to report that the Proton X90 certainly ticks all the right boxes for our nation’s leaders to possibly fly the flag again with their choice of official ride. And handily for those don’t happen to have a YB in front of their names as well, this large SUV does still make for a decent-enough family hauler for the money. 

Now full disclosure, this review was actually meant to be a few bullet points that followed a write-up about my time spent camping within the X90 (of which you can read here). But having reviewed my notes, I realised that there was a little bit more to say than can be fit into a few short sentences. So here goes with what has turned into a rather lengthy recap of my thoughts for 6 key areas regarding this behemoth of a Sino-Malaysian SUV…


When first announced, many undoubtably scoffed at the idea that this giant SUV was to be powered by a 1.5-litre three cylinder. Sure it may be turbocharged and feature Proton’s first-ever (albeit mild) hybrid system too, but how can such a small engine have enough power to move such a large car?

Well surprisingly enough, the one biggest takeaway I had with this X90 was just how punchy it could be. Pick up from this tiny triple under the hood is incredulously more than adequate for this block of flats on wheels, with there being a decent-enough surge of power (right to speeds which can’t be written here) that one could seriously hustle this 2.3-tonne SUV down the road with relative ease if one so chooses.

Though perhaps more pertinent to its buyers is the fact that what lies under the hood is certainly more than enough to haul an entire family/entourage at a reasonable pace on the highway during the balik kampung season, and it really doesn’t matter too if said kampung just happens to be up Genting. Because from personal experience, it can do that too without so much as breaking a sweat.

On the topic of the engine however, it is slightly annoying that there is a little bit of delay every time off the line, as the start stop in the X90 is not the most intelligent system in the world. It certainly doesn’t help matters too that this supposedly fuel-saving feature can only be turned off deep in the menu settings, and comes back on automatically after the car is switched off. 

Also, in spite of its 48 V mild-hybrid tech that might lead one to believe the X90 will somewhat light on fuel, in reality though, this tiny triple does half like to drink and its milage-to-empty indicator may not really be all that trustworthy. So aren’t we glad that petrol is still subsidised, right?

But the biggest gripe with regards to the X90’s powertrain is to be its rather dopey dual-clutch transmission. While it certainly shifts decently and smoothly enough on the move, this gearbox does unfortunately seem to have an aversion to creeping, or at least feels as if it doesn’t have the power to do so in such a heavy car. And perhaps no better illustration to this point comes from the action of attempting to back up the slightest incline with this car, then be faced with a 50/50 chance that it’ll lurch forward instead in spite of it already being in reverse. 


As for how this block of flats manages on the twisties now, it is crystal from the first bend that the days of Lotus handling in a Proton are long gone. Though in all fairness to the X90, it is actually not too bad considering what the block of flats that it is. 

My experience with piloting this gargantuan through Karak could probably be equivocated to helming a cruise ship over big waves, but it does eventually go where you want it to go. With the steering is set to sport mode (which can be done individually to the drive mode selection) too, there is reasonable weight when and you do somewhat know where the wheels are actually pointing. 

Best of all though on the topic of steering is, at least contrary to its size, the X90 has a surprisingly tight turning circle that certainly increases the agility and manoeuvrability of this block of flats. 


And while on the general subject in how the X90 handles the road, this large SUV was unfortunately rather prone in becoming unsettled on bad roads, and be a bit bouncy on uneven surfaces. But credit where credit is due, its immense heft does iron out most of the smaller road imperfections. 

Rather handily too, the X90 has seats that are cushy enough for its occupants within to not really complain about the ride quality if they aren’t specifically paying attention to it. Cushy also are the soft padding on the door tops and armrest that gives this large SUV a slightly more premium interior ambience, which is of course further accentuated by the presence of second-row captain’s chairs in this Flagship variant. 

Similarly premium-feeling as well (and similarly exclusive to the Flagship variants) is the full-length panoramic sunroof bathes the cabin in light, which handily could be covered up by a motorised shade when the Malaysian sun gets a bit too intense. And with this being a Proton as well, the cabin could be made icy-cold courtesy of a powerful air-conditioning system that features vents to all three rows along its room and even ventilation for the front four seats.

What does however shatter the illusion of premium is the rather distinct diesel-like engine clatter coming up front from the turbo triple at idle. Thankfully, it does soon smooths out when on the move, with wind and road noise kept to a rather hush minimum too, which is certainly handy when paired with its decent sound system. 

And let’s just call it what it is, which is that there is undoubtably also an inherently comfortable feeling — from the sense of security and invincibility — when driving about such a massive car. On the flip side though, the driver’s stress levels do go up when negotiating the tighter city streets or just the act of parking this mammoth of a car itself, but at least the huge glass area does afford good visibility outwards from this block of flats.


Now obviously for such a large SUV, it has sufficient space within it that one could even camp in one if they so choose. Though likely more a more practical assessment of its ahem, practicality, is that the X90 can has more than enough room for its VIPs to lounge luxuriously in this Flagship’s second row captain chairs, in addition to having sufficient space for even a six-footer to fit comfortably in its third row as well. 

It has to be noted too there are a couple of nice practicality touches within the X90, like having a number of USB ports across all three rows and a boot with surprisingly useful underfloor cubby. There is also a reasonably large open compartment beneath floating centre console directly beneath the gear lever, which is the perfect size for a handbag. 

The glovebox however is minuscule though, with the already owners manual taking up nearly all its available space. And inversely meanwhile, its centre console storage bin is way too big where anything that gets chucked inside it requires a good rummage to recover. 

Oh, another practicality concern raised by the older and smaller folk as well is for there to be a rather big gap — both height-wise and width-wise, thanks to its thick sill — to get from the X90’s seat to the ground, with no pillar-mounted door handle to aide ingress and egress into the massive vehicle. Just something buyers with grandparents and young kids should perhaps take note of during the test drive. 


While Proton has been heavily promoting the various tech features with its X90, the actual execution of said features is unfortunately not as polished as the various marketing material might make it to be. 

Starting kindly first with the things that just work, its adaptive cruise control is decently intelligent and the 360º surround view camera is quite high definition. Proximity unlock is certainly a feature I got really used to very fast during my time with the car. 

What on the flip side though got really tiring very fast instead were the other active safety aids with this X90, which is way too sensitive even when everything is set to its most dulled-down setting. Its Lane Keep Assist for instance was way too keen to tug on the wheel even when set to its most sedate emergency setting, with the to be said of its worrywart Forward Collision Warning that has a habit of randomly flashing its hazard lights when it thinks a crash is about to occur, but plainly isn’t.

Moreover, the bings and bongs emanated all the safety tech in the X90 are really way too loud to the point of gratingly annoying. And similarly annoying too is that while this Proton has plenty of gimmicks that people will only use once and forget — Auto Parking is a sweet party trick, a bit jerky but it works… about half the time — what it doesn’t have however are the stuff that people will use on a daily basis, like Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

Now sure, the central infotainment is rather high-definition and its system may feature a weather app and a calendar, but pairing one’s phone to it requires the use of QD Link: a screen mirroring app that, in the kindest possible way, will see X90 owners be better off investing in traditional phone holder for Waze and use good ol’ fashioned bluetooth for linking music to the car speakers instead. 

Oh, and two more smaller gripes regarding the tech with the X90: the front ventilated seat controls can only be adjusted after digging through two menus in the central infotainment screen, and the horn (at least on this test car) randomly sounds upon locking it. And yes, this still happened after I turned off the specific settings in the menu.  


As for how it looks, the Proton X90 is a decent enough looker for what it is. Imposing is probably the best way to describe it, with its blocky body (that is vaguely reminiscent of a Land Rover Discovery 3/4) doing enough good job in further emphasising its already massive size to better “persuade” smaller cars to move over to the slower lanes. 

And while the rear is not its best angle, the front however, with its Proton-designed Mercedes-esque front grille with chrome pins, does somewhat give the X90 a passable impression of premium-ness. A feat that in ministerial black especially, while not likely to challenge the true Benzes and Alphards that currently fill the parliament waiting area, is nevertheless certainly more atas appearance than what its Toyota and Chery rivals could offer. 

Odds & Ends

  • The X90’s doors unfortunately do not cover the whole sill. So dirty shins may be a possibility, especially considering the wide gap to traverse when exiting the vehicle.


  • There is a slight hump right below where the throttle pedal is on the X90, which could lead to some slightly awkward foot placement while driving to avoid that hump.

  • A double pull or push is required on the gear lever to switch from D to R and vice versa in order to bypass N, much like the prior generation of Volvos…

  • And while Volvo might not want to promote this themselves too, the stalks in the X90 are the almost identical to what is found in the Volvo XC40. 
  • The volume and cruise control buttons on the steering wheel are somehow in the inverted orientation from nearly every other car on the road. 

  • This Flagship variant features middle row headrests that have flaps, alá airplane seats. 

Proton X90 1.5 TGDI BSG Flagship Technical Specifications

Engine: 3 Cylinders In-Line, 12 Valve DOHC, TGDi with 48V Electric Motor Synergy System

Capacity: 1,477 cc

Gearbox: 7-Speed Dual Clutch Transmission with Manual Mode

Max Engine Power: 177 PS @ 5,500 rpm

Max Motor Power: 14 PS

Max Engine Torque: 255 Nm @ 1,500 – 4,000 rpm

Max Motor Torque: 52 Nm

Price: RM 152,800

Joshua Chin

Automotive journalist. Professional work on and Personal writing found at Instagram: @driveeveryday

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