Road trips

roadtrips

I love going on them. It’s fun to drive and go somewhere for the weekend. It doesn’t really matter where, the point is to get away and go to a different place to chill.

cameron highlands

Cameron Highlands

Fraser’s Hill

Penang

I’ve even driven down to Singapore before. What makes road trips enjoyable is always the company but the car you drive makes a whole lot of difference too. I’ll say it can even make or break a road trip. I’m somewhat experienced in these things and comfort also plays a huge part.

You want to be in a car that can accommodate everyone with enough space to stretch their legs to reduce driving fatigue. Even minor things like heat from the sun can ruin a perfectly good road trip – I’ve even come back sunburned coz of I took off all the tinting on my car when I shipped it from Sarawak to comply with JPJ regulations. A more powerful engine can also make a lot of difference in driver comfort.

cindy

I’ve been looking around for a new car for a while now. I’m planning to get another one after I buy my condo. I love long road trips so I have to factor that in when I purchase my car. I want one with a small turning radius coz I *have* gotten stuck in rural unpaved dirt roads and not being able to turn back while exploring a new area. Cruise control is one of the essential features that I’ll need to have. I’m also looking for more horsepower so it’ll have to be a 2.0 liter engine.

I was talking about all that with Cindy when we passed by a Proton Edar Showroom. I have been thinking about test driving the Inspira 2.0 Premium since it fits all my requirements…now it’s time to see if it lives up to the expectations.

test drive

I’ll be honest – I was pretty impressed. The car performs well on the road. The 2.0 liter engine really makes a difference when I took it for a spin, the Inspira is responsive and energetic – it’ll make road trips so much easier if you’re driving a car with some good ol’ horsepower under the hood.

I also tested the other important feature I was considering – cruise control. I took it on an extended drive down relatively secluded parts of the highway and engaged it. The Inspira 2.0 Premium’s cruise control kicked in perfectly and worked like a charm.

shift paddles

Cruise control really helps with driving comfort during long road trips as you can pretty much maintain the speed you set in steady road conditions – like long distance driving.

I have also verified that the turning radius of the Inspira is indeed just 5 meters. Well, I didn’t go out and measure it, but if you’ve been driving for 14 years, you have a good idea of whether it’s on the mark.

driving inspira

I swear this would get me out of trouble one of these days. Like I mentioned, I have a propensity of going into narrow, unpaved rural roads in search of a shortcut or just to explore during my road trips. smirk

safety glass

The Inspira is tinted not only to provide UV protection but also get rid of excessive solar heat. It doesn’t affect visibility at all – it looks perfectly clear from the inside I noticed that it filters out the sun very well. It was a hot afternoon when I drove the Inspira and with the air-conditioning blowing and the good tinting, it seems positively chilly inside. Perfection. This is just the kind of car conditions you need if you love going for road trips in our tropical climate.

proton inspira

The Inspira 2.0 Premium also comes with fog lamps and rain sensors to trigger the wipers and adjust their speed according to rain conditions – again, useful stuff on road trips, since you don’t have to engage them yourself. I’m telling you, it’s all about automating things man, that way the driver feels more like a passenger. Heh.

features

Proton has definitely outdone themselves with this model. The generous amount of space inside the car allows you to stretch your legs and lean back while driving. Your fellow passengers are apt to thank you for the additional room and space to chuck all their overnight bags too. The Inspira 2.0CVT Premium retails from RM 91,549 (OTR with insurance) for solid colors, while for metallic is RM 91,999 (OTR with insurance). It’s great value for money when you consider all the features it has…and you can get it in the 80k range!

inspira

Proton is currently having a Incredible Deals on Wheels promotion where you can get savings up to RM 5,000 when you book selected models from 15th November to 31st December. Surf over to www.proton-edar.com.my for more information. If you’re looking to purchase a new car, you might as well get it when a good deal is on.

The Saga continues!

lunch-catchup

I was out for lunch with Ringo when the discussion turned to cars. I drive a conventional automatic so there’s a distinctive effect it makes when it shifts gear. You can hear the loss of power when it up-shifts followed by a drop in the RPM before it revs up again. It’s the bane of most automatic cars.

proton saga flx cvt

There’s a new feature called CVT (Continuous Variable Transmission) which allows gear shifting without the classic loss of engine power in traditional auto cars. We headed to the nearest Proton Edar to check out their new Saga FLX. It uses a belt instead of fixed gears so you can have smooth step-less gear shifts. In a nutshell, that’s what CVT is about.

cheesie

It not just provides you with a smoother drive but gives you better fuel economy and reduces wear and tear on your engine.

CVT

I reckon it’s the best feature in the Saga FLX 1.3 CVT. I’m quite impressed by it. Here’s a graph showing how it works for people who likes things like that.

SAT

In addition to this new CVT technology, there’s also a switch labeled SAT beside the gear. The Saga FLX provides you with the best of both worlds – pressing the switch activates the simulation of a 6 speed Standard Automatic Transmission (complete with the stepped transmission).

I don’t know why you would want to use SAT when you have CVT but I guess it’s a nice feature to have. Car purists and those who like the conventional auto transmission shifting can switch back to it by activating SAT.

clarion

There’s also a Clarion audio system with USB, MP3 and auxiliary ports in the center console. It’s a good sound system and the Saga FLX 1.3 Executive model also has audio controls on the steering wheel. It’s not new, but still one of the best ideas for cars since sliced bread. Having the audio controls at the tips of your fingers allows you to keep your eyes on the road instead of fumbling around with the audio system.

driving saga

The Saga FLX has doors that opens wider too. It’s very convenient if you want to load stuff in your car. Proton Ride & Handling features provides you with a comfortable and safe drive with all the interior space you need for everything from a road trip to a short drive to the local hypermarket. There are cup holders for every passenger and as a veteran of road trips, I can tell you that this and the increased cabin space will make you enjoy your trip so much more. :)

The improved structural integrity, reverse sensors, side mirrors with LED indicators, ABS, EBD and dual SRS airbags rounds up all the safety features. Anyway, if you’ve been living in a cave, ABS stands for Anti-lock Braking System and just like what you’ll expect, it prevents the brakes from locking (and thus skidding your car out of control) when you have to make an emergency hard brake. EBD or Electronic Brake-force Distribution further enhances your safety by maximizing stopping power and stability by adjusting the force applied to the brakes on each wheel. It makes for a shorter stopping distance too!

elegant brown

I also called ahead to ask if they have the new Elegant Brown color for the Saga FLX coz I wanted to see what it looks like in real life. It’s a nice shade that earns it the “elegant” in “Elegant Brown” and there are a lot of style changes to the car too.

proton saga flx rear

Check out the new front headlights and rear combination lights! It has been spruced up to look modern and stylistic.

dash

The interior of the car looks great too – the dashboard is sweet and the center console is a color they call Tempest Grey. I don’t care what it’s called so long as it looks awesome. Heh.

saga flx cvt

Oh, and while we were there, one of the guys at Proton Edar commented that Ringo’s hair matches the color of the Saga FLX. She was standing beside one of the promotional banners at that time and I thought it was really funny. They’re a friendly bunch, the people at Proton Edar in SEA Park. :)

drive

The newly launched Proton Saga FLX 1.3L starts from RM 38,598 (RM 41,598 for the CVT version). There are lots of user-friendly compartments in the car so expect an abundance of storage space for all your sunglasses, tags and other stuff. You just can’t get a car with all these performance, safety and practical features at this price point. It’s affordable – truly a car for the people. The Saga FLX is perfect for an active urban (or rural for that matter) lifestyle. Take it for a spin at your nearest PROTON showroom or head over to www.epicsaga.com.my to understand more about the Saga FLX!

A trip into the F1 Paddock in Sepang / Malaysian Grand Prix 2011 race

me anita

The paddock! It’s the dream of every F1 fan to be able to walk amongst the pit crews, engineers and drivers prepping the F1 cars before the start of the race. I was fortunate enough to be able to join in just one such expedition.

f1 paddock

There are scheduled pit walks if you’re a member of the F1 Sepang Paddock Club (where you have to shell out a staggering amount for the privilege) but ours was by the Lotus Renault GP team.

girls

Our liaison was Anita Nyers, who travels around the world with the Lotus Renault team as Liaison Officer. She brought us into their allocated garage, which was bustling with activity. There were people hurrying around, all wearing the Lotus Renault GP shirt. I am also donning one of the tees – which I got from PROTON, who is supporting Group Lotus in its sponsorship and involvement in F1 through the Lotus Renault team.

lotus tag

This is the almost magical Lotus Renault GP VIP Garage Access tag that granted us entrance into the area. I still have it. :)

sepang

The paddock visit was scheduled at 11 am in the morning and I drove down to Sepang much earlier than that (didn’t want to risk missing this chance) and parked in PA1. The SIC has decreed that parking this year will be slightly cheaper – I paid RM 50 for the ticket, which is valid for two days. I like the parking spot, it’s right in front of the Sepang International Circuit.

f1 sepang

Anyway, back to the paddock trip, we saw the Lotus Renault GP team working on the cars, tuning and checking every single component before the race in their garage.

garage

The weather and track conditions (temperature of the ground, ambient temperature etc) are tracked constantly with computer monitors. It’s an engineer’s wet dream.

computer

They use all this data to give them an edge in the race. Here is a tyre stack – two front and two rear wheels which will be used during the race. There are spares in stacks all around.

tyres

The interesting bit about this contraption here is that it HEATS the tyres starting from 3 hours before the race based on the track temperature so it’ll perform optimally.

lotus garage

The attention to detail is incredible and F1 cars are amazingly complex machines.

helmets

These are the real racing helmets that the drivers will be using later.

Here’s a video of The Paddock! Experience it vicariously! ;)

driver

Oh, we bumped into the Malaysian driver for Lotus Renault GP while walking in The Paddock – here’s Fairuz Fauzy.

lotus renault lounge

We were also brought into the hospitality lounge where there’s anything and everything you can think of. I had a bottle of Italian sparkling water. There’s Evian, Perrier, various carbonated drinks and even Corona beer in the fridge. You can help yourself to it, or more accurately, Lotus Renault GP has a staff member which helps you get it.

monitors

They actually FLY these people all the way around the world with the Lotus Renault F1 drivers – everyone from the pit crew to the chefs. The drivers have very specific diets and brings along their own chef and food.

monitoring

I discovered a coffee machine which is quite nifty – you just put a packet of coffee that you choose from a dispenser above and put the entire thing in. There’s no need for you to open it or pour it out. The entire packet – unopened – goes into a slot and out comes your coffee. I don’t care if it makes me look dumb, but I’ve never seen anything like that before.

me

I also had a croissant (which is one of the largest I’ve ever seen) and a banana coz I didn’t have breakfast and then we walked out to watch the pit girls parade past, waving to the drivers and teams in The Paddock.

Here is one final video of the Lotus Renault garage in The Paddock!

parade

We had to vacate the premises soon after that for the qualifiers so we did. I watched the 4 pm qualifiers and went back to catch some much needed sleep before the real finals on Sunday.

paddock

Sunday came and I decided to go 5 hours early to beat the jam. It turned out to be futile. It was congested at certain parts of the road to Sepang and though the traffic police did a great job in directing, it took me the better part of two hours to get there.

view

There’s still ample time when I got there so I parked and started walking around before deciding I wanted to go up to one of the towers instead of sitting at my allocated seat. There’s a girl at the entrance which checks your ticket but I guess I was quite official looking with my tags and all on Saturday so she didn’t ask me for my ticket when I went up.

prep

I decided to stroll up again and smiled at her. She recognized me from the day before…and yes, did not check my ticket. Heh! I went up to the 3rd floor, which offers an awesome 360 degree view of the track – I can see the starting point, several straights and two bends.

flags

The pit girls came out parading the flags of the participant countries…

ready

…before the F1 cars came roaring out of The Paddock and into their allocated slots.

Here’s a video of the lineup of all the F1 cars at the Malaysian Grand Prix 2011 final race!

There was an initial placement round and then the race started proper…

…and they’re off!

start

Man, was it exciting! Red Bull Racing’s Sebastien Vettel started charging right off but Vitaly Petrov of Lotus Renault was right on his ass, giving him lots of pressure. Vitaly finished 3rd with his Lotus Renault in Melbourne before this so he was a favorite in Sepang. His pacing was impressive and it must have kept Vettel looking at his rear. It was unbelievable!

bend

I was rooting for Nick Heidfeld though. He’s also with the Lotus Renault team but didn’t start out as well as Petrov. However, he just kept at it and it paid off at the end, as you’ve probably heard.

chase

Petrov did things with his Lotus Renault F1 car that it was not meant to do – aerodynamic stunts – and had to retire at the 52nd lap. It was sooo close to the end but unfortunately he hit the side of the track and actually became airborne for a while before gravity took hold and pulled the car back down. The impact damaged the front so he had to exit after that.

chasing

I was standing all through the entire race – running from one side of the tower to the other to see the action. Nick of Lotus Renault was the dark horse in this race and I like rooting for the underdog. He kept on pushing the limits.

watch

The other fans up there were equally excited, some flew thousands of miles just to come and root for their team.

corners

It was a nail biting race – each lap saw cars trying to outmaneuver each other at bends and vying for position on the straights and Hiedfeld of Lotus Renault managed to come in at 3rd place!

race

It’s not the chequered flag but being able to stand on the podium is quite an achievement in itself. This is especially sweet for PROTON since Lotus Renault’s Heidfeld did it on home soil. :D

finish

Out of the 3 Malaysian backed teams, only the Lotus Renault team managed to get into the top 3 and pop the cork on the champagne bottle in the podium. w00t!

tickets

Lotus Renault GP is sponsored by Group Lotus. PROTON in its support of Group Lotus’ sponsorship of the team kindly provided me the tickets to F1 and the rare chance to go into The Paddock and even better – get INSIDE Lotus Renault’s garage. Not many people have that chance and I’m glad I managed to experience it.

I also went to the Rain concert which was included in the ticket.

anita nyers

Thanks to Jeffrey and Alvin from PROTON for being great hosts and Anita Nyers from Lotus for being an awesome tour guide. I can now say that I’ve held a real F1 steering wheel in my hand and rubbed shoulders with the pit crew inside the Lotus Renault paddock. :)

An interesting fact about the Lotus Renault team: Their golden suits is not just for the bling factor – it allows them to stay cool in Malaysia’s hot weather compared to their traditional black ones.

straight

Now that the Malaysian leg is over, I have one more year to recover from the sonic assault on my ears. I didn’t wear earplugs on both days and I think I might have developed slight hearing problems. ;)

We will, we will, rock you!

bath

I bumped into a group celebrating their hen’s night out at Bath, London a couple of days back. It was a short visit to Bath but I learned a lot about the Roman Baths and the architecture behind Bath.

I had a piece of news flashed to me while I was there. Mind you, I’ve seen Proton cars in London and it never ceases to amaze me what they’ve done.

china raft

However, this is not about that. The Proton team went to the Asia Pacific Rally Championship in China and it brought me back to my vacation on the trip before last to Guilin, China.

harrods shopping

The Proton Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) win made me feel warm and fuzzy inside. It’s the feeling much like buying gifts for friends – you don’t get anything out of it but knowing that you’re thinking of your friends while on vacation and making them happy makes you happy. You know what I mean?

china rafts

Of course this is not the rally but it still has a lot of hallmarks of it. I went on one of the old skool rafts and we were navigating out of time (and space) to get back in time before the bus departs.

I can relate to how the Proton team at the China Rally feels like. The Satria Neo S2000 is one of the 24 out of 44 starters that finished the race.

Not only did they complete the course in Longyou city against much more established motorsports teams but they placed second in the race! w00t!

proton-s2000b

Alister McRae and Chris Atkinson were the drivers behind the China Rally manoeuvring the Satria Neo S2000. Proton has always been the underdog and I’m glad they have the same mentality as I do – to rise above all odds and challenge The Establishment (TM).

I’ve driven the consumer version of the Satria Neo and I’m not surprised that they managed to finish second. Proton also had 4 Gen2s that finished the gruelling 229.19 km rally.

china

I have to be honest. This is one of the things that makes me proud to say I’m a Malaysian when I’m on vacation. :)

Life is like a roller coaster

You know this cliched phrase right? Our time on Earth is full of ups and downs. However, it seems that my life as of late has been nothing but a series of downs.

21000 cash

I lost nearly RM 50,000 in a month on the tables when I should have used that that to pay for my condo down payment. I have to move out in October so it would take a very long time for me to get this back again.

cancer

My mother was recently diagnosed with lung cancer and had to go for a operation to remove part of her lung.

suicide

Hell, if I was a lesser man, I might have just thrown in the towel and stepped of the edge of a very tall building. ;)

family

However, I am a firm believer in family. My dad has always preached and practised agape. It’s a Greek word meaning unconditional, self-sacrificing, active, volitional, and thoughtful love. That is what family means to me. We care for each other – we support each other in times of need, we remain strong for each other, and we celebrate our milestones in life.

young

Family is about being there for each other – I flew down to New Zealand to be with my mom during her operation and I don’t know how many times my dad and mom has been there for me during my darkest times.

Sure, we have our disagreements just like any other family but I think we’ll have a fighting chance in the Exora My Unbeatable Family that’s going to be airing soon on 8TV. smirk

come-get-some

Exora My Unbeatable Family is a reality TV series about families competing with each other using a Proton Exora.

EMUFPC_Q&A

The Proton Exora is an MPV that can easily seat 7 people and starts at a very affordable RM 57,548. Families don’t come as large as they used to so I imagine most of the challenges and obstacles in Exora My Unbeatable Family would have something to do with the flexible seating configuration that allows you to rearrange the seats into space.

EMUFPC_Group

The teams will complete challenges every week and there will be an elimination process every week until the grand final!

uncle

It looks rather promising so don’t forget to tune in to 8TV at 7 pm every Sunday. You can also catch it on Astro Channel 708. Go to 8tv.com.my for more information!

There is also a weekly contest where you can win a RM 500 cash prize. Surf over to www.protonexora.tv for details!

P/S – You can even view the episodes online! smirk

Rise as knights!

start

I’ve always been very accident prone. I have run down a pedestrian, crashed into various static road signs, and recently drove my car into a ditch. The repairs on the car alone set me back more than 1k due to the messed up suspension, shock absorbers and miscellaneous stuff down under. Thus, I was left car-less for about three days while it was at the workshop.

go

Thanks to Roslina, I was given the new Proton Satria Neo CPS to commute to work while my car was in the workshop. One interesting anecdote about the origin of the word Satria - it’s Sanskrit for knight. Be without fear in the face of your enemies. Safeguard the helpless. Never lie, even if it leads to your death; that is your oath. :p

keys

I had the Proton Satria Neo CPS on loan until my car got out of the workshop – my eternal gratitude to Roslina and Proton for providing me with a backup car…especially given my less-than-stellar (dubious?) driving safety record. ;)

roslina

Heck, I was surprised Roslina even agreed to lend me the car since she reads my blog and probably have witnessed the multiple accidents I have gotten into. Heh! Well, thankfully, I did not crash the car or give it so much as a scratch, and thus, to show my appreciation for her kind gesture, I shall write about my experience with the Proton Satria Neo CPS.

driving

I drive a Toyota Vios 1.5G which I purchased in late 2006. I chose Toyota for just one primary reason – it’s a family tradition. My dad used to drive a Toyota Corolla before he switched to a Lexus (which is also under Toyota) and my mom drives a Toyota as well. My sister in NZ also drives a Toyota – she owns a Toyota Celica (but then again she’s a cardiologist so she can afford it). Thus, I got a Toyota as well, just not to depart from our family tradition.

satria

There are a lot of people who has misconceptions about our fine local automobile industry. Build quality and performance are some of the most common gripes.

back

I have been doing some research on the topic and found some very interesting facts. The Proton Saga is based on the exact same engine as the Mitsubishi Lancer and Proton has grown by leaps and bounds since then. The acquisition of Lotus (say what you will, but it definitely helped in the aesthetic department of the cars) is another feather in the cap of Proton.

interior

Proton had this huge banner at a prime location on Elizabeth Street in Melbourne when I was doing my university there. I overheard an Aussie couple commenting on it. The conversation was pretty funny – they were debating whether it’s a German or European car manufacturer. I was just beside them, waiting for the pedestrian crossing to turn green and I told them (with no small amount of pride, I must admit) that it’s a MALAYSIAN brand. :)

rims

The Proton Satria Neo CPS looks good – check out the aggressive front grill, the spoiler at the back and the awesome rims. I love the nifty emergency brake, the canggih window winder below the stick shift, and the two-door design. It’s built for speed…and the volume controls on the steering wheel would get you out of a lot of vehicular mishaps too. ;)

montage 1

My fellow coworker (who parks beside me) commented on the aesthetics of the car – his exact words were “Nice car!”.

montage 2

Unfortunately, I had to reply “It’s not mine”. :(

compare

The Proton Satria Neo CPS was launched on February 2009 to replace the top H-line version of the Proton Satria Neo. It has been given a facelift – the aggressive body kit looks much better than the previous versions. Check out the side by side comparison with the old Proton Satria Neo (the new one is on the left at my condo parking lot) – it just so happens that my neighbor drives the older version of the Proton Satria Neo.

jam

The changes for the Proton Satria Neo CPS are not merely cosmetic – it also features a 1.6 liter Campro CPS engine with 125 bhp and 150 Nm of torque. It is zhng-ified for a more aggressive driving style (suits me just fine ;)) – the CPS mechanism in the Proton Satria Neo CPS switches to high cam at 4,400 rpm compared to 3,800 rpm as in the other CPS-equipped models such as the Proton Waja and Proton Gen-2.

debz

I took Deb out for a mamak session the night I got the car.

night

It was fun, she lives about 10 minutes away and I kinda abducted her and forced her to take a video of me test driving the car. LOL!

This is the nighttime driving video on the LDP.

Check out my speed test of the car too – managed to get it up to a decent velocity in a short time, thanks to the excellent acceleration.

tzia

The next day, I met up with Tzia at Kelana Jaya LRT for lunch.

lunch

I managed to drive from SS6 (where I work) to Kelana Jaya LRT, had lunch, and drove back again in less than 45 minutes.

I wanted a daylight video as well as a night video for the test drive of the car and I am pleased to report that any car that can get me to lunch and back within an hour gets the thumbs up from me. ;)

tzia me

The Proton Satria Neo CPS is a dream to drive. It goes up to 160 kmph on 4th gear before redlining and I managed to push it up to 170 kmph on the 5th gear. I probably shouldn’t say this, Roslina will kill me if she knew I was driving that fast. ;)

open

Oh well, in my defense, it was on the PLUS highway and I got very, very lost on Saturday morning while returning the car. I spent over 3 hours (!) on the road and pumped petrol 3 times, but the silver lining about the fiasco is that I managed to give the Proton Satria Neo CPS a proper test drive.

showroom 

Everyone at arms…or is capable of bearing: Kneel! On your knees! Be without fear in the face of your enemies. Safeguard the helpless. Never lie, even if it leads to your death; that is your oath. Rise a knight…rise as knights! Thanks Roslina, for letting me loan the car while my car is in the workshop!

gas

…and like a good citizen, I filled it up with gas before returning it. ;)

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