By Aries B. Espinosa
THE innovative Auto Gear Shift (AGS) technology of the new Suzuki Dzire was put through its paces on June 4 at the Batangas Racing Circuit in Rosario, Batangas, during a track day organized by Suzuki Philippines. The activity was meant to showcase the new exterior and interior features of the Japanese car maker’s B-segment sedan, along with the highlighted AGS transmission.
Before participants could drive the Dzire on the 3.7-kilometer track, they were briefed on the new features of the vehicle, and the mechanism behind the AGS.
Kennedy Adia, Suzuki Philippines’ supervisor for product planning, explained that the new Dzire comes in a completely new package.
“The new Dzire, compared to the previous one, has a wheelbase longer by 20 millimeters, and is wider by 40 millimeters, which contribute to the noticeably bigger cabin space. The new exterior design shows in the vertically arranged head lamps, wide front grille with chrome accent, and aggressive-looking front bumper. The forward-sloping C-pillar and sharply slanted A-pillar make the Dzire look more like a real sedan. Apart from the spaciousness of the black interior due to the added tandem distance of 69 millimeters, and the seat expanded by 55 millimeters, its look has been enhanced by the silver accents.”
The Dzire has become that spacious inside that it now requires a separate rear air-conditioning vent and a 12-volt socket, which Mr. Adia confided are his “personal favorite” amenities.
The underbody of the new Dzire has also been comprehensively overhauled, Mr. Adia disclosed, and has been built using the Heartect new-generation platform which is lighter and highly rigid.
“The Heartect platform will be used in all succeeding models of Suzuki,” he added.
The spotlight, however, was trained on the AGS, Suzuki’s take on an automated manual transmission, which combines all the good characteristics of both types of gearboxes.
“A manual transmission is more fun to drive, since it gives a direct feel, and the driver feels more in control of the vehicle. It’s also more lightweight, consumes less fuel, and is more reasonably priced. The automatic transmission, however, is easier to drive.”
Hence, the stick shift of the AGS system indicates a different gear configuration. Yes, the familiar “N,” “D” and “R” settings are there. But there is also the “M,” the equivalent of the manual mode of an automatic transmission.
There is no clutch pedal, like in an AT vehicle, but the AGS sets itself apart from both an MT and an AT vehicle with the Intelligent Shift Control Actuator mechanism installed right above the MT assembly.
“The Intelligent Shift Control Actuator is responsible for clutch operation, gear shifting and selection based on vehicle speed,” Mr. Adia explained.
There is no “P,” or park gear. “With the AGS, when you turn off the engine, the actuator would always shift down to first gear, which will act like the parking mode, Mr. Adia said.
WALKING THE TALK
Later in the day, when it was time to walk the talk, the Dzire visibly showed the difference in shift response as participants drove four laps around the circuit, alternating between the two drive modes “M” and “D,” the consensus being that the AGS did provide a more direct feel than an AT (when in “D” mode), and an even faster driver-transmission interaction than with an MT (when in “M” mode). With the AGS, no time is spent by the driver at stepping on the clutch pedal and shifting gears up or down — shifting to “M” mode is just a split-second push or pull of a lever.
AGS also allows drivers to seamlessly shift from “M” to “D” modes, and vice versa, on the fly.
The five-speed AGS manages the 82 hp and 113 Nm produced by the Dzire’s 1.2-liter, four-cylinder K12B gasoline engine with Suzuki’s Intake Direct Action VVT valve train, and would most likely be responsible for the expected improved fuel efficiency compared to that of the previous Dzire.
There is no hard data yet on fuel mileage, but Mr. Adia said Suzuki Philippines is eager to participate in the next fuel economy runs of the Department of Energy using the Dzire with AGS.
Suzuki Philippines Vice-President and General Manager for its automobile unit, Shuzo Hoshikura, disclosed that the company’s Jan.-April sales grew 15% when compared to the same period in 2017. The growth was achieved despite the overall automotive industry slowing down, he noted.
He also said the entry of the new Dzire would provide more “energy” not just to Suzuki in the Philippines, but to the overall market.
“The Philippines’ B-segment market is the biggest. Therefore, it’s a good way to boost the country’s auto industry by introducing new products [in this segment],” Mr. Hoshikura said.
The formal launch of the all-new Dzire, as well as the all-new subcompact hatch Swift, is slated on June 27, the same day Dzire units will be available in all Suzuki dealerships.
The all-new Dzire is priced at P638,000 for the GL MT variant while the GL+AGS goes for P698,000.
By Aries B. Espinosa