Luxgen: Made in Taiwan.
Taiwan may not be your first port of call as regards car manufacturing, but this relatively small island in close proximity to China has been producing motor parts for many years. Alongside this essential line of work, several factories are involved with car production, usually under license from GM, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Mitsubishi and Honda.
Yulon is a sixty-year established Taiwanese vehicle manufacturer and importer who branched out in 2009 to create the Luxgen Motor Company Limited. Combining the words Luxury and Genius with their Think Ahead motto, the new carmaker accrued a gamut of technologies from long standing partners such as Aisin (transmissions), Delphi (steering), LMS (NVH suppression), Magna for suspension along with Prodrive for the dynamic set up.
Their first vehicle was a seven-seater MPV, effortlessly named the Luxgen 7. Based upon the 2009 Renault Espace, the chrome-winged nose and cascading grille lent the DRG a somewhat sit up and beg stance. A 2.2-litre diesel motor powered the front (or four-wheel) drive 4.8 metre long car. Co-developed with the HTC smartphone company, the car’s Think+ system incorporated 23 ECUs which controlled the myriad of sensors and eight cameras through a Windows operating system. Home sales encouraged Luxgen to perhaps run before they could walk; exports to Oman, Russia, Iran, and Vietnam were quickly realised. Tentative glances were made westwards, which, so far at least, have amounted to nothing.
Within a year, a sports utility version appeared, entitled Luxgen7 SUV, with a facelift in 2013 incorporating a new name: U7. In an NCAP four-star car, one extra security feature was available at the press of a button, the drivers seat would slide forward to lean against the steering wheel, preventing theft!
Momentum being a Luxgen watchword, the Neora (Neo and Era) concept saloon was revealed at the 2011 Shanghai motor show. An electric vehicle displaying crisp styling outside and the ubiquitous high tech within, it would blend into a production vehicle the following year as the 5 Sedan (post 2013 facelift, the S5). Chinese-American designer James C Shyr (input on 1st and 2nd generation Buick LaCrosse) looked to the skies for inspiration, with three aesthetic elements: surfacing performance, re-curved strokes, and intelligent airfoil. Indoors, the head rests were wing-shaped. This mid-size front wheel drive saloon came with 1.8 or two-litre turbocharged petrol engines. Few were sold however, with both the 5 and 7 bowing out by 2020.
Not wishing to relinquish the saloon market completely to the Japanese, Luxgen downsized for the S3, realised in 2016. On Shyr’s watch, the 3 was to fight the Toyota Vios and Honda City. Again, technology heavy, the exterior was taut but, casting rearward, the sill kink and awkward C-pillar arrangement provided a certain dissonance. Power was a Dongfeng 1.6 petrol, the gear train being CVT. At 4.5m long, attractively priced and an easy drive around the Taipei metropolis, the plug again was pulled in 2020.
The S3’s bones were recycled in the autumn of 2017 into the confusingly named U5, a Shyr-penned crossover. While the tech had improved, against the competition of Honda’s HR-V and Aichi’s CH-R, the Taiwanese shocks were to the rear. In keeping with the Luxgen swift updating policy, the U5 was no more as of 2020.
Bucking the Luxgen trend, remaining in production since its 2013 inception is the U6. Based on the S5 platform, this compact crossover can be had with the 1.8T engine combined with either manual or automatic containing five speeds; the 2.0T litre being equipped only with a six-speed auto. Once again, the distinction is to the rear, looking far less boxy and from certain angles with a soupçon of Lancia’s circa 2008 Delta. A 2017 facelift also incorporated nomenclature alongside engine changes. The U6GT saw an enhanced 1.8T with 199bhp, whereas the U6GT220 upped those horses by another 21. Critics seemed appreciative of both.
For 2021, the U6 received more updates. Presently using Bilstein shock absorbers to improve the ride and a natural up-step in those all important connectivity areas, the car has also received some external tweaks. “Mobile fashion arbitrarily circulates the eyes of everyone,” according to the (translated) website, along with “a sense of urbanism and a beautiful aerodynamic tail wing enhancing stability.” Inside, “endless comfort” is guaranteed within the confines of its high-tensile steel shell. The new motor underwent two years of testing at the Oriental New Berlin racetrack, aka the Japan Autopolis. By all means, bench test the engine but surely few would pilot this type of car in such a manner, regardless of Taiwanese road conditions?
Late 2020 saw Luxgen promote their URX, strongly related to the outgoing U6. Leaving the racetrack behind, the Taiwanese use this vehicle to stress the importance of keeping the family safe. With its (potential ) seven seat family-friendly manners, the optional ‘slope board’ wheelchair access\ bike ramp can be transformed into a picnic bench in a single second! Another big selling point is the car’s ‘Fresh Zone’ omitting those city fumes using a three layer filtration system. And should you park your URX next a polluting bus for example, a smartphone app can pre-filter the air before your ingress. Undeniably more useful than anyone’s 0-60 dash or Nurburgring lap time.
Luxgen also provide a highly customer-friendly atmosphere. Showrooms that have blankets for you or your children if cold, inviting areas for play, dynamic zones for buying or awaiting the car’s service. Should you become involved in an accident, the ‘babysitter’ (Luxgen phrase) can see to everything. The company also regards the feminine perspective by organising female-only classrooms or special days out for customers on Mothering Sunday or International Women’s Day. Denied access to such customer-centric conscientiousness by several thousand miles, your author welcomes experiences or comments from our easternmost readers. To these eyes, Luxury and Genius sound most apt. One hopes this is not merely empty website rhetoric.
Meanwhile, if Luxgen’s global domination may be on temporary hold, they at least appear to have their hands loaded with goodies back home.
Data sources: luxgen-motor.com.tw, allwheelsforward.com