First drive: 2013 Luxgen 7 SUV in Oman
Every now and then, a new carmaker enters the market. But how often is it, that many of them go unnoticed. One could possibly shun the new car we have here, citing reasons that the logo could be ripped off from Lexus. However, this particular vehicle has no specific relations with Lexus, or even Japan. As a matter of fact, the Luxgen 7 SUV we have here is from Taiwan.
Luxgen was first introduced to the world in 2009. However, of all the Middle-East countries, it still is only sold in the Sultanate of Oman by dealers MHD. And since nobody else had tested them in the UAE, this is a bit of an exclusive, even if it means driving it in Oman!
The exterior design of the vehicle didn’t particularly ring any bells, which is a good thing. The build quality of the SUV seemed pretty impressive. You get adequate amounts of chrome inserts on the grille and on the window linings. And that, coupled with the perfect fitting panels and the flamboyantly visible cameras, gives the Luxgen’s exterior a premium feel. Incidentally, Luxgen builds outsourced Toyota Corollas for the GCC market.
The interior is a different story. It clearly is designed to provide a high-class effect. But as with most newcomers, there are issues. Fit and finish between various panels on the dashboard is not perfect, and the buttons are not exactly, shall we say, classy. But, the truth is that, you wouldn’t have time to mind things like that because of the technology that you have in your hands. There is a huge 10.2-inch LCD display available on the dash which shows you everything you could possibly need. The dashboard has a slanted posture and basically has three portions. The first one takes care of the automatic a/c, which needs high fan-speeds to be effective, whereas the second bit consists of the controls for the ‘Think+’ system, followed by a host of buttons talking care of the automatic lights, lane departure warning system and night vision.
The HTC-developed ‘Think+’ system is very simple to understand and we got the hang of it within just minutes of use, unlike many manufacturers who go all out with pointless buttons with no use whatsoever. However, we would’ve fancied it even more if they offered a touchscreen.
You also get a generous eight cameras, which are placed all around the vehicle, and we particularly loved it for its functionality. The cameras are coupled with the ‘Eagle View +’ system which is useful for parking as it gives a 360-degree view of the vehicle. We found it predominantly useful when covering some tight turns. Alongside that, the cameras also eradicate blind-spots on turning. But the coolest tech on-board has to be the ‘Night vision’ mode which, as it goes, is pretty pointless. But we used it anyway just for the heck of it.
The Luxgen comes standard with a JBL audio system. Of course you do get AUX in, video out, USB and Bluetooth. There was a rear DVD screen for the passengers too.
The cabin largely consists of hard plastics with no padding anywhere except some inserts in the armrests. We didn’t find it annoying at any point because the front is really spacious, and our legs didn’t hit anywhere. The seats are covered in leather, and surprisingly, the driver is treated with a massager. The second row is pretty spacious too, a bit too much in our opinion, after trying out the cramped third row. But only later did we realise that the second row seats can be adjusted for the dignity of the third-row passengers.
The engine driving the Luxgen is a 2.2-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder producing 175 hp and 275 Nm of torque. The engine is pretty gutsy and is coupled to a 5-speed automatic transmission with manual mode. Despite the turbo, we felt that the SUV needed more muscle as it felt a little underpowered. You’d actually need to plant your foot down and initiate kick down to get some decent acceleration. Still, 100 kph is achieved from standstill beyond 10 seconds.
The steering is pretty light, but not so much to make it feel awkward. As a matter of fact, it felt perfect for a vehicle of its size, offering decent feedback. Noise levels in the cabin are pretty regular and typical. Body roll is admirably low, although we didn’t dare try corners above 80 kph. Overall, the ride is pretty smooth; almost as smooth and stable as the rival Hyundai Santa Fe.
For the record, we weren’t allowed to test the vehicle off-road, but we did get to drive over some gravel roads which gave us an insight into the capabilities of the suspension. The ride on the gravel felt pretty soft, though nothing out of the ordinary. Yes, you do get four-wheel-drive lock and an auto mode that controls the power distribution between the front and back wheels, but on the gravel, two-wheel-drive was more than adequate.
The Luxgen 7 SUV lets us know that Taiwan is capable of making some compelling vehicles. Of course, the competition in the crossover segment is pretty tough. At the equivalent of Dhs 125,000, its price competes with vehicles in the midsize SUV segment, the smaller Luxgen doesn’t deserve to be judged on its size alone. There’s enough tech to compete with far more upscale vehicles, but the cabin trim keeps it firmly grounded as a rival for the Japanese and the Koreans.
Photos by Alvin E. Thomas.