The big dog in the midsize luxury SUV segment is apparently set to get a bit bigger, Lexus announced plans to launch a three-row version of its familiar RX sport-utility vehicle at the upcoming Los Angeles Auto Show.
The move should come as no surprise. If anything, one might wonder why it has taken so long for the luxury brand to bring out a three-row version of the RX, the best-selling midsize ute on the market. Since it was first introduced 20 years ago, the standard-edition RX has become the go-to vehicle for suburbanites looking for an alternative to a minivan.
“How can the top-selling Lexus RX get even better? Make more of it,” Lexus hinted in a terse release accompanied by this close-up detail of the RXL’s back end.
While Lexus was a pioneer in the luxury crossover market is was slow to expand its line-up, counting on the two-row RX to cover a vast swath of the market. Those who wanted something larger had to settle for the big LX, a more traditional body-on-frame SUV.
(Lexus keeps an eye toward the future with its LS+Concept. For the story, Click Here.)
But it’s become impossible to get by with essentially a one-size-fits-all strategy for the crossover market now that CUVs account for about half of the total U.S. new vehicle market. When you add in conventional utes, pickups and vans, light trucks overall make up nearly two-thirds of the American market.
At the lower end, Lexus launched the compact NX in 2015 – with that model getting a big update for 2018. Few would be surprised to see an even smaller model join the line-up in the future. And a senior executive with Lexus parent Toyota told TheDetroitBureau.com this year that a car-based high-end model is also under consideration.
For now, though, the Lexus RXL will cover that base. The seven-seater is expected to be powered by the same 3.5-liter V-6 currently used in the five-seat RX 350 making 295 horsepower.
Lexus also confirmed that a hybrid version, the RX 450hL will be revealed in LA, here using the two-row gas-electric model’s 308-hp driveline. Expect to see a slight deterioration in mileage, as one might expect.
(To see more about the new Lexus LS 500h, Click Here.)
Styling is likely to remain close to what we’re seeing now on the five-seat RX models. The L series is expected to debut sometime next year as a 2019 model, or right in the middle of the current RX lifecycle. That means some subtle tweaks, perhaps, to the now-familiar Lexus spindle grille but, on the whole, the Japanese marque hints, the seven-seater “will retain its stylish figure while also providing more flexibility for passengers.”
The three-row market has grown substantially in recent years with entries ranging from the segment-dominant Acura MDX to high-premium models like the Cadillac Escalade and newly redesigned Lincoln Navigator – the last two body-on-frame models more directly competing with the Lexus LX.
In the mainstream segment, meanwhile, Hyundai on Wednesday announced it will also introduce its first three-row model sometime next year. That eight-seater will be part of an eight-crossover wave Hyundai plans to launch between now and 2020.
(For more on the new line-up of Hyundai SUVs, Click Here.)