LEXUS is expected to join its German rivals in unleashing a seven-seat version of the recently launched RX small SUV.
The seven-seater is expected to sit above the popular Lexus RX, a new version of which was shown off at the 2015 New York motor show ahead of arriving in North American dealerships in 2016.
The luxury seven-seat SUV is expected to be based on the architecture of the RX but would have a unique body (the RX’s new body can only fit two rows of seats) to broaden the brand’s appeal in the luxury segment.
Lexus international vice-president Mark Templin stopped short of confirming plans for a seven-seater but said “that’s where the market is going, so there’s always potential for that”.
“We’re developing our plans for the future now, I’ll tell you more when I can,” he said. “In many markets seven seats is important, in Australia it’s important.”
The current BMW X5 and upcoming Audi Q7 each have seven seats, while Mercedes-Benz has its GL for those wanting greater carrying capacity.
Lexus US general manager Jeff Bracken said America would love a seven-seat Lexus SUV.
“It’s something our dealers and even many owners are asking us to consider, a third row,” said Bracken. “It’s something we’re studying, for sure. There’s clearly a market for it.”
The new RX will get a revised direct-injection version of the familiar 3.5-litre V6. It will also be teamed with an eight-speed auto, two more ratios than the current car.
Lexus will also continue with the hybrid-powered RX, which gets the revised V6 as part of the petrol-electric drivetrain.
The RX will also introduce the new “Safety System +”, which includes a suite of features such as pedestrian detection for its automatic braking function, auto high beam, lane keeping assist, radar cruise control and auto braking.
It also picks up a gesture control system for opening the boot. If the key is nearby, a wave of your hand over the Lexus badge will activate the electronic tailgate.
The new RX sits on a 50mm longer wheelbase. The car itself is 120mm longer, and 10mm wider, yielding more interior space.
However, the body of the new RX now sits 35mm lower.
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