Lexus dealers get their wish — a three-row RX crossover

NEW YORK — Heeding the call of its dealers, Lexus has decided to build a three-row version of the popular RX crossover.

Lexus General Manager Jeff Bracken confirmed to Automotive News that the vehicle would go on sale in late 2017 or early 2018, acknowledging that retailers have been waiting impatiently for a three-row offering to fill out the brand’s crossover lineup.

“That’s not early enough,” Bracken said. “They would just love to have it now. But I think they’re quite relieved that they know it’s coming.”

A three-row crossover gives Lexus a formidable weapon in the luxury crossover world, where its RX is already the dominant nameplate. U.S. sales of the RX have topped 100,000 in each of the past three years, and low gasoline prices have consumers eagerly ditching sedans for crossovers of all stripes.

Midsize three-row crossovers are also relatively rare among luxury brands — think Acura’s MDX and Infiniti’s QX60. Audi, BMW, Mercedes and Volvo are all absent from the niche.

Lexus’ GX and LX lines, which offer three rows of seating, are conventional truck-based SUVs.

The expanded crossover will still carry the RX name, despite reports that Lexus would adopt the TX moniker. The RX has been the brand’s best-seller for years, so Lexus wanted to capitalize on that name recognition, Bracken said.

“We’ll embrace the RX name,” he said. “It will be something very close to what we have now with a minor variation.”

Lexus has filed a U.S. application to trademark the RX 350L and RX 450hL names.

The three-row RX will be offered with V-6 and hybrid powertrains, as the two-row version is now. Pricing details are unavailable. The current two-row RX starts at $42,850, including shipping.

Styling will be nearly the same as that of the current model. Bracken said that despite the significant engineering challenges, “We put so much energy into the styling you see now that we didn’t want to compromise even with the third row.”

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