Lexus RX seven-seat SUV is in demand, says chief engineer

Lexus RX seven-seat SUV is in demand, says chief engineer

There’s been talk of a new-generation, seven-seat version of the Lexus RX for years, and dealers have been crying out for it for even longer.

A new seven-seat Lexus SUV may bear a new name, too. Rather than being sold as the RX with seven seats as an option, there are rumours the vehicle will be called the TX, because the body of the car will need significant modification to get to that usability. Indeed, Lexus’ parent company Toyota has trademarked that moniker.

So, will it happen?

If the spy photographs and international reports are anything to go by, then yes it will.

At the launch of the fourth-generation Lexus RX in the US, we spoke with the RX’s chief engineer, Takayuki Katsuda, who said there is demand for such a car.

Even if the car has a narrow gap to fill in markets like the US – where the five-seat RX slots in below the seven-seat, Toyota Prado-based GX – Katsuda said that dealer voices have been calling for such a car.

Lexus RX_13

“It’s depending on the market demand, and also as you say it is a fact that many of voices have requested us to do a seven-seater,” Katsuda said.

“But at this moment we have no schedule or I cannot say anything about a future project issue,” he said. “But such kind of request, and the voice is there. That is a fact.

Katsuda suggested that customers expecting a seven-seat version of the new-shape RX may be disappointed, as such a configuration doesn’t actually fit.

“But from the design, or technical design view point, it is, in principal, impossible because the third row seat makes the C-pillar or D-pillar areas have to be a little bit bulky, bulky or square,” he said.

That flies in the face of what Lexus claims buyers want of its RX model, according to Katsuda, as the 2016 model has been restyled with plenty of sharp lines to make it stand out from the SUV crowd.

“[The] first priorities of RX [buyers] is size or stylish proportions, that is, a not so practical meaning.

Lexus RX_31

“We are not a practical brand – of course practicality of the car is needed, but practical image is not suiting for the Lexus, that is Toyota’s role,” Katsuda said.

“Therefore as I said, at this moment in time we did not do anything about these kind of issue. It’s my personal opinion, such kind of concerns have to be discussed with our stylists at first. Then after the confirmation of the market’s real expectations, also these kind of styling impact maybe happen – is it really needed or not? Then after such kind of discussions we have better to discuss the final direction, to go or not.”

In terms of the Australian market, the GX isn’t offered. Instead, there’s a sizeable gap between the RX – which in third-generation guise was priced between $64,110 and $97,000 – and the much larger LX, a $134,310 proposition.

Lexus Australia chief executive Sean Hanley told CarAdvice that the company would consider a seven-seat SUV for our market if it were to be offered.

“We’re always studying different cars, different models, different configurations. You know, we’ll always try to develop and build cars that suit the market. But at this stage there is no confirmation of a seven-seat RX,” he said.

Lexus RX_14

When asked if Lexus felt at a disadvantage given there are rival brands with seven-seat options that it can’t match, Hanley remained circumspect.

“Of course there are seven-seaters available,” he said. “Of course it’s a market we look at.

“If it was advantageous and should it become available … then it’s a car we’d certainly look at.”

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