Toyota Prepares October 2017 Unveiling of Three-Row 2018 Lexus RX

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain

The Lexus RX is, by a massive margin, America’s top-selling luxury utility vehicle.

Through the first five months of 2017, Lexus had already sold 38,329 copies of the RX350 and RX450h in the United States. Most competing luxury crossovers won’t produce that many sales in all of 2017.

But Lexus wants more, and with car sales plunging — Lexus car sales are down 29 percent so far this year — there’s no better means of adding volume than by expanding the utility vehicle division. Lexus has already introduced the NX to sit below the RX, and it’s a verifiable hit. But the GX and LX at the top of the Lexus SUV/CUV heap add only incremental volume.

Thus, Lexus is readying a three-row version of the Lexus RX, a natural fit given the RX’s connections to the three-row Toyota Highlander. This much we knew.

Now, based on reports from Japan’s Mag-X, we also know the seven-seat Lexus RX will debut at the Tokyo in late October 2017.

There’s been no shortage of clamoring among Lexus dealers for a more family-friendly RX. (Though it remains to be seen if any roofline adjustments will make the three-row RX actually friendly for families.) Lexus’ Jeff Bracken confirmed in the spring of 2016 that a three-row RX would arrive in America in late 2017 or early 2018 while admitting on behalf of Lexus dealers a high degree of impatience.

“They would just love to have it now,” Bracken told Automotive News. “But I think they’re quite relieved that they know it’s coming.”

Lexus’ auto show schedule remains unconfirmed. There were reports earlier this spring that the three-row Lexus RX would be unveiled in Shanghai in April.

It was not.

Nevertheless, the date at which Lexus hoped to be selling seven-seat RX350s is fast approaching, making a Tokyo debut more likely. Given the RX’s American importance, we can certainly expect to see the RX by the time the Los Angeles Auto Show rolls around in early December.

We can’t expect to see, however, a Lexus RX with dramatically differentiated styling on the three-row variant. In order to maintain the strong RX connection Lexus so badly wants — “We’ll embrace the RX name,” Bracken said last year — the seven-seat RX has to look like the RX. “We put so much energy into the styling you see now that we didn’t want to compromise even with the third row,” says the Lexus general manager.

Likewise, don’t expect a Plus or Grande or Max badge on the RX’s tailgate, either. In Japan’s hybrid guise, Mag-X says, the seven-seat RX will be called the Lexus RX450hL.

Sound familiar? L is the letter Lexus uses to signify the long-wheelbase versions of the brand’s full-size LS sedan.

The seven-seat Lexus RX would have been on sale already had Lexus not determined that the RC coupe was a priority. “In hindsight, if I was making this decision 10 years ago, seeing what I see today, the three-row [crossover] probably would have been the better play to come out first,” Toyota’s North American CEO Jim Lentz said two years ago. Lexus has sold 30,471 RCs in its 2.5-year lifespan to date, though sales are predictably less than half as strong now as they were two years ago.

Expect greater long-term stability with the three-row Lexus RX, which will maintain the regular RX’s wheelbase but feature an elongated rear overhang and an elevated rear window.

[Image: Mag-X, via Autoguide]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Autofocus.ca and the founder and former editor of GoodCarBadCar.net. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

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  • Jerome10 Jerome10 on Jun 30, 2017

    I don't understand why these sell so well. Well, I get it (they don't break, comfy, great resale). But having just had one of these as a loaner I was NOT impressed. I was never impressed with the older ones much either, but after all the ranting and raving I'd heard about this new one not being a big boat, with AMAZING (ooo) interior, etc.... It feels just as boaty, but with a stiffer ride. The steering is still complete garbage. The 20" rims crash over bumps. I don't get the interior raving at all. It had tons of hard plastic, with nasty graining like we used to all make fun of cheap domestics for having inside. I'll give the V6 major props. The 8 speed seems very good too. Throw on it looks like a minivan already anyway, I really don't get it. I am not a lover of the NX either, but the steering is better, it rides better despite having a sportier suspension setup (somehow handles better, yet also absorbs bumps better), and the interior is miles better than the RX. Anyway, this will just help Lexus sell more of them. As for me, I knew pretty much within 15 minutes that I would never buy the new RX. Sorry there are just better choices out there, even if you sacrifice a tad in the reliability or resale department to get it.

    • See 1 previous
    • Tekdemon Tekdemon on Jul 02, 2017

      Most normal people actually hate the semblence of any steering feel-they don't mind a heavier steering weight since it makes the car feel more solid but ask any normal non-enthusiast and they'll complain about the steering wheel vibrating and moving while driving. Your average consumer wants zero feel, which is what car companies have delivered. Most people are also not optioning the 20" rims so they're getting excellent ride quality out of the standard 18". And the interior is very nice for the class, and more importantly the interior will stay nice for many years to come. The available hybrid also makes it more fuel efficient than any other vehicle in the class. Honestly it's exactly the car most buyers want, so not so surprisingly it sells the best.

  • Dmoan Dmoan on Jul 02, 2017

    Rx350 is riddled with issues including vibration issues and consumer reviews are horrible surprised they are selling well.

  • Calrson Fan Jeff - Agree with what you said. I think currently an EV pick-up could work in a commercial/fleet application. As someone on this site stated, w/current tech. battery vehicles just do not scale well. EBFlex - No one wanted to hate the Cyber Truck more than me but I can't ignore all the new technology and innovative thinking that went into it. There is a lot I like about it. GM, Ford & Ram should incorporate some it's design cues into their ICE trucks.
  • Michael S6 Very confusing if the move is permanent or temporary.
  • Jrhurren Worked in Detroit 18 years, live 20 minutes away. Ren Cen is a gem, but a very terrible design inside. I’m surprised GM stuck it out as long as they did there.
  • Carson D I thought that this was going to be a comparison of BFGoodrich's different truck tires.
  • Tassos Jong-iL North Korea is saving pokemon cards and amibos to buy GM in 10 years, we hope.
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