Lexus is revamping its SUV lineup, taking out seating from some models and adding it to others.
The brand revealed a new third-row version of its flagship midsize RX luxury crossover — the 2018 RX L — at the 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show on Wednesday.
It is also taking away the third row in its 2018 LX 570 full-size SUV to expand cargo space with a two-row variant.
Toyota Motor Corp.’s luxury division said the changes are the result of direct feedback from customers who demand more utility from its top-selling SUVs.
Lexus introduced the RX in the 1990s. It was the first luxury crossover in the U.S. market, offering customers versatility and higher ride height. Built with unibody construction rather than the truck-based body-on-frame architecture of classic sport-utilities, the RX also drove like a sedan.
“The RX was an instant success,” said Jeff Bracken, head of the Lexus division.
Now the segment has grown significantly. “While the number of luxury crossover vehicles approaches 50, the RX remains the most popular luxury utility vehicle in all of America,” Bracken said.
“While our customers love it, they tell us there’s one thing that could make it better. And that’s more of it,” he said.
The new 2018 RX L will satisfy families looking for flexibility to carry more passengers without sacrificing storage space. The longer crossover can accommodate up to seven people and promises adequate headroom for third-row passengers and enough room to haul strollers and sports gear. The new design adds a modest 4.3 inches to the rear overhang and a steeper tailgate window angle. The second row sits slightly higher too for more legroom and is available in a bench or as captain’s chairs for a six-person configuration.
There are two powertrain options for the RX L. The RX 350L has a 3.5-liter V6 engine, and the RX 450hL is a hybrid. Both versions are all-wheel-drive. The hybrid comes standard with second-row captain’s chairs. Third-row passengers will enjoy their own cupholders and climate control. Both sides of the rear seat split 50/50 or can fold flat electronically.
The new two-row LX is an ode to some of Lexus’ more active customers who wanted more room to stow recreational gear for activities like skiing, cycling and kayaking.
“There will be 15 percent more cargo space for a total of 58.5 cubic feet,” Bracken said.
Lexus is building on its portfolio of capable utility vehicles. Sixty-five percent of all the vehicles it sells in the U.S. are some variation of the LX, GX, RX and NX, according to the company.
Its strategy fits an evolving auto market in the U.S. that now prefers larger vehicles to sedans. So far this year, trucks, SUVs and crossovers made up nearly 63 percent of U.S. vehicle sales, according to industry research firm Autodata Corp.
Introduction of the RX 350L should draw some much-needed attention to the RX. Sales of the crossover through the first 10 months of the year are flat compared with the same period a year earlier. The LX sold 4,660 units through October, a 9.5 percent increase year-over-year. Total sales of Lexus’ utility vehicles are up 4.4 percent through October.
The RX 350L will be in dealerships shortly with a starting price of $47,670. The hybrid version will go on sale next spring. Pricing has not been announced.
The two-row LX 570 also will go on sale in the near future and will start at $84,980, which is about $12,500 less than the typically equipped full-size luxury SUV.