A seven-seat version of the Lexus RX is high on the Australian division’s wish list, even if it’s not currently a priority for the parent company’s big boss.
The all-new Lexus RX launched locally this week and as with previous generations of the Japanese brand’s large luxury SUV it’s available strictly as a five seater.
As such it lacks the flexibility of the three-row Audi Q7, BMW X5 and Range Rover Sport models, rather matching the two-row configuration of the Mercedes-Benz GLE, Porsche Cayenne and Volkswagen Touareg.
In September, Lexus RX chief engineer Takayuki Katsuda told us there was customer demand for a seven-seat RX. Reports have suggested such a model would need a stretched body to accommodate the third seating row, potentially demanding a nameplate of its own such as TX.
But Toyota president Akio Toyoda last week poured cold water on such a car, insisting that seven-seat SUVs were the domain of the mainstream Toyota brand – although Lexus currently sells the LandCruiser 200 Series-based LX570 that comes with eight seats.
Despite this, Lexus Australia CEO Sean Hanley says he has plenty of interest in an RX-sized vehicle with extra passenger capacity and will keep a close eye on the market and Lexus’ development plans.
“We are studying that market all the time because it is a market, [though] it’s not as big in the Australian market as what some would think,” Hanley said.
“We have no plans immediately to bring a seven-seat RX into the market, however, we will continue to monitor that market very closely because it is a market of interest to us, and should that market move and the availability of the RX become available on the global product development schedule, I can promise you our hand will be very high up for it.”
Much more likely for our market in the short term is an RX200t F Sport variant. At launch, the turbocharged RX200t was only available to Lexus Australia in base Luxury trim, but Europe has recently a performance-themed version in right-hand drive.
With huge demand for F Sport variants in Australia, Hanley said he was hopeful of bringing the RX200t F Sport to local showrooms before the end of 2016 to join the RX350 and RX450h F Sport variants.
“When we first started development way back, we weren’t aware or offered an F Sport version of the turbo. Now Europe has developed one, which we’re trying to get access to.
“I think an F Sport in that turbo would be desirable. I don’t know the timing, but … I don’t want it to be any more than a year. Whether we can or not, there are a few variables that we have to deal with.”
Hanley cautioned that high global demand for the 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine may slow down the RX200t F Sport’s introduction, given that the engine is also being fitted to the IS, EX, NX and RC models.