The Japanese luxury brand currently offers both the RX mid-size five-seat SUV and the much larger eight-seat LX model which is based on the Toyota LandCruiser 200 Series, with the Toyota LandCruiser Prado-based GX model (not sold in Australia) splitting the difference. However, the latter model, which fulfils the seven-seat quota, doesn't live up to the brand's luxury focus.
Automotive News quotes Lexus division chief Jeff Bracken as saying that there's a gap that needs to be filled above the RX with a more passenger- and prestige-oriented offering.
"Third-row seating is the number one issue we hear from dealers," Bracken is quoted as saying of the US market. "We feel like we're missing a 35,000-units-a-year opportunity. We're working hard to rectify that."
Rumours suggest a new-generation RX model is scheduled to debut late in 2015, with that model expected to be a spinoff, restyled version of the new-generation Toyota Kluger. A Lexus version of that car would easily suit the seven-seat application, as CarAdvice's recent family SUV comparison test found.
However, Lexus' parent company Toyota has filed a trademark application for the name TX, which may indicate an all-new SUV model is on the cards.
"It could be any number of solutions," Bracken told Automotive News. "We could bring it to market in 2016 or 2017. If we can get it, that's the priority. We won't be bothered if it steps on RX. We want it."
Lexus is expanding its SUV range downwards, with the all-new NX range which will launch in hybrid guise in the fourth quarter of 2014, while the turbo petrol version will launch in 2015.