2016 Lexus RX coming April 1st, will it grow a row?
The Lexus RX 350 defines its category. The problem is, the category is changing. The current Lexus RX 350 and RX 450h hybrid own the mid-size, 5-passenger premium crossover market. This is a segment that Lexus itself created exactly 17 years ago when Toyota’s Japanese market Harrier was brought to the US as the Lexus RX 300. Since that instant, Lexus’ sales of this vehicle have made it the leader in the segment. The RX and ES sedan combined are really the Lexus brand in terms of profits and sales.
However, now the RX’ segment has changed. One problem is that the Lexus RX grew up. Originally, it was the same size as the new, smaller, Lexus NX 200t. The RX grew progressively larger, which all worked fine. Unfortunately, it never grew a third row, and that is a major problem. Lexus will fix that in 2 weeks. The new RX will have a third row (is our prediction), and it will be longer than the current vehicle. Lexus will use the basic underpinnings of the current Highlander to accomplish this.
Although Lexus might shock us and do something different, we also predict that Lexus will change up the current V6. Look for the new V6 to adopt the Atkinson cycle, or be some sort of Otto/Atkinson combination. This will improve fuel economy and allow Lexus to continue to use its basic 3.5-liter engine design which critics sometimes make fun of, but that dramatically outsells the competitions smaller turbos and larger high-performance engines.
Don’t be surprised if down the road the RX hybrid grows a cord and becomes a plug-in either. It now has plenty of room for extra batteries, and you might be surprised to hear this, but Toyota is the top-seller of plug-in vehicles in the US in terms of sales. Adding a plug-in option to the RX would be a snap for Toyota/Lexus.
Lexus will go forward with the NX, which is selling very well in its first few months, as its 5-passenger offering and the RX will take over as the 7-passenger, three-row vehicle. Yes, Lexus does have other body-on-frame SUVs with three rows, and they barely sell. They will eventually be pared back but not immediately. There are still some buyers that prefer less safety, less fuel efficiency, less comfort, less performance, but the beefier look and imaginary towing advantages that a body-on-frame vehicle offers.
Lexus dealers will rejoice when the new RX arrives. Although it still sells very well, the market segment has expanded dramatically, and Lexus dealers have been losing sales to 3-row premium and luxury crossovers made by competitors. That ends shortly.
Hedging our bets, there is one other possibility for RX and that is it stays a larger 5-passenger and Lexus introduces a new stretched version, possibly called the TX. We will know on Wednesday, April 1st.