LOS ANGELES — Lexus officials say the brand and its dealers have been leaving money on the table for years because they lacked a three-row variant of the segment-leading RX crossover. Now, they say, that's about to change.
Toyota's luxury brand finally rolled out a stretched, seven-seat version of its best-selling vehicle, called the RX 350L for the gasoline model and the RX 450hL for the hybrid.
"We've been hearing from our customers that, 'Boy, we'd love to move into a RX but you don't have a third row,' " said Jeff Bracken, Lexus general manager, on the sidelines of the Los Angeles Auto Show.
"We were probably leaving around 15,000 to 30,000 on the table each year," he said.
Indeed, Lexus expects about 30,000 RX L sales annually, which would be about 30 percent of the total based on this year's sales. About 15,000 RX L sales should be conquests from vehicles such as the Acura MDX, and 15,000 will be typical RX buyers who opt for the L, Bracken said.
The RX L will trickle out in small numbers in December and be fully stocked by February for the gasoline model and shortly after that for the hybrid, he said.
Lexus is late to the game with a three-row family crossover compared with competitors such as the Acura MDX, Infiniti QX60 and higher-priced German rivals.
Lexus will now have "the opportunity to hold buyers who might have left RX and replaced it with the likes of an Acura MDX or Audi Q7 — but the long version will also appeal to some buyers already committed to the RX," IHS Markit said in a report.
The body of the RX L is stretched 4.3 inches at the rear and uses a steeper tailgate window compared with the two-row RX, for better headroom in the back. The more upright rear and SUV-like shape could help draw more male buyers to a vehicle that typically does better among women, Bracken said.
The longer RX seats seven passengers with standard bench-type seats, but a six-seat option is available with second-row captain's chairs that improve access to the third row.
The entry RX 350L model with front-wheel drive starts at $48,665, including shipping. The all-wheel-drive version adds another $1,400.
Lexus didn't provide prices for the hybrid RX L models, but recently announced pricing for the regular RX shows a narrowing in the premium between the two drivetrains.
For 2018, the price of the RX 450h awd is just $1,025 higher than a comparable gasoline model; the gap was nearly $7,500 wider for 2017 models, Lexus said.