Toyota and Lexus plan new three-row crossover SUVs, most likely as hybrids

April 29, 2021

Toyota on Wednesday announced plans to build two new three-row crossover SUVs at its Princeton, Indiana, plant. The tease provided just enough information to spur speculation, but both vehicles will seat eight passengers and one of the three-row SUVs will be badged a Lexus.

Toyota stopped short of saying the SUVs would be electrified in some way, but the official statement suggests it will follow the path of its latest three-row vehicle built in the same plant, the 2021 Toyota Sienna minivan, that comes standard as a hybrid with up to 36 mpg combined. 

“This investment (in the Princeton plant) and new vehicle line-up will allow us to continue our work with electrification, expand our portfolio to around 70 models globally by 2025, and meet the needs of our customers while we accelerate towards carbon neutrality,” Ted Ogawa, president and CEO of Toyota Motor North America, said in statement.

The other three-row SUVs built at that plant represent an interesting inflection point for the brand. The full-size Toyota Sequoia was last redesigned for 2008 and gets a paltry 15 mpg combined, similar to the Lexus GX 460 three-row SUV. It will either be shelved or made wholly new with the imminent redesign of the Toyota Tundra pickup truck on which it's based. Yet, like the Sienna, the redesigned 2021 Toyota Highlander can be had with a strong V-6 or as an efficient hybrid that gets up to 35 mpg combined. 

Toyota plant in Princeton, Indiana

Toyota plant in Princeton, Indiana

Speculation from our friends over at Motor Authority suggests the new Toyota will be a long-wheelbase version of the Highlander called the Grand Highlander. That could mean the Sequoia will follow the Land Cruiser into the automotive graveyard of inefficient rough and tumble V-8 SUVs based on trucks. The Lexus SUV will most likely follow the Grand Highlander, and may finally wear the Lexus trademarked TX badge. 

In both cases, Toyota promised the latest technology with driver-assist systems that allow for hands-free driving in certain conditions, similar to the Lexus Teammate system set to debut on the 2022 Lexus LS flagship sedan. 

Despite Toyota's stated aim of carbon neutrality by 2050, the brand does not offer a full battery electric vehicle in the U.S., but it offers a traditional hybrid alongside a plug-in hybrid, or Prime, version of its bestselling 2021 Toyota RAV4. It remains to be seen if there will be Prime offerings of the new SUVs; Toyota didn't specify when the new vehicles will debut. 

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