( Worldcarfans ) - At first glance, this undisguised prototype might look like a normal Lexus RX350 sport utility vehicle. However, after close examination, it becomes apparent that there are some significant differences. The light colored vertical stripe just forward of the front doors indicates that the front end has been lengthened an inch or two. The ends of the front bumpers are modified and covered with tape, as are the lower parts of the rear doors. The rear bumper has also been cut away slightly just aft of the rear wheels. All these changes indicate the body has been modified to make the vehicle slightly longer, and to adapt to a slight relocation of both front and rear axles.
Now notice that the tail lights don't fit flush with the outer fenders, and are not wide enough to reach the side of the vehicle. Similarly, the rear glass hatch is too narrow to reach the full distance between the vehicle's sides. So the body panels on this vehicle have also been relocated to make it wider than the current model RX350. So this vehicle is really a mule, using the body panels of the normal RX350, but very cleverly modified for extra length, wheelbase, and greater width. Under this modified body lies the new platform of the next generation RX350 which the test engineers are putting through its paces.
The one part of the vehicle that really is new - the side mirrors. Note the reshaped mirrors which include the turn signal lights, a feature used by many rival vehicles, but so far not seen on the RX350.
Based on this information, one can expect the next RX350 to be slightly longer, wider, and to have a greater wheelbase than it does now. With a vehicle as popular as the current RX350, however, Lexus is unlikely to make any radical changes. Styling will likely keep a shape that is quickly recognizable and evolutionary rather than all new.
The new RX will also likely stay with its current 5-passenger capacity, since customers wanting three rows of seats can get that in the bigger Lexus SUV's, the GX470 and the LX 570. Base engine will probably continue to be shared with the Toyota Highlander, that now being (for 2008) a 3.5 liter DOHC V-6 making 270 hp. The Lexus will likely also continue to offer a hybrid engine, the 3.3 liter V-6 which combined with its electric motors also makes 270 hp.
Lexus will be introducing an all new LX570 for the 2008 model year, so it is likely that a new RX350 won't be scheduled until 2009.
The photo set includes 5 photos of the prototype mule, plus an artist's concept of what the next generation RX350 will probably look like.