How long does it take to build a unique three-row crossover? While the easy answer is however long a new car development cycle takes, that’s not the case for Lexus. After years without a three-row crossover and a brief attempt at stretching out an RX, the 2024 Lexus TX is the dedicated three-row crossover that Lexus fans have been craving for literal decades. So, does it live up to expectations based on the info and photos we have? Let’s take a first look at this new family hauler and see where early signs lead us.
For a company that was early to the premium crossover scene, Lexus seemed to be passed out at the wheel during the three-row revolution. While the original 1998 Lexus RX beat just about everyone to the premium crossover arena, it would take another twenty years before Lexus would offer a three-row crossover or unibody SUV. More on that later. During those 20 years, Lexus was beaten to the punch by just about everyone, so let’s run through an exhaustive list, shall we?
- Acura MDX
- Audi Q7
- BMW X5
- Buick Enclave
- Cadillac SRX
- Infiniti JX35/QX60
- Lincoln MKT
- Mercedes-Benz GL
- Mercedes-Benz R-Class
- Tesla Model X
- Volvo XC90
I’m not sure whether that was more exhausting or exhaustive, but you get the point. Toyota had launched three different generations of Highlander in that same 20-year span, and Lexus was having its lunch money taken by everyone and their mothers. Eventually, tensions reached a boiling point. Customers were fed up, dealers were fed up, and Lexus threw up its hands and whipped up a Band-Aid. The brand tried to satiate everyone with the three-row RX L, but it didn’t work. The third row was simply too small to compete with the establishment, and limited visibility out of the third row didn’t help, either. As a result, the RX L is a rare sight on roads, and it’s still a fairly new car in the grand scheme of things. The TX though? I have a hunch that it’ll be everywhere.
The Lexus TX is a nicer Toyota Grand Highlander, but that’s not a bad thing. As we learned in our first drive, the Grand Highlander is comfortable, spacious, and serene enough that you could possibly cannonball across the continent with a crock pot of gravy between the optional second row captain’s chairs and not so much as ripple the viscous sauce. As far as Lexus-worthy bones go, this is as good as it gets.
About That Face
After more than a decade, Lexus desires to evolve its controversial spindle grille, and the front of the TX is most certainly an experiment. The bulk of the updated grille consists of hole-punched rectangles in the body-colored fascia that seem out-of-step with the slim, blacked-out lower and upper grilles. Plus, some of the openings have to go nowhere because everyone knows there’s a bumper bar behind that face. It’s a weird choice, and time will tell whether or not people get used to it. [Editor’s Note: I don’t hate it. -DT].
Thankfully, the rest of the Lexus TX looks far more conventional. The rising character line meeting the blacked-out D-pillar won’t rock the boat of Lexus loyalists, and the full-width taillight treatment provides another familial link with the smaller RX and UX crossovers. I’m digging the slab of unpainted trim on the rear bumper, as it envelops the tailgate lip and should hold up much better to loading and unloading cargo than a painted surface. Other than the nose, the styling of the TX is free of surprises, which should help it sell by the truckload.
The Inside Perspective
On the inside, Lexus has pulled a page out of the ES playbook by slathering everything in lovely stuff. Soft textiles, wrapped surfaces, and metal accents all elevate the cabin above Toyota Grand Highlander niceness, and the dashboard itself is thoroughly revamped. I dig the sleek screen-mounted HVAC temperature control knobs that seem to be a Lexus hallmark these days, and the driver-centric cant of the center stack promises to be an ergonomic boon.
However, while cooking up a ritzy interior for the TX, Lexus has leapt into the cold embrace of the scourge that is piano black plastic. It’s abundant in the TX, from slabs around the instrument panel to a swath surrounding the console-mounted USB-C charging ports. That latter panel is likely to attract a ton of scratches and fingerprint smudges as occupants fumble with metal-tipped cables, so count on it aging somewhat rapidly. I don’t mean to sound like a stuckist here, but part of the original LS 400’s appeal was the ability to drive it to hell and back without the cabin visibly aging beyond worn seat bolsters. Is it unreasonable to expect the same luxury in 2023?
Standard on all TX models is a 14-inch touchscreen infotainment system, a big step up from the eight-inch system found in base models of its RX little brother. While standard audio system specifications aren’t noted, customers looking to treat themselves can opt for a 21-speaker Mark Levinson audio system that comes with lovely fabric speaker grilles reminiscent of ‘90s home hi-fi gear. Curiously, a 12.3-inch all-digital instrument cluster is also optional, and I can’t help but wonder how the base gauges look.
Of course, the rest of the available feature list looks fairly typical for a three-row luxury crossover. Such niceties as a heads up display, second row captain’s chairs with a removable console, advanced parking assistance, and a special Traffic Jam Assist advanced driver assistance system are all on the options menu.
The Base Four Cylinder Seems Fine
Powering the base TX 350 is a 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that seems perfectly sufficient. Whether you choose front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive, this motor churns 275 horsepower and 317 lb.-ft. of torque directly into an eight-speed torque converter automatic. It’s not the most exciting powertrain in the world, but if you care about that sort of thing, either pony up for a zestier powertrain or walk down the street to the Mazda dealer and check out a CX-90. People buy Lexus crossovers for smoothness and quiet, not because they think they’re Max Verstappen.
A Sporty Model
Should you want a TX with a little more wumbo, allow me to direct you to the TX 500h F Sport Performance, which is an absolute mouthful. This sporting TX gets a 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine paired with an all-wheel-drive hybrid system to crank out 366 horsepower and 469 lb.-ft. of torque. If this sounds familiar, it’s because this is the same powertrain found in the Lexus RX 500h F Sport Performance and the Toyota Grand Highlander HybridMAX. Yes, every single crossover equipped with this powertrain has a trim designation that sounds like a piece of golfing equipment.
However, Lexus doesn’t simply shoehorn more power into a car and call it a performance trim. This zesty TX gets real performance upgrades, chief of which is four-wheel-steering. At low speeds, the rear wheels turn in the opposite direction as the front wheels for easy maneuvering in parking lots and greater agility. At higher speeds, the front and rear wheels turn in the same direction for increased stability. Pretty neat, right? In addition, I spy some massive brakes on the front axle that should do a decent job of hauling this family bus down from Mach Chicken. Of course, big brakes require big wheels for clearance, so every TX 500h F Sport Performance gets 22-inch rollers with relatively low-profile tires.
Oh Yes, A Plug-In Hybrid
For those who want to get really polar bear-friendly, a TX with an even bigger number on the end is coming. The Lexus TX 550h+ marries a 3.5-liter naturally-aspirated V6 with plug-in hybrid electrification to offer an estimated 33 miles of all-electric range. While Lexus doesn’t list a torque figure for this powertrain, it does mention 406 horsepower and an estimated 30 mpg, making this the greenest and most-powerful TX on offer. Go big or go home, right? Mind you, Lexus claims this top-spec TX will see a delayed introduction, although its production in America could make it eligible for tax credits.
Of course, a revised engine lineup and available four-wheel-steering aren’t the only under-the-skin upgrades the TX gets over its Grand Highlander brother. Lexus claims to have increased the amount of insulation under the cargo area and rear floor to cut down on road noise and revised the door and roof seal material to thwart wind noise. In my favorite part of the press release, Lexus claims that “For TX, welds and adhesives are included to increase the vehicle’s joint strength and rigidity through the main framework components of the chassis.” I would really hope that any new vehicle is welded and bonded together instead of just loosely assembled using friction, but it’s nice to be reassured. What Lexus actually means is that it’s utilized additional welds and bonds over some of the TX’s other TNGA-K platform-mates, so expect a subtly enhanced feeling of solidity.
The Bottom Line
With the right size and packaging to accommodate the entire family, the 2024 Lexus TX promises to be exactly what Lexus dealers and customers have craved for years. It’s a shame that some kids in Lexus families were taken home from the hospital in an ES, have grown up in the back of RX crossovers, and became adults throwing JDM parts onto IS300s all before Lexus launched a dedicated three-row crossover, but better late than never. Expect Lexus to release a detailed pricing and feature list closer to the autumn, when the TX 350 and TX 500h F Sport Performance are expected to arrive at dealers.
(Photo credits: Lexus)
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