It shouldn’t be too surprising that the 2024 Lexus TX, the automaker’s first product designed exclusively for North America, takes the form of a spacious three-row crossover. It’s one of the most popular body styles in our market, and yet Lexus has been conspicuous in its absence thus far – and no, the cramped previous-generation RX L and the body-on-frame GX and LX don’t count.
As the company’s first genuine effort at a comfortable SUV for six or seven adults, the TX has a lot riding on its sharply styled shoulders. It needs to be comfortable and smooth, and it must have competent handling and power to appeal to premium car shoppers. After an all too brief drive around Fuji Speedway’s short course in a pre-production prototype of the large Lexus, I can say that it should do an excellent job of transferring its RX platform-mate’s key attributes to a larger scale, although I can’t help but scratch my head at the venue the luxury automaker chose for our introduction to the crossover.
|Quick Stats||2024 Lexus TX 350 AWD|
|Engine||Turbocharged 2.4-Liter I4|
|Output||275 Horsepower / 317 Pound-Feet|
|Fuel Economy||20 City / 26 Highway / 22 Combined (est.)|
|Cargo Volume||20.1 / 57.4 / 97.0 Cubic Feet|
|Base Price||$54,000 (est.)|
|On Sale||Fall 2023|
A Subtler Spindle
Lexus is giving a nip-tuck to the polarizing spindle grilles that have graced its cars ever since the 2013 GS, and the TX is one of the first recipients of the new corporate face. A trapezoidal grille features horizontal, body-color slats, and the upper portion of the spool motif now takes shape thanks to the angular headlights and leading edge of the hood and front bumper. Now called a Lexus “spindle body,” expect this treatment to spread beyond the RX, TX, and RZ into the company’s other model lines.
The Nike-swoosh headlight accent has also been inverted, and together with the revised grille design, the TX looks a bit less typically Lexus – it’s an evolution for sure. An earlier styling exercise for the three-row SUV had an angled D-pillar to imitate the RX’s sloping rear window, but designers felt it looked unbalanced. Instead, they gave the crossover a more traditional pillar and square rear quarter window á la Lexus GX, then trimmed the roof with a kinky chrome strip and added Lexus-signature beveled rear haunches to tie it in with the likes of the NX and RX.
Seen up close and cruising around the track, the TX looks larger and less athletic than the angular RX, although its size lends it more presence – the 116.1-inch wheelbase and 203.1-inch length are up by 3.9 and 9.6 inches relative to its two-row sibling. There’s abundant space in the cabin as a result, with a high hip point in the third row that makes the space adequate for adults. Although it’s best left for kids and teens, I fit back there decently and could see it being okay for a jaunt across town. And Lexus made sure the TX could fit seven roll-aboard bags (one per passenger) in the cargo area, a clever metric for a three-row crossover.
And although the TX 350 AWD model I drove around Fuji’s short course was a styling-intent but not production-ready prototype, materials felt class-competitive, with nice NuLuxe faux leather upholstery and microfiber Ultrasuede cabin accents, soft-touch plastics on the dash and door panels, and appealing wood and aluminum trim throughout. There are also neat touches like reconfigurable cupholder inserts that could fit in a variety of locations, a removable rear center console on cars with the optional second-row bucket seats, and Lexus’ excellent new 12.3-inch infotainment system.
Hitting The Bricks
Thanks to a turbocharged 2.4-liter inline-four shared with the NX 350 and RX 350, the TX 350 has a reasonable 275 horsepower and 317 pound-feet of torque, with power optionally going to all four wheels; front-wheel drive is standard, however. I didn’t get a chance to drive the photo vehicle seen here, but Lexus will also offer the TX 500h with the same engine, electrified via a rear-axle electric motor to give it 366 hp and 409 lb-ft. At the top of the heap is a TX 550h+ plug-in hybrid, with a 3.5-liter V6 to boost grunt to 406 hp and an as-yet-undetermined amount of torque.
Alas, I was left with the base engine, though it felt about as energetic as the more powerful but less torquey V6s found in both the Acura MDX and Infiniti QX60. The Lexus’ eight-speed automatic shifts crisply and smoothly, and when left in Sport mode, it would readily kick down a few gears under hard braking on the short handling course. The minimal turbo lag is easy to plan for, although the engine pushed a thrashy racket into the cabin in hard driving – perhaps the production model’s sound insulation will be more robust.
Furthermore, the TX prototype I drove wasn’t much of a handler, making the legendary Fuji Motor Speedway an odd venue for my first taste of the big crossover, more so since Lexus engineers asked us to keep cornering forces underneath the threshold of tire squeal. Steering was vague and light on feel, and understeer was the order of the day even at relatively sedate speeds. The obvious caveats – “three-row crossover” and “pre-production prototype” – apply here, because even if Lexus adds some handling verve by the car’s fall 2023 on-sale date, most shoppers won’t care.
And to the TX’s credit, clipping the bumpy curbing yielded commendable body and noise control, with a muted wum-wum-wum being the only evidence of an uneven road surface. Folks upgrading from RXs will likely be perfectly satisfied with the larger SUV’s handling characteristics, which feel tuned toward genteel competence rather than eager enthusiasm.
Alas, after less than 10 laps of the short course and 15 minutes of crawl-around-and-snap-photos time, my stint in the TX was done. Motor1 will enjoy a more thorough and production-intent first test of the Lexus three-row SUV next month, which will incorporate real-word drive impressions and a greater variety of road surfaces and conditions. For now, though, the automaker’s first real attempt at a seven-passenger crossover is promising.
With far more space than the RX L it replaces, an impressive tech suite, class-competitive interior accommodations, and the Lexus-typical variety of hybridized offerings, the 2024 TX should be a big success in a segment currently dominated by the MDX. Given the RX’s seemingly limitless popularity among two-row crossover shoppers, the late arrival of the TX is surprising. But it seems like it’ll be worth the wait for the Lexus faithful, translating much of its kid sibling’s personality into a larger, more spacious setup.