By Derek Price
Lexus has long offered spacious SUVs for people who need three rows of seating.
There’s just one problem. The brand’s biggest SUVs — the GX and LX — are built on heavy ladder frames just like pickup trucks, which is ideal for off-roading but not necessarily a good fit for the upscale suburbs where luxury SUVs tend to gravitate.
On pavement, unibody construction is a much more logical choice because it weighs dramatically less, resulting in a more responsive ride and lower payments at the gas pump.
Now, for the first time ever, Lexus is selling a purpose-built three-row SUV with unibody construction called the TX.
While Lexus did offer a three-row version of the RX in the past, called the RX-L, it shoehorned a third row into a vehicle that didn’t seem properly designed for it. Kids may have fit back there, but it wasn’t great for adults.
That changes with the roomier TX.
Based on the same design as the new Toyota Grand Highlander, this fresh Lexus has a reasonably spacious third-row seat that could actually fit grown-ups comfortably.
It also offers the predictable recipe Lexus buyers have come to expect: a solid cabin built with luxurious-feeling materials, a generous suite of tech features and a syrupy, fluffy ride that makes highway trips relaxing.
I spent a week behind the wheel of the new TX, and I came away feeling like this is the first time Lexus has hit the sweet spot of the market for three-row SUVs.
The big LX is an incredible machine, but its base price around $94,000 means not many people can afford it. The outgoing 2023 GX starts at a more attainable price, around $60,000, but is rated for a combined 16 mpg in city and highway driving.
The TX 350, in contrast, is rated for 21 mpg in the city and a thrifty 27 on the highway, an impressive feat for a vehicle this size.
A turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is responsible for the thrift. Coupled to an eight-speed automatic transmission, the powertrain felt silky and competent in my tester, although not quite muscular enough to power a truly premium SUV.
The gasoline-powered TX 350 accelerates from 0-60 mph in a ho-hum 8 seconds, according to Lexus’ measurements.
If you want to upgrade to a faster TX, there two different hybrid versions to pick from.
The standard hybrid, called the TX 500h, accelerates from 0-60 in 6.1 seconds while delivering better gas mileage at the same time. Government wonks rate it at 27 mpg in the city and 28 on the highway.
A plug-in hybrid, called the TX 550h+, is two tenths of a second faster than the standard hybrid to 60 mph. It also lets you drive up to 33 miles on battery power before the gasoline engine kicks in. On the downside, it also tops the lineup in price, more than $20,000 over the TX 350’s starting sticker.
The TX comes with a long list of no-extra-cost features, which is unusual for a luxury brand. Every version comes with radar cruise control and lane centering, plus a gigantic 14-inch touchscreen that takes up the entire center of the dash to run its myriad tech features.
Its cabin seems to be designed more for fingertips than eyeballs. It looks very simple and understated in pictures, almost like the sparse, thrifty, minimalistic style of a new Volkswagen more than an old-fashioned, tufted-leather luxury car.
In real life, though, the TX feels and smells spectacular, with rattle-free construction and supple materials in all the right spots.
Pricing starts at $55,050 for the base TX 350. The hybrid version, which comes with the spirited F-Sport Performance treatment, starts at $69,350. Finally, the plug-in 550h+ Hybrid model tops the lineup at $78,050.
At A Glance
What was tested? 2024 Lexus TX 350 ($53,700). Options: None. Price as tested (including $1,350 destination charge): $55,050
Wheelbase: 116.1 in.
Length: 203.2 in.
Width: 78.4 in.
Height: 70.1 in.
Engine: 2.4-liter turbocharged four cylinder (275 hp, 317 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 21 city, 27 highway
Why buy it?
The TX is a new kind of SUV from Lexus. It’s large and spacious inside, and its car-like unibody construction means it handles better and burns less gas than Lexus’ previous truck-based SUVs.