AUSTIN, TX – Yes, arranging a test drive of the ’24 Lexus TX here begs an obvious play on the postal service abbreviation for Texas – and how everything is bigger in the Lone Star State. But in reality, the vehicle is big – TX stands for “three-row crossover” – and more powerful with a 3.5L V-6 plug-in hybrid powertrain option exclusive to Toyota’s premium brand.
That top-of-the-line propulsion system highlights a day of driving every available powertrain offered in the TX, along with a bonus drive of the ’24 RX450h PHEV.
The TX, sibling of the 3-row Grand Highlander, arrives now in gas and hybrid forms in the TX 350 and TX 500h, respectively, followed by the aforementioned PHEV in the TX 500h+ early next year. The TX and Grand Highlander are built on the same TNGA-K platform at Toyota Motor Mfg., Indiana. The TX is the first Lexus to be manufactured at the plant.
The TX 350, in front- or all-wheel-drive, shares its turbocharged 2.4L 4-cyl. and 8-speed automatic transmission with the Grand Highlander, although the Lexus-tuned engine produces 275 hp and 317 lb.-ft. (430 Nm) of torque, up from 265 hp and 310 lb.-ft. (420 Nm) in the Toyota.
The all-wheel-drive TX 500h employs the same punchy hybrid system found in Grand Highlander Hybrid Max: a 2.4L turbocharged I-4 and 6-speed automatic gearbox paired with a rear-axle electric motor-generator. Combined output is 366 hp and 406 lb.-ft. (550 Nm) of torque, a few horses and pound-feet above the Toyota application.
While both the TX 350 and TX 500h offer ample power, and can tow up to 5,000 lbs. (2,268 kg), the TX 500h+ truly provides a flagship driving experience. The vehicle’s 259-hp, 247-lb.-ft. (335 Nm) 3.5L V-6 (pictured, below) combines with front and rear electric motors to punch out 404 hp. Total torque isn’t specified, but the system provides ample extra twist from its 179-hp, 199-lb.-ft. (270-Nm) front motor and 101-hp, 124-lb.-ft. (168-Nm) rear motor. The system propels the vehicle from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 5.9 seconds.
In keeping with Lexus branding for refined propulsion, the 500h+ provides plenty of smooth, confidence-inspiring power that doesn’t intrude on the cabin. But the flagship model adds plug-in power capable of up to 33 miles (53 km) of pure, nearly silent electric range at observed speeds of up to 70 mph (113 km/h).
Naohisa Hatta, chief engineer, attributes the smooth application of torque to improved power curves, in part due to use of premium fuel across the engine lineup, but also through careful management of turbocharger boost pressure. We note no sudden tip-in or unexpected surges of power, but rather a very Lexus-like refined application of power across the speed range.
In our drive, when not operating in electric-drive mode, we observe fuel economy ranging from 26-29 mpg (9-8.1 L/100 km), the latter matching the automaker’s estimate for combined fuel economy. It’s significant to note that the range-topping propulsion system meets or exceeds fuel efficiency compared with the powertrains in the TX 350 and TX 500h, neither of which benefit from the electric-only range in the 500h+.
We also experience Proactive Driving Assist that provides automatic braking on curves or when closing in on other vehicles, regardless of whether adaptive cruise control is activated. While active drivers may find the system as intrusive, we can see where the average, somewhat distracted driver will likely find it helpful and even capable of preventing accidents in some instances, such as while fiddling with the 21-speaker Mark Levinson surround-sound audio system or working with the detailed navigation screen.
Other driver-assistance features include full-range adaptive cruise control, Lane Tracing Assist, Road Sign Assist and Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, all of which combine to keep the vehicle centered between the lines, operating at traffic speed and aware of speed limits and other road warnings.
The TX 350 and TX 500h are on sale now, with the front-drive TX 350 starting at $55,050 and topping out at $62,550 for the Luxury AWD model, while the TX 500h starts at $69,350 and reaches $72,650 for the F Sport Performance Luxury AWD edition. Lexus includes $1,350 for freight and delivery in all prices.
Pricing for the TX 500h+ will be available closer to its on-sale date in early 2024.
Powertrains and pricing aside, we’d be remiss if we didn’t reiterate the reasoning behind the TX, namely that it provides a 6- or 7-seat option with an adult-usable third row (pictured, below), including cupholders and USB-C ports. Toyota and Lexus have made lesser attempts over the years to accommodate extra passengers and their gear. The TX truly provides a reasonably comfortable place to bring another couple or a couple of children, without pinching anyone’s space.