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The Lexus TX500h F SPORT


Lexus, headquartered with Toyota in the commercial center of North Texas, finally has a legitimate 3-row crossover for your family, friends and their Texas-size stuff. And given its ability to accommodate anything and everything, its moniker was almost a given. It’s the TX500h, and if you have to ask what TX references, grab a bus back to Boston, Pilgrim.

As I’ve previously – and repeatedly – noted, after pickup trucks the 3-row crossover has become the invariable sweet spot for new car buyers. I’m not sure if this many Americans have four kids, or if we simply have four kids worth of stuff, but a folding third row is seemingly mandatory for families venturing into a new car showroom. Forget the fact (facts don’t matter!) that a minivan will do a more efficient job in transporting three rows of people – especially if that minivan is Toyota’s own Sienna hybrid or Chrysler’s Pacific plug-in. We like our SUVs, even if they happen to share a platform with a minivan.

The TX 500h shares its platform with Toyota’s more pedestrian Grand Highlander, both built in the heart of Middle America: Princeton, Indiana. And for those of you that believed three rows of Highlander, which sits on a wheelbase of 112 inches and enjoys an overall length of 195 inches, is enough, know Toyota’s Grand Highlander is more grand, and the Lexus variant is grandest of all. When compared to the Highlander, Lexus gives you 8 inches of additional length on a wheelbase four inches longer. Obviously, that equates to more overhang, but also should provide more stowage behind the seats when all seats are up.

The TX 500h – and its non-hybrid stablemate, known simply as the TX 350 – represents the conservative arm of the Lexus design team. Since your reaction to design is often subjective, you can decide if you like it – but my subjective believes it borders on the wrong side of bland. There’s a crease here and flare there, but it doesn’t distinguish itself from other 3-row crossovers in the middle or near-luxury price points, except – of course – for its 203 inches of overall length. The TX’s grille is notably non-descript; it looks unfinished, almost pre-production. But the Lexus signature twin-spindle architecture is (thankfully) deemphasized, and that – in my opinion – is a win. Also, given that our test vehicle was equipped with the F SPORT trim it enjoyed some minor visual mods to mark that trim, but the visual tweaks are minor; a chicken-on-the-hood this isn’t.

Inside, our test vehicle’s black perforated leather was almost Germanic in its execution. Front buckets were wide and comparatively firm, second row buckets were generously proportioned, and the third row was reasonably easy to access and, once seated, provided more than enough room for two grown adults. While the instrumentation is informative and the infotainment screen reasonably intuitive (and 14 inches!), some of the interior plastics come closer to matching our expectations for a Toyota rather than Lexus. It’s one thing to be sitting in a Grand Highlander at under $60K – and quite another to having paid almost $80K for its Lexus stablemate. 

Behind the ergonomically shaped steering wheel is control that impresses as reasonably precise, along with a throttle that’s well connected. The TX’s hybrid powertrain combines a 2.4 liter turbocharged four with two AC motors for a combined output of 366 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque. Those horses propel the 5,000+ pounds of Lexus, per Car and Driver testing, to 60 in under six seconds, and will light up the ¼ mile in 14.5 seconds at 95 miles per hour.  

In short, the TX 500h is nimble – almost fun to drive – when its size would suggest otherwise. And the ownership experience you get from the Lexus brand is one of the best in retail. To be sure, that ‘experience’ represents a pretty low bar, but since launching in the U.S. in 1989 Lexus and its dealers have been at the top of consumer satisfaction surveys, and the percentage of repeat Lexus buyers is in the stratosphere.

I wouldn’t put the TX 500h on my short list if thinking of a people hauler. But I do like its relative efficiency, with an EPA estimate of 27 City/28 Highway/27 Combined. And the platform is perfect for Uber: UberTX!

Boldt, a contributor to outlets such as, Kelley Blue Book and Autoblog, brings to his laptop some forty years of experience in automotive retail, journalism and public relations. He is a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, The Washington Automotive Press Association and L.A.'s Motor Press Guild. David is the Managing Editor of txGarage, a regular panelist on the AutoNetwork Reports webcast/podcast, and the automotive contributor to Dallas' Katy Trail Weekly.

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