NEW YORK: In one of the most eagerly awaited reveals of this year's New York Auto Show, Toyota's luxury marque has taken the wraps off the fourth-generation Lexus RX luxury SUV.
The RX is the flagship brand's flagship model and, if Lexus's own take on recent automotive history is to be trusted, one of the cars that pioneered the concept of the luxury SUV crossover.
That's debatable, but what isn't is its popularity. Since its 1997 launch it has become Lexus's most successful vehicle, globally. Over 2.1 million have been sold to date and counting.
But that massive popularity can be a burden as much as a bonus. Make a new car that's too much of a departure from old one and alienate your existing customers, or play it too safe and everyone will lose interest.
As Takayuki Katsuda, RX Chief Engineer, said "Our ambition has been to make a completely new statement in this segment while building on and staying true to the ground-breaking values of previous RX generations."
Therefore, the new RX is not a clean-sheet design. It looks like a younger, more chiselled version of the car it's replacing. Its proportions are better balanced and the wheelbase has been extended to improve rear passenger space.
It also sits on noticeably bigger 20-inch wheels and has adopted that love-it-or-hate-it front #34;spindle grille' that visually connects all new models in the Lexus range.
"I believe this new RX will not only surprise new customers, it will also delight and satisfy our loyal customers, whose high expectations will be met by many innovations," said Katsuda.
Perhaps the biggest innovations are in terms of active safety. The new RX is the first Lexus to get the latest version of the Lexus Safety System + which can now look out for rear cross traffic and monitor blind spots as well as actively monitor lane discipline, and autonomously brake if the car ahead slows down or a pedestrian or other road user is about to stray into its path.
However, Lexus is primarily a luxury brand and the cabin benefits from new levels of quality wood and leather trim as well as increased space and more comfortable seats, especially in the rear. There's even the option of a retractable panoramic glass roof for a spot of impromptu stargazing. And while the passengers stare at the moon, the driver gets the option of a full color head up display and a new 12.3-inch infotainment display system.
As for engines, they're an evolution rather than a revolution. There's the option of a 3.5-litre, 300hp V6 and a hybrid V6 - also with a 300hp output, however, no fuel economy or performance figures are currently available.