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2015 New York Auto Show: Lexus's redesigned RX

The RX line is the most successful Lexus, representing 3 out of 10 of all Lexus vehicles ever sold

Toyota Motor Co.'s luxury brand Lexus has unveiled a redesigned RX sport utility vehicle at the New York International Auto Show.

Pulling the covers off a new version of the best-selling model in the brand's 26-year history -- 2.1 million units sold to date, representing 3 out of 10 of all Lexus vehicles ever sold -- the company said this fourth-generation RX sets new standards for performance and safety.

It is the first Lexus to come with the Lexus Safety System+. As reported here earlier this week, this optional package of semi-automated features includes systems that can brake automatically in emergencies, warn drivers who are swerving out of their lanes, and adjust headlamps to high-beam when there is no oncoming traffic.

Since going on sale in 1998, the RX has been an essential vehicle for Lexus, which last year sold 107,490 of the gas and hybrid models in the U.S.

"This model has really propped up the Lexus brand since it was introduced," said Kelley Blue Book senior analyst Karl Brauer. "The model is critical to them, and this is a critical redesign."

The refreshed RX features new headlights, new tail lights and a redesigned spindle grille. It also has blacked-out C-pillars, which creates a look Lexus calls the "floating roof."

Lexus offers the RX in the traditional gas-powered 350 version and in the gas-electric hybrid 450 version. The 350 features a 300-horsepower, 3.5-liter, V-6 engine. The 450H is powered by the a similar V-6 engine, twinned with an electric motor.

Both will be available in front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive configurations. The RX comes in a more aggressive F Sport package, too, for the first time available on both the 350 and 450H AWD models.

The RXs also offer a 12.3-inch information screen for the driver and, in the rear, heated seats and two 11.6-inch screens mounted in the front seat backs.

Also offered will be an optional "heads up display" that will project vehicle speed, navigation and entertainment information onto the driver's side windshield.

The RX will also be available in both gas and hybrid versions, the company said.

Parent company CEO Akio Toyoda has said that he wants his Toyota and Lexus vehicles to begin expressing more passion and creativity.

Will the new RX be the prescription Lexus needs for this line?

"You can tell from this redesign that they're trying to be more creative, but that's tricky," said Brauer. "You have a built-in customer base with certain expectations. Trying something new can be risky."

Twitter: @misterfleming

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