"The RX is arguably our most iconic vehicle." Those are the words of Lexus group vice president and general manager Mark Templin, who made the claim at the 2010 RX's press preview in Northern California. More symbolic than the IS, the GS, and even the LS, the lux sedan that spearheaded Lexus's U.S. launch in 1989 and sent the Europeans back to the drawing boards? According to Templin, it's entirely possible.

Perhaps he's right; since the RX 300 created the luxury-crossover segment in 1998 and the RX 400h -- the first hybrid luxury crossover -- turned gas pumps cold in 2005, consumers have often referred to the RX as the Lexus SUV or the Lexus hybrid, despite the fact that there are other notable sport/utes and hybrids in Lexus's lineup. Plus, RX sales numbers don't lie: Through November 2008, it was Lexus's best-selling vehicle not to mention the best-selling luxury SUV in the U.S.

So how does one improve upon an icon? According to RX chief engineer Takayuki Katsuda, "I wanted to reinvent the new RX," which loosely translates to a more luxurious and user-friendly interior, a stouter 3.5-liter V-6, a more-efficient Atkinson-cycle engine for the hybrid, and additional safety features, improved driving dynamics, and better fuel economy.

The new RX also welcomes Lexus's "L-finesse" design theme -- styling language introduced on the 2006 GS -- although you'd be hard-pressed to notice. While each exterior dimension is up about an inch and every body panel is unique from that of its predecessor, the 2010 RX appears conspicuously similar to the 2009 model. Maybe "L-no difference" is more apt. Regardless, the RX looks conservative in light of such bolder competitors as the Mercedes-Benz GLK and Volvo XC60, but it'll no doubt appease the RX faithful.