The Truth About Cars » F-Sport http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 14 Sep 2014 15:36:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » F-Sport http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Review: 2013 Lexus RX 350 F-Sport (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/review-2013-lexus-rx-350-f-sport-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/review-2013-lexus-rx-350-f-sport-video/#comments Tue, 07 May 2013 20:09:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=484893 I remember when the RX rolled onto the scene in 1998. It was truly the first successful crossover as we would know it today. While everyone else was trying to produce a truck-based luxury SUV, Lexus took the Camry/ES platform, put a jelly-bean inspired box on top and jacked the ride height up to 7.7 […]

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I remember when the RX rolled onto the scene in 1998. It was truly the first successful crossover as we would know it today. While everyone else was trying to produce a truck-based luxury SUV, Lexus took the Camry/ES platform, put a jelly-bean inspired box on top and jacked the ride height up to 7.7 inches. The result was instant sales success. As we all know however, success has a price. The marshmallow-soft FWD RX lacked road feel, steering feel and sex appeal. Although it’s a bit late in the game, Lexus has decided to fix that last problem with the introduction of the 2013 RX F-Sport.

Click here to view the embedded video.

F-Sport is to Lexus what M-Sport is to BMW. (No, not M, M-Sport.) That means the RX gets a new grille, flashier wheels, some suspension upgrades, a new transmission and interior tweaks. You’ll notice I didn’t say “more power.” That’s because this is “F-Sport,” not F.

We should talk competitions first so we can discuss the F-Sport in the proper light. First up, the MDX. We need to cross that one off the list. Why? Primarily because it has seven seats, but also because the all-new MDX is being shown off in the next month or so. (Check back for an RX vs MDX overview at that time.) That leave us with the Lincoln MKX, Cadillac SRX, Volvo XC60 and the Audi Q5. Yes, in some ways the BMW X3 and Mercedes GLK compete, but their RWD drivetrains put them in a different league. Not to mention Mercedes and BMW owners don’t seem to see the RX as competition.

2013 Lexus RX 350 F-Sport, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

The nuts and bolts of the RX date back to 2009 when the platform received its third redesign, while the bumpers received a nip/tuck for the 2012 model year. The 2013 F-Sport builds on that refresh, retaining the new spindle grille but swapping horizontal slats for the signature F-Sport “squiggle” grille. Since our readers have complained we don’t offer enough subjective styling criticism, here we go. I’m feeling the love for Lexus’ F-Sport nose, especially on the RX. The new IS F-Sport takes the F-Sport squiggle theme to the extreme with lines going from the hood to the air dam, but the RX breaks things up with a body-colored bumper section in the middle. Overall I find the look elegant with just a hint of aggressiveness. My only issue is: every RX should look like this.

I’m not sure what Lincoln’s engineers were smoking when they styled the MKX’s nose, but it must have been some strong stuff. As much as folks think I dislike GM products, I find the SRX to be aggressive, bold, and stylish, all in good ways. The Q5 makes me yawn. Volvo’s styling has always struck a chord with me, but the Swedes aren’t known for bold and daring. The MDX? I can’t get past the beak. My personal style ranking would be: SRX, RX F-Sport, XC60, Q5 and then the MKX. Sorry Lincoln.

Interior

The 2012 refresh didn’t bring sweeping changes to the interior. In truth, aside from an infotainment software update and a new steering wheel, the only changes were to the color palette. That means we still get the slightly rubbery (but still soft) injection molded instrument panel dominated by an infotainment screen. The shifter still pops horizontally out of the dash, and we still have 2009-era plastics. Keeping the competition in mind, the MKX has an interior style I appreciate more, and has more soft-touch plastics. However, Lincoln’s interior quality is more of a mixed bag than the Lexus. The Audi Q5 strikes me as a little cheap on the inside, sorry Audi fans. The Volvo scores points in my book for diverging from the typical CUV interior style and ties with the SRX in terms of style, fit and finish and interior feel. The Lexus slots in second, followed by the MKX while the Q5 brings up the rear.

Back in the RX, the front seats are comfortable and supportive, just as you expect from Lexus, but the passenger seat doesn’t have the same range of electric adjustibility as the driver’s seat. In tune with the RX’s mission as an upscale crossover, (marketed towards buyers older than the RAV4 rabble) the rear seats are higher off the ground and more suitable for adult transportation. Thanks to the FWD based drivetrain, the RX has no differentiable “hump” in the rear making sitting three-across far less painful than RWD based crossovers. Cargo hauling is the RX’s strong suit with the largest hold of the bunch.

Infotainment

You won’t find many examples on dealer lots, but base RX models get a standard 7-inch “multi-information” screen in the dashboard. Available as a separate $860 option, standard on F-Sport and included on most option packages is the “display audio” system. Display audio bumps you up to an 8-inch LCD with a backup cam, HD Radio, rotary controller in the center console and the 12-speaker Lexus branded audio system. This middle system is my personal preference because it is the only way to get the 8-inch screen without Lexus’ joystick controller device.

Lexus calls the controller “remote touch,” I call it the most aggravating input method so far. Remember Volvo’s pop-up nav with the controller on the back of the steering wheel? This is worse. Don’t get me wrong, the system is easy to use; it works like a computer mouse: just point and click. My problem is two fold. First, you have to spend more time staring at the screen to operate the system than you did with the old Lexus touchscreen interface. Second, the location of the controller makes it difficult for your front passenger to use the system. If you want to know more, check out the video at the top of this page.

2013 Lexus RX 350 F-Sport, Interior, Center Console, Picture Console of Alex L. Dykes

If SMS text-to-speech and smartphone app integration are must haves, be prepared to shell out $2,775 for that navigation system ($1,916 over the display audio system). Nearly three grand is a steep premium, even in this segment. On the flip side you do get full voice commands for your USB/iDevice, XM radio with XM data services, and Lexus tosses in the 12-speaker sound system.

I appreciate my tunes, do I’d also need to splurge on the $995 15-speaker Mark Levinson sound system. With 330-watts and a subwoofer, the system is a noticeable step up from the base or 12-speaker systems, but is not as impressive as the 650-watt system in the XC60, or the Meridian systems in the Range Rover Evoque. With the blind spot monitoring system ($650), the nav, up-level sound and parking sensors, our RX 350 F-Sport rang in just under $53,000 without destination.

Drivetrain

Since F-Sport isn’t about power, you’ll find an identical 270 horsepower 3.5L V6 engine under the hood of the RX 350 and the RX 350 F-Sport. This is the same smooth “2GR-FE” engine used in everything from the Toyota RAV4 to the Lexus ES 350. That also means this mill doesn’t benefit from Lexus’ direct-injection sauce used to increase power and torque in the IS and GS. With only 248 lb-ft of twist on tap at a lofty 4,700 RPM, the only competitor with less is the Volvo XC60 3.2. But we must compare apples-to-apples and that’s a problem here because Volvo also offers the most powerful engine in this segment at 325 HP and a whopping 354 lb-ft of twist from the 3.0L twin-scroll turbo in the XC60 R-Design.

To compensate for the power deficit, Lexus connected the V6 to the world’s first 8-speed automatic transaxle. The new U880F transaxle features a much lower effective first gear ratio at 17.31:1 vs 14.48 for the non-F-Sport model (gear x final drive) and a taller final gear at 2.28:1 vs 2.66:1. The new ratios make the F-Sport quicker off the line, quicker to 60 by 4/10ths and improves fuel economy by 2MPG on the highway. The 18/26 MPG (city/highway) score ties with the 8-speed Q5 3.0T for the best fuel economy, 2-3MPGs better than the Americans or the Swede.

Drive

The RX has never been known as a corner carver, something that is expected of a sports package. So Lexus stiffened the dampers, fiddled with the springs, made the optional low-profile rubber standard and dropped in a version of the cross damping system found in the CT hybrid hatchback. The system uses two braces with integrated gas-shocks, connecting the left and right side of the chassis (front and rear). The braces aren’t there to increase rigidity, but rather to absorb and compensate for body vibrations. I wouldn’t say the system makes a night and day difference, but driving the F-Sport back-to-back with a “regular” RX on broken pavement, there was a difference. Depending on what you expect from your RX, that difference may excite or disappoint. If you want a marshmallow soft ride with more shove, get the RX 450h. If you’re just interested in a polished ride, get the regular RX 350 since the F-Sport tuning seems almost at odds with the RX’s mission.

You notice I didn’t say: wider tired. Most companies include wider and grippier rubber in their sports packages, but that could have led to more road noise, lower fuel economy and a crashier ride. Those don’t sound very “Lexus” to me, and apparently the engineers thought the same. Pity. While this is an omission you can fix aftermarket, the narrow 235-width tires and hefty 4,510lb curb weight mean the RX lands at the bottom of the pack when it comes to grip. That means even the porky 4,430lb MKX manages to hustle through the twisties with more poise than the RX. If grip is what you seek, look no further than the XC60 T6 AWD R-Design thanks to the lowest curb weight and some seriously wide 255/45R20 rubber. You know, for this segment.

2013 Lexus RX 350 F-Sport, Gauges, Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

The case for the F-Sport starts to fall apartwhen you look at that $53,000 price tag and consider our RX lacked a few options like the heads-up display and radar cruise control. That’s a $7,000 premium over the faster Volvo XC60 T6, and a $3,000 premium over Volvo’s performance trimmed XC60 R-Design. Feature for feature, the F-Sport commands a higher price than the Lincoln, Cadillac or Audi as well, not to mention those Germans we didn’t talk about. Lexus counters with a reliability and dealer reputation that is second to none. But, you can have plenty of off-warranty repairs done to your Euro crossover for the difference. Still, the RX leases well thanks to a high residual value and I suspect that has something to do with its continued dominance when it comes to sales.

Lexus has, without a doubt, created the perfect RX. It looks better than the regular RX, goes faster, is more economical, and handles slightly better as well. If you’re reading this because you want the RX, then go ahead and buy one. If however you want the best handling and performing small luxury crossover, stop by the Volvo dealer. Want sexy? Check out the 2014 Evoque with the new 9-speed.

Hit it or Quit It?

Hit it

  • I have to admit, the F-Sport nose job works for me
  • Lexus reliability reputation

Quit it

  • Down on power compared to everyone else.
  • Lexus Remote Touch. Enough said.

Lexus provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.35 Seconds

0-60: 6.55 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15 Seconds @ 92 MPH

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 19.2 MPG over 679 miles

 

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Review: 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/review-2013-lexus-ls-460-f-sport-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/review-2013-lexus-ls-460-f-sport-video/#comments Mon, 08 Apr 2013 15:30:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=480822 While BMW has been turning the 7-Series into a luxuriously silent highway cruiser, Lexus has been busy injecting sport into their isolated lineup. In 2006 we got the 417HP IS-F, in 2011 came the insane LF-A super car, and in 2012 we were introduced to Lexus’ styling and suspension tweak brand F-Sport with the GS350 […]

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While BMW has been turning the 7-Series into a luxuriously silent highway cruiser, Lexus has been busy injecting sport into their isolated lineup. In 2006 we got the 417HP IS-F, in 2011 came the insane LF-A super car, and in 2012 we were introduced to Lexus’ styling and suspension tweak brand F-Sport with the GS350 F-Sport. It was only a matter of time until the spindle grille and the looks-fast F package appeared on Lexus’s flagship LS. Can a “looks-fast” and “handles-better” package help the LS regain the sales crown? Or does Lexus need to go back to the drawing board for some go-fast love?

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

Lexus’s new styling direction has been somewhat controversial, which is probably a first for Lexus having subscribed to the “simple is elegant” mantra since 1989. While I wasn’t sure about the new “spindle” grille on the 2011 GS and I need to see the 2014 IS to figure out if I like it, the spindle on the LS suits me just fine. The problem in my mind is the proportions. The LS’ blunt nose, wide stance and long hood just work while the shorter snout and more pronounced spindle on the IS seem a bit too “try hard” to me at the moment. In addition to the blacked out grill you see above, F-Sport models get a lowered stance, Brembo brakes, revised suspension tuning and unique wheels. The cost for the added kit? $12,080 over the base LS 460′s starting price of $71,990. Out the door at $84,965 the LS 460 F-Sport undercuts a similarly equipped BMW 740i M-Sport by nearly $2,000. Mercedes? The 295HP V6 S400 starts at $92,350. If you thought the LS sells on reliability and value, you’re right.

Interior

Most manufacturers spend the cash on the outside of the “sport” model leaving less of the budget for interior tweaks and so it is with the F-Sport. We get some tweaked seats, aluminum pedals, a black Alcantara headliner and Lexus’ hallmark wood trim has been swapped for aluminum. The rest of the standard LS’ split-level dash remains, dominated by a large 12.3-inch LCD. Befitting a vehicle this expensive, the interior in our tester screamed “attention to detail” with perfect seams, high quality materials and perfect color matching.

That price tag is important to keep in mind. While the LS F-Sport ranges from $84,965 to $88,115, even the “lowly” 740i can be optioned up to $111,295 if you’re not careful. As a result you won’t find some of the expensive options on the BMW like a full-leather dashboard, heads-up display, night vision, or fancy ceramic knobs. Of course, few 7-Series shoppers check those option boxes and the more you add the more there is to go wrong. Lexus’ mantra has long been to keep things as simple as possible by offering high levels of standard equipment, bundling options in packages and steering clear of any gadget or gizmo that could go wrong within a warranty period. Few BMW shoppers load their 7-series to the gills anyway, so 90% of shoppers will find all they seek in the F-Sport’s black-only interior.

 

The F-Sport’s 16-way power driver’s seat and 12-way passenger’s seat have beefed-up bolstering and embossed logos on the headrests.  While I found the seats to be very comfortable for my 6-foot frame, the GS’ 18-way seats offer a wider range of motion and customization. Thanks to the thicker bolstering on the seat back and bottom the F-Sport will hold you in your seat should you decide to drift on your way to the financial district. All F-Sport models come with an F-Sport specific steering wheel based heavily on the standard LS tiller. An electric tilt/telescoping steering column with memory is standard.

Lexus’s flagship sedan is as much about the rear occupants as the front. To that end the F-Sport still has a three-position rear throne with outboard “buckets” and a high-mounted center seat. Thanks to the typical RWD “hump” and the bucket-like design of the outboard seats, the center spot should be left to homunculi. Ditching that 5th person will make the rear more comfortable anyway and four full-sized American adults will have no headroom or legroom issues in even the short wheelbase LS. Befitting the “adult” tastes the LS is designed to appeal to, the rear seat cushions aren’t sitting on the floor providing more thigh support than your average sedan. As you would expect with any vehicle this size, the LS sports a large 18 cubic foot trunk.

Infotainment & Gadgets

Widescreen infotainment systems are all the rage and 2013 the LS up to date with a large 12-inch LCD in the dash. Positioned in its own “pod”, the screen is higher and closer to the normal sight lines of a driver than before. The system ditches the intuitive touchscreen interface Lexus has used for the better part of a decade for the Lexus joystick (it’s officially called Lexus Remote Touch.) I won’t beat around the bush, I hate it. I am however open to suggestion, so please post your thoughts and experiences with Remote Touch in the comment section below.

My issues with LRT are: it occupies a great deal of room on the center console,and it takes far more hand-eye-brain coordination than a touchscreen. Every time I am in a Lexus I find myself glancing at the screen and fiddling with the little control pad far more than when I’m in a competitor’s luxury sedan. This increased distraction hasn’t gone unnoticed by my better half who constantly nags me about keeping my eyes on the road. Want to enter an address using the on-screen QWERTY keyboard? It’s obvious why Lexus won’t let you do that in motion.

To soften the blow Lexus throws in the same media device voice command interface as the other Lexus and premium Toyota products receive. The system is snappy, managed to figure out every command I threw at and has a more natural sounding voice than MyLincoln Touch. Helping counter the nagging Lexus Remote Touch caused (see how that’s not my fault now), the available Mark Levinson sound system can drown out even the most shrill mother-in-laws.

Perhaps reinforcing that Lexus focuses on the “meat” of the luxury segment and not the one-percent, you won’t find the same level of gee-wizardry in the F-Sport as some of the Euro competitors. You won’t find night vision, a full-leather dashboard, expensive ceramic knobs, massaging front seats, heads-up displays or full-LCD instrument clusters in the Lexus showroom. Instead, Lexus doubles down on perfect seams, quiet cabins, a high level of standard equipment and quantities of wood that would make Jaguar blush. New for 2013 is an optional collision prevention system that augments the collision warning system from last year’s model with the ability to fully stop the car while traveling at low speeds to prevent an accident. Much like the system Volvo has been stuffing in their cars since 2009, the system is active from about 5-24 MPH. Lexus has also tweaked their radar-based dynamic cruise control to now take the LS to a complete stop and take off again in stop-and-go traffic.

Drivetrain

The naturally aspirated luxury car V8 is an endangered species now that BMW, Audi and Mercedes are embracing turbo love. Lexus is the lone holdout using the same 4.6L naturally aspirated V8 engine the LS 460 debuted with in 2006.The direct-injection mill produces 386 ponies at 6,400 RPM (dropping to 360 in the AWD model) and 367lb-ft of twist at 4,100. Power delivery is typical of a medium-displacement DOHC V8; there is enough grunt at the low end to chirp the wheels, torque builds in a linear fashion and most of the “go” happens near red-line. The observant will note the F-Sport is down on power when pitted against the latest in German twin-turbo V8s putting the F-sport at a serious disadvantage when stoplight racing. In terms of power, the LS 460 compares most directly to the 740i with BMW’s turbocharged six-cylinder engine. On the bright side, the F-Sport’s engine is incredibly smooth and has one of the best engine sounds on this segment (you can thank the turbos for messing up the German symphony.) Why didn’t Lexus drop the 5.0L V8 from the IS-F into the F-Sport? The world may never now.

For F-Sport duty the LS gets a few software tweaks and performance-themed upgrades. The 8-speed automatic has been reprogrammed to rev-match downshifts, there are some snazzy shift paddles on the steering wheel, and there’s a Torsen limited slip differential out back. F-Sport tuning adds variable gear ratio steering to the electro-mechanical power steering unit and an additional “Sport+”  driving mode for the engine, transmission, steering and suspension systems

Drive

The naturally aspirated V8 defines the way the F-Sport at the dragstrip. Because the engine needs to rev to 4,100 RPM for torque to peak, it lacks the immediacy and urgency you feel from the twin-turbo Merc and Bimmer. The 8-speed automatic uses closely spaced low gears to help improve off-the-line performance allowing the F-Sport to hit 60 in 5.47 seconds. That’s a hair slower than the BMW 740i and half a second slower than the 750 or S550. However, if a great soundtrack is more important to you than shove, consider that turbos interfere with classic V8 sounds due to their location in the intake and exhaust plumbing. Further boosting the high-revving V8 howl, Lexus dropped a sound tube into the intake to pipe more “V8″ into the cabin.

The mission of sport packages is primarily to improve looks, and secondarily improve handling. That makes Lexus’ decision to put an air-suspension in the F-Sport a bit unusual. You see, there are three basic types of adaptive suspension systems. The first uses a strut filled with a ferromagnetic fluid whose viscosity changed when electricity is applied (GM and Audi like that one). The second is a more typical gas-filled strut with an electronically controlled valve to alter damping characteristics (Volvo, Ford and Chrysler use this one). Last is the air-suspension. Unlike the other two, air systems don’t just alter the damping, they are also involved in maintaining (or altering) the ride height. This means they both damp and keep your car off the ground. By altering the pressure in the internal air bags, ride firmness and height can be adjusted. While air suspensions have a pedigree (everyone from Rolls Royce to Jaguar uses one) having a vehicle ride on four small “Aero Beds” leads to an unusual feel when the road starts to curve. I’m no stranger to this technology, my own Jaguar Super V8 uses a similar system, and it delivers a similar feel. There’s a reason  Jaguar ditched the system for their new breed of corner-clawing kitties.

Despite the F-Sport having a lowered ride height over the regular LS and the air suspension being tweaked for a firmer ride, the system is firm but floaty. Sort of like over-inflating that air mattress you pull out for overnight guests. (My Jaguar feels exactly the same and so does the Mercedes S-Class.) That doesn’t mean the F-Sport is a land barge, it just means the feeling is unusual. Feelings aside, the F-Sport handles extremely well thanks to grippy low-profile rubber and Lexus’ variable gear ratio steering system.

VGRS (as Lexus calls it) has a more natural and direct feel than BMW’s active steering system, especially on close-quarter mountain switchbacks where you’re sea-sawing the wheel as you alternate mashing the stop and go pedals. The system fools you into thinking the F-Sport is lighter and more balanced than the BMW when in reality they very similar. At 53:47 (front:rear), the F-Sport is a bit heavier in the nose than the near-prefect 50:50 BMW 740i (but not far off the heavier 750i), but the Lexus hides it well, only giving up the secret when you’ve hit the limit and the nose begins to plow. Compared to the heavier 750i or S550, the LS feels lighter on its feet. Surprised? You shouldn’t be, after all, BMW is the new Meercedes. While I would take the more neutral vehicle, I know a majority of real-world owners prefer a car that leans toward understeer. (Fear not, if your foot is mashing the go pedal, the F-Sport will get all kinds of tail-happy  on you.)

Out on the highway or driving through pot-holed downtown streets, the air suspension makes more sense because it soaks up pavement imperfections like a Cadillac Fleetwood, which is after all the raison d’être of the Lexus brand. While I think I would have demanded the engineers swap the airbags for some steel coils, I don’t think that would make the F-Sport sell any better. Without more shove, the F-Sport will never be direct competition for the new breed of German luxury sedan. Instead the F-Sport is quite simply the best looking Lexus to date and the most dynamic large sedan the Japanese have ever built.  Is that enough to regain the sales crown? Only time will tell, but the bold grille, F-Sport model and low sticker price sure can’t hurt.

 

Hit it

  • Well priced luxury car without a discount brand cachet.
  • Impeccable reliability reputation.
  • The F-Sport isn’t as demure as a modern 7-series but not as flashy as a Maserati, etc.

Quit it

  • The Lexus joystick device is my least favorite infotainment input device.
  • Fewer gadgets and gizmos are available compared to the BMW 7-Series and Audi A8.

 

 Lexus provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.215 Seconds

0-60: 5.47 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.09 Seconds @ 100.4 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: xx MPG over 585 Miles

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First Drive Review: 2014 Lexus IS (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/first-drive-review-2014-lexus-is-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/first-drive-review-2014-lexus-is-video/#comments Mon, 25 Mar 2013 15:34:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=481480 Every car company hates the BMW 3-Series. It’s always the benchmark, always the sales champion, always the golden boy. BMW shifted nearly 100,000 3-Series models in America last year and they did so not by being “the best” luxury sedan, but by pandering to the shopping public’s desires. Buyers have shown they want a comfy […]

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Every car company hates the BMW 3-Series. It’s always the benchmark, always the sales champion, always the golden boy. BMW shifted nearly 100,000 3-Series models in America last year and they did so not by being “the best” luxury sedan, but by pandering to the shopping public’s desires. Buyers have shown they want a comfy ride with a luxury logo on the front, they want good fuel economy and they want to hear journalists say how well the car handles on a track. The average buyer will never be on a track, but it’s critical to know your car belongs there. The old IS was a good car on the track, but its demure looks sold more on Lexus’ reliability and dealer reputation than the car’s track diaries. As we know from Volvo and Lexus’ sales numbers in this segment, two things don’t move metal: reliability and safety. For 2014 Lexus went back to the drawing board completely redesigning the IS sedan to be their most dynamic sedan ever. Does it have what it takes to take on the Germans and Infiniti’s new Q50?

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

Let’s get the disclaimer out of the way up front: the IS-F and convertible IS C are continuing as-is for 2014. Lexus wouldn’t comment on any time-frames for their refresh, but you can bet nobody in Japan wants to keep stocking parts for both generations of IS vehicles. 

Lexus’ exterior styling has always stuck me as graceful, sophisticated and reserved. While that mantra holds true for the side profile of the IS, the front reveals the largest and most stylized grille, not just for Lexus, but for the whole small luxury segment. The photos above are of the F-Sport model which has a more aggressive “squiggle” grille rather than the more reserved horizontal lines of the regular IS. Regardless of the model you choose, this is one big maw. Lexus tells us the sloping profile and demure grill of the old IS, got no respect on the autobahn while this ginormous opening makes Germans run for their lives for fear of being devoured. That I believe. I tried to keep my distance for fear of being consumed myself. Whether you like the grille or not (I find it quite attractive on the F-Sport, a little unbalanced on the regular) our drive around Texas proved the grille received more looks than the old IS.

Out back, less has changed with the rear being more reserved than the front but it’s the side profile where things really change. The 2014 IS is a whopping 3.5 inches longer than the 2013 model and rides on a 2.7 inch longer wheelbase. Combined with the blunter nose which makes the hood look longer, the IS has gone from stubby to elegant. Remind you of anyone else in the segment? Yep, the BMW 3 grew by leaps and bounds last year. Unlike the Caddy designers who didn’t expect their target to shift so much, Lexus outpaced the 3 landing about an inch longer than the BMW.

Interior

Rather than evolving the IS interior, Lexus has gone for a revolution appearing to have changed absolutely everything about the IS’ interior. I’m not 100% sold on the design yet, mainly because of that enormous airbag bump on the passenger side. Unlike the Germans and Swedes that seem to enjoy using exactly the same interior design scaled up or down in every model, Lexus opts for similar cues but unique components. I give them credit for going this extra design mine but for my tastes I think I prefer something less avant-garde. But then again I own an X308 Jaguar XJ, the antithesis of modern.

Most companies would shy away from discussing their standard pleather seats but Lexus is a different sort of company and spoke at length about their NuLuxe faux-cowhide. In a further twist, F-Sport models eschew real leather for the fake. Thankfully this is one of the best leather look-alikes going and if you didn’t have a leather model on hand to compare it against you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference by touch. Smell is another thing, the NuLuxe interiors don’t have an unpleasant aroma, but its obviously not a leather smell. On the flip side Lexus tells us these are the first seats where the foam padding is molded into the upholstery fabric making the padding and the surface one unit. This supposedly will result in a longer lifetime and less “bunching” over time.

It’s hard to say what the IS would be like to live with since we had such a limited time with the car, so be sure to check back with us when we can snag one for a week. During our limited time in all varieties of IS, the front seats proved supportive with a nice range of motion although the seating position may be low for some drivers. Rear seat room has increased a much needed 1.6 inches while front legroom has gone up nearly an inch allowing a 6′ passenger (yours truly) to sit behind a 6’2 driver in relative comfort, a significant change from the last generation IS. Sadly however all that room had to come from somewhere and while some came from the wheelbase stretch, plenty came from the trunk as well with the cargo hold dropping from 13.3 cubes to 10.8 which is about 40% smaller than BMW’s cargo hold.

Infotainment & Gadgets

One item that hasn’t changed for the better (in my opinion) is the infotainment system. 2014 brings a raft of new features from traffic maps on non-navigation equipped models to predictive traffic, improved voice recognition and some slick smartphone app features. Alas, the lord giveth and he taketh away. Along with the new software comes Lexus’ Remote Touch input device, or as I prefer to call it: the Lexus joystick. Sadly I find little joy in the mouse-like controller. Don’t get me wrong, it is intuitive, I just don’t find it as easy to use as the competition’s knob interfaces and I think it takes way more eye-time off the road to use than Lexus’ old touchscreen systems. To counter this problem, the 7-inch LCD is placed higher the the dash where it looks small thanks to a housing that would appear to be designed to accommodate a larger screen. BMW’s wide-screen 8.8-inch display may not be that much bigger, but its up-close-and-personal location make it look large in comparison. In an odd twist if you don’t buy navigation you keep the 7-inch screen but trade the joystick for a rotary knob.

Since the systems we experienced were not production ready and not all the features were available for us to test but we were able to preview a number of features that may help soften the blow if you’re not a joystick fan. First up, the base IS models without navigation now get weather reports and a static traffic map updated via free HD Radio broadcasts so you don’t have to shell out for an XM subscription.You also get smartphone app integration standard with pass-though voice commands to supported phone apps. The optional navigation system sports improved graphics, redesigned menus making it easier to use the jotstick, more frequent live traffic updates and the ability to predict future traffic. The future traffic prediction feature uses historical data to show you what traffic will be like later and allow you to alter your travel plans accordingly. If outdated POI databases raise your hackles, the nav system will not simultaneously search the car’s POI database and an online POI database via your paired smartphone simultaneously and use the more recent search results.

Lexus doesn’t offer any sort of heads-up display ala BMW, but you can gadgets like radar cruise control, Mark Levinson branded audio system, blind spot monitoring and lane departure warning. No pricing on how much the IS or any of its gadgets will cost, but you can bet that Mark Levinson system won’t be cheap. The F-Sport package adds one more standard gizmo that makes it an absolute must-have package: the best LCD disco dash I’ve ever seen. Based on an 8-inch LCD the display uses a physical ring (you can see it in the picture above) to frame the tachometer so it looks more like a real gauge. The F-Sport also has a party trick up its sleeve, the moves. Sliding left in perfect synchronization with the display software it  “reveals” the trip computer, configuration menu, infotainment displays and vehicle info on the right. Based on a similar display in Lexus’ supercar (the LF-A), this has to be the coolest cluster available this side of the Tesla model S. Lexus, I almost forgive you for the joystick.

Drivetrain

IS models still use the same smooth V6s as last year with the IS 250 getting (logically) a 2.5L 204HP direct-injection V6 and the IS 350 gets a 3.5L 306HP direct-injection V6. As you would expect from naturally aspirated engines, full power is delivered at 6,400RPM for both engines and torque comes to the boil at 4,800. Compared to the 3.0L turbos in the Audi, BMW and Volvo, the IS 350′s 277lb-ft is a distinct disadvantage. Meanwhile the IS 250′s 185lb-ft pale in comparison to the 255-266lb-ft from the small turbos in the same Euro trio. If that sounds like Lexus is at a disadvantage you may be right, however BMW is chasing Lexus down the power market with the 180HP 320i.

The IS 250 RWD uses the same A960E 6-speed automatic as last year while IS 250 AWD and IS 350 AWD models still use the same beefier A760H 6-speed. The big change is in the RWD IS 350 which gets the 8-speed cog-swapper from the fire-breathing IS-F bringing the IS350 up to gear-parity with BMW and Audi and one cog ahead of the Infiniti Q50 and Mercedes C. The extra gears grant the IS 350 RWD an extra MPG on the highway (28) but the city and combined numbers remain the same (19 and 22.) The IS 250 RWD enjoys a bump of 1 MPG, but only in the combined score bringing it to 21/30/24 (City/Highway/Combined.)

The reason for the slight change is that the 8-speed transmission and final drive ratios have performance in mind with a very low 16.59:1 effective first gear ratio compared to the 14.36:1 in the 2012 IS 350. 8th gear manages to be only a hair taller than 6th in the old unit at 2.47:1 vs 2.38:1. Gears 3-6 are all close ratio gears which help the naturally aspirated V6 stay in its [comparatively] narrow power band. Helping the IS 350 feel a bit more responsive the transmission fully locks the torque converter in gears 2-8 and the whole system is programmed to blip the throttle on manual downshifts.

For reasons known only to themselves, Lexus has decided not to offer the hybrid IS 300h for sale in America. The cagey answer we were given is that Lexus is “continually reviewing their product planning.” Pity, it is the IS I would buy tomorrow if I could.

Track Drive

Most of my time with the IS was spent on an intriguing track with tight corners, little banking and two straights where we hit 110+ in the IS 350 F-Sport RWD, a BMW 335i M-Sport a C350 with the AMG sport package and of course, last year’s IS 350 as well. The lack of an Infiniti G37 was understandable since the new Q50 is replacing it soon. The lack of an ATS 3.6 was interesting considering Caddy’s recent sales success (the ATS ranks fourth in sales YTD, behind the C, 3 and G.)  Out on the track the IS 350 F-Sport RWD proved to be a very responsive sedan with excellent grip and  suspension tuning that is near perfection. The variable gear ratio steering is well weighted but just about as numb as anything you’ve driven. Of course numb steering is nothing new to this segment as both the BMW and Mercedes were devoid of feedback as well. ]

The responsiveness of the IS in tight corners really demonstrated Lexus’ dedication to making every system in the IS work well together. The dynamic suspension, variable gear steering and the intelligent downshifting logic in the transmission made the IS feel incredibly nimble. The Mercedes felt just as I had expected on the track: heavy and soft. Despite this the Merc has a decent amount of grip and is well matched to the IS 350 in terms of power. Hop in the BMW 335 however and the IS 350′s major deficiency is obvious: thrust. Despite the BMW feeling less buttoned down than the IS 350, my laps were faster and the experience was more entertaining because you had to have more skill to handle the heaps of torque put out by the 3.0L turbo. While my overall lap time was faster in the 335, I noticed I wasn’t as fast overall in the sweeping straights in the BMW, and that’s because the IS feels more connected to the road, more stable and a bit more predictable. While there wasn’t an Audi S4 in the pack, I can tell you what it would be been like. The S4 and the Volvo S60 T6 put some incredible power to the ground and I love AWD, but (and this is a big but on the track), they are both fairly nose heavy and that’s really obvious on a track like this. The ATS 3.6 however I suspect would have won “journalists” choice at the event owing to Cadillac’s efforts to replicate the driving dynamics of the old 3-Series, you know, before the 335 became “American-sized.”

While the IS 350 F-Sport felt like one with the track for the most part, high speed braking is a problem area for the IS. Because of a hairpin turn at the end of the straight you have to drop from 110+ to 35 as quickly and smoothly as possible while maintaining control. The Mercedes and the 335 accomplish this maneuver without a problem but the IS 350 felt light under hard braking and on some road surfaces a little squirrely as well. In fact the IS 350 may be slightly lighter in the rear than the Germans but it’s not a huge difference with the IS coming in around 52/48 and the IS 350 51.5/48.5.

Does any of that matter out on the road? Nope. The IS 350 is a perfectly competent luxury sedan in either setting. While the IS 350 gives away something to BMW under high-speed braking, the IS 350 never felt out of control. The feel behind the wheel is excellent, albeit slower than the 335. Without pricing available from Lexus it’s hard to form a final opinion on the 2014 Lexus IS, but since it is unlikely to have changed much it should pose a good value slotting in under the 335 in price. If you can give up thrust for a more connected feel, reliability for a smaller infotainment screen and high-speed-braking feel for something more nimble in the corners, the IS 350 is your car. Until Lexus’ brand image shifts (or they jam some turbos on their smooth V6), the 3-series will continue being hated and secretly loved by the competition.

 

Hit it

  • Excellent road manners.
  • The F-Sport nose job makes it the most aggressive looking vehicle in the segment.
  • Coolest LCD instrument cluster. Ever.

Quit it

  • Down on power.
  • The infotainment screen is small and the joystick is a pain.
  • Fewer electronic gizmos available than the competition.

Lexus flew me to the IS release event in Austin where they stuffed me full of food and beer.

2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Exteruiotr, F-Sport Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Exteruiotr, F-Sport Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Exteruiotr, F-Sport Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Exteruiotr, F-Sport Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Exteruiotr, F-Sport Front grille, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Exteruiotr, F-Sport Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Exteruiotr, F-Sport Logo, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Exteruiotr, F-Sport Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Exteruiotr, F-Sport Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Exteruiotr, F-Sport Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, F-Sport LCD Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, F-Sport LCD Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, F-Sport , Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, F-Sport Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, F-Sport Back Seat, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, F-Sport Center Console, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, F-Sport Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, F-Sport Steering Wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Standard Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Infotainment and HVAC controlls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Center Console, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Drive Mode Selector, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250, Interior, USB Port, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250, Interior, Glovebox, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250, Engine, 2.5L V6, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250, Engine, 2.5L V6, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Raer Seats Folded, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Rear Seats Folded, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Raer Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Lexus Enform Infotainment Screen, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, HVAC Controlls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Steering Wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Rear Door, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, front seat, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, seat controlls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, seat controlls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Front Door, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

 

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Comparison Review: BMW 528i xDrive vs. Lexus GS 350 AWD http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/comparison-review-bmw-528i-xdrive-vs-lexus-gs-350-awd/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/comparison-review-bmw-528i-xdrive-vs-lexus-gs-350-awd/#comments Sun, 06 May 2012 19:21:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=443098 With each revision since 1990, BMWs have become more like Lexus. Meanwhile, Lexus (some of them, anyway) have become more like BMWs. With the latest iterations, have the 5-Series and GS met somewhere in a muddled middle, or does each retain a distinct identity? With the latest, “F10″ 5-Series, BMW softened the car’s lines, returning […]

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With each revision since 1990, BMWs have become more like Lexus. Meanwhile, Lexus (some of them, anyway) have become more like BMWs. With the latest iterations, have the 5-Series and GS met somewhere in a muddled middle, or does each retain a distinct identity?

With the latest, “F10″ 5-Series, BMW softened the car’s lines, returning it at least halfway to the cleaner look of the E39. There’s nothing here to turn people off, but not much to turn them on, either. I personally prefer the tauter, more athletic appearance of the E60, despite its aesthetic excesses.

The first Lexus GS was designed by Giugiaro to be a Jaguar. But Jaguar didn’t want it, and Lexus did. [Update: a commenter notes that Italdesign has debunked this widespread belief. Though the world saw the Jaguar first, the firm designed the GS earlier.] The second GS’s more aggressive appearance was clearly an in-house effort. With both the third and latest generations of the car Lexus has claimed a new, distinctive design language (“L-Finesse” and “Waku Doki”), but each has nevertheless, like the second, appeared vaguely German. Viewed from the side in Luxury trim, the 2013 GS 350 looks much like a pudgier F10 5-Series, itself a pudgier E39. Medium red does not flatter the car.

Opt for the F-Sport (with a more aggressive fascia and gray 19-inch wheels) in silver, and the new GS looks much better.

Inside, the cars remain dissimilar. Though BMW interiors have become more artful over the years, their ambiance remains more businesslike, even severe. The GS’s interior looks and feels softer and more conventionally luxurious. One odd touch: a partially upholstered (in insufficiently convincing vinyl) instrument panel has padding in the areas farthest from the passengers. Done right, an upholstered instrument panel takes an interior up a notch or two. This one isn’t done right.

Much more important and done right: the highly adjustable seats included in both the F-Sport and Luxury Packages are far superior to the smaller, oddly contoured front buckets in the previous GS. They’re also both more comfortable and more supportive than those in the BMW. The Lexus approach to four-way power lumbar adjusters, with independent upper and lower adjustments, yields a better shape than a single bulge that can be shifted vertically. No longer offered in the BMW, but included with these seats in the Lexus: power-adjustable side bolsters. You sit a little higher relative to the instrument and door panels in the Lexus than in the BMW. Both have roomier, more comfortable rear seats than their predecessors, rendering the LS and 7-Series less necessary. Not so comfortable in the Lexus: a large bulge beneath the driver’s right calf (to accommodate the AWD system’s transfer case). A folding rear seat to expand the trunk is available in the BMW, but not in the Lexus.

BMW has continued to refine its iDrive control system, and the latest iteration’s simpler navigation poses little challenge. Lexus’s “remote touch” system, with a mouse-like force feedback controller, while niftier has a steeper learning curve. Theoretically, with more flexibility it should get you where you want more quickly, but in practice this is too often not the case. Specifying firmer feedback reduces, but doesn’t eliminate, the number of inadvertent selections induced by bumps in the road. Even then, navigating in two dimensions (versus the one-dimensional lists in the BMW) requires more conscious thought and manual precision. Both systems employ large displays capable of displaying two screens simultaneously, but that in the Lexus is a couple of inches larger. Unfortunately, BMW also felt the need to reinvent the shifter. The Lexus’s conventional lever feels better and is easier to use.

For 2013, Lexus offers only one non-hybrid engine in the GS, a normally-aspirated 306-horsepower 3.5-liter V6. The 2012 BMW offers three turbocharged engines, with four, six, and eight cylinders and 240, 300, and 400 horsepower, respectively. While the six might seem the closest match to the Lexus, a case can be made for the tested four-banger. At lower rpm it’s about as powerful as the 3.5 and the 528i’s price is much closer to that of the Japanese car.

Before driving the 528i, I wondered whether a four-cylinder was up to the task of motivating a two-ton sedan in a manner worthy of the “Ultimate Driving Machine” label. Well, power isn’t an issue unless you require an especially energetic shove in your lower back. The four gets up to any legal speed nearly as quickly as the six. Character could be more of a stumbling block. The 2.0-liter engine doesn’t idle nearly as smoothly as the six and at low rpm sounds surprisingly like a diesel. The action of the automatic start/stop system sends a mild shudder through the car. Adding insult to injury, the eight-speed automatic tends to lug the engine unless in Sport mode. But select Sport mode and the transmission holds a lower gear even when cruising, severely impacting fuel economy. At higher rpm and with a heavy foot the four sounds much better, but still not quite in character for a luxury sedan.

The Lexus’s engine delivers its power much differently. While I wouldn’t call it “torqueless”, it’s not a neck-snapper off the line. But cross 4,000 rpm and power jumps dramatically (in a style reminiscent of Honda’s high-performance VTEC engines). At the same point, the engine’s aural output also gets louder and fuller, with a tuned character intentionally similar to that of the IS-F. Credit (or blame) a “sound symposer”, a tube that channels sound from the engine’s intake to the cabin. Some might find this sound overly massaged, but I personally enjoy the livelier sound and feel of the Lexus engine more than those of the Germans’ boosted mills.

While Lexus offers an eight-speed automatic in some models, the 2013 retains the old six-speed. Between this and its larger engine, the GS 350 AWD’s EPA ratings (19 city, 26 highway) don’t approach those of the 528i xDrive (22/32). In casual suburban driving with the engine warmed up the trip computer reported about 22 in the Lexus and about 25 in the BMW. Drive more aggressively and the difference between the two narrows a little, with the Lexus falling into the high teens and the BMW dropping to just below 20. Take full advantage of “Eco Pro” mode in the BMW, which yields a Prius-like throttle response, and the gap widens. I observed an average as high as 30 in the BMW (vs. a high of 25 in the Lexus). But I also observed an actual Prius tailgate then pass me. The GS also has an “Eco” setting, but its impact is much less dramatic.

Even with the optional Sport Package’s dampers set to “Sport” the new 528i feels a little soft and sloppy. There’s some float following dips and bumps and a surprising (if still moderate) amount of lean in turns. Mild understeer is the defining trait. While the 550i xDrive retains the character of a rear-wheel-drive car, the four-cylinder, with two-thirds the torque, can’t produce the same effect. Body motions in even the Luxury Package GS are better controlled, and the F-Sport feels tighter still. All-wheel-drive limits the influence of your right foot on the attitude of the chassis in the Lexus much like it does in the BMW—neither car employs an active rear differential or torque vectoring. Steering is nicely weighted in both cars, but with a firmer feel in the Lexus.

Yet the BMW remains the easier car to drive quickly along a challenging road. Additional bobbling about notwithstanding, the 528i can be more precisely placed through turns. Its steering seems little more communicative, yet the driver receives more nuanced information, much of it through the ears and seat rather than through the fingertips. Even in F-Sport form, the Lexus insulates the driver more. There is an upside to this last difference: going down the road, the more refined GS sounds and feels more upscale and more luxurious. The F-Sport rides more firmly than the basic car, but remains far from punishing. A sound meter might detect little difference between the BMW and the Lexus, but the quality of the noise that gets through is another matter. Where BMW might have simply aimed for low decibel readings, Lexus has carefully tailored the noise that reaches your ears to convey a sense of luxury and quality.

As tested, the Lexus were priced at $58,997 (F-Spot) and $59,759 (Luxury). These two packages cannot be ordered together, so you must choose between the former’s more attractive exterior and firmer suspension and the latter’s softer leather and additional amenities (articulating upper backrests, memory for the front passenger seat, automatic climate controls and heat for the rear seats). I’d readily opt for the former. The BMW 528i, equipped more like the F-Sport, listed for $61,125. Both cars are available with quite a few additional options, including adaptive cruise control, head-up displays, night vision systems, premium audio, and (with rear-wheel-drive only) four-wheel active steering. Run both cars through TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool to adjust for unshared features, and the difference comes in just under $2,000. Probably not enough to be a factor at this level—but recall that the BMW is the 528i, not the 535i. For the latter, add $4,100.

Despite their convergence, drive the BMW 5-Series and Lexus GS back-to-back and they remain dramatically different cars. Despite a softer, less direct feel than past 5ers, the BMW still provides the driver with a larger amount of more nuanced feedback than the Lexus does. Meanwhile, the Lexus continues to more thoroughly insulate the driver (and passengers). For this and other reasons, the GS 350 also looks and feels more luxurious. Of the three cars reviewed, the GS 350 F-Sport best combines performance and luxury. It’s a very pleasurable car whether driven aggressively or casually. Lexus clearly goes further beyond objective criteria to the subjective experience of how the car looks, sounds, and feels. The largest advantage of the BMW, one for which the marque hasn’t been known in the past, is fuel efficiency. You can, of course, get the GS in hybrid form, but only if you’re willing to give up all-wheel-drive—and an additional $10,000.

Phil Coron of Meade Lexus in Southfield, MI, provided the Lexus GS 350 F-Sport. He can be reached at 248-372-7100.

Lexus provided the GS 350 Luxury, while BMW provided the 528i, in both cases with insurance and a tank of premium gas.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta.com, an online source of car reliability and real-world fuel economy information.

528i and GS 350, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 528i GS 350 side, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 528i_GS_thumb GS 350 front quarter, photo courtesy Michael Karesh GS 350 front, photo courtesy Michael Karesh GS 350 F-Sport front quarter, photo courtesy Michael Karesh GS 350 F-Sport interior, photo courtesy Michael Karesh GS 350 F-Sport rear quarter, photo courtesy Michael Karesh GS 350 F-Sport rear seat, photo courtesy Michael Karesh GS 350 interior, photo courtesy Michael Karesh GS 350 Luxury rear seat controls, photo courtesy Michael Karesh GS 350 rear quarter, photo courtesy Michael Karesh GS 350 rear seat, photo courtesy Michael Karesh GS 350 side, photo courtesy Michael Karesh GS 350 split screen, photo courtesy Michael Karesh GS 350 trunk, photo courtesy Michael Karesh GS 350 view forward, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 528i engine, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 528i front quarter 2, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 528i front quarter, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 528i front, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 528i instrument panel, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 528i interior, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 528i rear quarter, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 528i rear seat, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 528i side, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 528i trunk, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 528i view forward, photo courtesy Michael Karesh GS 350 engine, photo courtesy Michael Karesh

The post Comparison Review: BMW 528i xDrive vs. Lexus GS 350 AWD appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

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