By on May 6, 2012

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, an online source of car reliability and real-world fuel economy information.

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94 Comments on “Comparison Review: BMW 528i xDrive vs. Lexus GS 350 AWD...”

  • avatar

    Michael, the latest BMW 5-Series are F10 and not F30. FYI.

  • avatar

    I have to admit to considering the new 5 series a deadly BMW sin. Gaining 400 lbs in weight and losing much of the remaining visceral aspects of the previous generations is a pity. Its probably also very profitable for them as more buyers will value space and comfort over athletic ability. So while I can see the economic rationale, there is still some sadness to see BMW slowly depart the mid size sport sedan market and become just another maker of luxo-barges.

    • 0 avatar

      When you look at things differently, BMW’s lineup is pretty impressive as far as progress goes. Dynamically the F10 is way off the mark from its benchmark predecessor, as any car carrying an extra 500-600lbs would be. But what about the E38?

      From a purely pragmatic point of view, the F10 has it beat. Dimensions wise its neck and neck inside, but smaller outside and lighter by 400lbs. Performance wise its a wash as well, but the F10 gets >10MPG more in both cycles. Its also better equipped (obv as many things the F10 comes with didn’t exist during the E38’s day). All for less money new before inflation.

      So from a purely objective standpoint the new 5 is prob the best 5 ever. It offers the luxury & performance of an old 7 series for the inflation adjusted price of an old 3 series. But the devil is in the subjective details. I don’t know how a 7 is dynamically, but I for one loathe this new generation of voiceless EPA do gooder turbo motors, as well as weight gain and dead steering feel. Its definitely possible to get all the gains from the new cars without losing the good of the old… maybe with the next iteration.

      All that said, if you look at the F30 as a replacement to the E39, and the F10 as a replacement to the E38, then the transition is nowhere as bad.

      • 0 avatar

        Interesting perspective. I did note in my 335i review that it’s time for a 1-Series sedan to fill the spot opened up by the growth of the 3. And at least one commenter on that review compared the F30 to his E39.

      • 0 avatar

        I would not disagree with you that on many levels they have made great progress. The N20 and the 8 speed transmissions is making new BMWs faster and more economical than ever but in this pursuit, they have also lost something. I never bought any of my BMWs strictly on fuel economy or speed but for the the agile ways they handled and for the great overall compromise between performance and practicality. This new generation’s compromise has now shifted further away from driving agility and more towards practicality and economy. For some this is progress but I would have gladly traded 1 MPG on the new 3 series to skip the EPS and probably another MPG for better throttle response. Maybe I’m in the minority here but most folks who spend $40K plus on a sports sedan are not going to walk away because of a couple of MGSs. Likewise, if BMW wants to lower fuel costs for its owners then making their engines run on standard unleaded would probably be a better investment.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s a DOUBLE sin. Four cylinders is bad enough in a car ‘formerly’ of high caliber. Add a turbo to that four and you have yourself a BMW Passat.

      I would give up my career to make a fortune repairing all the turbo engines coming out these days except that I just remembered I hate working on turbo engines…

      • 0 avatar

        The current 528i does have a turbocharged inline four: it’s the N20 engine that’s also shared in the F30 328i. This is the engine that’s replaced the N52 inline six across BMW’s lineup. It is disheartening to hear this if you love inline-six engines, but the N20 makes better gas mileage in Eco mode.

  • avatar

    I don’t really like either car, but, if I had to choose, I’d take the BMW!

    • 0 avatar

      I just wouldn’t take either haha. Personally I’d maybe do an Audi A6 3.0T if it was gonna be a short term (i.e. always under warranty) purchase, or maybe an Infiniti M37 (have to drive them both), and definitely the Infiniti over the longer term. Too bad Mercedes is the only one currently offering a diesel in this class. MK, where would you put the Infiniti and Audi in this group (I’m excluding an E-class, S80, or RL since I don’t think any of them really appeal to enthusiasts).

      • 0 avatar

        The Audi is technically the best car, but it left me a little cold. The Infiniti is technically the worst, with the trickiest handling and the thirstiest engine, but it has the most character. I tend to prioritize the subjective experience, so:

        1. Lexus (F-Sport)

        2. Audi

        3. Infiniti

        4. BMW

        But it’s easy to see how different people can have very different rankings based on their personal impressions and priorities. Heck, even my own priorities are unclear. The Infiniti and Audi appeal in such different ways that I struggled to rank them.

      • 0 avatar

        Having previously owned and loved an Infiniti I’ve always been a fan of the brand and am biased, and I’ve also never driven any of these, but sounds like the Infiniti would be my choice. Your impression reminds of me of what I’ve read in other reviews. Tricky handling doesn’t necessarily scare me, and if I’m spending $50-60k on the car, fuel economy is gonna rank somewhere around how what the London congestion charge is for the car. Personally, I want character and personality. That’s why I’m spending that much on the car to begin with. If I just want a “nice comfortable car”, I’ll buy the Genesis or Equus and enjoy my warranty coverage.

      • 0 avatar

        I just drove the 2012 A4 3.0T S-line (6spd) last week and was disappointed. I felt every bump, and yet the car seemed extra heavy in the turns. Compared to an 08′ 335i it was sloppy. Throttle response wasn’t inspiring either (also compared with the 3’er). The cabin looked nice, but didn’t feel as nice as it looked. I was constantly reminded of a Passat I once test drove.

        Maybe the A6 is more than just a big A4, but my Audi experience to date suggests disappointment.

        I’m stoked to try the 335d out – smaller than you are looking for but not by much.

  • avatar

    What is it with BMW’s redefinition of the transmission selection shifter? I test drove an X3 recently and had to get a tutorial from the salesman — it wasn’t in the least bit intuitive. My only thought was, “how long before that (expensively) breaks?”. I guess it has to do with the perception of exclusivity, but the late Steve Jobs would certainly have something to say about that.

  • avatar

    In trying to be everything to everyone, what has BMW become?

    • 0 avatar

      Extremely profitable, and still the standard by which all others are judged.

      Folks, time marches on. If BMW built a 2013 e39, six people would buy it, the rest would complain about how harsh and noisy it is, and how dismal the fuel economy is. My only gripe is that I wish BMW gave us a wider choice of engines in the US. While the former Saab pilot in me appreciates the charms of an excellent turbo 4, I would really rather pay the extra at the pump and have the classic non-turbo six. But I understand that the regulatory regime in this country make that a non-starter.

      IMHO, the Lexus is plain fugly. The front end looks like the alien from Predator.

      • 0 avatar

        Agreed on the Lexus. What BMW should do is focus on making the 5 a luxury sedan while keeping the 3 a mix of luxury and sport-handling. And go back to their modest styling that very well suited their image.

        That and build cars that can be fixed garages that aren’t at dealerships.

      • 0 avatar

        “Extremely profitable, and still the standard by which all others are judged.”

        Which standard? Profitability? It’s profitable, but it is not the most profitable, so it’s not the standard bearer. Design? No, that’s still a contentions subject. Reliability? No – I’d characterize it as barely acceptable at best. (If we lump Mini into that measure, then it’s embarrassingly awful.) BMW simply is not the world standard in any of these areas. In the case of Mini, BMW is the worst in the world by some measures.

        Maybe you were referring to vehicle dynamics? Yes, I think many would agree with you on that. If people are judging against a standard, dynamics is the only one in which BMW excels. This is an important area and BMW are respected in it, but it is only one of several that matter. Let’s not oversell what BMW produces – great handling vehicles that many find funny looking and don’t hold up well over time.

        The 5 series accounts for just 20% of sales volume but 80% of profits. BMW really only has one “extremely” profitable product line. The rest are nothing special from a profitability standpoint.

    • 0 avatar

      Specifically regarding the 5 series, BMW has become the next Mercedes E-Class clone. It’s shocking how numb and isolated the 5 series has become. Ultimate Driving Machine it is definitely is not.

  • avatar

    So the Lexus is faster, cheaper, more luxurious, and drastically more reliable. But damn ugly.

    The BMW is more prestigious, better looking (but nearly impossible for the average person to tell the difference between it and any other BMW) , and gets better gas mileage.

    Hmmm…I think we need an E class thrown in here too. And an A6.

    Note, I saw a year old used 7 series for $66k at the BMW dealer the other day. 6500 miles…I think that is a way better deal that the new 5 series.

    • 0 avatar

      If you’re willing to consider both used and new, used will almost always win. And then why not a used 5?

    • 0 avatar

      “but nearly impossible for the average person to tell the difference between it and any other BMW”

      Why do people care about this? Does it just boil down to snobbery? I could care less that the 5 series I’m interested in looks similar to a 3, for example.

      It’s easy to tell the various Lexii apart because Lexus has never had any real sense of what it wants to look like. It’s like they had umpteen different designers – one for each car line. I hate the new “predator” face, but at least they’re trying to advance the design issue. I’m hoping they’ll keep iterating until they find a winner. (Also, Lexus needs to go ahead and start blatantly poaching VAG interior designers. Lexus is just hapless in that area.)

    • 0 avatar

      I’m not sure I agree BMW is considered more prestigious with every demographic.

      Amongst the Millennial yuppies I work with the Lexus brand seems to draw far more interest and purchasing dollars followed closely by Infiniti and Acura. BMW seems to be in a distant fourth place, and Mercedes draws virtually no interest at all.

      It’s also interesting to note that the majority of Asian marque purchases and leases have been new off the lot. The BMW guys seem to go CPO or, in the case of one friend, pick up rarish high mileage whips like a 1997 M3 that is now regularly autocrossed.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m in tech so the parking lot at work is full of BMW, Lexus and Infiniti sedans. It would be nice to know which one of the $40k+ luxury sport sedans was mine without having to resort to using the panic button on keyfob.

      • 0 avatar

        I also work in tech and can confirm among the more prestigious titles here its mostly BMW and Lexi sedans/SUVs. I never understood the appeal of Lexus beyond the LS or GS series neither of which exist in this parking lot, the only ones I ever saw at my previous tech company was the VP’s newer LS430 and one manager’s 2000ish GS. BMW was very popular at the last job and here, I think partially because BMW at least isn’t the ‘upscale’ cousin of a more plebeian automaker. For the record, I bucked the trend and sport a used Grand Prix GT which I now own. New upscale whips only make sense to me when you can write off the lease, I’m not going to pony my taxed dough on a car I won’t own in the long haul.

  • avatar

    I’m probably just out to lunch on the topic of vehicle price inflation, but $60k+ for a sedan with only 6-cylinders seems awfully steep.

    The F-Sport optioned Lexus is easily the best looking of the vehicles discussed. At least you get some visual presence for all that money. The lower trim Lexus and BMW look way too appliance-like for this price range. The dark grey paint scheme is particularly bland to my eye, and I think I would find using it for regular transportation a depressing experience.

    • 0 avatar

      If $60k is too steep for six cylinders, then it’s certainly too steep for four!

      The BMW is actually brown, “mojave metallic” to be precise. But it’s a very grayish brown that didn’t photograph well at all.

      When I have a choice, I photograph silver cars. Car designs are usually clinicked in silver because it best shows off their lines.

      • 0 avatar

        D’oh! This is why I shouldn’t post the day after Cinco de Mayo.

        It’s funny that the BMW really IS brown, because I thought that might be a handsome color for the 528i.

      • 0 avatar

        I reckon $60k is extremely steep for I-4 especially this supposedly new N20 engine (which is powering current F30 328i & F10 528i) is sourced from a version of the tried and true Mitsubishi TD04 Turbo. BMW has a specific version of the turbo so the completed model number is TD04-LR6. The Mitsubishi TD04 turbo in various formats has been used on Dodge, Ford, Volvo and other car makers engines. Again, this is an expensive 4 banger.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      I don’t know that anyone prices cars by cylinder count anymore. That said, for $60k BMW could do better than some redneck special for the front chassis bracing. Maybe they left the design up to some Östie?

  • avatar

    “The first Lexus GS was designed by Giugiaro to be a Jaguar. But Jaguar didn’t want it, and Lexus did.”

    I believe this statement is not true. According to Giugiaro website: “The car is often believed to hark back to the Jaguar Kensington prototype of 1990, but in fact the first drawings of the GS 300 date from 1988.”


  • avatar

    Tough choice. Probably boils down to brand preference.

  • avatar

    I have never seen an F Line Lexus in the wild. The only one I’ve ever seen in real life was at the NY Car show, a very nice IS-F. My area is full of BMW of all types, big benz V8’s that Germans don’t buy, and every sort of upper class show off-mobile you can imagine.

    Not a single F series Lexus. Lotsa RS mommy mobiles, and recently the hybrid has become fashionable. M3, Audi S and RS, but no F series.

    If they aren’t here in the nice suburban ring north of NYC, where are they ?

    • 0 avatar

      They’re about to become much more common. The IS-F remains the only pure F car. The reviewed car is part of a new “F-Sport” line which is essentially an appearance and suspension package, like Audi’s “S-Line” and BMW’s “M Sport”. No powertrain differences.

  • avatar

    The leather in the Lexus is hideous. It is salmon pink!

  • avatar

    I’m not the target market for these, but I will say – today’s BMW looks dignified and sporting, compared to yesterday’s horror.

    I do wish the “engine compartment plastic cladding fairies” would disappear. Perhaps Sajeev could do an article on the aesthetics and design of engine compartments? The excessive plastic cladding of the previous decade has mestastasised to the engine compartments of today.

  • avatar

    In this segement, I think Mercedes has everyone beat when it comes to differentiation. Unlike the 5 or the A6, no one will mistake an E-class for its smaller sibling.

    The GS is not an attractive car; this fourth generation is probably the ugliest yet. The execution of the roofline with the c-pillar is atrocious.

    • 0 avatar

      They seem to have trouble getting everyone on the same page back there. I owned a second-generation GS for a couple of years (father’s ex), and hunk of shiny black plastic on it’s C-pillar never ceased to bug me.

    • 0 avatar

      “Unlike the 5 or the A6, no one will mistake an E-class for its smaller sibling.”

      Not until the C-class redesign inevitably makes it look like the S-class’s baby’s baby.

  • avatar

    These cars are for baby boomer types. My generation would never purchase either brand. I know a lot of 6 and a few 7 figure income folks in their 30s. My generation purchases relatively few cars above the 30K mark. Most popular are Toyota, Honda, and Hyundai/Kia. My friends are most interested in CR-V, Civic, and Prius. I own Pilot, Highlander, Camry, and TL. I should have never forked the cash for the TL. The Camry is just as good. I am interested in the new Plug In Prius. But, I am waiting for a price drop. Currently, they are near impossible to obtain unless you pay too much.

    Makes me wonder what will become of high price tag cars when the older folks retire. I think the era of a car being a status symbol is ending rapidly.

    • 0 avatar

      In urban areas status still sells to the young. Most of my friends that are around 40 years old have been through their German car phase, but my friends and business associates closer to thirty years of age consider a BMW model ending in 35 to be an entry level car and plenty of them are moving up the model ranges when their first leases end.

    • 0 avatar

      The Millionaire Next Door must be very popular in your neck of the woods because the thirtysomething professionals out here buy Lexus (mostly RX’s), BMW, Toyota (just Priuses and Sequoias, ironically enough), Mercedes, and Porsche, in roughly that order.

    • 0 avatar

      Depends where you are I guess. The 30’s guys at my company almost all have a 328/335, A4, G35/7, TL/TSX or an IS, unless they went the pickup truck route. I’m starting to see some traction for the Focus among the guys. The women drive Civics, Elantras, Cruzes, CR-V’s etc. It’s a big high-tech company and BMW, Audi and MB rule the roost. All of them have more traction among the 40-60 crowd than Lexus does.

      What’s the deal with cylinder count pricing complaints? When a turbo 6 can put out as much power as yesterday’s big block V8, you nod your head to the technology behind it. Burt Reynolds may have outrun Buford T Justice…but he’d see nothing but taillights from the average soccer mom in her modern Camry V6, let a alone a BMW F30 with the turbo 4.

  • avatar


    I read all your reviews! They’re all great!

  • avatar

    Excellent review as always Mike. Initially I was interested in the Lexus, but the more I see, the less I like. I haven’t warmed to their dumb mouse controller, and I don’t think the *humongous* dual screen idea is a good one. When off, it makes the upper dash seem like a giant black hole, which is not an issue with the 5 and E, and obviously not with the A6 which folds its screen away.

    Unlike the Infiniti M with its unashamedly Japanese interior, Lexus just opted to copy a few German interior themes and throw them together. I really don’t think it works that well. Yes it’s nice to *FINALLY* see that ugly green ’80s digital clock go away, but the HVAC controls look very low rent compared to those in the BMW and Audi, and the random grouping of the knob and buttons below the shifter look about the same as those in a Subaru.

    The upward sweep of the dash trim into the air vents giving the “hockey stick” look just doesn’t work for me at all, and of course those Toyota door locks and stubby little cruise stalk are still there, as always.

    Lexus option packaging for the car is also stupid. You can’t get wood trim in the sport, and you’re forced to have the awful wood/leather steering wheel in the luxury version. Seriously, does *anyone* like zero grip, rock hard wood steering wheels?

    I’d need to sample the seats for a few hours to really gauge the level of improvement vs. previous Lexus cars, which have ranged from below average to torture.

    I think I still prefer the A6 over the rest of this group, but I’m also disappointed about what Audi USA decides we can get vs. the rest of the world:

    Sport seats – no, leather armrests – no, comfort seats – no, torque vectoring rear diff – no, adaptive suspension – no. Our “Prestige” level car comes with about half the stuff you can really get on an A6.

  • avatar

    As a Boomer, I’m not sure that I agree with you on who’s buying these cars.
    I think that they’re status symbols for the younger folks in their 30s and 40s. Perhaps your friends are more financially prudent. Here in Los Angeles, the “recovery” seems a lot weaker that in the East. Most folks are content to drive their current car a bit longer. Let’s be real, few of these cars are traded in because they are used up. Most go back because the lease is up. Near luxury cars have gotten a LOT better in the last ten years. Also, most of what the “luxury” brands offer on their newest models is useless crap, like new shifters, iDrive, unfathomable radio electronics, etc. The description above of BMW’s 4 cylinder’s sluggish acceleration and elsewhere described mushy electric steering (that might be just the 3 series) won’t have us lining up to drop 60 large. Also we Boomers are driving less and while Uncle Sam may want higher mileage, those of us who pay $60K don’t care.
    Neither of these above models will get me into an auto showroom.

  • avatar

    When I looked at the top photo I saw a BMW parked next to a Camry.

  • avatar

    Lexus, interior design: A
    Lexus, exterior design: D

    BMW, interior design: B
    BMW, exterior design: B

  • avatar

    Michael – you have mentioned “quality of noise” in your reviews before, and I’m still not sure what that means. Can you elaborate?

    Is tire roar a different quality than wind noise? Does the BMW’s interior rattle, creak, and squeak?

    Apologies if you have already explained this.

    • 0 avatar

      Auto makers learned this one the hard way. The press made a big deal about how quiet Lexus cars were, so GM, Ford, and others worked to make their cars even quieter. But people still didn’t perceive them as being as quiet or as refined.

      It turned out that if you just suppress all noise, then the unwanted noises that do make it through sound even louder.

      So manufacturers then learned that you’ve got to be very specific about the noises you suppress and those that let in, so that the driver then perceives the car to be quiet and high in quality.

      A number of articles have been published about Ford’s work in this area. A quick search found a couple:

  • avatar

    i cannot imagine a pair of cars that are more unappealing and asexual

    taking the BMW… here’s a 4,000lb 4wd 2 litre four cyl. automatic medium sedan that has boring looks and ponderous dynamics and an engine that seems stopgap

    i dont see the point of these things at all… if you needed 4wd so badly, buy a softroader?

  • avatar

    Not a word about horsepower and torque and their respective, most missing from Lexus. Almost like your ashamed a turbo-4 can match and beat Toyota’s 6-cylinder in performance and fuel economy?

    Wait until the tuners get a hold of the BMW turbo-4’s.

    • 0 avatar

      The horsepower numbers are in the review. The torque numbers are implied when I speak about “power at low rpm.”

    • 0 avatar

      The GS350 has more hp than the 535i.Officially tested 0-60mph times marginally beats the 535i and the 0-100mph is conclusively faster.1/4 mile times and trap speeds are superior to the 535i. The only way the 528i would match the GS350 would probably be 0-30? and that’s probably pushing it already. At higher speeds, the GS350 would pull away from the 528i.

      Interestingly, Motor Trend tested both the GS350 F-Sport and the latest F30 335i-Sport with M-adaptive suspension, Sport-Auto 8 speed,Lowered Sport suspension,Variable Gear Ratio Steering(ie basically M-Sport suspension without the cosmetic package) and the GS350 F-Sport pulled better slalom times despite the superior hp/weight advantage of the 335i(the 335i was about 200 pounds lighter than the Lexus GS).

      If I were BMW, I would be very concerned that their sportiest mainstream sedan(the 3 series)is less dynamically capable than a Lexus car 1 size larger and heavier.(1 series really doesn’t count)

      • 0 avatar

        Doesn’t look like the GS will beat the 535i according to Car & Driver. Which makes sense since the GS is down on torque.

        “The 3977-pound all-wheel-drive GS350 hustled to 60 mph in a respectable 5.6 seconds; the 133-pound-lighter, rear-drive GS350 F Sport shaved a 10th from that figure. The F Sport reached the quarter-mile mark in 14.1 seconds at 102 mph, besting the all-wheel-driver by 0.2 second and 3 mph. Significantly, performance of both models is close to that of the last GS460 we tested, which had an additional 36 hp and 62 lb-ft torque at its disposal. Such swiftness puts the new GS350 in the same league as the Infiniti M37 (5.5 to 60) and BMW 535i (5.4). The comparo-winning Audi A6 hit 60 in 5.1 seconds.”

      • 0 avatar

        Motor Trend :
        GS350 5.4s
        535i 5.5s

        GS350 F-Sport 13.7s
        535i M-Sport 14.2s

        GS350 F-Sport 14.0s, trap speed 101mph
        535i M-Sport 14.0s, trap speed 99.3mph

        Most importantly :
        MT Figure 8 slalom( handling circuit)
        GS350 F-Sport 25.4s, pulling 0.71g
        535i M-Sport 25.9s, pulling 0.69g

        As tested price
        GS350 F-Sport $58,800
        535i M-Sport $63,245

        Link :

  • avatar

    @ engine bay photos: Mmmm, lookit all that plastic slab.

    Kidding aside, it’s nice to see that Lexus is trying to step up its game on a performance front. Their cars have always been surprisingly cozy compared to contemporaries, and I do like the extra splash of color and forms on the Lexus’ interior. However if I were to pick one, I’d still have to go for the BMW. It has a little more prestige and performance, which, pretending I’m wealthy (ha!) are a little more important for that price segment.

    • 0 avatar

      Is “surprising cozy” a euphemism for lack of rear seat room? I swear that you have to be legless to fit in the back of an IS and sitting three across in a last gen GS for two hours was one of the most unpleasant automotive experiences I’ve ever had. Sitting in the back seat of a buddy’s clapped out Plymouth Sundance with a mountain of snowboard gear during college ski trips was a hell of a lot more comfortable.

  • avatar

    Dead pedals?
    Being unencumbered by sufficient income to really know anything about these fine automobiles, I have to ask; Do they really get driven hard enough to need a dead pedal?

    • 0 avatar

      At a minimum they provide a comfortable place for your left foot.

    • 0 avatar

      I didn’t know there were modern cars cars out there without a dead pedal. Even the car my folks drive in the motherland – a cheapo Hyundai Santro (India-spec) has a dead pedal. It definitely helps a driver prevent riding the clutch (manuals transmission), and in automatics, it is a good place to rest your foot.

      Now, aluminum clad deal pedals are somehow perceived as “sporty” in passenger cars, which I find rather amusing.

  • avatar

    I just can’t get past the Cylon front clip on the new Lexus. It is hideous – although in Darth Vader black it may be a tad more appealing.

    Remember, today is the Revenge of the Six!!!

    • 0 avatar

      If you option 528i xDrive with M-sport package (USD 4,800), you will get a very similar double chin front bumper which make F10 looks aggressive, macho & prettier. Those non M-sport F10 tends to look like jack-o-lantern. I’m pleasantly surprised that Lexus throw in those double chin for free.

  • avatar

    Give me the GS F sport. I like that they took risks with the styling and I think it pays off in the F sport guise. The 5 needs an M sport package or something. It just looks way too restrained. If I’m paying $60k for a car, at least make it look a little special.

    • 0 avatar

      +1. I really like how the new GS looks compared to the older models. If I could spend $60k on a car without thinking twice about it, I’d buy one in a heartbeat.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    A $60,000 four cylinder BMW. Not for me. No way. Won’t happen. Forget about it. Never.

    • 0 avatar

      Unfortunately, we’re outnumbered by people with more money than brains… I saw TWO brand new 528’s buzzing about with their accursed turbo 4’s on the same street at the same time the other day coming home from work.

      The future is bleak indeed.

  • avatar

    The flaring and deep setting of the nav screen in the Lexus is ominous looking, like a black hole if black holes could be visualized. My parents’ 2005 Avalon was similar with a two-tiered dash sandwiching a deep black abyss. I definitely prefer the bimmer’s less imposing dashboard that visually leads you outside. The BMW 3-series’ pop-up looking nav screen, though odd-looking, is an interesting take on making the dash even more airy and less monolithic.

    • 0 avatar

      The advantage of the recessed screen in the Lexus means there won’t be the annoying reflections from outside sunlight off the nav screen. The pop-up screen on the 3 series is just begging to blind the driver.

      Lexus did their homework in optimising the functionality of their dash it seems….

  • avatar

    My random thoughts on the BMW:

    * That front cutline on the hood of the BMW is as terrible here as it is on the F30 (3-series)
    * BMW sedans always look bland in base-level trim
    * Say what you will about BMW exterior designs, but they are always done in a thoughtful manner – their lines always flow front to back and never end abruptly or awkwardly like on lesser designs
    * It’s disheartening to see a 5-series in this day and age with non-LED taillights – you always have to wait until the LCI version to see what the designers originally intended you to see
    * Black over beige is a terrible interior color scheme – it’s like black socks with shorts
    * I’ve always found BMW’s spartan and streamlined interior design to be preferable to the haphazard (Lexus), monochromatic (Audi), and plastic fantastic (Mercedes) competition, but the quality of materials could use some work (especially the door pulls)
    * I prefer the E60 interior with the nav hump to this F10 interior with the thick dash

    and some on the Lexus:

    * Predator face, indeed
    * The profile of the non-F is probably what the Camry should have looked like
    * Overall, nothing exciting on the exterior, but that seems to be a hallmark of the GS model
    * That joystick is terrible UI practice and feels cheap to boot
    * The contrast stitching looks nice and I don’t mind the red here; oddly colored seats always look better with black carpet surrounding them
    * What’s with the ten shades of gray and silver on the interior?
    * Seems like I’ve seen that steering wheel on the GT-R already
    * I can’t wait for the gunmetal wheel phase, like the black one before it, to be over
    * I’m not sure what’s going on with the tailpipes from the pictures, but that could be another point of contention
    * It seems like Lexus has made up a lot of ground on the dynamics and feedback front – BMW should be very worried because this is one of their key differentiators (pitted against its competition, you always expect the Bimmer to be the best driver)

  • avatar

    I want my old Pontiac G8 back…

  • avatar

    I want my old Pontiac G8 GT back…

  • avatar

    To all,

    I am one of the 2011 BMW 535i xdrive owner that was fed up with the new dynamics of the BMW 5. After 1 year it felt bloaty, numb, wallowy, and isolating like an old men car. It was nothing like my BMW 3 coupe or other exciting BMWs I have had before. I finally traded it in for an amazing 2013 Lexus GS350 F-Sport. 1 test drive of the GS won me over and I am so happy and I feel that the GS gives me more connection to the road, has sharper steering, fluid suspension, gustier engine, and a much superior quality inside and outside. The remote touch is easy to use and can adjust the sensitivity and resistance. I can do things quicker than the BMW 5 idrive and its not rocket science. Just get use to it after few days. My Audi A8L MMI is still very good compared to the Idrive.
    Even the styling is simply edgy and sporty while retaining Lexus features. The ride strikes a perfect balance between luxury and sport with the drive mode selector yet feels more refined then the BMW 5 with those garbage runflats. I had vibration throughout my BMW 5 on the highways and had to replace defective rims from factory and go to non-runflat tires but the car became more wandering on the highways and the alignment was done 2x and the transmission would buckle and hesitate between the gears due to bad turbo lag and had to be reprogrammed. The quality of BMW is disappointing and the whole car is now a mass market soulless sedan. The GS has no wandering issues and provide more road nuances through the steering and feels much heavier than the 5 with no numbness.

    Kudos to Lexus for making the GS350 F-Sport the Ultimate Driving Machine! No wonder why its #1 in Motortrend comparison.

    • 0 avatar

      Which suspension options did you have on the 535i?

      • 0 avatar

        Hello Michael,

        I had the standard suspension which some people say contributed to the poor handling and ride feel of this car. But sill the run flats are horrendous! I cannot understand why BMW do this. They have no added benefit. Lousy ride feel, choppiness, noise, etc. I replaced the tires to non-runflats but still some issues. My other BMW 335xi coupe feels alot more natural and planted on regular Michelins. Even with dynamic handling package, the BMW 5 does not feel planted or smooth as the GS and when i took test drive with Philip Coron at Meade Lexus, I was immediately impressed with how the GS felt after selling off my BMW 5 few months ago. I am very happy with Meade Lexus as compared to Erhard BMW.

        The new 2013 F-Sport with 19 inch rims soak the bumps and stay smooth yet have excellent road nuances felt in seat and steering wheel with the Michelin tires I have put on it last week. I have battled with BMW to fix an annoying seat vibration on highways from 70-80 mph with replacement of tires to 4 different brands. My BMW had 4 bent rims right from the factory and replacement of those rims and new non runflat tires improved vibration alot but did not eliminated completely. Such poor quality control. It is not uncommon. Do a search on google: “BMW F10 vibration” and you will see a lot of complaints all over the world about vibration problems with the new BMW 5.

  • avatar

    The interior of the new GS is just drop dead gorgeous.

  • avatar

    Dudes, can you no longer get a manual in a 5? WTF? Please tell me I’m wrong!

    First Porsche (Panamera), and now BMW. What is wrong with those Germans?

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    I have spoken to 3 different owners of the latest 5 series and they all dislike their cars for different reasons including unrefined 4 cyl and many visits to service dept. One fellow is actually seeking legal action to get rid of the lease.

    • 0 avatar

      I was one of them who hate and loathed each day of my new 2011 BMW 5 that I am so happy and exhilarated to be an owner of the amazing 2013 Lexus GS350 F-Sport. See my reasonings why few post above yours.

  • avatar

    Jeez, that BMW is ugly. The Lexus is as well, but at least it’s a consistent ugly. The 5er looks weirdly like a Toyota logo if the logo were inflated to the size of a car.. just kind of bubbly and weird.

    The Audi seems like the only car to retain a more classic look. I, too, wished GM still imported the G8 GT. Hopefully the new Fusion will offer something better to look at (and likely at half the price).

  • avatar

    I don’t know why people complain so much about BMW’s reliability. I’m guessing that these cars are driven long distances and real hard to on shorter “excitement” trips to the shops.

    Perhaps reliability is a serious concern in the US but do other markets really place such a high value on it?

    Furthermore, would a Camry seriously be able to outlive a BMW if both were driven in exactly the same way and serviced according to the handbook?

    Or asked differently, could someone dismiss the BMW’s reliability woes if they did less than 10,000 mi a year?

    • 0 avatar

      To answer your question:

      Yes. I live in Asia and BMWs are humourously known as Break My Wallets in my country.

      Yes. More high mileage Toyotas/Lexi than German cars on the roads.

      No.Toyotas are famous for being low maintenence vehicles. You’d have to do something monumentally stupid to break it down.

  • avatar

    More bagels and coffee for Toyota/Lexus owners. But I guess they are used to it.

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