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Comparison of my Lexus GS350, BMW 550 and Audi A7

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GS - 4th Gen (2013-present) Discussion about the 2013 GS models

Comparison of my Lexus GS350, BMW 550 and Audi A7

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Old 12-08-14, 06:27 PM
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jjscsix
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Default Comparison of my Lexus GS350, BMW 550 and Audi A7

As I posted couple of weeks ago, I bought a 2015 Audi A7 Prestige with 20" sport package to replace my 2012 550. The lease is up in about four months on the 550 so I'll have both until then.

My wife's car is a 2014 Lexus GS350 with Luxury Package and Levinson stereo among other small stuff. The Luxury package on the Lexus has incredible multi-adjustable seats that do everything the top Audi and BMW seats do except massage. It also comes with a dynamic suspension that adjusts automatically and has a normal, sport, and sport plus modes which also changes the steering and transmission settings.

My BMW has the top of the line Luxury Seating Package, dynamic suspension, M-Sport, premium sound (Harman Kardon), soft close doors, top view cameras, HUD etc. Oh, and the Elephant in the room - the 400 hp/450 lb ft of torque twin turbo V8.

My Audi has Prestige which has LED lights, HUD, Bose Stereo, Four Zone AC and a few other things, and it has the Sport suspension with 20" wheels (265/35 tires). BTW, I'm posting the specifics of these packages because I'm going to cut and paste this post to all three forums.

Here is my comparison of the cars, which I consider all in the same class. If you consider the review of the A7 to be applicable to the A6 as they are almost identical cars except the body, discount the engine in the 550 to a more comparable 535 (the cars can be equipped identically) they are all comparable cars at slightly different price points.

Seating Comfort: The Lexus and BMW are the most comfortable followed by the Audi. The Multi Contour seats that Audi offers in such cars as the S6/S7 and A8 are not available in the A6/A7…yet. They are an option for the 2016 which has already been announced. I am okay with the comfort of the seats in my A7 though so I didn't wait. The BMW and Lexus seats are almost in a dead heat and both are sinfully comfortable and adjustable.

Ride Comfort: No contest here. The Lexus rides the best, but don't think because they are your Grandmothers Lexus. The car has the tallest tires, and the best suspension tuning. Not only is it comfortable, but it also is very well controlled and the car handles very well. More on that to follow. The 550 is held back in ride comfort by the run-flat tires which is the only way to get it. The ride is not horrible, but you feel the run-flats. The Audi has a good suspension, but on washboard surfaces the 20" wheel/tires get a little upset to the point of being a bit harsh. It handles single impacts well, and only really gets bad on certain road surfaces. If I were ordering the car I'd order it with 19's. As it is, I may change it to 19's sometime down the road if I don't come to grips with the ride.

Handling. Keep in mind that my cars are mostly commuter cars in and around Houston. But I do like a good handling car - years ago I competitively road raced motorcycles. I've also got some drag racing and autocross experience (I get my kicks now on some very fast motorcycles). No contest here either, the Audi is the best, followed by the Lexus then the BMW. The Audi steering is by far the best and turn in is very precise and responsive. The car stays pretty flat and handling very neutral. The Lexus also feels responsive and has good steering. This car will not disappoint you if you can get past that its a Lexus, and ours is not even an F-Sport. I'm very impressed with the Lexus. The BMW feels big and heavy. It is competent, but you always know you are driving a big and heavy car. It's well documented that they are not as responsive and nimble as earlier generations.

Engine/Transmission. The Audi wins here also if you discount the 550s power (I've driven a 535 a few times, so my comparison stands with the Audi winning). The Lexus doesn't have much torque and it's hampered by the fact that they have tuned the new eight speed to not want to downshift very aggressively unless you are in the Sport + mode (it has four modes). The car has decent power, it just doesn't want to give it up very easily. The Audi has power and torque, and the transmission is a willing participant, even in the base mode. The BMW 550 is in a different league of course. The torque is truly amazing and the car never feels slow. I've owned much faster cars (a Z06 Corvette for one) yet I'm always amazed at how effortless the acceleration is in the 550. The downside to the BMW is that throttle response can be very annoying and hesitant and the car is not easy to drive smoothly in stop and go traffic. It's one of the major reasons I would not buy another BMW at this time. Some say the newer ones are better, but I'm not to going to let BMW "shame on me".

"Infotainment" systems": The BMW I Drive has become accepted, but in nearly three years I still don't always find it intuitive. But I'll say it's not bad. Bad has to be saved for the Lexus. The mouse drive is not very easy to use and many basic functions are buried 3-4 steps deep. Way too much pointing and clicking through the menus to do stuff that is not unusual to want to so while going down the road. This system pretty well sucks. If you are the only one who drives the car you'll learn to live with it. As it's my wife's car, changing things is a fact of life for me. I like the Audi system a lot better than either of them. I have only driven the car a few times, but I quickly got used to how the logic to the system works and am coming to grips with it quickly.

Stereo: The Lexus Mark Levinson and BMW Premium systems are both very good. I actually prefer the BMW, but the Lexus is a very good system. I have no complaints with either. A feature of the BMW is that is has a true equalizer with quite a few adjustments points that allow fine tuning of the system. The Bose in the Audi has surprisingly good clarity and imaging and can be turned up quite loud by my 62 year old standards. Sadly though its lacking in bass. I have to turn the bass to it's highest level and even then it's only marginal. I can live with the system, but I don't love it the way I do the other two cars.

Overall feel: The BMW is very solid and feels like you are going down the road in a bank vault carved from a single piece of granite. I like the car a lot, love the interior and the car has a muscular, all business appearance to it. It also has a lot of small features the other cars don't have, although you pay a premium for this car. There are many things I'll miss about it, but the fact that its so hard to drive smoothly becomes obvious every time I get in one of the other two cars and they drive much better.

The Lexus always feels like an extremely refined car that is a joy to drive. I marvel at what a nice car it is, and I damn near bought a second GS (F-Sport) to go with it. 50 more horsepower and I'd be the owner of two GS's. Everything about the car feels like quality and refinement. And I love the interior in it as much as the BMW.

The Audi was the best of all worlds for me. I knew I was giving up the raw power of the 550, but the Audi splits the cars nicely. I just didn't want to pay the extra for the S6 or S7 which would have gotten me the same performance. The Audi has most of the refinement of the Lexus, most of the performance of the BMW (engine wise) and is the best handling of the three and has the best steering and responsiveness of the three. And the A7 has absolutely killer looks. Neither of the other two cars gets comments from anyone as to how good looking they are. But I've had several folks in a short time do double takes on the A7. Right after I got the car I had a very trendy and attractive couple walk buy it while I was sitting nearby at a Starbucks walk up to me and gush over the car.

I"m sure I'll think of more to comment on, but this is already a very long thread.

Last edited by jjscsix; 12-09-16 at 04:48 AM.
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Old 12-08-14, 08:06 PM
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I would love to see the comments on the BMW forum lol

Great write up!

I will say though, I did have a nice young couple walk by my GS and tell me how much they loved it
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Old 12-08-14, 08:18 PM
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Thank you for the write up, great comparison
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Old 12-08-14, 09:47 PM
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Great read. Gives an unbiased POV on the competition.
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Old 12-08-14, 10:00 PM
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Not exactly apples to apples, considering the GS350 is meant to compete with the 535 and the A6, but overall fair and quite revealing. I'm sure the LS is more of a match (price and power-wise) particularly in F Sport trim.

I know how you feel about that 50hp though. My challenge is to raise my salary in the next two years so I can comfortably slide into a GS-F by the time they debut. I have no issues with the rest of the car. Stereo could be better and less finicky with high definition formats, but whose isn't?
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Old 12-08-14, 11:17 PM
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thanks for the comparison. very informative
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Old 12-09-14, 07:11 AM
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Honest & IMO spot on. I do like the exterior looks, the feel of both the BMW & Audi. From the drivers seat my GS-F kills it. The primary reason I'm in a Lexus, over the other two, is quality, reliability and cost of maintenance.
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Old 12-09-14, 08:03 AM
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Within my group of friends, I'm the only guy driving Japanese, the others drive European. But I'm the guy with the most experience dealing with the pain of owning European, that's why I drive Japanese today.
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Old 12-09-14, 11:30 AM
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Great comparo!! The BMW probably rides worse than the Lexus because your Lex is a Luxury and your BMW has M Sport pkg. Not that I think the bimmer would ever ride better anyways, they're known for being very communicative of the road. Your 5 series sounds like my ideal car, if I were to ever get a 5. I am really curious though, what do you guys think a similarly equipped 535 would be like instead of a 550? (Yeah I know slower but that's not necessarily what I'm wandering) Doesn't the V8 add a lot of heft to an already heavy car? Wouldn't the 535 give it a bit more tossable feel? All in, they're still great cars. I hate the seats in the A6/7. They're nearly identical to the seats that were in my CC. I didn't find them uncomfortable but I just think they look weird and small. The BMW has the most aesthetically pleasing seat to my eye, it's big and just looks nice.
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Old 12-09-14, 02:10 PM
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Great read! At one time or another I've considered all of the above cars. It's nice to read about your intimate experience with all three of them. Thanks for taking your time and share. Congrats on your new Audi purchase!

I love the Audi 20" wheels. Although I prefer the look of the A6 over the A7. I think the BMW 5 is a handsome car as well. Although if I get a BMW I would get a 3 or 4 series since what's the point of getting a BMW if it's not sporty. My lease is up in 6 months. If Lexus update the current 3.5L with more power I might consider getting another GS. But probably not with the current engine.
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Old 12-09-14, 04:47 PM
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Great write up. I looked at a very similar set of cars when deciding. 535, 550, Audi S6 and the GS. I really wanted the S6 because the seats were so fantastic and the driving experience was by far the best, but all the 2013 and 2014's I could find seemed to have quite significant repair work on their carfax reports for cars with less than 20K miles on it. I read some forums and reliability was my major concern there ( as well as price ). So I stayed clear.
The 535 and 550 I liked a whole lot, but the interior just felt too tight. It felt a half size smaller than the lexus. Plus all things being equal the lexus was about 6K cheaper than the 535 with similar options, and about 12K cheaper than a used S6.
I do really wish the lexus would have another 50 HP. It feels a little underpowered. Once the transmission kicks down enough it goes and sounds good, but you need to convince it a bit to go. Otherwise I love this car a whole lot. It will be by far the most reliable out of all of them and that is really important for me since I will own it for the next 5-6 years ( Or until I can get my hands on a 1-2 year old GS-F )
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Old 12-09-14, 06:43 PM
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Originally Posted by sick21 View Post
Great comparo!! The BMW probably rides worse than the Lexus because your Lex is a Luxury and your BMW has M Sport pkg. Not that I think the bimmer would ever ride better anyways, they're known for being very communicative of the road. Your 5 series sounds like my ideal car, if I were to ever get a 5. I am really curious though, what do you guys think a similarly equipped 535 would be like instead of a 550? (Yeah I know slower but that's not necessarily what I'm wandering) Doesn't the V8 add a lot of heft to an already heavy car? Wouldn't the 535 give it a bit more tossable feel? All in, they're still great cars. I hate the seats in the A6/7. They're nearly identical to the seats that were in my CC. I didn't find them uncomfortable but I just think they look weird and small. The BMW has the most aesthetically pleasing seat to my eye, it's big and just looks nice.
Actually I don't agree that the M Sport is the reason the car rides worse. Mine has the Dynamic Damping system which is no longer standard with the M Sport package. In either of the two comfort modes it is actually a bit wallowy (new word). But you still feel the thumping of the run-flats.

For me handing is more about responsiveness in daily driving. I"m cursed with living in a very boring city for sporty driving. I ride my motorcycles nearly 500 miles a weekend to get out on the back roads that have some fun curves, but my cars are mostly relegated to city driving. I feel responsiveness in a suspension, but not very often do I experience serious handling issues. I did take the Audi out on one of my favorite back roads and pitched it into a few fast sweepers, but that was a rare occasion for me in a car.

I agree about the seats in the BMW. They are fantastic. But the Lexus seats with the Luxury Package are right there with them.
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Old 12-15-14, 05:14 AM
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An update to this thread. Thanks to a post on the A7 forum, I discovered that the dealer had inflated my 20" tires to the max rating of something like 41/38 F/R, which is what the door sticker says. The manual has several pages and a chart on tire care. Turns out that the normal load pressure is 35/32 F/R. The ride is much better. You still know it has low profile tires, but it's much more acceptable.
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Old 12-15-14, 07:46 PM
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Great write-up. I'm in a similar situation, with a '07 750i, '09 A4 and '12 328i in the garage. And of course a '14 FZ-09

I find the GS lovely, just the NA engine leaves me wanting, with the high-revving nature and lack of daily usable torque. Regardless, unless something better comes up, when the 328 lease is up I'll replace it with the GS.
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Old 12-15-14, 07:57 PM
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Originally Posted by jjscsix View Post
An update to this thread. Thanks to a post on the A7 forum, I discovered that the dealer had inflated my 20" tires to the max rating of something like 41/38 F/R, which is what the door sticker says. The manual has several pages and a chart on tire care. Turns out that the normal load pressure is 35/32 F/R. The ride is much better. You still know it has low profile tires, but it's much more acceptable.
Glad to hear that I could help you out over there!
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