How the GS stacks up against the Germans and Americans

This week has seen a 2017 Lexus GS 200t in my driveway, and after some 200 miles of mixed driving around town and down the Interstate, I started thinking about how it compared to another luxury sedan I’ve driven. This won’t be a true apples-to-apples comparison due to the wide variety of engine options and trim levels, however, but we’ll still make the best of it. Grains of salt are generously sprinkled atop the premise of this piece.

So, a little on the Lexus GS 200t. Well, it has the rather desirable F Sport package, meaning it has an upgraded suspension with summer performance tires designed for better handling, it has a more aggressive exterior appearance, and the interior is finished off with deeper bucket seats and some slightly flashier trim work. The F Sport package does not change anything about the engine. The 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder produces the same 241 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque as the non-F Sport version. It’s also worth noting that Lexus’ website calls the 2017 GS 200t the GS Turbo and that, for 2018, the car is renamed the GS 300. Read about the name change here.

Continue reading for the full comparison.

Driving the 2017 Lexus GS 200t F Sport

Driven Opinion: How the Lexus GS 200t Compares to the Competition
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The Lexus GS rides on a solid chassis that can be rather playful to toss around

The Lexus GS rides on a solid chassis that can be rather playful to toss around. That’s especially true with the F Sport package and its upgraded suspension and tire package. The electronic steering actually communicates pretty well and there is no sign of on-center vagueness. Modest turns of the leather-wrapped wheel make the GS’ suspension quickly load up and dive into a turn. The F Sport suspension includes adaptive dampers that change firmness between the different modes. Eco and Normal offer a soft ride, while Sport and Sport+ have a more direct feel.

Throttle response is good, though the 2.0-liter does suffer some turbo lag. The issue is exacerbated by the eight-speed automatic transmission’s slow response to downshift, even when in Sport+ mode. Paddle shifters offer the driver more control over shift points, but even the, the transmission is somewhat slow to respond. For the 95 percent who aren’t jaded by other automakers’ transmission programming, the GS will feel just fine.

Driven Opinion: How the Lexus GS 200t Compares to the Competition Drivetrain
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Throttle response is good, though the 2.0-liter does suffer some turbo lag

Once the 2.0-liter and its turbo are spinning, its 295 pound-feet of torque comes on quickly and remain strong. Yes, the GS 350 with its 3.5-liter V-6 and the GS F with its 5.0-liter V-8 are noticeably quicker, the GS 200t (2017 GS Turbo/2018 GS 300) will be plenty peppy for the vast majority of people.

Another way to phrase it; the GS 200t F Sport is a momentum car. Like the Mazda Miata, the GS 200t F Sport is best used twisting through tight turns while keeping its speed at a relative constant. Blasting up freeway on-ramps and pulling away from a stop light is best reserved fro the GS F.

When not dogging the car, the F Sport’s suspension offers a fairly smooth ride, even over rougher pavement. It is still stiffer than the standard GS, but it’s not bad. Road and wind noise are kept to a minimum, too, making the car a comfortable long-distance cruiser.

Driven Opinion: How the Lexus GS 200t Compares to the Competition Exterior
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All told, the Lexus GS 200t F Sport is a great all-round sport sedan that is plenty happy to dance

All told, the Lexus GS 200t F Sport is a great all-round sport sedan that is plenty happy to dance. It’ll leave the 100-meter dash to its big brother, the GS F.

Driving the Competition

2018 BMW M550i xDrive

2018 BMW M550i xDrive – Driven Exterior High Resolution
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It combines respectable German engineering with outstanding levels of luxury somehow blended well with a sporty driving nature

The BMW 5 Series has long been the leading rival in the luxury mid-size sedan category, and for good reason. It combines respectable German engineering with outstanding levels of luxury somehow blended well with a sporty driving nature. Depending on the trim, the 5 Series can be warm and cuddly or a ruthless brute with a soft side. The most recent example I’ve tested splits the difference, landing between the base 540i and the mighty M5. It’s the M550i xDrive.

Its powerful 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8 makes an impressive 456 horsepower and 480 pound-feet of torque that’s sent through an eight-speed automatic transmission and then to all four wheels. Acceleration is brisk, to say the least. The sprint to 60 mph happens in 3.9 seconds and its top speed is governed at 155 mph. The torque curve is incredibly flat, meaning when peak torque is reached at 1,800 rpm, it stays as the revs climb. The car pulls so hard, but not in a way that feels unbridled or like some late 1960’s muscle car. It’s like floating on a cloud that’s being pushed by a Boeing 777.

2018 BMW M550i xDrive – Driven Drivetrain High Resolution
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The sprint to 60 mph happens in 3.9 seconds and its top speed is governed at 155 mph

Aside from its impressive performance, the M550i xDrive manages to keep passengers completely cozy. The interior is well appointed with supple, contoured leather seats with tons of adjustments, a heated steering wheel, dual HVAC controls with dual fan speeds, a partially digital gauge cluster, an inferred night vision system, and a large infotainment screen. Back seat comfort is pretty good, too.

As it competes with the Lexus GS, the BMW does feel more upscale thanks to its technology and 20-way power front seats. It also boasts Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – two things the Lexus doesn’t have. Of course, the BMW is more expensive than the GS – even in its base 530i configuration.

2018 BMW M550i xDrive – Driven Exterior High Resolution
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Where the Lexus lacks in torque and rock-solid smoothness, the BMW chugs its way out of corners and feels completely smooth while doing it.

Also having driven the high-performance Lexus GS F with its 5.0-liter V-8, 467 horsepower, and 389 pound-feet of torque, it’s also clear the M550i xDrive has the performance edge, too. Where the Lexus lacks in torque and rock-solid smoothness, the BMW chugs its way out of corners and feels completely smooth while doing it.

It’s no wonder why BMW has held its leading position in this category for so long.

2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T

2014 Cadillac CTS - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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My 2014 tester came with the base 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, a six-speed automatic, and rear-wheel drive

The most recent Cadillac CTS I drove had a V in the name and a 640-horsepower supercharged V-8 under the hood, so I couldn’t justify including it in this comparison. That leaves the 2014 CTS I drove in July of that year. Though it’s been roughly 3.5 years, I still remember the Caddy well. I also have my driving notes as a refresher, too.

My 2014 tester came with the base 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, a six-speed automatic, and rear-wheel drive. The engine made a respectable 272 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. Since then, the engine has interestingly been detuned slightly to 268 horsepower, while torque remains unchanged. The transmission has also been upgraded to the familiar GM eight-speed automatic.

2014 Cadillac CTS - Driven Drivetrain
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The optional Magnetic Ride Control kept the CTS planted in the corners while offering a smooth ride on broken roads

As noted in my driven review, the CTS’ base engine is far from a penalty box. Though it does have some unlovable noises at higher revs, the 2.0-liter does a fine job at motivating the car. It’s also very comparable to the Lexus GS 200t with its 241 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The CTS hits 60 mph in 6.2 seconds – 0.4 seconds ahead of the Lexus. Though personally untested, I imagine the Lexus would out-brake the CTS thanks to its 14.4-inch, two-piece front rotors and four-piston calipers. The Caddy does come with four-piston Brembos, but has smaller, single-piece rotors that would likely exhibit fade sooner. The optional Magnetic Ride Control kept the CTS planted in the corners while offering a smooth ride on broken roads. Like the Lexus, the CTS’ suspension changes with the different drive modes.

2014 Cadillac CTS - Driven Interior
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The Cadillac’s interior is impressive, though its CUE infotainment system’s HVAV and radio volume sliders are a bit frustrating

The Cadillac’s interior is impressive, though its CUE infotainment system’s HVAV and radio volume sliders are a bit frustrating. The digital gauge cluster has a clean, smart appearance and the leather seats have plenty of power-adjustable controls for getting comfortable. Rear seat comfort is good, too, though it’s not as plushy as the BMW’s rear accommodations. Rear HVAC controls are a welcomed feature neither the BMW nor Lexus offers.

2017 Volvo S90

2017 Volvo S90 Inscription – Driven High Resolution Exterior
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The S90 skips all the extra flashy styling seen on the Cadillac and Lexus, rather using a more conservative appearance in keeping with its low-key luxury theme

While the BMW, Cadillac, and even the Lexus take a sportier approach to the luxury sedan, Volvo aims purely at elegance, refinement, and comfort. The S90, especially when fitted with the range-topping Inscription trim like my tester, looks and feels the part of a high-end flagship. In fact, it would probably be more appropriate to compare the S90 with the Lexus LS, Cadillac CT6, and BMW 7 Series, but I’ll trudge forth anyway.

Outside, the S90 skips all the extra flashy styling seen on the Cadillac and Lexus, rather using a more conservative appearance in keeping with its low-key luxury theme. Still, the S90 has plenty of interesting details, including the “Thor’s Hammer” headlights, striking 20-inch wheels, and usually long nose. Inside, the S90 impresses with insane levels of refinement. Real, open-pore wood and metal trim complement the supple leather. The seats provide plenty of adjustment, including an independent height adjustment that preserves the other seat settings while moving the front occupants up or down. Rear passengers enjoy their own HVAC controls and tons of legroom.

2017 Volvo S90 Inscription – Driven High Resolution Drivetrain
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Despite the horsepower and a 0-to-60 mph run of roughly 6.0 seconds, the S90’s suspension is more adapt at quelling bumps than carving corners

Of course, it’s impossible to talk about modern Volvos without mentioning the massive touchscreen and digital gauge cluster. The screens give the car a very Apple-like feel and air of futuristic tech. An incredibly logical interface makes using the screens a simple task and its inclusion of the HVAC controls are simply the best since Tesla. Overall, the interior is simply the most elegant and well put together of this bunch. Only the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and S-Class can rival the design and execution.

2017 Volvo S90 Inscription – Driven High Resolution Exterior
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The Volvo S90 doesn’t pretend to be a sports sedan

Like I said, the Volvo S90 doesn’t pretend to be a sports sedan. It comes standard with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder Volvo calls the T5 engine. My tester had the optional T6 powertrain, which uses a similar turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, but adds a supercharger for low-end power. The result is 316 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. Despite the horsepower and a 0-to-60 mph run of roughly 6.0 seconds, the S90’s suspension is more adapt at quelling bumps than carving corners. The chassis also feels a tiny bit more flexible than the others in this run-down.

Conclusion

Driven Opinion: How the Lexus GS 200t Compares to the Competition Exterior
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Each of these sedans is respectable in their own way. The BMW is impressive in its solid chassis, suspension, and drivetrain, while the Cadillac looks like a million bucks and drives better than its 2.0-liter’s horsepower suggests. The Volvo is the one to get if all-out luxury is the goal.

As for the Lexus GS 200t F Sport, it does a good job at splitting the difference between luxury and sport while backed by the anticipation of long-lasting reliability. The Lexus loses points for its Enform infotainment system and its odd joystick controller, but the smooth 2.0-liter turbo, powerful brakes, and sticky summer performance tires make it a fun driver. Its aggressive appearance is unquestionably polarizing, but for those who like it, the GS stands out in a very good way. There’s a lot to be said for that.

References

Lexus GS

2016 Lexus GS High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2017 Lexus GS.

2016 Lexus GS F High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2017 Lexus GS F.

Driven Opinion: How the Lexus GS 200t Compares to the Competition Interior
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Why is Lexus Charging $1,400 for Heated Seats on a $47k Car?

Driven Opinion: How the Lexus GS 200t Compares to the Competition Interior
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The Lexus GS 200t’s Infotainment System is its Weak Point

How the Lexus GS 200t F Sport Compares to the GS F
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How the Lexus GS 200t F Sport Compares to the GS F

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