Lexus GS VS Audi A6
- Super-smooth V6
- Lots of interesting tech
- Lovely (if old-fashioned) interior
- Media system
- No Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- Clinical personality
- Steering feel
Ah, yes, the Lexus GS. Toyota's luxury off-shoot had high hopes for the new big boy when I first saw it a few years ago. Not thousands-of-sales high hopes, but the company thought a rear-wheel drive luxury sedan stacked with gear you didn't even know you wanted would be a dead-set winner.
And to be fair, they were right. I ran a GS as a long-termer and it was impeccably-mannered. In hybrid form. It wasn't sparkling, but my goodness, it used barely any fuel; especially impressive given its size.
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Despite a determined bid for dominance by a growing stream of Q-badged SUVs, with zero-emission Es on the near horizon, Audi’s A-team of mainstream sedans, wagons, coupes, and cabriolets remains vitally important to the company’s product portfolio and bottom line.
But in recent years the Bavarian maker’s mid-size A6 has been hiding in the shadows, unable to lay a glove on its natural enemies, the BMW 5 Series and Merc’s E-Class, in terms of new car sales in Australia.
So, this sizeable piece of fresh metal is designed to push Audi up the leader board. It’s the all-new, fifth generation A6.
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Weirdly, given all the good things I've had to say about the GS F Sport, it doesn't quite hang together. It's missing that certain something the Europeans have in their chassis, particularly the BMW 5 Series, and with ageing interior tech, it's struggling to keep up.
It's a car built for specific tastes, and they're more California than Straya. And that's perfectly okay, but unfortunately, that doesn't translate to a stampede of buyers. Having said that, none of its German rivals (or its beleaguered Japanese counterpart, Infiniti) could claim wild sales success either.
The GS is a terrific car, underrated but also just not quite there for my taste. The GS F, though, that's another thing altogether.
Does Lexus even register on your big luxury sedan radar? If it does, what stops you from taking the plunge?
The new Audi A6 is a composed, rapid, top-shelf luxury sedan. It’s comprehensively equipped, with safety tech a stand-out, and priced to chip away at BMW and Merc’s segment dominance.
But owners in this part of the market tend to be rusted on loyal to their preferred brand, and it will be interesting to see of this impressive newcomer can shake a few of them loose.
Pick of the bunch? Save 10 or $15K or dial down the repayments and go for the entry-level A6 45 TFSI, with all the safety tech on-board, plenty of performance, and most of the luxury features included in the more premium models.
The GS is ageing well, but it's still a bit heavy-handed around the headlights and a little on the slabby side along the flanks. It doesn't look poised for action, even with the F Sport additions, but nor does it look frumpy, mostly due to the whopping blacked-out spindle grille, a Lexus signature.
The rear end is good looking but a bit bluff, again neither surprising or delighting.
Little has changed inside, but it's still a very nice cabin, and always will be apart from a couple of clangers (the gear shifter looks super-cheap).
What's more, it's welcoming, lots of very nice materials, comfortable, seats - it's exactly what it needs to be. Whatever you might think of the looks, one thing is absolutely certain - if anyone builds cars better than Lexus, it's a very, very short list.
Revealed in Germany in early 2018, the new-gen A6 brings fresh engines, leading edge safety, upgraded media tech, and an evolution of the brand’s distinctive design language.
Always a subjective call, but to my eyes the A6’s exterior, while crisp and contemporary, is evolutionary rather than a game-changing step ahead.
The signature single frame grille is even bigger than before, to the point where it feels like Audi has entered an arms race with the current oversize grille superpower, BMW.
A strongly curved roofline accentuates the car’s steeply raked C-pillars, giving it a close to fastback style. Broad, sweeping surfaces are combined with harder defining edges and creases, while short overhangs accentuate the carefully sculpted, tightly wrapped look.
The A6 45 TFSI rides on 19-inch ‘5-twin-spoke’ design alloys which fill the wheelarches nicely, while the 45 and 55 S line run on similar design 20s.
The S line exterior package incorporates specific front and rear bumpers with honeycomb inserts, side air inlet grilles in ‘matt titanium black’ with inserts in ‘platinum grey’, rear diffuser in the same black, this time with chrome trim, side sill trims, and illuminated aluminium door sill trims with S logo at the front
The interior is a model of Teutonic restraint, the sleek dash and instrument cluster layout showcasing three digital screens covering instruments, media and other functions as well as heating and ventilation.
Long, horizontal vents are an Audi design favourite, the seats look and feel superb and the entire cabin reeks of quality and attention to detail.
Being a big car, there's plenty of room inside. Four passengers will be very comfortable although rear legroom was a bit on the skinny side given the car's size.
The cabin contains a good-sized console bin, four cupholders and each door pocket into which you could conceivably slot a bottle.
The 520-litre boot is a useful shape, with a sensible load height and a space-saver spare under the floor. The 5 Series and E Class both best the Lexus by 10 litres, so the GS isn't far off the norm.
Room for the driver and front passenger is generous, with ample storage provided including dual (covered) cupholders in the centre console (also incorporating a 12-volt outlet and key holder slot), a decent glove box, and door bins allowing easy bottle storage.
The lidded storage box/armrest between the front seats is relatively shallow but includes a wireless Qi (chee) charging mat (for compatible devices), plus SIM and SD ports, as well as a pair of (Type-A) USB sockets.
The wheelbase has stretched 12mm in this new model, but Audi says it has eked out an extra 21mm of interior length, with 17 of those added to the rear section. And I’m able to sit behind the driver’s seat set for my 183cm position with heaps of head and legroom on offer. Three adults across the rear is definitely do-able for short to medium length trips.
In the rear, a fold-down centre armrest features a lidded storage tray and twin pop-out cupholders (the latter on S line models only). There are netted pockets here and the door bins are big enough for large drink bottles. There’s also climate control ventilation, USB ports, 12-volt power… the lot!
Boot capacity is around the average for the class at 530 litres, and the A6 swallows our three-piece hard suitcase set with masses of room to spare, as it does the jumbo size CarsGuide pram. In fact, it was able to take the largest case as well as the pram at the same time. Drop the 40/20/40 split-folding rear seat to liberate even more volume.
There are pop-up tie-down anchors at each corner of the boot floor, a netted storage cavity behind the passenger side wheel tub, a 12-volt outlet on the driver’s side, a handy fold down shopping bag hook, an elasticised net is included on the S lines, and a space-saver spare sits under the boot floor.
Towing capacity is the same across the range – 2.0 tonnes for a braked trailer, and 750kg unbraked. The spare is a space saver on all models, too.
Price and features
We had the pleasure of the GS 350 F Sport for the week, which is well over $10,000 cheaper than the Luxury and is therefore the 'default. If you're not sure what F Sport means, it's Lexus' answer to an M Sport or AMG pack, without all the high-powered engine shenanigans to go with it. If that's what you're after, the V8-powered Lexus GS F is definitely for you.
Starting at $95,300, the F Sport has a spectacular standard features list - 17-speaker stereo, 19-inch alloys, variable-geared four-wheel steer (!), adaptive suspension, dual-zone climate control (with moisturising function), hectares of leather trim, head-up display, electrically-operated heated and ventilated front seats, rear sunshade, F Sport instrument screen, auto LED headlights, keyless entry and start, sat nav, front and rear parking sensors with around-view cameras and a space-saver spare.
The media system is run from Lexus' 12.3-inch screen embedded in the dashboard and controlled from an infuriating console-mounted mouse-clicker with a couple of shortcut buttons. It really is spectacularly irritating and made worse by the rotary dial stationed next to it that acts as the drive mode selector. Why not use that instead?
As ever, the system is mildly baffling to use and hard to look at, but the sound is absolutely lovely from the Mark Levinson-branded speakers. Lexus is persisting with a DVD player but it also has DAB+.
The A6 launches with three models, the 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo-petrol 45 TFSI at $95,500, before on-road costs, the more premium 45 TFSI S line at $105,200, and the top-shelf 3.0-litre turbo-petrol V6 55 TFSI S line at $116,000.
Included on the A6 45 TFSI are 19-inch alloy wheels, matrix LED headlights with LED DRLs, dynamic cornering lights, automatic-dynamic headlight range control and rear dynamic indicators (the Matrix beam detects and blanks out oncoming vehicles or vehicles in front, but continues to fully illuminate other areas), keyless entry and start including a sensor controlled (leg swish) boot release, electric heated sports seats for the driver and front passenger (including memories for the driver), ‘leather appointed’ seat upholstery, three-zone climate control air, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, ‘aluminium fragment’ interior inlays, ambient lighting, and aluminium front door sill trims.
Plus, ‘Audi Drive Select’ allows the selection of various driving modes, there’s Audi’s smartphone interface providing Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, ’Qi’ wireless charging, 10-speaker/180-watt audio driven by a six-channel amp and featuring digital radio, the 12.3-inch configurable ‘Audi Virtual Cockpit’ digital instrument cluster, 10.1-inch high-res colour media touchscreen, ‘Navigation Plus’ (with 3D map display including places of interest and city models), and a third 8.6-inch colour display for the climate control system (with handwriting recognition and a favourites list).
The recently introduced ‘myAudi’ app also allows you to connect to the car and access real-time info on everything from how much fuel’s in the tank, to maintenance milestones, and service warnings. You can remotely lock and unlock the car, plan journeys (at home) and send destinations and routes directly to the car.
Then the 45 and 55 TFSI S Line models add ‘Valcona’ leather trim (seat centre panels, seat side bolsters, head restraints and centre armrest, and door trim inserts in Alcantara faux suede), a flat-bottom leather-trimmed sports steering wheel, a head-up display (colour, with speed, nav and assistance info), illuminated front door sill trims, 20-inch alloy wheels, and electronically controlled adaption of the dampers.
Engine & trans
The 45 TFSI is powered by a 2.0-litre turbo four, and the 55 TFSI by a 3.0-litre turbo V6, both featuring a mild-hybrid system recovering braking energy to enable coasting at higher speeds and in the latter case power the stop-start system.
The VW Group (EA888) engine used in the A6 45 TFSI is an iron block/alloy head single turbo unit featuring direct-injection and variable valve timing on the inlet side. It produces peak power of 180kW from 5000-6000rpm, and maximum torque of 370Nm from 1600-4500rpm.
The (EA839) engine used in the A6 55 TFSI is a 90-degree 3.0-litre, all-alloy, single (twin-scroll) turbo V6 featuring direct-injection, variable camshaft adjustment (intake and exhaust side) and variable valve timing on the inlet side. It produces 250kW from 5000-6400rpm, and 500Nm between 1370rpm and 4500rpm.
The 55’s 48-volt mild hybrid electrical system recovers regenerative braking energy to power the stop/start system and enable coasting (for up to 40 seconds) between 55-160km/h. It consists of a 10 Ah lithium-ion battery under the boot floor, a water-cooled belt alternator starter (BAS) mounted to the engine’s front end, with a V-belt connecting it to the crankshaft.
As is increasingly the norm with Vee engines from the ‘Big Three’ German brands this one has its single, twin-scroll turbo located in the V6’s ‘hot V’ to shorten gas paths from the exhaust to the turbo, and from the turbo into the inlet side for better throttle response (as in, minimal turbo lag).
Drive goes to all four wheels via the latest gen version of Audi’s quattro system and a seven-speed dual-clutch auto transmission.
A real world 13.7L/100km is a solid miss of the claimed 9.3L/100km, which itself is hardly earth-shattering. It's a big heavy car and that's the penalty. It drinks fuel fast, so the 66-litre fuel tank does drain quickly and it's worth knowing you have to fill it with the 95 RON or better.
Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle hovers all the way from 7.2L/100km for the 45 TFSI, to 7.3L/100km for the 45 TFSI S line, and back to 7.2L/100km for the 55 TFSI S line.
CO2 emissions sit in a similarly narrow band, the 45 TFSI producing 165g/km, the 45 TFSI S line 166g/km, and the 55 TFSI S line 164g/km.
Stop/start is standard on all models, minimum fuel requirement is 95 RON premium unleaded, and you’ll need 73 litres of it to fill the tank (on all models).
The local A6 launch drive program ran to the south of Adelaide in South Australia, with some freeway running followed by the twisting rural B-roads running through the McLaren Vale wine growing area. Spending most time in the 45 TFSI S line (because we’d previously driven the 55 TFSI S line) we saw a real-world average of 9.1L/100km, courtesy of the on-board computer.
In our previous review of the 55 TFSI, over five days of city, suburban and freeway running we recorded a figure of 8.8L/100km. Both numbers impressive for a close to 1.8-tonne luxury sedan.
There are things you expect in a Lexus. Quietness. Composure. Smoothness. The GS delivers all three of those things effortlessly. But it has a few extra things in its bag that I can't say I was expecting.
For a start, the 3.5-litre V6 moves the car without any carry-on and in doing so, I was constantly amazed at how quickly the speed in the head-up display reached the posted limit. It just doesn't feel or sound like a six second car, but there you are. The transmission is virtually faultless, the engine sound distant and refined, the power impressive.
It's a heavy car, no question, but two things work to make it feel much lighter. First - and it doesn't matter which mode you choose - the adaptive suspension somehow knocks about 200kg out of how heavy the car feels. The brakes, while a little soft on pedal feel when you first step on them, are very effective and again help to make the car feel lighter than it is.
The four driving modes are quite distinct. As usual, Eco makes everything soft and doughy or as I prefer to say, unpleasant. Normal is great for every day, with just the right throttle response and steering weight.
Moving to sport ups the aggro slightly while Sport+, while never harsh, firms everything up to the point where it starts to feel like a different car. Sport+ makes the car feel race-car pointy, the suspension holds the body in check and the power seems readily available without jerky progression
The all-wheel steer is a big part of the change in feel. It's is especially sharp in Sport+ mode. The steering's gearing changes up quite a bit, meaning a lot less steering lock required for your favourite hairpin bend. Of course, at real speed it all calms down because neither you nor Lexus are fond of sneezy lane-changes or Armco-swiping. At first I thought it just made the big car feel a bit too nervous but as I got used to it (and was able to dial it down by switching back into a less racy mode) I found it fun but a little bit out of character with the car itself.
And just because it's the F Sport, that doesn't mean it can't do all the things you'd expect from a Lexus. You can still waft, you can still creep up on people and it's really very comfortable when you're cruising or stuck in traffic.
Audi claims the 45 will sprint from 0-100km/h in six seconds, and the 55 in just over five. So, quick, and very quick.
Both are super responsive in the mid-range with peak torque available from just 1600rpm in the 45 and less than 1400 in the 55.
As is increasingly the norm with Vee engines from the ‘Big Three’ German brands the 55 TFSI’s single, twin-scroll turbo is located in the V6’s ‘hot V’ to shorten gas paths from the exhaust to the turbo, and from the turbo into the inlet side.
The aim is to sharpen throttle response and deliver power in a smooth, linear flow. And with maximum torque available from so low down in the rev range, that’s exactly the way it feels.
Select Sport mode, squeeze the right-hand pedal, and the 55’s V6 delivers a firm, consistent shove in the back. The 45 is less urgent in terms of acceleration, but more than adequate for easy highway cruising and confident overtaking.
Both are quietly quick, thanks in part to low-noise acoustic glass and comprehensive use of sound absorption materials around the cabin, remaining composed and relatively subdued as speed rises.
The seven-speed dual-clutch delivers ultra-smooth shifts at around-town speeds and crisp, positive changes in manual mode.
In normal, suburban-style conditions the quattro system decouples the rear axle and sticks with front-wheel drive economy. If all-wheel drive is required, a tricky clutch instantly activates it, in certain situations predicatively.
On top of that, in aggressive cornering torque vectoring by braking (Audi calls it ‘Wheel-Selective Torque Control’) retards the near-side wheels before they slip.
Suspension is a five-link set-up front and rear, with much of the hardware made from aluminium to fine tune response and reduce unsprung weight.
Electronically controlled adaptive dampers are standard on the S line models, with the switch between dynamic and comfort settings swift and pronounced.
Rims are 19-inch on the 45 and 20s on the 45 S line and 55 S line, but all variants are comfortable. Never floaty or unwieldy, just refined and well damped.
The electromechanically assisted steering points accurately but the assistance is overdone and road feel isn’t one of the A6’s strongest suits.
Brakes are 375mm ventilated discs at the front, clamped by six-piston alloy calipers, with 350mm rotors at the rear. They inspire confidence, with progressive feel and more than enough to confidently arrest the 1.8-tonne A6's progress.
The GS scores 10 airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, forward AEB, active cruise, auto high beams and lane departure warning with lane keep assist.
The GS doesn't have an ANCAP or Euro NCAP rating while the USA's IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) rating is good for each key crash-worthiness measure. The IIHS suite of tests is quite rigorous but differ from our ANCAP/Euro NCAP standards.
Safety is literally five star, the A6 scoring ANCAP’s maximum rating when the car was tested in 2018, and active and passive tech is amazing.
The usual active safety suspects are all present and accounted for, namely ESC (with electronic wheel-selective torque control), ABS, ASR, EDL and ‘Brake Assist’.
But from there the list of standard tech reads like a who’s who of recent innovations, including ‘Adaptive Drive Assist’ (adaptive cruise control with ‘Stop&Go’, distance indicator, traffic jam assist and lane guidance assist), AEB (5.0km/h to 85km/h for pedestrians and cyclists, and up to 250 km/h for vehicles), ‘Collision Avoidance Assist’ (additional steering torque in critical evasive situations), rear cross traffic alert, blind spot warning, and lane departure warning.
The 360-degree camera set-up includes a kerb view function, with four wide-angle cameras covering the entire area immediately around the vehicle for improved visibility during low speed maneuveres.
There’s also an exit warning system (detects vehicles and cyclists when opening doors, triggering a warning light and delaying door opening), ‘Attention Assist’, tyre pressure monitoring, ‘Audi Parking System Plus’ (front and rear with visual display), and ‘Intersection Crossing Assist’.
That last one operates at speeds up to 30km/h, monitoring the area in front and at the side of the car, detecting “oncoming objects” at junctions and exit roads. If the situation is critical the system triggers a visual and acoustic warning as well as a quick jolt on the brakes (at speeds up to 10km/h).
But it’s not over yet, with auto headlights, rain-sensing wipers and ‘Turn Assist’ included. Turn Assist monitors oncoming traffic when you’re turning right at speeds up to 10km/h and applies the brakes if necessary.
If all those measures aren’t enough to avoid an impact passive safety leads off with front airbags for driver and passenger, side airbags for front and rear side passengers, plus curtain airbags covering both rows.
Also included is ‘Audi Pre-Sense Rear’ (tensioning of front seat belts, closing of windows and sunroof and flashing hazards on detection of an impending rear collision), the standard active bonnet helps to minimise pedestrian impact injuries and there’s a first-aid kit as well as a warning triangle and high-vis vests in the boot.
No surprise the new A6 scored a maximum five-star ANCAP rating, the assessment done in 2018 and the score applicable from August 2019 onwards.
There's one area where Lexus smashes the Germans and that's after-sales. While the warranty is hardly ground-breaking at four years/100,000km and service intervals are reasonable at 12 months/15,000km, it's how it all comes together.
For the duration of the warranty, when the car needs a service, Lexus will either come and get it then return it to you, or give you a loan car. Anecdotal evidence suggests this continues long after the warranty runs out. Like, 10 years after the warranty runs out.
This is a small thing, but if there's one thing I hate about car ownership, it's the servicing experience. If I was a betting man, I'd dare you to find someone who genuinely has a problem with Lexus after-sales care.
On top of that, you get a generous roadside assist package for four years.
Audi covers the A6 with a three year/unlimited km warranty, which is in line with BMW and Merc, but lags the mainstream market where five years/unlimited km is the norm, with Kia and SsangYong at seven years.
That said, body cover runs to three years for paint defects and 12 years for corrosion (perforation).
Recommended service interval is 12 months/15,000km, and ‘Audi Genuine Care Service Plans’ offer capped price servicing options over three and five years.