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Lexus GS


Audi A6

Summary

Lexus GS

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.

As the sun is surely setting on the GS, it's time to have a look and see if it's a match for the BMW 5 Series or the Mercedes E.

Safety rating
Engine Type3.5L
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency10L/100km
Seating5 seats

Audi A6

As its name implies, Audi's A6 lives in the luxury sedan zone between the brand's volume-selling, mid-size A4 and limo-length A8.

Although it sits in the same size, price and performance ballpark as BMW's evergreen 5 Series and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, traditionally it hasn't been able to lay a glove on the other German 'Big Three' competitors in terms of sales in the Australian new car market. Although it does manage to topple the seemingly unloved Jaguar XF and Lexus GS.

So, what to do? After seven years in market, the fourth generation (C7) A6 departed the local market in June this year, and the fresh metal designed to push Audi up the leader board stands before you.

Revealed in Germany early in 2018, the fifth-gen (C8) A6 brings new engines, leading edge safety, upgraded media tech, and an evolution of the brand's distinctive design language.

We scored an early, preview drive to see if the A6 has what it takes to challenge the '5' and 'E'.

Safety rating
Engine Type3.0L
Fuel Type95 Ron Premium Unleaded
Fuel Efficiency7.2L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

Lexus GS7.3/10

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?


Audi A68.1/10

The new Audi A6 55 TFSI quattro S line 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. Owners in this part of the market tend to be rusted on loyal to their preferred brand, though, and it will be interesting to see of this impressive newcomer can shake a few of them loose.

Could this new A6 tempt you out of your 5 Series or E-Class? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

Design

Lexus GS7/10

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.


Audi A68/10

In recent years Audi has shown impressive commitment to design consistency, with signature elements like the 'Singleframe grille', crisp, angular lines and tightly wrapped surfaces obvious unifying factors.

But the line between consistency and sameness is a thin one, and you could argue a strong case that, scale aside, all Audis from the last decade look much the same. And while this all-new design sharpens and tweaks the brand formula it's hardly a clean-sheet revolution.

Our test car's mega (optional) 21-inch alloys are further proof that Audi is currently playing a strong wheel design game. They fill the wheelarches to capacity and arm wrestle with the massive grille for visual prominence.

The standard 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 strongly curved roofline accentuates the car's steeply raked C-pillars, giving it a close to fastback style. Short overhangs accentuate the carefully sculpted, muscular look.

The interior is a model of design quality mixed with Teutonic restraint, the dash and instrument cluster layout showcasing the three digital screens covering instruments, media 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.

Practicality

Lexus GS7/10

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.


Audi A68/10

At just over 4.9m long, close to 1.9m wide, and a little under 1.5m high the new A6 is marginally longer and wider, yet fractionally lower overall than its predecessor. And each of those key measures are within millimetres of its core competitors.

So, large rather than huge, yet while the wheelbase has stretched 12mm, Audi says it has eked out an extra 21mm of interior length.

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.

Those in the back are in equally good shape. I was able to sit behind the driver's seat set for my 183cm position with heaps of head and legroom on offer.

The fold-down centre armrest features a lidded storage tray and twin pop-out cupholders. There are netted pockets on the back of each front seat and the door bins are big enough for large drink bottles.

Three adults across the rear is definitely do-able, but not a realistic long-distance option.

Ventilation, connectivity and power are also well buttoned down for back-seaters with the standard spec including climate control adjustment for the rear, plus two USB ports and a 12-volt socket.

For the record, our test example was upgraded with the 'Rear Seat Comfort Package' ($2500) consisting of four-zone climate control, heating for the two outer positions and 'extended upholstery' for the door armrest and centre console. The two central vents are also supplemented by additional adjustable outlets in the B-pillars.

Boot capacity is around the average for the class at 530 litres, and the A6 swallowed our three-piece hard suitcase set (35, 68 and 105 litres) with masses of room to spare, as it did the jumbo size CarsGuide pram.

In fact, it was able to take the biggest case as well as the pram at the same time, which is pretty impressive. 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, and a space-saver spare sits under the boot floor.

Price and features

Lexus GS8/10

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+.


Audi A68/10

The $100K barrier is a substantial one, and the Audi A6 55 TFSI quattro S line well and truly vaults over it, landing at a price of $116,000, before on-road costs.

For context, BMW's 530i Luxury Line weighs in at $111,900, Jag's XF 35t S will set you back $128,528, the Mercedes-Benz E300 sits at $111,642, and the Lexus GS350 Sport Luxury will lighten your wallet by $106,312.

So, you'd expect this top of the three model A6 range to be packed with standard features as part of the pitch to win market share from BMW, Merc and Co. And sure enough this car is laden down with enough fruit to satisfy Carmen Miranda's milliner.

Included are 20-inch alloy wheels, sports suspension (with electronically controlled adaptive dampers), matrix LED headlights (with LED DRLs, dynamic cornering lights, auto headlight range control and rear dynamic indicators), 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), 'Valcona' leather upholstery (door trim inserts in Alcantara), three-zone climate control air, a flat-bottom leather-trimmed sports steering wheel (with manual gearshift paddles), 'aluminium fragment' interior inlays, ambient lighting, and aluminium illuminated front door sill trims (in S design).

Plus, 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, a head-up display (colour, with speed, nav and assistance info), 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.

On top of that lot, our test car featured a quartet of options starting with air suspension ($2000), stepping through metallic paint ($2200), to the 'Rear seat comfort package' described in the practicality section above ($2500), and 'Premium plus package 1' ($9800) which tips in Bang & Olufsen's '3D Sound System' (16 speakers, 15-channel amp, and 705-watt output), HD matrix LED headlights, panoramic glass sunroof, privacy glass (rear and rear side windows), LED interior lighting package (30 selectable colours and six colour profiles), electric opening and closing boot lid, electric steering column adjust, S line interior package (S line embossing on the front seats, perforated leather steering wheel grips, inlays in dark matt brushed aluminium and stainless steel pedal and footrest faces), plus 21-inch alloys. The final price, before on-road costs, totting up to $132,500.

Engine & trans

Lexus GS8/10

Lexus fits a 3.5-litre (2GR-FKS) naturally-aspirated V6, delivering 232kW/380Nm to help shift the 1745kg GS. Power goes to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic. Lexus claims the sprint from 0-100km/h is completed in just six seconds.


Audi A69/10

The VW Group (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 peak power of 250kW from 5000-6400rpm, and maximum torque of 500Nm between 1370rpm and 4500rpm.

A 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.

Drive goes to all four wheels via a seven-speed 'S tronic' dual-clutch auto transmission and an electronically controlled multi-plate clutch centre differential.

Fuel consumption

Lexus GS6/10

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.


Audi A68/10

Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is 7.2L/100km, the A6 55 TFSI emitting 164g/km of CO2 in the process.

Over five days of city, suburban and freeway running we recorded a figure of 8.8L/100km, courtesy of the on-board computer. Pretty impressive for a close to 1.8-tonne luxury sedan.

Stop/start is standard, minimum fuel requirement is 95 RON premium unleaded, and you'll need 72 litres of it to fill the tank.

Driving

Lexus GS7/10

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 A67/10

The A6 55 TFSI's S line tag infers sporty performance, and there's no doubt 0-100km/h acceleration in a claimed 5.1sec is rapid.

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.

The aim is to sharpen throttle response and deliver power in a smooth, linear flow. And with maximum torque available from just 1370rpm all the way to 4500rpm, that's exactly the way it feels.

Select Sport mode, squeeze the right-hand pedal, and the V6 delivers a firm, consistent shove in the back. Keep pushing and peak power arrives at 5000rpm, remaining on tap all the way up to 6400rpm, on the cusp of the engine's rev ceiling.

But don't expect a brash, macho personality. The A6 is quietly quick, remaining composed and relatively quiet as speed rises.

Low noise acoustic glass is a key factor here, as is a comprehensive sound absorption package throughout the cabin. Some may find the drive experience too low-key, even sterile, while others will embrace the cool sophistication.

The seven-speed 'S tronic' dual-clutch auto transmission is beautifully executed, delivering ultra-smooth shifts at around-town cruising speeds and crisp, positive changes in manual mode.

A self-locking centre differential sits at the heart of the 'quattro' all-wheel drive system, normally distributing torque in a 40/60 front to rear ratio. Up to 70 per cent of drive can be sent to the front axle and a maximum 85 per cent to the rear.

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, with the switch between dynamic and comfort settings swift and pronounced.

Flick the 'Audi Drive Select' system into its softest setting and the ride smooths out to an ultra-complaint mode. Never floaty or unwieldy, just refined and well damped, despite our test car's optional 21-inch rims shod with 255/35 Pirelli P Zero rubber. But it's important to note optional air suspension was also on-board.

Tweak things up to the sportier end of the spectrum and the ride height drops by 10mm, the suspension firms up appreciably, and steering weight toughens up a few notches. Hustling the big Audi along a favourite backroad it remained balanced and predictable. But even in this context, Comfort's the better option.

Speaking of steering, the A6's electro-mechanical system supplies speed-dependent power assistance, and while it points accurately the assistance is overdone and road feel isn't a strong suit.

Brakes are 375mm ventilated discs at the front, clamped by six-piston alloy calipers, with 350mm rotors at the rear. In some enthusiastic, 'long-way-home' driving they inspired confidence with progressive feel and more than enough bite to calmly bring the 1.8-tonne A6 to heel.

Need to hitch up a boat, float or van? You're all clear up to 2.0 tonnes for a braked trailer and 750kg unbraked.

Safety

Lexus GS7/10

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.


Audi A610/10

Up front we mentioned this new A6 features leading-edge safety, and the crash test dummies in Ingolstadt must have been working overtime because this car leaves nothing on the table.

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 manoeuvres.

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.

Ownership

Lexus GS8/10

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 A67/10

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 years ($1700) and five years ($2630).

In making the call between the two plans it's worth noting the four year/60,000km service is a big one including filters, a timing belt replacement, transmission fluid and spark plugs.