2013 Lexus GS350 vs. 2013 Audi A6 3.0T
When it comes to mid-level luxury sedans, many people instantly gravitate to the “usual suspects” at their local Mercedes Benz or BMW dealers but quite honestly the latest E-Class and newest shape 5-Series sedans are both a bit of a snooze fest. What if you desire something different that not everyone on your block is driving that is both sporty, solidly built, has a premium badge and can also manage more than to just “impress the clients” during business lunches?
Well, that’s when you turn to the 2013 Audi A6 3.0T or the 2013 Lexus GS350 sedans, both of which are newly redesigned and a whole lot more fun to drive than their predecessors. Their styling inside and out also breaks from the very stoic feel found in the competition from Stuttgart and Munich as both the Audi and Lexus have very organic and welcoming designs. But most of all, the 2013 Lexus GS350 and 2013 Audi A6 3.0T are very, very practical and solidly built sedans that could very easily fulfill any family duty. Even that of being the preferred ride of the family dog.
Laugh if you will at the notion of anyone driving around their dog in $60,000 luxury sedans but in upscale areas like Orange County in Southern California the practice is quite common. Some recent studies have shown that as many as 80% of new car buyers will at some point plan on taking their family pet with them in the car. Whether or not it is a trip to the grocery store, the veterinarian or off to a family picnic, there is no reason why you can’t drive the family Lexus or Audi with Fido safely riding in the back seat.
But the question is which of these two luxury sedans is better at balancing the ability to be a family carry all with fulfilling all the expectations one would have from their new luxury sport sedan? So while family matters do always count, it is still the human passengers and most especially the driver who should be pampered most in either of these cars. So let’s see which one of these luxurious old dogs will win in a head to head comparison, shall we?
When Lexus restyled the GS sedan last year it really took a bold chance with its entire styling language giving this mid-size model an aggressively angular and sharp front grille design that flows nicely along the sides of the car to a cohesive rear tail light section which is perhaps the only less than interesting view of the car. As for the 2013 Audi A6, you won’t be hard pressed to tell what kind of car it is as its admittedly quite striking in the expected Audi manner. We especially loved the deep maroon exterior color of the Audi we tested in particular but in honor of Lexus taking a chance here, it’s the winner. (Winner: 2013 Lexus GS350)
Interior Design and Layout
In this regard, Audi still maintains its class leadership when it comes to picking out appealing textures, fabrics and tones when designing its extra-stylish interiors. Admittedly, Audi hasn’t taken many chances as of late with new ideas although we loved the new navigation screen that popped up dramatically from its hiding place in the dash whenever it was in use. Also, any passenger will be mightily impressed by the Google Earth Images used by the A6’s navigation screen which comes as part of the $6,880 Prestige trim designation. Our only complaint was a back seat which felt cramped compared to the one in the Lexus.
Here, yet again, is another area in which Lexus has found a newfound mojo in regard to use of high quality interior materials, gorgeous wood inlays and chrome finishes to create an interior style that was nothing short of breathtaking. Using the navigation, audio, climate and other functions is also easily done via the clever “computer mouse” controller that allows the driver to manipulate pages in the easy to read center mounted screen. Overall, the Lexus GS gives off a slightly more minimalist feel than the interior of the Audi but that is no bad thing affording it a uniquely non-German style. However, at night our Audi tester positively glowed with ambient lighting emanating softly from under the seats, through crevices along the doors and in the trim making it truly a special cabin to ride around in. (Winner: 2013 Audi A6 3.0T)
Practicality, Family and Dog Friendliness
If you can’t tell yet, this is one very close comparison test so first off let’s look at trunk space. The Lexus offers 14.3 cubic feet whereas the Audi falls down a bit at just 14.1 cubic feet. This, as well as the more clever inclusion of handy storage spaces in the Lexus showed us quite clearly that it was the better car should you be needing to use your new luxury sport sedan for a multitude of purposes. This means it’s perfect if you are not just commuting to work in it but also using it to haul around your wife, kids, their friends, your friends and their inevitable “stuff.”
Lastly, was the Audi or Lexus more capable of handling the abuse from our 75 pound canine road tester named Daisy Mae when she rode around in both luxury sedans? In the case of the Audi (especially its quickly dirtied cream leather and more delicate plastics), even with a seat cover protecting the back seat somehow we wound up spending a half hour cleaning the back of the A6 after just seven days with us. As for the Lexus, it didn’t even look like there had been a dog sitting back there so this is why, despite Daisy Mae passing away quite recently, we know she would have wanted us to name the GS350 our Most Pet Friendly Luxury Sedan for 2013. Congrats to Lexus. (Winner: 2013 Lexus GS350)
Pricing, Features and Fuel Economy
Again with this being such a close race! Both the Lexus and Audi get EPA fuel economy ratings of 19 city/28 highway with the Lexus averaging 23.5 during our road test and the Audi averaging 21.3 miles per gallon. Our test Audi A3 3.0T came with the brand’s Quattro all-wheel drive system but also realize that Lexus offers buyers the choice of either of front or all-wheel drive with the GS.
Both of these luxury sedans we tested came equipped with most everything barring an actual kitchen sink with the Audi A6 boasting a final MSRP of $61,530 which included 4-zone automatic climate control, the Google maps navigation unit, a Bose audio system, heated and ventilated front seats, 19-inch wheels and tires, three spoke sport steering wheel with paddle shifters, Bluetooth, a power moonroof and a three mode suspension system that the driver can adjust based on driving conditions. Essentially, it adjusts the steering heaviness and suspension responses depending on if you want smoothness and comfort or more interactive sportiness.
Now, the 2013 Lexus GS350 we tested did have a 6-speed automatic to the Audi’s 8-speed unit (who cares?) and did only offer “3-zone climate control” compared to the 4-zone unit available with the Audi but then it did cost less at $57,309. Other features included in that price include navigation, a 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio system, a parking assistance system, 18-inch alloy wheels, an adaptive variable suspension, a moonroof and most importantly that little “L” logo on the front. (Winner: 2013 Lexus GS350)
Driving Impressions and Safety
As you would imagine from two of the most finely crafted luxury sport sedans on the market today, both the 2013 Audi A6 and 2013 Lexus GS scored top marks from the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) in crash test meaning both were labeled as “Top Safety Picks.” But while we are quite sure you and your family (and your family dog as long as they are wearing a safety harness in the car) would be safe in an accident, these cars drive with such a grace and fluidity that you have a higher likelihood of avoiding an accident altogether.
The 2013 Audi A6 is also available with a less powerful 2.0 liter 211 horsepower/258 lb. feet of torque 4-cylinder taken from the A4 but to our way of thinking this much more opulent sedan deserves to be equipped with the silky smooth 3.0 liter turbocharged 310 horsepower/335 lb. feet of torque 6-cylinder. Not only was it quick to get this somewhat heavy all-wheel drive sedan moving with impressive alacrity but while doing so the engine emitted a deliciously characterful roar well suited to this car’s sporty demeanor. Steering feel is communicative and somehow felt more alive in our hands than recent BMW models we have driven.
The 2013 Lexus GS350 was easily, hands down the most fun to drive Lexus model that we have ever driven, although that list admittedly does not include the LF-A supercar. Never before has Lexus managed to give one of its luxury sedans this much driver involvement through well weighted steer and a suspension that refuses to pitch and roll even in very spirited driving. Sure, the 2013 Lexus is still quiet at a cruise but now you can hear a bit of engine roar and feel more of the road which is always a great thing when you want to stay awake. Both of these cars are simply brilliant to drive and Mercedes and BMW really need to start upping their game to keep up. (Winner: Tie)
And the Winner Is…
Not only did the 2013 Lexus GS350 win by narrow margins in most categories but it also stood out in our eyes as such a durably built and dog friendly family car that we have named it the best for 2013. Now, we are thinking of adopting another rescue dog to help us report about the needs of pet owners but it’s quite hard nowadays to find one with any journalistic experience or pedigree. Thankfully, however, both the Audi A6 and Lexus GS have pedigree and class in spades. Only the 2013 Lexus GS350 offers you a little more bark for your buck. (Winner Overall: 2013 Lexus GS350)