At first glance this seems an odd pair. The 2013 Lexus GS 350 F-Sport is a RWD Japanese sedan with an added sport chromosome. The other is Cadillac’s new flagship luxury cruiser, the 2013 Cadillac XTS Premium: larger, smoother, FWD. Conventionally speaking, these aren’t competitors, due to their size difference and markets. The Cadillac is a domestic S-Class, the GS is Toyota’s 5-series.
But both are great choices for a person shopping for a luxury four door, especially for those that want to stray from the herd. The CTS was Cadillac’s return to greatness, and the XTS aims to expand that, providing more room, comfort, and convenience. A large, luxurious sedan; what Cadillac built its name on.
Likewise, the GS350 F-Sport is a new direction for Lexus. While other companies chase horsepower, Lexus is starting with the chassis, a distant but similar ideal to the FR-S. Lexus came to America in 1989, but their bigger cars have been a bit drab. Good cars, but a bit dull. They’d like to change that. But I think these two cars, while technically from different segments, should be cross-shopped.
Both cost about $60,000, have V6 engines and 6-speed autos. Wheelbases are near identical (the XTS is 15” longer overall), as is power: 304HP/264tq. in the XTS, 306HP/274tq in the Lexus. They both come loaded with equipment (power, leather, window shades, Bluetooth, NAV, upgraded suspension, wheels, and tires), and get 28MPG highway. Interior volume is close, with the XTS edging out the GS with rear seat room and trunk space.
But the GS certainly isn’t small. Inside, it looks great; a symphony of aluminum, leather and dark plastic that flows forward, almost encouraging rapid transit. The recessed screen is huge, though the mouse-like controller isn’t perfect, and the graphics look old. Buttons are everywhere, which are nice to use but can appear busy. Despite that, it all looks and feels very good, especially with red leather.
By contrast the XTS puts almost all functions into the touch-screen CUE system. It’s an exercise in minimalism, like a dark-wooded brandy bar. 4 heated/cooled seats keep everyone happy, the sparse dash and center stack are soothing. Touch buttons almost seem to disappear, although they can be too sensitive. Some of the plastics look a bit thin, but even so, you feel expensive sitting in it.
Both are comfortable and modern looking, packing any gadget you require. Where they differ is their on-road capabilities.
Firstly, the GS350 is RWD, which does more for a car than you’d think. The feeling of being pushed rather than pulled just suits a car of this caliber. I’m sorry, but FWD just doesn’t feel right at this price.
The “F-Sport” package comes with upgrades to the suspension, steering, brakes, and exterior aesthetics. Driver-selected modes change the suspension, steering feel, and throttle response. Comfort mode glides along quietly; Sport+ makes it a taut running back. It corners as flat as almost any sport sedan, regardless of price, and is genuinely fun. Power might be similar to the XTS, but it comes on 2,000RPMs sooner. That’s part of the reason it’s a second faster to 60MPH. Lexus is no longer the company of silence and restraint. Don’t let your 16 year-old borrow it.
The GS has smart shocks, but the XTS’ are genius. With GM’s Magnetic Ride Control, the XTS is sublime. Reacting instantly to the road conditions to make sure no one is disturbed. The engine requires more revs than I’d like, but its remedied by a flick of the paddles. The XTS can’t keep up with the GS, but the ride is opulent without wobbling.
Both cars are efficient vessels of solitude that make you feel like you’ve arrived, and look good doing it, offering similar space, power, and tech.
If you’re someone who needs a place to escape to, you will appreciate the XTS’s ride and clean interior. It’s feels like a Lexus LS from the past: quiet, reliable, and unobtrusive, but with way more style.
The GS350 F-Sport is for the person that appreciates a massage but also likes to hit a punching bag (me). The ride isn’t as sublime as the XTS, but you get a bit of Hyde in this car too. Add to that the RWD, better steering feel, and superior power-band and this is would be the one for me.
(Note: All vehicles provided by manufacturers for comparison test purposes.)