Whatever do you do when a stunning red Lexus GS-F arrives in your driveway? Well, we decided to drive this sporty example of Japanese automotive craftsmanship to Nonna’s, a fabulous Italian restaurant, to drink fine Pinot Grigio while being entertained by the talented Steven St. James, a Sinatra-like crooner belting out Rat Pack standards.
Very nice, but that’s just one night, and we have this Asian hot rod for a week.
How about motoring rapidly and stylishly to the Celtic House Pub to sip Jameson whiskey and Guinness while listening to Celtic Chaos, a Colorado Celtic trio?
If that wasn’t multiculturally decadent enough, a similar dilemma arises when a gorgeous blue BMW M550i xDrive arrives to stay for a week. This time we take this exquisite example of German ultimate driving to a birthday party at Mt. Fuji Japanese restaurant for plenty of sake and a flaming table-side Hibachi feast. One outing is never enough, so our high-performance luxury sedan then transported us to FanDraught, a new local brewery where we sampled a variety of craft beers while rocking out to Scarecrow Revival, a high-energy Americana band.
Our rides to these evenings of libations and sterling entertainment were perfectly suited for the job. The Lexus GS-F and BMW M550i are direct market competitors; both represent their respective manufacturers’ top-end high-performance, luxury, mid-sized sport sedans. Both are powered by 32-valve V-8s, channeled through sophisticated 8-speed adaptive auto-manual transmissions with multiple performance settings. The Lexus 5.0L is naturally aspirated, and puts out a healthy 467 horsepower. The BMW 4.4L has twin turbos and boosts a neck-snapping 456 horsepower. The Lexus rides on 18 inch sport wheels, with six-piston slotted disc Brembo brakes supplying stopping power. The legendary BMW M-sport brakes with ventilated composite rotors show impressively behind the 19 inch alloy M-motorsport rims. Racetrack inspired suspension, a plethora of hi-tech driver’s aids, multi-informational displays with navigation, joystick driver-computer interface, and high output sound systems (835w Mark Levinson in the Lexus, and 600w Harman Kardon Surround Sound for the BMW) are common to both cars. Add lots of fine leather, heated seats, identical fuel economy rated at 19mpg combined, and price tags of approximately $88,000—all you have to do is choose.
These are two superb machines, with many similarities, yet definite differences as well. The rear wheel drive GS-F, with its distinctive F-sport front grill, quad exhausts, and high back sports seats can’t hide the fact that it is indeed a Lexus, and that is not a bad thing. High quality materials, excellent ergonomics, a velvet-smooth ride, and seamless blending of technology and luxury—traits Lexus is renowned for—are all abundantly present in the GS-F. Yes, the car is very quick, with plenty of power and great handling. Yes, the artificially amplified exhaust note does fill the otherwise library-quiet cabin under hard acceleration. The authentic high-performance, sporty nature of the car notwithstanding, the GS-F still feels wonderfully like a Lexus.
On the other hand, BMW is renowned for building vehicles that exude sportiness and performance. Cars carrying the “M” designation are the ultimate expression of these qualities. As luxurious and technologically sophisticated as the M550i is, it feels—and drives—like a BMW. The seats in the AWD M550i are firmer, the steering slightly quicker, the rumbling exhaust note present from idle to screaming high revs, the adaptive suspension a bit more responsive, and the heads-up display with nighttime vision enhancement make this, well, the ultimate driving machine.
“The Lexus GS-F is the car for a driver seeking a luxury sedan with high-performance; the BMW M550i xDrive is the car for a driver seeking a high-performance sports sedan with luxury.”
If you’re looking to enjoy whatever delights your area has to offer, be it exceptional food and drink, supporting live music, celebrating the joy of life with family and friends, or just a fantastic drive to discover new roads and experiences, you can’t find a more ideal way to do it than in a fine automobile. These two vehicles were our thrilling chariots to adventure, and, as everyone knows, getting there is at least half the fun, and there’s nothing quite like arriving in style!