2014 Lexus GS 350
The midsize GS 350 is Lexus’ answer to the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series, and Infiniti Q70. It’s available with rear- or all-wheel drive and comes with a 306-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6. For 2014, an eight-speed automatic transmission replaces a six-speed automatic on rear-drive models (AWD versions continue with the six-speed). If you own an Apple iPhone 4S or newer, you can use Siri Eyes Free mode for voice control over many infotainment functions. The GS also comes in a hybrid version called the GS 450h, detailed in the CarPreview.com 2014 Electric and Plus-in Hybrid Vehicle Buying Guide. Lexus dresses up the GS with the brand’s bold “spindle” grille, but this car still tends to get lost in the shuffle. Comfort and quality are great, and handling is very competent. But the V-6 can feel underpowered versus more muscular rivals, and fuel economy ratings are not outstanding, at 21-23 mpg combined. Base prices start at $48,610.
2015 Lexus LS 460
This is Japan’s best answer so far to the Audi A8, BMW 7 Series, and Jaguar XJ. Like those large luxury sedans, the LS 460 offers standard and extended wheelbases and rear- or all-wheel drive. Unlike them, Lexus offers its flagship car with a V-8 only, which can be problematic for fuel economy. EPA ratings are 18-19 mpg city/highway combined. There is a slightly more efficient gas/electric hybrid version called the LS 600h L, but it costs more than $120,000; learn more about it in the CarPreview.com 2014 Electric and Plus-in Hybrid Vehicle Buying Guide. After a redesign for the 2013 model year, changes to the 2014 LS 460 are minimal. Hallmarks are materials quality, a plush ride, and exceptional quietness. Acceleration is fine, but handling merely decent, without the performance edge of the Audi A8 or Jaguar XJ, for example. Pricing starts at $73,050.
2014 Mercedes-Benz E-Class
This midsize-luxury-car benchmark gets a major freshening for model-year 2014. Available as a sedan, wagon, coupe, or convertible, the 2014 Mercedes-Benz E-Class has updated styling and new safety and technology features. All body styles offer the choice of V-6 and V-8 engines. The sedan and wagon also are available in ultra-high-performance E63 AMG guise, delivering up to 577 horsepower. Green-leaning buyers can choose the E250 BluteTec sedan with a new turbodiesel four-cylinder or the E400 Hybrid; the E400 is covered in the CarPreview.com 2014 Electric and Plus-in Hybrid Vehicle Buying Guide. Such a broad model range is laudable, though some models crack six figures, and while the array of technology will attract a connected clientele, the numerous bells and whistles could turn away traditional customers. Fuel-economy ratings for gasoline models span 17-26 mpg combined. The diesel rates an impressive 34 mpg combined. Base-price range is $52,825-$103,295.