August 2, 2013
2014 Lexus IS 350. Click image to enlarge
Features and Value
Value, as always, is one of the trickiest categories to pin down. The engineering and quality are inherently part of the value consideration, and they are, but we’ve devoted enough space to that. In this category, we probe which car gets you the most stuff for your money. As tested, the Audi clearly has the most stuff, but at great expense. The base Audi S4 starts at $54,995 with its $1,995 Freight charge, while the IS tops out at $53,495 for a fully loaded IS 350 AWD, so if you’re going the route of matching feature for feature, you’re clearly looking at the Lexus for that kind of value.
Jeff has a theory: “The IS 350 is a car for accountants who believe they have a wild streak. It’s precise, it’s calculated, it’s well built, but it’s also a bit sterile and soulless compared to the Audi. For those nutso number-crunchers, the IS 350 will dole out just enough performance to get their hearts racing, but be long-term reliable enough to show good sensible numbers on the amortization table compared to other new sport sedans.”
No question, if you’re shopping by features, you can’t argue the IS 350′s value in that department. However, the Audi delivers a different value proposition, and it doesn’t fall far from their “Truth in Engineering” marketing slogan: the rock-solid platform, a suspension dialed into its sporting stance (albeit at the expense of comfort), high-tech lighting and features, and interior quality that leaves no doubt as to the brand’s genuine luxury status.
From the outset, we were excited to drive the new IS 350. While some might find the styling overwrought, I at least find it stunning, particularly in aggressive F Sport trim, the sharp creases, pointed elements, gaping grille and bright LEDs promising performance and excitement. Personally, I was not in the least bit disappointed. The steering is crisp, the handling sharp, and the engine and transmission are capable of performing well beyond the needs of any car on public roads. The Lexus IS nails a balance between comfort and sport that is on par with anything in the segment. It’s a brilliant machine and an excellent progression for the IS and delivers all this at a price that will have many brands rethinking their pricing strategy in the luxury market.
But you already know what’s coming next, don’t you?
2013 Audi S4. Click image to enlarge
As good as the Lexus IS is, the S4 is better. First I’ll let Jeff wax poetic: “There’s a specialness to this car – the feel, the solidity, the sounds and of course the performance that remind the driver this isn’t simply basic transportation; it’s a vehicle for those who covet track days and empty country roads.”
The Audi S4 transcends the sum of its parts, with a chassis that underpins A4 right up to the incredible RS 5, transmissions that resonate with enthusiasts, an engine that can serve in even Audi’s flagship and the best AWD system in the class when paired with that Quattro Sport Differential. Despite the higher cost of entry, there is no question that it is worth the price, blessed with an interior that envelops you in richness from the incredible steering wheel and shifter to the body hugging seats and the carefully tempered response of every button and stalk.
It is a car that marries luxury with sporting capability and practicality with passion in a package that seems timeless in its design, yet modern in the details, a sport sedan that remains at the top of its game and the segment.
Pricing: 2013 Audi S4 Premium
Base Price: $53,000
Base Price (Premium): $57,800
Options: $4,800 (Audi quattro sport differential – $1,500; Monsoon Grey paint job – $750; Carbon Atlas interior trim – $500; 19-inch five-arm rotor titanium colour wheels – $500; tire pressure monitoring system – $350; rear comfort package – $1,200)
Freight & PDI: $1,995
A/C Tax: $100
Pricing: 2014 Lexus IS 350 RWD F Sport
Base Price: $44,500
Options: F Sport package $3,950 (VGRS (Variable Gear Ratio Steering), three-Spoke F Sport Steering Wheel, Steering Wheel Paddle Shifters (A/T), Front and Rear Adaptive Variable, Suspension (AVS) with TEMS , 255/35R18 (Rear) , P225/40R18 (Front) ,Performance Summer Radials , F Sport Center Wheel Ornament , 18-inch F Sport Wheels, Larger Diameter Front Ventilated Discs , Rear Seat Side Airbags , 60/40 Split , Rear Seat Fold Down Centre Armrest , F Sport Shift Knob, F Sport Scuff Plates, Fog Lamps Delete, F Sport Aero Package, F Sport Shift Knob, F Sport Scuff Plates)
Freight and PDI: $1,995
A/C Tax: $100
Price as Tested: $50,545
Acura TL SH-AWD
Mercedes-Benz C 350
Volvo S60 R-Design