2014 Cadillac CTS vs. 2014 Lexus GS 350
2014 Cadillac CTS vs. 2014 Lexus GS 350
2014 Cadillac CTS vs. 2014 Lexus GS 350
2014 Cadillac CTS vs. 2014 Lexus GS 350. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Jeff Wilson

If you’re like the majority of mid-size luxury sedan buyers in North America, you’ve probably got a German car at the top of your shopping list.  Combined, the Mercedes E-Class, BMW 5 Series and Audi A6 tally Canadian sales around 7,000–8,000 units per year (in the US, the numbers are about 15 times higher).  They’re popular and becoming as exclusive here in Southern Ontario as the endless potholes on the roads they drive on.

There’s more to this mid-size luxury group than just ze Deutsche autos though.

Depending on how aggressively Cadillac discounts their CTS, Canadian sales typically range from 2,000–4,000 units (US are around 45,000) – a not insignificant number.

Of course the Japanese competitors like the Infiniti Q70 (formerly M, which sells a woeful few hundred per year) and the even less-loved Acura RL (which hadn’t sold beyond double digits for more than four years) are solid choices too despite their numbers.

Inexplicably, the best of the Japanese offerings in this category – the Lexus GS – still averages well under 1,000 units moved each year, even after last year’s brilliant update.

What gives?  That’s what we’d like to find out.

Most are now pretty familiar with the German mid-size luxury sedans and their attributes.  They generally look good, drive great and have enough cachet to show the neighbours that you’ve stepped up from the entry-level luxury cars into the real deal.  So with Cadillac’s new 2014 CTS grabbing kudos and awards everywhere it goes, we thought we’d see how Lexus’s inexplicable segment underdog fares against it in some key buyer categories with scores out of 5 presented for each category bestowed on our two competitors.

Styling:  Cadillac 4.5  Lexus 3

Perhaps the one fairly obvious fly in the Lexus GS’s customer-attracting ointment is likely to be its styling; so let’s address this straight off the bat.  While the first generation, Guigiaro-designed car was conservative if not entirely handsome, the second-generation car morphed into a weird, blobby affair with its peculiar headlight treatment.  The third generation could charitably be described as inoffensive, which leads us to the current, fourth generation model.

Giving us the first look at the brand’s new “spindle grille” treatment, the new GS launched for 2013 is a far more aggressive affair.  With black paint and the F Sport body accents, the GS 350 can look downright sinister, if still a little polarizing.

Our test car is not an F-Sport model, and foregoes some of the aggression for a more toned down appearance.  In fact, with its bluey-green metallic paint (flawlessly applied, mind you), our GS fades into the vehicular landscape.

2014 Cadillac CTS 3.6L Premium AWD2014 Lexus GS 350 AWD
2014 Cadillac CTS 3.6L Premium AWD & 2014 Lexus GS 350 AWD. Click image to enlarge

Of course when parked beside the new CTS (finished in Lord Vader black, of course), most cars will become invisible, so perhaps we should cut the Lexus a bit of slack.

The first CTS two generations ago was a bold and daring look with its origami creases and sharp edges.  The second-generation car softened the visual impact a little while adding a bit more class.  This new-for-2014 car literally turns heads when it drives by.  And good news for Cadillac:  the most longing stares seem to come from a youthful contingent – a group who would’ve paid no mind to any Cadillac that wasn’t a gangsta-Escalade.

Cadillac has maintained and refined the sharp “Art & Science” design language to where it has now in evolved into its most successful application.  The front of the CTS with its razor-sharp lines of LED lights sweeping up onto the fenders seem to stop people in their tracks.

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