The BMW 545i is the car that everyone identifies with fast driving. Although most enthusiasts review this car only when it's equipped with the massive wheels and stiff-legged suspension of the pricey sport package, we've decided to try out the civilian version at a more affordable price. We're sorry we did. The V-8 is wickedly strong, and the engine seems able to unleash a thunderclap of power at any rpm. The trouble is that it's hard to get a handle on it. The effort of the variable-ratio active steering goes light once you move the steering off center, and the chassis floats just as the front end heels over. Gillies says, "It feels as if BMW is using all this steering technology to enhance the driving experience without realizing it often isolates you from feeling what's going on with the chassis and tires."
The Infiniti M45 takes all the classic BMW attributes and amplifies them. The body is in-credibly stiff, the engine is incredibly powerful, the suspension is incredibly damped, and the brakes heat up and grab incredibly swiftly. The car delivers great test numbers, but it makes you feel uncomfortable, especially the steering, which becomes very light once you turn into a corner. Sherman says, "It feels like a case of premature removal from the development oven."
Like the BMW 5-series, the Lexus GS430 is a showcase of technology. It's always thinking and then expressing itself through fly-by-wire this or electronically distributed that, from the electronic-assist steering to the unique integration of the stability control. Nevertheless, the GS proves to be the easiest car to drive quickly, especially since it weighs only 3860 pounds. Lerner says, "It takes no time at all to get up and go, and once it's going, it keeps scooting along with seemingly unlimited verve." Gillies adds, "The engine is amazing, with wonderful refinement and midrange power, while the transmission shifts so unobtrusively it could apply for a job as a butler."
Sorting out the winners from the losers in a comparison of sedans like these calls for excellence across the spectrum. We want a completely premium driving experience, and we don't want to make any hard choices about comfort, practicality, or price. We want it all, and we're not ashamed to ask for it.
The Acura RL is the most virtuous car here, but, as Lerner notes, "It's still in the near-luxury class, without the grunt or gravitas to compete with its rivals." The BMW 545i is terrifically fast, but it suffers from a mixed performance that doesn't live up to the price, and so it becomes what Lerner describes as "the good, the bad, and the ugly." The Cadillac STS's disappointments are amplified by its stratospheric price, with $19,000 in options. The Infiniti M45 promises much, but, as Lerner says, "The standards have changed since the Infiniti planners benchmarked the M45." The Jaguar S-type unexpectedly wins us over, proving to be a great car for daily driving, but it still needs to shine a little brighter in quality before it becomes an elite ride.