The Lexus GS and Audi A6 offer great value in used luxury sedans. We pit them side by side with a budget of $30,000 to see which is the better deal.
The Lexus GS and Audi A6 are the “other” sedan in each of their respective lineups. Unsung though they are, these mid-size sedans have a lot to offer the savvy used buyer in search of a good deal on the used market. Both offer decent engine options, loads of modern conveniences, and, coincidentally (or not), they share similar deficiencies to make for a very competitive comparison.
Both cars received mid-cycle refreshes for the 2016 model year that improve the powertrains, on-board tech, and exterior styling. And both cars straddle the line of $30,000 with the lower two trims of each skirting under that line while the more powerful and better equipped top trims tend to drift a good margin above that threshold. Basically, for new Camry money you can get a lightly used Audi A6 or Lexus GS that’s considerably fancier, more comfortable, and more fun to drive. Now that I’ve convinced you of the wisdom of this purchase, I’ll help you decide which one is the better buy.
The Lexus GS comes in four difference forms: the 200t, the 350, the 450h, and the GS F. The 450h hybrid is an impressive mix of power and efficiency and the GS F’s V8 is enticing. Both are above our $30,000 price range.
That leaves the 200t and the 350. The former features a 2.0L turbocharged inline-four making 241 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque sending power to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic. The 350 runs a 3.5L V6 achieving 311 horsepower and 280 lb.-ft. of torque. The GS 350 comes with either AWD and a six-speed automatic or RWD and an eight-speed automatic. The 200t is rated to 22 city and 33 highway mpg while the 350 is rated to 20 city and 29 highway mpg.
The Audi A6 also offers some very impressive engines, a turbocharged diesel V6 and a twin-turbo V8, both of which, again, exceed our $30,000 cap. But the other two options are actually quite respectable, even desirable, in their own rites. The base 2.0L turbo-4 makes 252 horsepower and 273 lb.-ft. of torque and comes in either front-wheel drive with a 7-speed automatic or in all-wheel drive with an eight-speed automatic. Fuel economy is good at 24/35 for the FWD version and 22/32 for the AWD. The next engine is the 3.0L supercharged V6 making 333 horsepower and 325 lb.-ft. of torque which gets 20 city and 30 highway mpg.
The compromises that come with our $30,000 price range aren’t as significant when it comes to the driving experience as you might think from our spec sheets. The Lexus GS offers sharp steering and a stiff chassis that encourage you to push the car on curvy roads. The turbocharged 2.0L can be a bit laggy but delivers good acceleration once it gets going. The 3.5L engine delivers even better performance. Though no BMW or Mercedes, the Lexus GS does a good job balancing a sporty driving experience with a comfortable ride. The F Sport package stiffens the suspension, adds new bushings and roll bar, adaptive shocks and bigger brakes. These all contribute to a more aggressive feel but at a cost to ride quality.
The Audi A6, even at lower trims, is still an enjoyable car to drive. Its own turbo 2.0L is notably less prone to turbo lag than the GS was. Steering is precise and braking confident. The car is eminently tossable without being too stiff. Here too, the optional sports suspension makes for more spirited driving while roughening the ride. Of the two cars, the A6’s V6 engine is the slightly more powerful, putting up a 0-60 run of 5.4 seconds.
Both cars do an impressive job achieving that luxury sedan balance of sportiness and comfort, and both cars are roughly equivalent when it comes to fuel economy.
Inside, the Lexus GS and Audi A6 are again very evenly matched. The Lexus GS offers a comfortable and well-wrought interior even in the base 200t trim. There’s a bounty of soft-touch materials, leather, and contrast stitching that makes the GS a tactile pleasure. And yet there are a few instances of hard plastic doing its best imitation of aluminum trim that remind you of the Corolla from whence they’re likely borrowed.
The GS is decently roomy for front seat passengers and the seats, both front and back, are exceedingly comfortable. Perfect for long stretches of highway driving. The optional 14-way power adjustable front seats further burnish the already gleaming experience. The rear seat, while offering ample headroom is slightly deficient in terms of legroom at 36.8 inches.
The Audi A6’s interior quality is right on par with that of the GS. There’s plenty of leather and high-quality materials, but there are also a few instances of cost cutting with the used of hard plastic on the dash and door cards. The Audi’s seats are also impressively cushy while the backseat legroom, at 37.4 inches, is better than the Lexus’s but not by much.
Both cars also feature infotainment interfaces that eschew a touchscreen in favor of a dial in the case of the Audi and a mouse-like joystick in the case of the Lexus. Neither are great, and both take some getting used to.
Since we’re trying to stay below $30,000 for these two cars, we’ll only be covering the lower two trims of each.
The base/entry-level Lexus GS 200t comes standard with the 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder engine, power front seats, and 8-inch infotainment display, blind spot detection, and rear cross traffic alerts.
The GS 350 comes with the 3.5L V6 engine, a 12.3-inch infotainment screen, genuine leather upholstery, a 12-speaker stereo system, navigation, voice control, and satellite radio. The Luxury Package adds items like adaptive cruise control, 19-inch wheels, and those 14-way power adjusting front seats. The Premium Package adds heated and ventilated front seats and automatic wipers.
The Audi A6 2.0T Premium features its own 2.0L turbocharged engine, a 7.0-inch infotainment screen, sunroof, tri-zone climate control, leather upholstery, heated front seats, and LED daytime running lights. The A6 3.0T Premium Plus comes standard with a supercharged V6, HD radio, 18-inch wheels, Google Earth navigation, push-button start, and blind spot monitoring. The Driver Assistance package adds lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, and re-collision warnings.
On the basic merits, the Audi A6 and Lexus GS are very closely matched used cars. Both are fairly athletic with also comfortable. Both offer high-quality interiors and plenty of modern amenities. And yet there are a few points of important distinction. The first being reliability. As five-year-old cars the Lexus GS has proven to be well-above average while the Audi A6 has been middling at best. The other consideration is price. While both version of each car we discussed can be found with relatively low mileages for under $30,000, the Audi averages a few thousand less than the Lexus. All else being equal, these two items, initial cost versus cost of ownership, nearly cancel each other out, too.
The tie breaker might come down to something as simple yet consequential as looks. The modern Lexus grille as been controversial from the start and the GS’s can alternately be read as aggressive or overwrought. The Audi’s more elegant and restrained look can likewise be a reason to buy it or pass it over depending on one’s taste. We find things to like about both exteriors but tended to prefer the Lexus’s interior design to that of the Audi. Whichever way you lean, neither will disappoint at $30,000.