It's hard to believe, but just 25 years ago Lexus didn't exist and Audi had no rival for BMW's 7 Series, Jaguar's XJ or Mercedes-Benz's S-Class. Today, however, both upstarts field thoroughly competitive offerings in the segment.
While Lexus continues to pursue the path of luxury by silence, Audi has become a leader in design. In this upper echelon of luxury sedans, does isolation prevail over details? Is the Audi A8 better than the Lexus LS?
What the Audi A8 Gets Right
Audi has targeted BMW drivers by making the A8 much more athletic. It's technologically advanced, too, with its aluminum space frame construction. All the engines, V6 or V8, are quick and powerful. The styling is cool, crisp and extremely modern -- it's definitely a trendy car.
What's more, even though Audi is part of the massive Volkswagen Group, all of the A8's fixtures and fittings feel bespoke. Audi still does some of the best interiors in the industry, and the A8 might have the best interior materials in the class.
What the Lexus LS 460 Gets Right
By contrast, the Lexus LS 460 looks extremely restrained. If you ignore the F Sport model, the LS has the conservative aura it always has carried.
But you can't knock its extremely high level of build quality. Every surface oozes quality and all mechanical sounds are muted and metered to a whisper. The cabin feels like a leather-lined vault that protects passengers from outside elements. Even the controls are reasonably logical for a luxury car. Plus, the Lexus gives you standard V8 power -- for those who believe a big luxury sedan should have eight cylinders.
Which is the Better Car?
The Audi wins this contest because it truly raises the bar, loaded with available technology like a Night Vision camera and a wireless hotspot with Google mapping. The interior of the Lexus is nice, but only in the same way other Lexus and Toyota products are nice. And the LS F Sport can't hold a candle to the A8's sportiness.
Our Verdict: Audi A8
Both cars are excellent, but it's clear Audi has come very far in a short amount of time. The A8 pushes the envelope, and it's a winner in this case.