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Cooley On Cars
On the road: 2013 BMW 750Li vs. 2012 Lexus LS460Which of these flagship sedans really rolls CNET-style with the best tech?
-Well, here we have 2 cars that really represent the pinnacle of what a lot of folks mean when they say a really nice car. The 2013 BMW 750Li and the 2013 Lexus LS460 in the F Sport trim. Let's find out how they really differ in their essence as we check the tech. Now, riding in and go through these guys with an exhausted bullet-by-bullet, head-to-head comparison and spend an hour doing so, instead I wanna find out how these 2 cars both can print CNET style do so differently to let you figure out which one is really right for you. First off, these 2 cars' dashboards speak tech differently. The Lexus says it sort of loudly, more button to reach and crisp and somehow busier. The BMW is by no means basic, but its tech interfaces place second fiddle to creature comfort. In cars at this level, the basics better be standard so you'll find GPS navigation with live traffic, Bluetooth calling, and a backup camera with good guidance overlays; and those are standard on both cars. But wasn't that long ago that BMW nickled and dimed you for most of that stuff. And speaking of cameras, R750 has the optional wall iCams installed upfront. And while there is somewhat dubious value, they're not found on the Lexus. You steer the Lexus interface with this inverted puck they called remote touch controller. It moves the cursor, offers punch to enter, and uses haptic feedback as it pumps over things on the screen, but it badly needs a back button. BMW has endured the years of sneers and cheers to turn iDrive into one of the best in car interfaces. You steer it with this iDrive knob and handful of associated shortcut buttons including one for back. And interestingly, BMW has removed haptic feedback as iDrive matured. I found voice command on the Lexus was quick to understand me, but requires parsing an address into many parts or button presses. Enter an address. -Enter an address. Say only the city name or say change state. -San Francisco. -BMW is also quick on the uptake, but lets you blurt out on address. The most complicated thing you'll typically do with voice all in one phrase. 1000 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, California. -Processing your input. Did you mean 1000 S. Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco? -Both cars play the greatest hits of modern audio sources with just a few differences. The Lexus is the car of these 2 that supports iTunes tagging with its HD radio, but the BMW has a 20-gigabyte hard drive to rip to. Both are equally useless to most people, which brings us to apps. Lexus is part of Toyota. That means they get the excellent In-Tune app suite renamed Enform here. It's a basket of name brand, cloud loaded apps including Yelp, OpenTable, Pandora, Bing, iHeartRadio and Facebook places and that's standard. BMW's app support is still optional and it just rolls up Facebook, Twitter, and web radio via an iPhone app, no Android. But built-in to the car regardless of phone is Google Search, which is killer, and now Yelp as well. And note that BMW has built-in 3G in the car where Lexus requires you tether your phone to get connected. Whether you're listening to one of those streaming apps or AM radio, Mark Levinson's 19 speakers and 400 watts on the Lexus or Bang & Olufsen 16 speakers and good grief 1200 watts in the BMW mean both cars can be optioned with sound better than you can hear. Cars like these don't just treat backseat passengers like hitchhikers. The Lexus wins on total rear-seat comforts optionable to include reclining shiatsu massage, butterfly headrest, rear-seat cooler, and air purifier. You can tell the Germans still inwardly scoff at such nonsense, but have dragged themselves to include heated and cooled massage seats. Where they score big is the best dual rear-screen entertainment system in the biz. They are generous sized, they're nice and thin, but notice what's really interesting, they are iDrive interfaces with an iDrive controller. You've got access to multimedia, radio navigation, all the same services you've got in the front of the car. You've also got connected Drive. So, without having to bring an iPad to the car, you've got some modest degree of online services right here on the vehicle built-in. Both these cars are V8 powered. The Lexus has the bigger 4.6 L V8, but the BMW slaps a pair of turbos on its smaller 4.4 L. The BMW ends up with more horsepower, more torque, and it's quicker. And even though that 7 series weighs more and is faster, both cars deliver identical MPG. So, you gotta hand it to BMW here at least on paper. Now, to get that equal efficiency with higher power and weight, BMW had to add complexity in the form of break force electricity regeneration borrowed from hybrid cars and engine automatic start/stop, which I still find rather crudely executed, but luckily defeatable. Being luxury rides, both of these cars come on suave at first unless you dig down into their power train. But when you do, the BMW's power and road handling make it a more serious driver's car to my hands, even though the Lexus is an F sport. Both cars have a handful of engine transmission and suspension profiles from eco to aggressive; and they do offer pronounced differences from one end to the other, though I think three settings would probably be ample guys. BMW offers a head-up display to extend the interface to the windshield as well as night vision that is now actually not totally disorienting, but I really enjoyed the Lexus enform apps base on the road and find its big interface and brands of content more useful than BMW's rather stern translation of Twitter and Facebook, which I don't need in the car anyway. If you need help driving, both cars are there for you. Lexus has active lane drift technology, but passive blind spot tech. BMW's lane drift and blind spot are now both active in the 7. Each offers adaptive cruise control. The Lexus can also do front collision warning and even bring the car to a stop at city speeds. If you're too busy fiddling with your coffee to watch what you're doing, BMW leaves you alone to rear end someone in independent Bavarian fashion. Okay, the bottomline on these 2 cars begins with the bottomline, which is quite different. I teched up that BMW, dialed it in CNET style, and pushed to 108,000. Did a similar tech load on the Lexus and I couldn't quite break 90, so an $18,000 delta, not silly money. In terms of their character, the BMW has a real serious executive sedan feel to it, but it's a real gutter fighter on the street when you push it hard. The Lexus I think a little less so even as an F sport, but it has more of a joie de vivre about the technology in it. It's a real tech toy, play it that way.