First of all, the ISF is a bad example. HP-wise, it was higher than the M3 (slightly higher) and only ~30-40 less than the C63. It also brought plenty to the table, including the first 8-speed transmission in the class which many have adapted to these days. The three were practically even except most prefer to keep the Lexus past it's warranty.
Second, you are wrong. They will shop the GSF with the top-tier from the Germans but it will be the bargain-bin version except it is the most reliable and comfortable to drive. Cadillac just offers the best bang for your buck, no questions about it but that is really the only way they can compete in the division because of their bad history of not just being unreliable but also being the least luxurious in comparison (again that is all history but most still do not see them as such, sadly).
And to add to that, yes you are correct that they will shop it with the 550i's, E400's and S6's but like I mentioned before, Lexus offers the GSF already loaded (kind of like Toyotas Land Cruiser, not much options to tick) and if you want to option out those 3 German rivals, it easily climbs up to the GSF's price. Also, E400 at $60k is vastly outpowered by the GSF (it has 329 HP) and that optioned out is ~$76k but you give up 120hp. The BMW and Audi with ~20HP less can go up $90k, $5k less than the already loaded GSF with slightly more power. With V-Sport, again that is just the best bang for your buck as you said, hard to compete with it and no one is arguing that but your statement that people will just go with that instead of the GSF is simply ludicrous and no, the Germans aren't less once optioned out. I know and have this info handy because I was in the market for these cars earlier this year. I can probably go to Cars.com right now and find an S6 and 550i for ~$90k.
You are giving the European badge too much credit, being German brand and loved by performance mags doesn't always speak loudly with sales. The GS350 F-Sport was already closing in on the 535i in terms of performance reviews, some even preferred it over the BMW and MB sedans. That alone gives the GSF a good starting point. And while you are giving the Germans way too much credit, you are simply not giving the Lexus brand enough. It is/was the top selling luxury brand just a couple of years ago and was reigning champ for a while. It's also always on top of reliability so Lexus brand isn't something to snuff at. See how many are getting rid of their BMW, Benz, Audi, etc... after 4-years has passed? That's not an issue with the Lexus and that is the brand they have built and now they are trying to go the performance route. As I said in numerours thread, it isn't going to be a homerun off the bat but they are making strides slowly but surely.
And I think you aren't giving or looking at Cadillac the right way, they've had record breaking sales within the companies history the past 10 years? The CTS and ATS are selling real well and taking sales away from the M's of the world. Don't let the forums fool you into thinking that people who looks at CTS-V are going to buy M3s and M5s.
You aren't looking at the market Lexus is trying to hit which is the middle point of being performance competent in sport (not the best but competent) while still luxurious and comfortable in non-sport mode. Is it going to steal a lot of sales from the M's and AMGs and S/RS's of the world? It likely make very little dent but they are trying to prove that they could provide enough enjoyment in the sport department to be enjoyable to those who aren't tracking their car every weekend. And so far, first drive reviews are happy with it.
On paper the GS F is underwhelming. Even in the lower drive mode settings this cars feels tepid. Change to Sport S+ and the GS F all of sudden fulfills the promise of that F badges on the front fenders. It's not a car that will win drag races, and the CTS-V is an unbeatable counterargument. In some ways the GS F is out of place in the modern world. It's a try at making an analog, balanced sports car when digital trickery and overwhelming power are the norm. And the electronic pieces of the GS F – steering and engine noise – are its weakest traits. But the rest of the car's charms increase with every mile behind the wheel.
Those quick reviews aren't perfect but a good review is a good review especially on the performance side because as you said, they aren't known for it.
Jalopnik explains it best though I think:
Alright, now we need to talk about who’s going to buy the damn thing. BMW buyers? Mercedes buyers? None of them, I think.
All of the assembled journalists in Spain could declare that the GS F is the best performance sedan ever and I could say that it lapped Jarama 5 seconds quicker than a McLaren P1 and sales might skyrocket by a whopping 3 cars.
Buyers in this segment have massive brand loyalty, and I think Lexus knows that they are not going to convert huge numbers of these owners right away. The fact that they only plan to sell 2,000 a year of these in the U.S. is confirmation of that.
Lexus seems to be playing the long game here, and steadily building their reputation in the performance segment is part of that long view. The GS F doesn’t break any new ground but it does move the brand a very solid step closer towards their competition.
If I were Audi, BMW, and Mercedes I’d be keeping a close eye on my mirrors, as objects may be closer than they appear.
Road and Track also has a good analysis on it not having a competitor as a good thing, being right in between the 550s, E400s and S6s.
the heavier sedan will be priced from $85,380. There are a couple of ways to look at this.
On one hand, you could argue that this is a bargain sports sedan. A BMW M5 is about $9000 more, and the Jaguar XJR will knock you for a whopping $33,615 more. Hell, the new Cadillac CTS-V with nearly 200 more horsepower is $83,995. Yep, $1400 less.
However, then there's the issue of the power. At 467 bhp, the GS F doesn't make as much power as the M5 (560 bhp) or the XJR (543). Even Automotive News admits that finding a "direct competitor for the GS F is tough." The closest car that comes to mind would be the Audi S7, which costs $83,835 and makes 450 bhp from a 4.0 liter twin-turbo V8.
I don't think a lack of a direct competitor is an issue for Lexus. Not really. Without the competitor, I think people will be less inclined to mention the GS F in the same breath as another car. Lexus also won't be bound with the arduous task of keeping with the market: when BMW updates the M5, Lexus won't be pressured to do the same. Think about the top sports sedans on the market today. Each of them is competing so closely with each other that it becomes difficult to distinguish one from the other. I think the GS F is an example of Lexus marching along to its own beat.
There's nothing wrong with that.
So there's a couple of different views to consider. They can touch the market in different ways, pick one, they do not have to be the biggest engine with the biggest power in the neighborhood from the get go. As I've showed above, price in comparison and you can view that in different ways too. It is either less powerful but more optioned vehicle against the top-tier or more powerful but still cheaper against mid-tiers when the competition are optioned up. Also forgot to add this anywhere up top but resale is also a good thing with Lexus while peopel dread being stuck with out of warranty Germans.
Lexus knows they can't just step up and expect to win them all, competitions are fierce so they got to take the little bits that they can.
I like this view by Autoblog on the RCF too, it isn't the best but for those who fit the bill, then I can't knock the hustle for finding the market for those who wants to look the part. May not be a favorable market but it is a market nonetheless and if they are selling car off of it, then more power to them.
Edited by RFX45 - 10/15/15 at 10:28pm
Every year, thousands of people buy two-door coupes that bear the badges of BMW M, Mercedes-AMG, Audi RS, and Cadillac V. These cars are powerful, fast, agile, and - if you believe the marketing - are made to kick *** on the track.
But, and this is just my theory, only about 0.2 percent of these owners actually drive their cars the way the companies intended. Most buyers, I think, want the image put forth by an M4 or C63 AMG more than any dynamic abilities. These people just want to give the impression that they're out tearing up the local road course, and a $70,000 sports coupe and a pair of Pilotis are just the ticket. Which is not to say they don't use the performance of these cars, just not the full track-day capabilities. If this describes you, I recommend checking out the new Lexus RC F.
The Lexus RC F isn't the dynamic equal of its competitors. Instead, it delivers a good blend of everyday livability, and it does so for a more reasonable price. While it isn't likely to appeal to people buying cars for track days, it's a good deal for folks who just want to look the part.