I drove the $90,000 sport sedan Lexus built to challenge the BMW M5

Lexus GS F 16Bryan Logan/Business Insider

Lexus is an automotive brand that started its life with luxury as the end-all-be-all for high-end cars. Soft, sedate, and unperturbed.

The cars were big, floaty, and numb. You weren’t supposed to get excited about them. These were cars for the dignified class. No troublemakers.

An early ad campaign for the first-generation Lexus LS400 featured champagne glasses stacked on the car’s hood as the rear wheels turned at 140 mph. A narrator speaks over the engine’s vacuum-like whine:

“The Lexus LS400 is designed to stir the soul, and not much else.”

That was probably a fine one-liner at the time, but also inadvertently self-deprecating. Lexus’ cars have derisively been described as perfect for people who don’t like driving.

For most of the 1990s and early 2000s, Lexus stayed true to its decorous heritage. Even as the German horsepower wars cranked up during that same period — with Mercedes-Benz and BMW frantically upping the ante on power and performance — Lexus stayed above the fray.

Then 2007 happened, and the “F” brand was born.

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