This is an odd moment. Here we have a BMW 3 Series—the car that once ruled tests like this, the machine that was for decades everything we wanted in a sport sedan—in second place. In other news, up is down, hot is cold, black is a nice shade of eggshell, and this magazine is now about cats.

Okay, that's all gibberish. But for the first time in memory, the top-of-the-line 3 Series leaves us wanting. The basic ingredients haven't changed: You get rear-wheel drive; a longitudinally mounted straight-six; near-50/50 weight distribution; and a mind-reading transmission (eight-speed automatic in the case of our test car, but unlike the other cars here, a six-speed manual is still available). The cockpit is simple, purposeful, and mostly uncluttered. Sports-car guys see what you're driving and nod in approval; regular citizens just think you're a yuppie jerk. So it goes.

If you expected the BMW to run away and hide with this one, or for newly resurgent Cadillac to pull an end run to the top, we don't blame you. But, hey, surprise! The best sport sedan here is a Luh ... a Lech ... a Lexus.

Yet here we are, and here's where the comparisons stop. While everyone else was busy benchmarking and chasing the Germans, Lexus seems to have gone and done its own, very good thing.

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