But it was English poet George Chapman who said: "Flatterers look like friends, as wolves like dogs."
Take Lexus and BMW.
There's a certain sameness - if not outright imitation - to the Lexus IS 250 and BMW 325i, the entry-level sport sedans for both brands.Both cars have modest-bore six-cylinder engines and six-speed manual transmissions. Zero to 60 mph times are close, and fuel economy is about the same.
Both are rear-wheel drive with options for all-wheel drive. And both have about the same interior and trunk space.
Pricing is close, too, starting about $31,000, with just a $23 difference in as-tested prices.
Both offer more powerful upgrades.
For $5,700 more, the BMW 330i adds 40 horsepower that will get to 60 mph in four-tenths of a second faster than the 325i.
And you'll pay $5,450 more for the Lexus IS 350 to get to 60 in 1.3 seconds faster than the IS 250, though the IS 350 can't be ordered with the manual transmission.
The biggest difference between these wolves is their footprint on the road.
The Lexus IS was expanded in all dimensions for 2006, though its sturdy inline 6-cylinder engine was replaced with a smaller, less-powerful V-6.
Clutch pressure and gearshift motion are more limber in the IS than in the BMW, but also are not as precise.
Despite the Teflon smoothness of the gearbox, the long throw of the shifter and lunging engagement of first gear are more Toyota Corolla than Lexus.
Gear ratios are short-legged and require quick upshifts to second, then quickly on to third. But engine torque in third is thin at low speeds, which often requires a downshift to second for sharper acceleration.
The IS 250 has most of its power and driving spirit in the higher rpms. It's seemingly happiest at the extremes, running hard or just dawdling.
The BMW has more power in the lower rpms and more range to the gear ratios. I did a lot less shifting in the BMW - and a lot more enjoying.
The manual IS 250 is a rare car, in that most are sold with the six-speed automatic shifter.
The BMW takes charge at the first engagement of the clutch. The power rolls on smoothly and the gearbox action is more sports car than sedan.
And thank you, BMW, for the hill-holder function that prevents the car from rolling backward on an incline when the clutch is depressed. Lexus doesn't offer it, but should.
As a street cruiser, the Lexus steering is more tender to the touch for navigating tight spots, such as the mall parking lot. The BMW turning circle at 36.1 feet is tight, but the Lexus beats it by 2 1/2 feet.
The Lexus interior is smooth, snug and immaculate. Same for the BMW, which injects a little more texture and less gloss in the plastics and dash cover.
Both cars are quiet on the road, which is a good thing because at 70 mph those engines are spinning at 3,000 rpm in fifth gear. But the engine sounds from both are a pleasure.
The outswept windshield pillars of the Lexus are wide at the base with the outside mirrors, which complicates cornering views. The touch screen to make adjustments for audio, air conditioning, heat and such is easier than the BMW's tiers of buttons.
And I preferred the Lexus approach to push-button starting.
Keep the key fob in pocket or purse, step on the brake, hit the start button and go.
The BMW push-button starter has an extra step, like many things German. First insert the keylike pod in the ignition, step on brake, then hit the starter button. The starter button is a gimmick anyway, so why add an extra step for the driver? Simplify, simplify, simplify.
Lexus shortchanges the back seat with doors that don't open as wide as those in the BMW, and the center seat is perched at an uncomfortable angle to the seatback.
The tall transmission tunnel robs foot room, making the center spot even less desirable.
BMW does a better job of making that third seat more comfortable, but both cars should be considered four-seaters when carrying adults.
Some aspects of the Lexus give the impression of being a very well-swaddled Toyota. It is pretty, but without much personality.
The BMW has more cues of a purpose-built luxury car, but some of its design elements are too much.
The BMW 3-Series is the benchmark sport sedan. All makers target the 3-Series for its smoothness, power and image. Yet the German car has integrated more Lexus-like softness and interior features into its car for the past couple of model generations.
And the Lexus has grown larger and more BMW-like in this latest redesigned model.
The lines converge, says Gordon Wangers at Automotive Marketing Consultants in Vista, Calif.
Both marques continue to build a "great product that does everything: go fast, corner hard, stop short (and) coddle you in luxury," Wangers says. And that, he says, at a fair price "when you consider the safety, style and performance of each vehicle."
Bottom line? You have to pay more to get a better Lexus, but you don't have to pay more to get a better BMW.
Lexus IS 250 and BMW 325i
Compact-class, rear-wheel-drive, 5-passenger sport sedans with 6-speed manual transmissions.
2006 LEXUS IS 250
Engine: Aluminum 2.5 liter DOHC, 24-valve V-6 with dual variable valve timing
Horsepower: 204 at 6,400 rpm
Torque: 185 foot-pounds at 4,800 rpm
Acceleration: 0-60 mph, 7.9 seconds, manual and automatic
Fuel economy: 20 mpg city, 29 highway (24/32 automatic)
Fuel tank: 17.1 gallons; 91 octane recommended
Wheelbase/length: 107.5/180.1 inches
Curb weight: 3,455 pounds
Front head/leg/shoulder room: 39/43.9/54.4 inches
Rear head/leg/shoulder room: 36.9/30.6/52.7 inches
Trunk space:13 cubic feet
Standard equipment: Push-button ignition with remote locking, automatic dual-zone climate control, leather-trimmed seats with 10-way power-adjusted front seats, power moonroof (dial adjustment and one-touch open-close), electroluminescent gauges, cruise control, puddle lamps in outside mirrors, trip computer, 13-speaker audio system with 6-disc CD and MP3 port, manual tilt-telescopic steering wheel, customized body electronics system, fold-out front door pockets with water bottle cutout, carpeted floor mats
Safety: Advanced front air bags, front knee bags, front seat-mounted side-impact bags, side curtain air bags, vehicle stability control, ABS, electronic brake force distribution, brake assist, tire pressure monitor
Suspension: Double wishbone front, multilink rear
Steering: Speed-sensing rack and pinion with electric power assist; 33.5-foot turning circle
Brakes: Ventilated front, solid rear discs
Tires and wheels: 225/45R front, 245/45R 17-inch rear on alloy wheels
Base price: $30,580, including $590 destination charge; price as tested, $36,488
Options on test vehicle: Intuitive parking assist with front and rear sensors, $500; Premium package, $1,290, includes heated and ventilated seats, wood interior trim and perforated leather seat upgrade; navigation system, $3,990, adds 14-speaker, 300-watt Mark Levinson audio upgrade with DVD-CD changer; cargo net, $59; trunk mat, $69
Warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles basic with 24-hour roadside assistance, first free maintenance service and lodging for emergency breakdown 100 miles from home; 5-year/70,000 miles powertrain
Where assembled: Japan
PLUSES: Precision, refinement and a quiet cabin. Pretty, but short on driving personality.
MINUSES: Torque comes on at the higher revs when it would be better put to use for smoother off-the-line engagement. Center rear seat sits high and forward with narrow back support, with foot space compromised by a tall transmission tunnel.
2006 BMW 325i
Engine: Magnesium-aluminum DOHC inline 24-valve 3.0 liter inline 6-cylinder, magnesium/aluminum composite with variable valve timing
Horsepower: 215 at 6,250 rpm
Torque: 185 at 2,750 rpm
Acceleration: 0 to 60 mph, 6.7 seconds (7.2, automatic)
Fuel economy: 20 mpg city, 30 highway (21/29 automatic)
Fuel tank: 15.9 gallons; 91 octane recommended
Wheelbase/length: 108.7/178.2 inches
Curb weight: 3,285 pounds
Front head/leg/shoulder room: 37.4/41.5/55.4 inches
Rear head/leg/shoulder room: 37.1/34.6/55.1 inches
Trunk space: 12 cubic feet
Standard equipment: Push-button ignition with remote locking, automatic dual-zone climate control, 2-way power moonroof with sunshade and one-touch open-close, leatherette upholstery, 6-way adjustable front seats, 10-speaker audio with CD-MP3-RDS, visors with lighted mirrors, seatback storage, storage slots in front doors, cup holders, fold-up center rear armrest, rain-sensing wipers, ground lighting in door handles, tilt-telescopic steering wheel
Safety equipment: Front 2-stage Smart Air Bags, front- and rear-seat Head Protection System, front seat-mounted air bags, Dynamic Stability Control with Dynamic Brake Control, Brake Fade Compensation, Brake Stand-by and brake drying, traction control
Brakes: 4-wheel, vacuum-assisted ventilated discs, 11.8 inches
Steering: Engine-speed-sensitive power assist; 36.1-foot turning circle
Suspension: 4-wheel independent with front struts, double-pivot lower arms, coil springs, twin-tube gas-pressure shock absorbers, tubular anti-roll bar; rear 5-link with coil springs, twin-tube gas-pressure shock absorbers, tubular anti-roll bar
Tires and wheels: 205/55R 16-inch H-rated all season runflats; optional 17-inch
Base: $31,595, includes $695 freight charge; price as tested, $36,465
Options on test car: sparkling graphic metallic paint, $475; terra leather, $1,450; Sport package, $1,600, includes 17-inch wheels, sport suspension, leather steering wheel, front sport seats; BMW Assist with Bluetooth, $700; Sirius satellite radio, $595
Warranty: 4-years/50,000 miles with full maintenance and roadside assistance
Where assembled: Germany
PLUSES: Precise performance capably managed by any level of driver. Good sightlines throughout. Luxury, yes, but not too soft.
MINUSES: Complex, two-step mode to the push-button starting; array of air-vent-radio controls take time to learn; odd "organic" taillight styling.
Mark Maynard is driving in cyberspace at [email protected]