BMW 3-Series vs. Lexus IS

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Automotive Editor

Justin Cupler has specialized as an automotive writer since 2009 and has been published in multiple websites and online magazines. In addition to contributing to CarsDirect, Justin also hosts a web-series car-review show and dabbles in the world of personal-finance writing.

His specialty is in the high-performance realm, but he has a deep love and understanding for all things automotive. Before diving into the world of writing, Justin was an automotive technician and manager for six years and spent the majority of his younger life tinkering with classic muscle cars.

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, Automotive Editor - December 11, 2020

The Lexus IS went through a mild refresh for the 2021 model year that retained most of the previous model’s styling but gained about an extra inch in length. Despite this refresh, the IS is still old, as it remains a part of the model’s third generation, which debuted way back in 2013.

The BMW 3-Series is just a year removed from a full redesign, but it was far from an overhaul. Given that the previous 3-Series was a great-looking and great-performing luxury sedan, this light redesign may be a good thing.

Find out which of these compact luxury sedans comes out on top in this comparison below.

See a side-by-side comparison of the BMW 3-Series & the Lexus IS »

What the 3-Series Gets Right

The BMW 3-Series went through a full redesign in 2019. As is usually the case for the brand, though, the updates were mild. That said, the 3-Series continues with the clean, drama-free, luxurious look it’s had for decades.

The 3-Series has a huge leg up on the Lexus IS in the performance department, from the base trim to the top. It starts with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that pipes 255 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque through an eight-speed transmission for a 5.6-second 0-60 mph time. The M340i model adds a 3.0-liter turbo six-cylinder with 382 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque for a 4.1-second 0-60 time with its optional all-wheel drive. The IS with the base turbo-four takes 6.9 seconds to hit 60 mph, and the IS 350 with the V6 takes 5.6 seconds.

Inside, the 3-Series also gets a leg up in space with 35.2 inches of rear leg room – 3 more than the IS – and no strange hump to deal with when equipped with AWD. The 3-Series’ cabin also looks and feels more premium than the IS with its cleaner and more modern dash that includes an 8.8-inch touchscreen, 5.7-inch driver information center, and an optional 12.3-inch touchscreen.

The 3-Series is also one of the more fuel-efficient models in the class. The base 330i gets an EPA-estimated 30 miles per gallon combined, beating the IS 300 by 5 mpg. The M340i with AWD delivers 25 mpg combined, which again bests the IS 350's 23 mpg combined.

What the IS Gets Right

The Lexus IS is refreshed for the 2021 model year, gaining an inch in length but retaining its looks. Unlike the subtle BMW 3-Series, the IS boasts a sharper and sportier design that stands out in a crowd. This endears it to more outgoing shoppers.

Inside, the IS gets an improved infotainment system that includes a standard 8-inch touchscreen that’s 5.5 inches closer to the driver. The Lexus’ updated system isn’t on the level of BMW’s infotainment system, but it negates the oft-hated-upon Lexus infotainment interface. It also includes standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, just like the 3-Series.

Finally, the Lexus IS starts from just $40,025 including destination, which is $2,220 less than the 3-Series.

Get Style Points in the Lexus IS

The Lexus IS loses pretty handily to the BMW 3-Series, but its sharper looks fit buyers who want to stand out in a crowd. Plus, with a lower base price, buyers with a tighter budget may feel more comfortable in the IS.

Our Verdict: BMW 3-Series

The BMW 3-Series easily beats the Lexus IS with its more upscale cabin, sleek and luxurious styling, and superior performance. Plus, it’s roomier to boot.

Take a closer look at the BMW 3-Series »

Take a closer look at the Lexus IS »

Side-by-side comparison of features, pricing, photos and more!

, Automotive Editor

Justin Cupler has specialized as an automotive writer since 2009 and has been published in multiple websites and online magazines. In addition to contributing to CarsDirect, Justin also hosts a web-series car-review show and dabbles in the world of personal-finance writing.

His specialty is in the high-performance realm, but he has a deep love and understanding for all things automotive. Before diving into the world of writing, Justin was an automotive technician and manager for six years and spent the majority of his younger life tinkering with classic muscle cars.

Follow On: Twitter

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