BMW 3-Series vs. Lexus IS

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Automotive Editor

Based out of the Washington, D.C. area, Joel Patel is an automotive journalist that hails from Northern Virginia. His work has been featured on various automotive outlets, including Autoweek, Digital Trends, and Autoblog. When not writing about cars, Joel enjoys trying new foods, wrenching on his car, and watching horror movies. 

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, Automotive Editor - October 15, 2018

The Lexus IS isn't your run-of-the-mill luxury sedan. It has a bespoke look that other automakers can't match – the jury's still out on whether that's a good thing – and a lengthy list of standard features. The sedan also has all of the regular items that make a luxury car a luxury car: high quality materials, great build quality, and enough features to make you dizzy.

Sure, the Lexus IS stands out because of its spindle grille, but the BMW 3-Series stands out because it's the one that everyone's trying to beat. Acting as the industry's benchmark for the past few decades, the 3-Series has all of the items that the Lexus has, but brings athletic dynamics that BMW is known for. Has Lexus caught up to the 3-Series or does it still lag behind?

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

What the 3-Series Gets Right

This may come as a surprise, but the 3-Series is the more affordable option of these two. The 2018 320i sedan costs $35,895, which includes destination. The 2019 Lexus IS 300 is an extra $3,440 with a starting price of $39,335. With the release of the refreshed 2019 BMW 3-Series, we don’t expect pricing to be much higher.

If you're looking for something with loads of versatility, the 3-Series is the better option. With three available body styles – sedan, wagon, and Gran Turismo (a sedan with a hatchback rear end) – you can get into a 3-Series that has the versatility you're looking for, which isn't available with the IS, as it's only available as a sedan.

For 2019, BMW updated the 3-Series’ available engines, making them more powerful than before. The 2019 330i is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 255 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. A new M340i trim that’s powered by a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six generates 382 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. The standard engine in the IS makes 241 hp, while the most powerful motor is good for 311 hp.

What the IS Gets Right

While the IS costs more, the sedan has a lengthier list of standard features. Dual-zone climate control, a power moonroof, LED headlights, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a seven-inch display, and a 10-speaker audio system are all standard for the model.

Warranty coverage for the IS is longer than what BMW offers for the 3-Series. Lexus offers a four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty and a six-year/70,000-mile powertrain warranty on the IS. The 3-Series comes with a similar limited warranty, but is back by a four-year/50,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Which One is the Complete Package?

While the Lexus IS has a more striking design, both on the inside and outside, and undoubtedly will have better reliability, the 3-Series has the best mix of performance, luxury, and versatility for daily use, especially with the heavily-refreshed 2019 model. The fact that the 3-Series is cheaper and comes in two other body styles makes it the better option.

Our Verdict: BMW 3-Series

Lexus has come a long way when it comes to making sporty vehicles, but the BMW 3-Series has the same sense of magic that made the original model so special. The new 2019 model adds more technology features, a more handsome design, and better driving dynamics to an already complete package, making the 3-Series the option that'll win over the majority of consumers.

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

Based out of the Washington, D.C. area, Joel Patel is an automotive journalist that hails from Northern Virginia. His work has been featured on various automotive outlets, including Autoweek, Digital Trends, and Autoblog. When not writing about cars, Joel enjoys trying new foods, wrenching on his car, and watching horror movies. 

Follow On: Twitter | Website

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