BMW 340 vs. Lexus IS 350

By

Contributing Editor

A veteran auto journalist and editor of Tirekicking Today, Jim has contributed countless reviews and articles to such publications as autoMedia, New Car Test Drive, and Kelley Blue Book, as well as J.D. Power, cars.com, Consumer Guide, and the Chicago Tribune. He began by writing about antique/classic cars and how-to tasks, before turning to new and used vehicles. Most of his 30 published books have dealt with auto history, along with six children’s titles. His most recent book is the Tirekicking Used Car Buyer’s Guide.


, Contributing Editor - March 4, 2016

Like few rival sport-luxury brands, BMW has a lengthy heritage of German automotive excellence. Even in less-powerful versions, BMW’s 3 Series delivers an invigorating driving experience, resulting from the car’s superior handling abilities and dynamic characteristics. Styling, as usual, is subtly tasteful, relying upon classic sport-sedan proportions. For 2016, the 335i sedan got a model-designation change to 340i.

When the IS debuted for 2002, it was smaller than today’s third-generation, as redesigned for 2014. In fact, the 2016 model hardly seems related to the original. The IS now comes with a choice of three engines: new turbo four-cylinder in the IS 200t, 3.5-liter V6 in the IS 300, and a stronger, 306-horsepower version of the V6 in the IS 350 sedan—which comes with either rear-wheel or all-wheel drive.

See a side-by-side comparison of the 340 & IS 350 »

What the BMW 340 Gets Right

BMW owners anticipate unfettered behind-the-wheel satisfaction, in daily commutes or breezing through curvy mountain roads. Performance is another strength. In the 340i, BMW’s six-cylinder engine develops 320 horsepower, mating with an eight-speed automatic or six-speed manual transmission. Rear-drive is standard, but BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system is available.

Up-to-date active safety features are available, too, but only by purchasing one of the Driver Assistance packages. Fuel economy is better than it used to be. With automatic, the rear-drive 340i is estimated at 22 mpg in city driving and 33 mpg on the highway. Manual shift (offered only with rear-drive) drops the figures to 20/30 mpg. Flaws are few, including a comparatively tight back seat, in an otherwise elegant cabin that provides splendid comfort.

What the Lexus IS 350 Gets Right

Performance with the 3.5-liter V6 is a satisfying plus, though acceleration isn’t quite as stirring as some entrants in this league. Unlike the turbocharged four-cylinder in the IS 200t, there’s no turbo lag to contend with. Handling is generally on the ordinary side, but optional variable-ratio steering, available in IS 350 F Sport models, sharpens the sedan’s responses noticeably.

Ride quality stretches from nearly gentle on smooth surfaces to substantially harsher, when the pavement becomes more troublesome. A touch of tautness can be felt much of the time. Fuel economy trails thriftier rivals, EPA-estimated with rear-drive at 19-mpg in city driving and 28 mpg on the highway. Passenger comfort has its sore points. Reaching the back seat can turn into a body-twisting adventure. Front seats are snug, with access impeded by a low roofline.

Does six-cylinder BMW compact compare to boldly styled V6 Lexus?

Judged on performance alone, this could be a close call due to Lexus’s strong V6. For a valid comparison, though, we must also consider such factors as refinement and comfort.

Our Verdict: BMW 340

Taken as a whole, the most powerful version of Lexus’s smallest sedan can’t quite match, much less overtake, the six-cylinder BMW.

Take a closer look at the BMW 340 »

Take a closer look at the Lexus IS 350 »

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

, Contributing Editor

A veteran auto journalist and editor of Tirekicking Today, Jim has contributed countless reviews and articles to such publications as autoMedia, New Car Test Drive, and Kelley Blue Book, as well as J.D. Power, cars.com, Consumer Guide, and the Chicago Tribune. He began by writing about antique/classic cars and how-to tasks, before turning to new and used vehicles. Most of his 30 published books have dealt with auto history, along with six children’s titles. His most recent book is the Tirekicking Used Car Buyer’s Guide.