We all have preconceived notions about Lexus and BMW, but when it comes to the 2021 IS and 2021 3 Series, the reality is much more complicated. Although both have strengths and weaknesses, we’d argue one has a few more advantages than the other. Keep reading to find out which is the superior luxury sedan.
2021 Lexus IS Advantages Over the 3 Series
Standard safety features
Lexus is known for offering abundant standard safety features, and the IS is no exception. Key goodies such as lane keep assist, stop-and-go adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert are standard on the IS but optional on the 3 Series.
You may not expect it from a Lexus, but the IS feels great on a mountain road, particularly in F Sport guise with the Dynamic Handling package. With Sport S+ mode engaged, it hugs the curves of the road and delivers excellent feedback of what is happening in the wheels. Despite its reputation for top-notch performance, the 3 Series doesn’t quite benefit from the same sensation. Although steering is precise, there is a distinct lack of feel.
Buyers looking for lower prices may want to consider the Lexus. While the base 330i starts at $42,245, the entry-level IS300 costs $40,025. For six-cylinder thrills, the Lexus IS once again has the cost advantage with prices starting at $43,925 for the top-of-the-line IS350 F Sport. The BMW M340i sedan, which admittedly has 71 additional horsepower and a distinct acceleration advantage over the IS350 F Sport, will run you at least $55,695.
2021 BMW 3 Series Advantages Over the IS
The 3 Series offers more space for passengers in the back to stretch their legs, boasting 35.2 inches of rear legroom compared to the Lexus’ 32.2 inches. Lexus leads in front legroom, with 44.8 inches ahead of the BMW’s 42 inches. There’s no getting around the Lexus’ lack of cargo space, though. The sedan offers just 10.8 cubic feet of space compared to 13 cubic feet for the BMW.
The price on the hood isn’t everything. When buying a new vehicle, it’s also important to consider total ownership costs. By examining factors such as depreciation, insurance, fuel, and repairs, our partners at IntelliChoice determined ownership costs for the 3 Series and IS over a five-year period. The most recent ratings have the BMW with a Good score, while the Lexus was rated Average.
Although it’s no longer the benchmark among small luxury sedans, the BMW 3 Series still has some performance chops. The 3 Series has a clear advantage over the IS when it comes to acceleration. When we tested a four-cylinder 2020 BMW 330i xDrive with 255 hp, it zoomed to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds and made the quarter mile in 14.1 seconds at 98.1 mph. Compare that to the entry-level, four-cylinder 2017 Lexus IS with 241 hp that took 7.0 seconds to hit 60 mph, and recorded 15.4 seconds at 89.9 mph in the quarter mile.
Even the six-cylinder Lexus falls behind the four-cylinder BMW. Our 2021 Lexus IS 350 F Sport tester, making 311 hp, reached 60 mph in 5.7 seconds and performed the quarter mile in 14.2 seconds at 100.1 mph. Stepping up to the 2020 BMW M340i, this six-cylinder Bimmer with 382 hp raced to 60 mph in a mere 4.2 seconds, gliding through the quarter mile in 12.7 seconds at 110.4 mph. Expect even better performance from the mighty BMW M3.
Don’t think the BMW’s excellent acceleration gets in the way of fuel economy. The 3 Series has a significant fuel economy advantage over the IS, delivering 26/36 mpg city/highway in standard guise compared to 21/31 mpg for the base Lexus. Even the M340i manages 23/32 mpg, compared to 19/26 mpg for the IS F Sport. For the best fuel economy, opt for the plug-in hybrid BMW 330e (Lexus doesn’t offer a hybrid IS in the U.S. ).
It may be impossible to convince ardent BMW or Lexus fans to switch to the other side, but each compact luxury sedan has distinct advantages. Shoppers who want to pay less up front and appreciate abundant standard safety features will choose the Lexus. However, we think the BMW has an edge over its rival because it mixes performance with practical considerations such as superior long-term value, fuel economy, and interior space.
2021 Lexus IS Advantages Over the 3 Series:
- More standard safety features
- Steering feel
- More features for less money
2021 BMW 3 Series Advantages Over the IS:
- Interior space
- Fuel economy
- Higher IntelliChoice-rated value rating
— to www.motortrend.com