2019 Audi A4 vs. 2019 Lexus IS Series

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

The A4 has a standard Audi Backguard System that uses a specially designed headrest to protect the driver and front passenger from whiplash. During a rear-end collision, the Audi Backguard System moves the headrests forward to prevent neck and spine injuries. At the same time the pretensioning seatbelts fire, removing slack from the belts. The IS Series doesn’t offer a whiplash protection system.

The A4 has standard Secondary Collision Brake Assist, which automatically apply the brakes in the event of a crash to help prevent secondary collisions and prevent further injuries. The IS Series doesn’t offer a post collision braking system: in the event of a collision that triggers the airbags, more collisions are possible without the protection of airbags that may have already deployed.

The A4 Prestige has a standard Top and Corner View Cameras to allow the driver to see objects all around the vehicle on a screen. The IS Series only offers a rear monitor and front and rear parking sensors that beep. That doesn’t help with obstacles to the sides.

Both the A4 and the IS Series have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, driver and front passenger knee airbags, side-impact head airbags, front and rear seatbelt pretensioners, height adjustable front shoulder belts, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, crash mitigating brakes, daytime running lights, rearview cameras, available lane departure warning systems, blind spot warning systems and rear cross-path warning.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does 35 MPH front crash tests on new vehicles. In this test, results indicate that the Audi A4 is safer than the Lexus IS Series:

 

A4

IS Series

 

Driver

STARS

4 Stars

4 Stars

HIC

164

274

Neck Injury Risk

26%

36%

Neck Stress

232 lbs.

339 lbs.

Leg Forces (l/r)

431/395 lbs.

271/602 lbs.

 

Passenger

STARS

4 Stars

4 Stars

HIC

236

264

Neck Injury Risk

25%

55%

Neck Stress

119 lbs.

197 lbs.

Neck Compression

47 lbs.

64 lbs.

Leg Forces (l/r)

324/341 lbs.

426/505 lbs.

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does side impact tests on new vehicles. In this test, which crashes the vehicle into a flat barrier at 38.5 MPH and into a post at 20 MPH, results indicate that the Audi A4 is safer than the Lexus IS Series:

 

A4

IS Series

 

Front Seat

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

Hip Force

308 lbs.

474 lbs.

 

Into Pole

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

Max Damage Depth

12 inches

15 inches

Hip Force

666 lbs.

806 lbs.

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.

Warranty

The A4’s corrosion warranty is 6 years longer than the IS Series’ (12 vs. 6 years).

There are over 26 percent more Audi dealers than there are Lexus dealers, which makes it easier should you ever need service under the A4’s warranty.

Reliability

The Audi A4’s engines use a cast iron block for durability, while the IS Series’ engines use an aluminum block. Aluminum engine blocks are much more prone to warp and crack at high temperatures than cast iron.

A hardened steel chain, with no maintenance needs, drives the camshafts in the A4’s engine. The IS 300 RWD’s camshafts are driven by a rubber belt that needs periodic replacement. If the IS Series’ cam drive belt breaks the engine could be severely damaged when the pistons hit the opened valves.

Engine

As tested in Motor Trend the A4 45 TFSI is faster than the IS 350:

 

A4

IS Series

Zero to 30 MPH

1.7 sec

1.9 sec

Zero to 60 MPH

5 sec

5.6 sec

Zero to 80 MPH

8.5 sec

9.1 sec

Zero to 100 MPH

13.6 sec

14.1 sec

Passing 45 to 65 MPH

2.7 sec

2.9 sec

Quarter Mile

13.7 sec

14 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

100.4 MPH

99.8 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range

On the EPA test cycle the A4 gets better fuel mileage than the IS Series:

 

 

A4

IS Series

 

2WD

40 TFSI/Auto

27 city/34 hwy

21 city/30 hwy

300/Auto

 

 

n/a

20 city/28 hwy

350/Auto

AWD

45 TFSI/Auto

23 city/34 hwy

19 city/26 hwy

300/Auto

 

 

n/a

19 city/26 hwy

350/Auto

In heavy traffic or at stoplights the A4’s engine automatically turns off when the vehicle is stopped, saving fuel and reducing pollution. The engine is automatically restarted when the driver gets ready to move again. (Start/Stop isn’t accounted in present EPA fuel mileage tests.) The IS Series doesn’t offer an automatic engine start/stop system.

To lower fuel costs and make buying fuel easier, the Audi A4 uses regular unleaded gasoline (premium recommended for maximum performance). The IS Series requires premium, which can cost 20 to 55 cents more per gallon.

Transmission

The A4 offers a standard sequential manual gearbox (SMG). With no clutch pedal to worry about and a fully automatic mode, an SMG is much more efficient than a conventional automatic but just as easy to drive. The IS Series doesn’t offer an SMG or a conventional manual transmission.

The A4 Auto’s launch control uses engine electronics to hold engine RPM’s precisely in order to provide the most stable and rapid acceleration possible, using all of the available traction. The IS Series doesn’t offer launch control.

Brakes and Stopping

For better stopping power the A4 Quattro’s front brake rotors are larger than those on the IS Series:

 

A4 Quattro

IS Series

Front Rotors

13.3 inches

13.1 inches

Rear Rotors

13 inches

12.2 inches

The A4 stops much shorter than the IS Series:

 

A4

IS Series

 

70 to 0 MPH

155 feet

177 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

105 feet

128 feet

Motor Trend

Tires and Wheels

For better traction, the A4’s optional tires are larger than the largest tires available on the IS Series (245/40R18 vs. 225/40R18).

The A4’s optional tires provide better handling because they have a lower 35 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the IS Series’ optional 40 series front tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the A4 offers optional 19-inch wheels. The IS Series’ largest wheels are only 18-inches.

Suspension and Handling

For better handling and stability, the track (width between the wheels) on the A4 is 1.5 inches wider in the front and .2 inches wider in the rear than on the IS Series.

The A4 Prestige Quattro handles at .90 G’s, while the IS Series AWD pulls only .81 G’s of cornering force in a Car and Driver skidpad test.

The A4 Premium Plus Quattro executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver 1.8 seconds quicker than the IS Series (25.3 seconds @ .74 average G’s vs. 27.1 seconds @ .65 average G’s).

Chassis

As tested by Car and Driver, the interior of the A4 Prestige Quattro is quieter than the IS 350 F Sport:

 

A4

IS Series

At idle

42 dB

42 dB

Full-Throttle

70 dB

73 dB

70 MPH Cruising

63 dB

65 dB

Passenger Space

The A4 has .7 inches more front headroom, .5 inches more rear headroom, 3.5 inches more rear legroom and 1.1 inches more rear shoulder room than the IS Series.

Cargo Capacity

The A4 has a much larger trunk than the IS Series (13 vs. 10.8 cubic feet).

To make loading and unloading groceries and cargo easier, especially for short adults, the A4 has a standard power trunk, which opens and closes automatically by pressing a button, or optionally by just kicking your foot under the back bumper, completely leaving your hands free. The IS Series doesn’t offer a power trunk.

Ergonomics

The A4 has a standard heads-up display that projects speed and navigation instruction readouts in front of the driver’s line of sight, allowing drivers to view information without diverting their eyes from the road. The IS Series doesn’t offer a heads-up display.

The power windows standard on both the A4 and the IS Series have locks to prevent small children from operating them. When the lock on the A4 is engaged the driver can still operate all of the windows, for instance to close one opened by a child. The IS Series prevents the driver from operating the other windows just as it does the other passengers.

The A4’s rain-sensitive wipers adjust their speed and turn on and off automatically based on the amount of rainfall on the windshield. This allows the driver to concentrate on driving without constantly adjusting the wipers. The IS Series’ standard manually variable intermittent wipers have to be constantly adjusted.

Heated windshield washer nozzles are standard on the A4 to prevent washer fluid and nozzles from freezing and help continue to keep the windshield clear in sub-freezing temperatures. The IS Series doesn’t offer heated windshield washer nozzles.

In poor weather, headlights can lose their effectiveness as grime builds up on their lenses. This can reduce visibility without the driver realizing. The A4 has standard headlight washers to keep headlight output high. The IS Series doesn’t offer headlight washers.

To shield the driver and front passenger’s vision over a larger portion of the windshield and side windows, the A4 has standard extendable sun visors. The IS Series doesn’t offer extendable visors.

The A4 has standard heated front seats. Heated front seats cost extra on the IS Series. The A4 also offers optional heated rear seats to keep those passengers extremely comfortable in the winter. Heated rear seats aren’t available in the IS Series.

Economic Advantages

Insurance will cost less for the A4 owner. The Complete Car Cost Guide estimates that insurance for the A4 will cost $35 to $6680 less than the IS Series over a five-year period.

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the A4 is less expensive to operate than the IS Series because typical repairs cost much less on the A4 than the IS Series, including $149 less for a starter, $283 less for fuel injection, $600 less for a timing belt/chain and $895 less for a power steering pump.

Recommendations

Consumer Reports® chose the Audi A4 as its “Top Pick,” the highest scoring vehicle in its category, based on reliability, safety and performance. The Lexus IS Series isn't recommended.

Motor Trend performed a comparison test in its June 2017 issue and they ranked the Audi A4 Premium Plus Quattro two places higher than the Lexus IS 300 F Sport.

J.D. Power and Associates rated the A4 first among compact premium cars in owner reported satisfaction. This includes how well the vehicle performs and satisfies its owner’s expectations. The IS Series isn’t in the top three.

The Audi A4/S4 outsold the Lexus IS Series by 54% during the 2018 model year.

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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