2020 BMW 3 Series Sedan vs. 2019 Lexus IS Series

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

The 3 Series Sedan has standard Active Head Restraints, which use a specially designed headrest to protect the driver and front passenger from whiplash. During a rear-end collision, the Active Head Restraints system moves the headrests forward to prevent neck and spine injuries. The IS Series doesn’t offer a whiplash protection system.

The 3 Series Sedan offers an optional Surround View 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 3 Series Sedan 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 seatbelt pretensioners, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, crash mitigating brakes, daytime running lights, lane departure warning systems, rearview cameras, available all wheel drive, blind spot warning systems and rear cross-path warning.

For its top level performance in IIHS driver and passenger-side small overlap frontal, moderate overlap frontal, side impact, roof strength and head restraint tests, its standard front crash prevention system, and its headlight’s “Good” rating, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety grants the 3 Series Sedan its highest rating: “Top Pick Plus” for 2019, a rating granted to only 46 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The IS Series has not been fully tested, yet.

Warranty

The 3 Series Sedan’s corrosion warranty is 6 years longer than the IS Series’ (12 vs. 6 years).

BMW pays for scheduled maintenance on the 3 Series Sedan for 3 years and 36,000 miles. BMW will pay for oil changes, lubrication and any other required maintenance. Lexus only pays for the first scheduled maintenance visit on the IS Series.

There are over 43 percent more BMW dealers than there are Lexus dealers, which makes it easier should you ever need service under the 3 Series Sedan’s warranty.

Reliability

A hardened steel chain, with no maintenance needs, drives the camshafts in the 3 Series Sedan’s engine. A rubber cam drive belt that needs periodic replacement drives the IS Series’ camshafts. If the IS Series’ belt breaks, the engine could be severely damaged when the pistons hit the opened valves.

The battery on the 3 Series Sedan is in the trunk, which protects it from hot underhood temperatures that can degrade battery life. By keeping the 3 Series Sedan’s battery 20 to 30 degrees cooler, its life is increased by years. The IS Series’ battery is in the hot engine compartment.

Engine

The 3 Series Sedan has more powerful engines than the IS Series:

Horsepower

Torque

330i 2.0 turbo 4-cyl.

255 HP

295 lbs.-ft.

M340i 3.0 turbo 6-cyl.

382 HP

369 lbs.-ft.

IS 300 2.0 turbo 4-cyl.

241 HP

258 lbs.-ft.

IS 300 AWD 3.5 DOHC V6

260 HP

236 lbs.-ft.

IS 350 3.5 DOHC V6

311 HP

280 lbs.-ft.

As tested in Car and Driver the 330i is faster than the IS 350:

3 Series

IS Series

Zero to 30 MPH

1.9 sec

2 sec

Zero to 60 MPH

5.2 sec

5.6 sec

Quarter Mile

13.9 sec

14 sec

Fuel Economy and Range

On the EPA test cycle the 3 Series Sedan gets better fuel mileage than the IS Series:

MPG

3 Series Sedan

RWD

330i 2.0 turbo 4-cyl.

26 city/36 hwy

M340i 3.0 turbo 6-cyl.

22 city/30 hwy

AWD

330i 2.0 turbo 4-cyl.

25 city/34 hwy

M340i 3.0 turbo 6-cyl.

22 city/30 hwy

IS Series

RWD

300 2.0 turbo 4-cyl.

21 city/30 hwy

350 3.5 DOHC V6

20 city/28 hwy

AWD

300 3.5 DOHC V6

19 city/26 hwy

350 3.5 DOHC V6

19 city/26 hwy

Regenerative brakes improve the 3 Series Sedan’s fuel efficiency by converting inertia back into energy instead of wasting it. The IS Series doesn’t offer a regenerative braking system.

In heavy traffic or at stoplights the 3 Series Sedan’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.

Transmission

The 3 Series Sedan’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 M340i’s brake rotors are larger than those on the IS Series:

M340i

IS Series

Front Rotors

13.7 inches

13.1 inches

Rear Rotors

13.6 inches

12.2 inches

The 3 Series Sedan stops much shorter than the IS Series:

3 Series

IS Series

70 to 0 MPH

165 feet

177 feet

Car and Driver

Tires and Wheels

The 3 Series Sedan’s optional 225/35R20 front and 255/30R20 rear tires provide better handling because they have a lower 35 series front and 30 series rear profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the IS Series’ optional 40 series front and 35 series rear tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the 330i has standard 18-inch wheels. Smaller 17-inch wheels are standard on the IS Series. The 3 Series Sedan’s optional 20-inch wheels are larger than the 18-inch wheels optional on the IS Series.

Changing a flat tire near traffic can be dangerous and inconvenient. The run-flat tires standard on the 3 Series Sedan can be driven up to 50 miles without any air pressure, allowing you to drive to a service station for a repair. The IS Series doesn’t offer run-flat tires.

Suspension and Handling

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the 3 Series Sedan’s wheelbase is 2 inches longer than on the IS Series (112.2 inches vs. 110.2 inches).

For better handling and stability, the track (width between the wheels) on the 3 Series Sedan is 1.9 inches wider in the front and 1.9 inches wider in the rear than on the IS Series.

The 330i xDrive handles at .89 G’s, while the IS Series AWD pulls only .81 G’s of cornering force in a Car and Driver skidpad test.

Chassis

The design of the BMW 3 Series Sedan amounts to more than styling. The 3 Series Sedan has an aerodynamic coefficient of drag of .26 Cd. That is lower than the IS Series (.28) and many sports cars. A more efficient exterior helps keep the interior quieter and helps the 3 Series Sedan get better fuel mileage.

The front grille of the 3 Series Sedan uses electronically controlled shutters to close off airflow and reduce drag when less engine cooling is needed. This helps improve highway fuel economy. The IS Series doesn’t offer active grille shutters.

Passenger Space

The 3 Series Sedan has .5 inches more front headroom, .1 inches more front shoulder room, .7 inches more rear headroom, 3 inches more rear legroom and 1.2 inches more rear shoulder room than the IS Series.

Cargo Capacity

The 3 Series Sedan 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 3 Series Sedan offers an optional 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 3 Series Sedan offers an optional heads-up display that projects speed and other key instrumentation 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 3 Series Sedan and the IS Series have locks to prevent small children from operating them. When the lock on the 3 Series Sedan 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 3 Series Sedan’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.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) conducts detailed tests on headlights for their range both straight ahead and in curves and to be certain they don’t exceed acceptable amounts of glare to oncoming drivers. The 3 Series Sedan’s available headlights were rated “Good” by the IIHS, while the IS Series’ headlights are rated “Acceptable.”

To shield the driver and front passenger’s vision over a larger portion of the windshield and side windows, the 3 Series Sedan has standard extendable sun visors. The IS Series doesn’t offer extendable visors.

The 3 Series Sedan’s optional Parking Assistant Plus can parallel park or back into a parking spot by itself, starting, stopping and changing direction automatically. The IS Series doesn’t offer an automated parking system.

Model Availability

The BMW 3 Series comes in sedan, four door hatchback and station wagon bodystyles; the Lexus IS Series isn’t available as a four door hatchback or station wagon.

Recommendations

The BMW 3 Series outsold the Lexus IS Series by almost two to one during 2018.

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

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