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2015 BMW 3 Series vs. 2015 Lexus IS: Which Is Better?

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Doug DeMuro October 2015

If you're interested in a luxury sport sedan, we suspect your list includes the usual suspects, including the popular 2015 BMW 3 Series and the 2015 Lexus IS. Both offer excellent driving dynamics, a lot of equipment, impressive performance and similar pricing. Which one is better? To find out, we've created a close comparison between the 3 Series and the IS. First, let's see what's new with both models for the 2015 model year.

2015 BMW 3 Series

The BMW 3 Series earns only minor updates for 2015. Changes include newly standard Bluetooth, along with a revised options list that includes heated front seats, a navigation system and a power sunroof are now available as stand-alone extras.

2015 Lexus IS

The IS sees only minimal changes for 2015, pending a larger revision next year. Updates are limited to a newly available Enform Remote mobile app and an optional heated steering wheel in all-wheel-drive (AWD) models.

Reliability

In Power Circle reliability ratings created by automotive experts at J.D. Power, the 3 Series earned only three circles out of five, indicating average reliability. By comparison, the IS earned four circles out of five, which indicates better than average reliability.

The Lexus also beats out the BMW when it comes to warranty coverage. While the BMW offers only 4 years or 50,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper protection, the Lexus touts the same plus 6 years or 70,000 miles of powertrain coverage. Between its stronger reliability rating and its better warranty, we think the IS easily wins the reliability category.

Fuel Economy

The IS offers two engines. Standard in the base-level IS 250 is a 204-horsepower 2.5-liter V6, which returns 21 miles per gallon in the city and 30 mpg on the highway with rear-wheel drive or 20 mpg city/27 mpg hwy with AWD. The more muscular IS 350 offers a 306-hp 3.5-liter V6, which touts 19 mpg city/28 mpg hwy with rear-wheel drive and 19 mpg city/26 mpg hwy with optional AWD.

The 3 Series touts an amazing array of engine choices (five, in total). There are three gas engines, ranging from the base-level 180-hp 320i (28 mpg in combined city and highway driving) and the mid-level 240-hp 328i (23 mpg city/35 mpg hwy) to the sporty 300-hp 335i (23 mpg city/30 mpg hwy). For drivers especially interested in fuel economy, there's a diesel-powered 328d, which touts 180 hp and up to 37 mpg, along with a 335-hp hybrid-powered ActiveHybrid 3, which boasts around 28 mpg combined.

Although that's a lot of numbers and engines to keep track of, the overall theme is simple. The BMW has better gas mileage than the Lexus. In fact, it has much better gas mileage, as even the least efficient BMW engine has better mileage than the most efficient Lexus powertrain.

Safety

In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash testing, both the 3 Series and the IS earned a perfect five stars overall. While the IS has not yet been tested by the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the 3 Series fell short of the firm's Top Safety Pick rating after a troubling Marginal score in the challenging small frontal overlap crash test.

As for safety features, the BMW has a slight advantage over the Lexus. While both models offer everything you expect (side-curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes, lane-departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert and blind spot monitoring), the BMW adds a few extra touches, like a forward-collision alert system with automatic braking (the Lexus's forward-collision alert system doesn't offer automatic braking), surround-view cameras and a system that periodically wipes the brake rotors dry in wet weather.

Although both cars offer a lot of safety equipment and strong crash protection, we think the BMW's additional safety equipment gives it a slight leg up over the Lexus.

     

Technology

Both the Lexus IS and the BMW 3 Series offer an impressive array of technology, but if you're especially interested in the latest features, the 3 Series has more gadgets than the Lexus.

We've already covered a few of the BMW's benefits in terms of safety features, but its high-tech advantages over the Lexus don't stop there. The BMW also offers a speed limit information display, which shows the current speed limit, along with an available automated parallel parking system, automatic high beams, adaptive headlights and individual sunshades for the rear windows. The IS doesn't offer any of those items. While the Lexus is no dinosaur, we think those features suggest technophiles would be better off in the BMW.

Value

When it comes to value, it's hard to beat the BMW 3 Series. That wasn't always the case, as the 3 Series once presented a more expensive option than most rivals. Modern 3 Series models are a different story, as the lineup has expanded to include everything from less-expensive base models (the 320i) to additional body styles (a station wagon and a hatchback 3 Series Gran Turismo).

These days, the 3 Series offers a lower base price than the Lexus IS ($34,000 for the BMW compared to more than $38,000 for the Lexus). The BMW also touts better gas mileage and more available technology. While the Lexus does a good job offering as many features per dollar as possible, it's hard to match the 3 Series' impressive brand name, its excellent driving dynamics and its wide range of available body styles and engine options.

Autotrader's Advice

Although the Lexus IS has made impressive strides in recent years, it still can't touch the BMW 3 Series. While we're impressed with the 2015 Lexus IS, the 2015 BMW 3 Series offers more technology, safety features, engine options, body style choices and a lower base price. There's also the cachet of the BMW name and a slightly better driving experience compared to the Lexus. While the IS is an excellent car, we prefer the 3 Series.

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2015 BMW 3 Series vs. 2015 Lexus IS: Which Is Better? - Autotrader