For 40 years the BMW 3 Series has been an incredible force in the luxury car market. In the meantime, Lexus has been creating loyal customers for years with top-notch reliability. In 2016, Lexus has revamped their engine selection in the IS, while BMW has only made small tweaks on the 3 Series in an attempt to edge the competition. So which vehicle should you buy? Carsforsale.com is comparing specs, design, performance, safety, and features of the 2016 BMW 3 Series vs Lexus IS to help you answer that question.
Want a luxury vehicle with a lower price tag? Read our Top 10 Luxury Cars Under $30,000.
BMW 3 Series (base)
Engine: 2.0L BMW TwinPower Turbo 4-cylinder
Fuel Economy: 24 City / 36 Hwy
MSRP: From $33,150
2016 BMW 3 Series Review
The 2016 BMW 3 Series is available as a sedan, sports wagon, or hatchback. Now in its 6th generation, the 3 Series has maintained a simple yet sleek design for years. The traditional nostril-like grille connects to the slim, familiar headlights with a centered BMW logo. Horizontal sculpting on the sides and a conservative rear create a sleek and neat overall appearance.
Interior design of the 2016 3 Series feels more clean and premium than before. The high-gloss black surfaces and chrome accents stretch throughout the cabin. Little perks like new ambient lighting and additional small item storage help keep this year’s 3-Series fresh and relevant.
Front seats of the 3 Series sedan are very spacious, and rear seats will be adequate for most adults on shorter trips. The 3 Series GT (hatchback) has even more room for passengers. Cargo space in the sedan is average for a compact car, while the Sports Wagon offers an impressive 53 cubic feet of storage space.
Performance is the crowning jewel of the 3 Series. BMW prides itself in creating the “Ultimate Driving Machine.” Dynamic handling and athletic character are found throughout the engine lineup. The base 2.0L engine produces 180 hp and 200 pound feet of torque, providing plenty of power for the average driver. Next in the BMW engine lineup is another 2.0L 4-cylinder engine, but this one produces an impressive 240 hp and 255 pound feet of torque, utilizing High Precision Direct Injection, Valvetronic, and Double-VANOS technologies. A diesel 2.0L 4-cylinder is available for those seeking maximum fuel efficiency. Last and certainly not least, the all-new all-aluminum turbo-charged inline 6 engine generates 320 hp and 330 pound feet of torque and boasts and 0-60 time as quick as 4.6 seconds.
In the 2016 BMW 3-Series sedan, the base engine achieves up to 24 mpg city and 36 mpg highway. Those numbers each drop by one with the more powerful 2.0L engine. The powerful inline 6 engine achieves 22 mpg city and 33 mpg highway. Finally, the efficient diesel option achieves 32 mpg city and 42 mpg highway.
While the 2016 BMW 3-Series hasn’t completed crash testing, we expect it to reach last year’s 5-star rating from the NHTSA. BMW offers a large suite of safety features, including auto-leveling headlights, blind spot monitors, lane departure warnings, collision warnings, automatic collision notifications, and more.
In the base BMW 3 Series, you’ll still receive perks like a moon roof, dynamic cruise control, automatic climate control, satellite radio compatibility and more. You can purchase packages of features a la carte. These packages include an M Sport Package, Luxury Package, Track Handling Package, and Driver Assistance Plus Package. Some of the most notable features in these packages include BMW ConnectedDrive, navigation, real time traffic, parking assistance, heads-up display, and more.
Lexus IS Overview (base)
Engine: 2.0L Turbocharged 4-cylinder
Fuel Economy: 22 City / 32 Hwy
MSRP: From $37,325
2016 Lexus IS Review
The 2016 Lexus IS has a bold exterior design, particularly in the front, that closely resembles the 2015 Lexus IS. A bold hourglass spindle grille dominates the front end, complemented by sharp headlamps and LED lights. The IS F Sport grille is spindle throughout, while the standard Lexus IS is half spindle, half horizontal barred. Side sculpting is less bold, while the taillights and rear design maintain the edgy theme found on the front.
Step inside a 2016 Lexus IS and you’ll find elegant designs and high-quality materials similar to last year. The layout of buttons and gauges resembles the cabin design of vehicles that cost far more than the Lexus IS.
For a compact sedan, the Lexus IS has decent storage. There’s plenty of room for weekend-trip cargo in the 13.8 cubic foot trunk, but there is no hatchback option to accommodate for the largest items.
Lexus has completely ditched the 2.5L V6 powered 2015 Lexus IS 250 and is replacing it with a 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine in a trim called the IS 200t. The Lexus IS 300 offers a 3.5L V6 engine that produces 255 hp. Finally, the Lexus IS 350 has optional AWD with a 3.5L V6 that generates 306 hp. All Lexus IS engines are fun to drive and produce adequate power for the class.
The new 200t achieves 22 mpg city and 32 mpg highway. The faster 3.5L V6 achieves 19 mpg city and 26 mpg highway. The most powerful Lexus IS 350 with a 3.5L V6 achieves 19 mpg city and 28 mpg highway. Adding AWD to the IS 350 decreases highway mpg by 2.
The 2016 Lexus IS has achieved a 5 star crash test rating from the NHTSA. Safety features are plentiful, and include options such as pre-collision systems, Lexus Enform Safety Connect, HID headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, blind spot monitors, rear cross traffic alerts, backup camera with dynamic gridlines, parking assist, and more.
Every 2016 Lexus IS comes with a 7-inch screen, HD radio, automatic climate control, voice recognition, Bluetooth, eight-speaker audio, and more. Upgraded features include driver’s seat memory, leather trimmed interior, Lexus Enform, Siri Eyes Free, subscription free traffic and weather, navigation, and more.
2016 BMW 3 Series vs Lexus IS Winner:
Base model: BMW 3 Series
With a substantially lower price point, top-notch driving performance, and a healthy set of base features, the BMW 3 Series offers an incredibly attractive package for those wanting something that’s fun to drive first, and luxurious second.
Upgrades: Lexus IS
The fully loaded 2016 Lexus IS has more features than most would know what to do with, and an incredibly lush interior. Its attractive exterior offers a bold alternative to standard-looking sedans. Also worth noting, Lexus is consistently praised for top-notch reliability.
Overall Winner: 2016 BMW 3-Series
The BMW 3-Series, although less flashy than the Lexus IS, takes the crown by providing a truly spectacular driving experience. Performance, along with a refreshed cabin make the 3-Series incredibly hard to ignore. The hatchback and wagon options give car buyers more flexibility than with many competitors.