2013 BMW 328i M Sport vs. 2013 Cadillac ATS 2.0 Premium vs. 2014 Lexus IS 250 F Sport on Edmunds.com

2013 BMW 328i M Sport vs. 2013 Cadillac ATS 2.0 Premium vs. 2014 Lexus IS 250 F Sport Comparison Test

2013 BMW 3 Series Sedan

(2.0L 4-cyl. Turbo 6-speed Manual)

Finding the Best $45,000 Sport Sedan

  • Comparison Test
  • 2013 BMW 328i Specs and Performance
  • 2013 Cadillac ATS Specs and Performance
  • 2014 Lexus IS 250 Specs and Performance

While it should be the automotive equivalent of a mullet (mixing neither business nor party correctly), the entry-level luxury sport sedan has become the default option for American buyers who need a lady in the streets and a freak on the track.

Until recently, buyers in this category had two options: the BMW 3 Series or something that wasn't as good as the BMW 3 Series. But times have changed and BMW's spot at the top of the pecking order is as unstable as it's ever been. The base engine is now a turbocharged four-cylinder, and challengers to the throne are getting exceptionally good.

Back in March of 2012, the 328i barely beat two very good cars to defend its position. Now, there are two new challengers that may give it even more trouble: the 2014 Lexus IS and the 2013 Cadillac ATS.

Best $45,000 Sport Sedan

So we picked a price, mandated that all entrants have an automatic transmission and a sport package, and set out to find which is the best $45,000 sport sedan: the 2014 Lexus IS 250 F Sport, 2013 Cadillac ATS 2.0 Premium or the 2013 BMW 328i M Sport Line.

The Reigning King: 2013 BMW 328i
BMW's iconic 3 Series got a thorough redesign for 2012 that brought with it dramatic new headlights, an updated interior with a cockpit angled toward the driver (by 7 degrees, says BMW), a larger footprint, more interior space and most importantly, a new 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder hooked to an eight-speed automatic.

This new 240-horsepower power plant doesn't mean this 3 Series is any cheaper, though, as it starts at $37,745. Tacking on the necessary-for-this-test M Sport Line trim (18-inch wheels, summer tires, sport suspension, sport seats, special wheels) adds $3,850 and gets dangerously close to our limit. BMW finished off the budget with the Premium package and heated front seats for a total cost of $45,745.

Best $45,000 Sport Sedan

The 328 has standard dual-zone climate control, auto stop-start and an iPod interface, but there's no navigation system. No back-up cameras/sensors either. No shift paddles. No goodies.

This is as basic a 3 Series as you're likely to find short of a custom order.

Back in the Game: 2014 Lexus IS 250 F Sport
Lexus went all out with the 2014 IS 250 and only charges an $855 premium over the outgoing model. For $36,845, the new IS gets HID headlights, LED daytime running lights, Drive Mode Select, wheel-mounted shift paddles, the wonky Remote Touch Interface mouse-thing, dual-zone climate control and a 4.2-inch multi-information display.

Part of the IS 250's value supremacy is due to the lone powertrain option: a 2.5-liter V6 making 204 hp and 185 pound-feet of torque bolted to a six-speed automatic. In fact, it's virtually the same V6 that Lexus offered last year. And every year since 2005.

Best $45,000 Sport Sedan

Even in normal trim, the new Lexus IS a looker. Add on the $3,115 F Sport package and the design goes from sculpted to downright jacked. Most notably, a wicked one-piece grille fills in the more pronounced spindle grille. Backing up the striking looks of the F Sport's appearance are a sport-tuned suspension, 18-inch wheels with performance tires, sport seats and a slick sliding tachometer derived from the mighty LFA.

Upping the cool factor, this IS 250 F Sport is equipped with the Navigation package with Mark Levinson stereo ($3,225), and a $600 blind-spot monitoring package.

The Lexus offers a ton of features, and a sport pack, for only $43,785.

A Challenger Appears: 2013 Cadillac ATS 2.0 Premium
While not exactly a square peg in a round hole, this 2013 Cadillac ATS needs some edges rounded off to properly fit into this comparison. Bought for our long-term test fleet, this ATS carries an unfortunate sticker price of $51,510. Getting it into our test range isn't hard.

Best $45,000 Sport Sedan

With a starting price of $35,795 with the six-speed automatic and 272-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, the ATS makes a compelling price argument. To get the required sport tuning you have to upgrade to the $45,790 ATS 2.0 Premium (including destination). This trim level also gives the buyer a mechanical limited-slip differential, CUE infotainment/navigation system, performance eight-way power front seats, rear park assist with camera, 18-inch wheels with summer tires, HID headlights, Bose premium stereo, automatic wipers and, well, you get the idea. It's loaded.

For the sake of comparison, we had to disregard the $3,200 Driver Assistance package, and we'd happily forget the $850 polished wheels (nice, machined aluminum ones in the same size are standard). If we remember it has a sunroof and heated seats and refuse to use the driver assistance stuff, this car has an effective as-tested price of $47,440.

BMW 328
Cadillac ATS
Lexus IS 250
Price as tested
0-60 (sec.)
13.8 @ 97.7
14.5 @ 93.9
15.6 @ 89.0
60-0 braking (ft.)
Slalom (mph)
Skid pad (g)
Edmunds fuel economy (mpg)

Best $45,000 Sport Sedan

3rd Place: 2014 Lexus IS 250 F Sport
In short, Lexus brought a teaspoon to a gunfight.

Consider the track test numbers. At the 60-mph mark, the Lexus is more than a second behind the Cadillac and more than 2 seconds behind the BMW. At the end of the quarter-mile, the Lexus has closed a bit, but the gap is still nearly 2 seconds. To put that into perspective, the acceleration difference between the BMW and the Lexus is the same as the one between the IS 250 and the Toyota Prius. You think Prius drivers are slow? That's how every 328i driver is going to feel about the IS 250.

Where the Lexus does trump the BMW is in steering feel and precision. We'll say it again: The 2014 Lexus IS 250 F Sport has better, more precise, sharper and more communicative steering than the BMW 3 Series. Unfortunately, thanks to substandard Bridgestone Turanza ER33 tires, most of that communication is, loosely translated, "Please slow down. I have no grip. Here's some understeer!"

The precision steering and taut body controls helped the Lexus barely edge the BMW in the slalom. On the road, the listless engine combined with the gripless tires keeps the Lexus from keeping up, let alone leading. Head into a corner at the same pace as the other two and you'll understeer across the lanes into enemy territory. Slow down too much and you're forced to rely on the engine, which never delivers.

Slow-in, slow-out isn't fun and it isn't fast. It's not terribly fuel-efficient either, as the Lexus returned 23.4 mpg in our 116-mile test loop and 21.5 combined.

Though Lexus is seriously outgunned with its entry-level powertrain (there is, of course, an IS 350, but there are also a BMW 335i and a Cadillac ATS 3.6), it takes the cake in terms of interior refinement and build quality. Highlighting the all-new interior are the F Sport-specific seats, which swaddle the driver in a cushy leather bucket that deftly blends comfort and performance in a way we wish the nonadjustable suspension could manage.

The Lex's interior is dominated by the mouselike Remote Touch interface. When equipped with the Mark Levinson/Navigation package, this controls a 7-inch screen with the Enform App Suite as well as advanced radio controls, climate controls (primary controls are on the center console), personalization features and, of course, navigation. In theory, a remote-touch device is a solid idea allowing more freedom than a scroll wheel with none of the hassles of a touchscreen. In practice, it's the worst of both worlds. Thanks in part to the harsh suspension, picking a correct spot for the mouse is difficult and once you've incorrectly clicked, there's no hard "back" button. Further, as all of the icons are the same dull colors, differentiating among them without serious eyes-off-road time is difficult.

Though it gets a ding for the Remote Touch system, Lexus scores well on the rest of the interior. The cockpit isn't tight, but it's narrow and driver-focused. The backseats were second best in this test, with tolerable headroom for a 6-plus-footer. Trunk space is listed at 13.8 cubic feet, the most voluminous of the group.

Make no mistake, the 2014 Lexus IS 250 F Sport is a very good car, if an imperfect sport sedan. Many buyers will find it easy to forgive the lack of grip and power in exchange for the low cost of entry and the exemplary, if awkward, interior.

It's a good value, but in the end it was edged out by...

Best $45,000 Sport Sedan

2nd Place: 2013 Cadillac ATS 2.0 Premium
The Cadillac and Lexus were neck-and-neck in this comparison until the very last minute. The Lexus bests the Cadillac in feel, feedback, build quality, seats, interior space and price. Those are hard hurdles to clear.

Credit the Cadillac's 272-hp engine for mowing down some reservations, while the rest were dispatched by the Caddy's ride quality and the ease-of-use of its cabin.

Whereas the IS 250 turned in decent handling results and then got walked on the road, the Cadillac took everything we dared to throw at it regardless of the venue. The operative word there is "dare," as the Lexus looks to have stolen all of the feel from Cadillac, as there's simply no sensation through the wheel. The only way to know you still have any grip left is to check and see if you're still on the road. Yes? Good. Go faster next time.

Trying to hustle the 2013 Cadillac ATS on a technical drive is a bit like trying to ride a mule while drunk: It's sure-footed and trustworthy, but damned if you're still not a little spooked. We found out on our test track just how good our Cadillac ATS handles if you just repeat the mantra "I think it can, I think it can" and push.

Turning in a vicious 70.4-mph slalom performance, the Cadillac ATS barely looked flustered. Flick the adjustable magnetorheological shocks into Sport mode and the ATS turns from damsel to daredevil. Compliance goes to nearly nil, ride quality gets abusive and the Cadillac sticks to the road like a week-dead possum.

Best $45,000 Sport Sedan

Once again, when putting that grip to use, the Cadillac lacks positive driver interactions, as the engine sounds as if it was sourced from John Deere. Industrial or not, the Cadillac's power plant produces a full 68 hp more than the IS 250 and 32 more than the BMW, while returning 21 mpg during our testing. On the 116-mile Edmunds test loop, the ATS returned a 2nd-place 25.5 mpg.

Unlike the IS 250 F Sport, which is always in aggressive mode and therefore gets jittery and unsettled on broken pavement, the ATS's multimode suspension does exactly what it's supposed to. Either of the settings on their own would be the death knell for a car in this test — one too firm, one too soft and bouncy — but on-the-fly adjustability makes it work.

The final stake in the IS 250's heart came when comparing its interior with the ATS. While the IS's seats, steering wheel and instrument panel are vastly superior to those found in the ATS, Cadillac's User Experience (CUE) touchscreen is more usable, and requires less time with your eyes off the road than the remote touch mouse in the Lexus. This feature includes an 8-inch display screen that controls navigation, audio, car settings, climate and a host of apps including Pandora. It works very much like your iPad, but slower and with an annoying, unnecessary confirmation vibration. With a faster processor, CUE could be a knockout. As is, it's a front-runner. The buttonless center console keeps Cadillac's interior design cleaner, less polarizing and easier to figure out than the Lexus.

Lexus wins back another point from Cadillac in both rear headroom and cargo capacity. The Cadillac, with 10.4 cubic feet of cargo space, is dead last and the rear headroom is dismal. If lugging things or carrying rear-seat passengers is a priority, this will be a concern.

Without the FE3 suspension and the turbocharged engine, the 2013 Cadillac ATS would have clearly fallen to the IS 250. Until Lexus ups its engine game, the Cadillac is the better car. Then again, when it comes to our first choice there is a clear winner.

Best $45,000 Sport Sedan

1st Place: 2013 BMW 328i M Sport Line
Putting a BMW in 1st place in a comparison is like going to NYC for a slice of pizza or Chicago for a hot dog; it's so common it's almost cliché.

It's also the right decision.

This despite the fact that the 2013 BMW 328i M Sport Line was the least well-equipped car in this comparison test and carried the second-highest price. The haters will say that the price difference is a BMW-badge tax, but a quick drive in the 328i shows where the money really goes.

Best $45,000 Sport Sedan

Through our slalom, the BMW's suspension was softer than we'd like and hated the rapid transitions. On the open road, where 600 feet of left-right-left-right exchanges at nearly 70 mph are a rarity, the BMW is by far the quickest and most confidence-inspiring. Even using its aforementioned mantra and the knowledge of a higher slalom speed, the Cadillac and its 272 hp simply can't hang with the BMW.

While we'd like to see paddle shifters at this price and with an M kit, the push-to-downshift shifter works perfectly, instantaneously firing off rapid, rev-matched downshifts. There's no debate here, as the eight-speed automatic and turbocharged engine in the 328 is the best powertrain in the segment. The wall of torque is endless and the throttle response is dead-on.

Like the Lexus, this BMW has a nonadjustable suspension. Unlike in the Lexus, however, this proved an asset, as the BMW was the most comfortable around town and the most forgiving of surface imperfections. Humps and dips that caused hysterics in the other two were well damped in the BMW. BMW's exceptional front seats also earned their stripes here. The IS's seats wow in the first 20 minutes, but after hours on twisty, real-world roads and sprawling highways, the 328i's buckets were the ones we pined for. Wonderfully adjustable with almost orthopedic support and solid thigh support.

The BMW didn't win this on powertrain alone. The interior impressed us as well. Lexus has all of the flash in this segment, while BMW has all the class. The instrumentation is old school, but it's clear, precise and uncluttered. Similarly, the rest of the interior controls are designed to be used by a driver while the car is in motion. HVAC buttons are on the center console and have a positive action. Same goes for the main stereo controls. Advanced audio and car controls are hidden behind a 6.5-inch display.

And after a decade of tinkering, iDrive borders on intuitive and features the crisp graphics and easy-to-use menus that Lexus and Cadillac have yet to master. Lexus and BMW are still in the just-past-Beta phase of development on their infotainment systems, while BMW has firmly established technology. Even without navigation or apps, the system still impresses with speed, clarity and ease of use. It doesn't matter how neat a feature is on the showroom floor. If you can't use it while driving, what's the point?

BMW also offers 13 cubic feet of cargo volume, with in-trunk levers to fold down the rear seats for even more carrying capacity. Rear seat passengers were also most comfortable in the 328i. Nobody was wearing top hats, but nobody needed to crane their neck to scary degrees as they did with the Caddy.

Finally, the BMW wasn't simply the fastest of the group, it was also the most fuel efficient. During our test we averaged 25 mpg and on the 116-mile Edmunds test loop, the 328i managed an astounding 33.6 mpg. Those are numbers that any compact car could be proud of, let alone one that can run 13-second quarter-mile times at the track.

Best $45,000 Sport Sedan

It's this combination of supreme powertrain performance, class-leading ride quality and predictable, confident handling that vault the 2013 BMW 328i to 1st place in this comparison and an "A" grade in Edmunds recommended ratings. Both the 2014 Lexus IS 250 F Sport and 2013 Cadillac ATS 2.0 Premium received "B" ratings.

So BMW won out again, though by the skin of its turbocharged wündermotor. The writing may be on the wall, but for now the BMW 3 Series is still a step ahead.

BMW and Lexus provided Edmunds cars for the purposes of evaluation. Edmunds purchased the Cadillac ATS for the purpose of a long-term evaluation.

Model year2013
Year Make Model2013 BMW 3 Series 328i 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 8A)
Vehicle TypeRWD 4dr 5-passenger Sedan
Base MSRP$37,745
Options on test vehicleEstoril Blue ($550); M Sport Line ($3,850 -- includes 18-by-8-inch front and 18-by-8.5-inch rear star-spoke [style 400 M] M Light alloy wheels with 225/45R18 front and 255/40R18 performance tires, sport seats; choice of Estoril Blue matte, black high gloss or pearl gloss chrome highlight trim finishers; choice of aluminum hexagon or dark burl walnut wood interior trims; sport suspension [deleted when M Sport Line is ordered in combination with Dynamic Handling Package]; M steering wheel; aerodynamic kit; Shadowline exterior window trim; anthracite headliner; Increased top speed limiter; choice of black or Venetian Beige leatherette upholstery); Moonroof ($1,050 -- includes power glass moonroof with one-touch and tilt/slide functions; wind deflector); Eight-Speed Steptronic Automatic Transmission ($0 -- includes eight-speed automatic transmission with adaptive transmission control and Steptronic features); Premium Package ($3,100 -- includes Comfort Access keyless entry, moonroof, power lumbar support, satellite radio with 1-year subscription)
As-tested MSRP$45,745
Assembly locationMunich, Germany
ConfigurationLongitudinal, front-engine, rear-wheel drive
Engine typeTurbocharged, direct-injected, inline-4 with auto stop-start
Displacement (cc/cu-in)1,997/122
Block/head materialAluminum/aluminum
ValvetrainDOHC, 4 valves per cylinder, variable intake- and exhaust-valve timing, variable intake-valve lift
Compression ratio (x:1)10.0
Redline, indicated (rpm)7,000
Fuel cutoff/rev limiter (rpm)7,200
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)240 @ 5,000
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)255 @ 1,250
Fuel typePremium unleaded (required)
Transmission typeEight-speed automatic with console shifter
Transmission ratios (x:1)I = 4.714; II = 3.143; III = 2.106; IV = 1.677; V = 1.285; VI = 1.000; VII = 0.839; VIII = 0.667
Final-drive ratio (x:1)3.154
Suspension, frontIndependent MacPherson struts with dual lower ball joints, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Suspension, rearIndependent multilink, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Steering typeSpeed-proportional power steering
Tire make and modelBridgestone Potenza S001
Tire typeAsymmetrical run-flat summer performance
Tire size, front225/45R18 (91Y)
Tire size, rear255/40R18 (95Y)
Wheel size18-by-8 inches front and rear
Wheel materialAlloy
Brakes, front12.3-inch ventilated disc with single-piston sliding caliper
Brakes, rear11.8-inch ventilated disc with single-piston sliding caliper
Track Test Results
Acceleration, 0-30 mph (sec.)2.1
0-45 mph (sec.)3.5
0-60 mph (sec.)5.4
0-75 mph (sec.)8.0
1/4-mile (sec. @ mph)13.8 @ 97.7
0-60 with 1 foot of rollout (sec.)5.1
0-30 mph, trac ON (sec.)2.6
0-45 mph, trac ON (sec.)4.1
0-60 mph, trac ON (sec.)6.2
0-75 mph, trac ON (sec.)8.8
1/4-mile, trac ON (sec. @ mph)14.4 @ 97.5
0-60, trac ON with 1 foot of rollout (sec.)5.8
Braking, 30-0 mph (ft.)27
60-0 mph (ft.)109
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph)67.7
Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g)0.90
Sound level @ idle (dB)41.5
@ Full throttle (dB)69.2
@ 70 mph cruise (dB)64.8
Engine speed @ 70 mph (rpm)1,900
Test Driver Ratings & Comments
Acceleration commentsSeriously strong revver. In Sport and DS modes, while overlapping throttle and brake to bring revs to 2,000 rpm, the tranny went into a quick-shift mode, banging off lightning-quick shifts for the 1-2 and 2-3, then shifted normally for the 3-4. This greatly improved times. Manual shifting is via console lever (push forward for downshifts). Blips throttle on downshifts, does not hold gears to rev limiter.
Braking commentsSolid pedal, good feel. A couple of times the front pulled to the right on initial jump-in, but other than that, stops were very secure. First stop was 110 feet. Third stop was longest at 114 feet. Sixth (and final) stop was shortest at 109 feet.
Handling commentsSlalom: After my first pass with the sportiest settings (Sport+ with Dynamic Traction Control), I asked if BMW offered a Sport package for this car because it felt a little reluctant to transition from side to side and there are no shift paddles for the shiftable automatic. I was surprised to learn that this is the M Sport version. That said, the steering wheel construction is very nice, it offers excellent precision allowing inch-perfect placement of the car, but only so-so feel for the front tires' grip. It's interesting that the car tends to lose grip first at the rear, but that doesn't match with its sluggish response in transition. As a result, the limiting factor is not the permissive ESC, but that combo of tire grip and slow-to-transition reflexes. Skid pad: The steering feels reasonably natural and precise here with appropriate effort, but overall, the sensations are far from where BMW once defined the target for others.
Testing Conditions
Test date4/23/2013
Elevation (ft.)1,121
Temperature (F)62.7
Relative humidity (%)28.7
Barometric pressure (in. Hg)59.4
Wind (mph, direction)4.5 crosswind
Odometer (mi.)2,123
Fuel used for test91-octane gasoline
As-tested tire pressures, f/r (psi)32/32
Fuel Consumption
EPA fuel economy (mpg)22 city/34 highway/26 combined
Edmunds observed (mpg)25
Fuel tank capacity (U.S. gal.)15.8
Driving range (mi.)537.2
Audio and Advanced Technology
Stereo descriptionAM/FM/CD/DVD
iPod/digital media compatibilityStandard USB Input with iPhone-specific connector
Satellite radioStandard Sirius, 1-year subscription
Bluetooth phone connectivityStandard
Navigation systemOptional
Telematics (OnStar, etc.)Optional BMW Assist
Smart entry/StartOptional
Parking aidsOptional (not equipped)
Dimensions & Capacities
Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.)3,360
Curb weight, as tested (lbs.)3,457
Weight distribution, as tested, f/r (%)49.9/50.1
Length (in.)182.5
Width (in.)71.3
Height (in.)56.3
Wheelbase (in.)110.6
Track, front (in.)60.3
Track, rear (in.)61.9
Turning circle (ft.)37.0
Headroom, front (in.)40.3
Headroom, rear (in.)37.3
Shoulder room, front (in.)55.1
Shoulder room, rear (in.)55.1
Seating capacity5
Trunk volume (cu-ft)13
GVWR (lbs.)4,409
Bumper-to-bumper4 years/50,000 miles
Powertrain4 years/50,000 miles
Corrosion12 years/Unlimited miles
Roadside assistance4 years/Unlimited miles
Free scheduled maintenance4 years/50,000 miles
Model year2013
Year Make Model2013 Cadillac ATS Premium 4dr Sedan RWD (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6A)
Vehicle TypeRWD 4dr 5-passenger Sedan
Base MSRP$44,895
Options on test vehicleBlack Raven, Driver Assist Package ($3,645 -- includes safety alert seat, forward collision alert, lane departure warning, rain-sensing wipers, rear thorax airbags, adaptive cruise control, automatic collision preparation, electronic parking brake, rear cross-traffic alert, side blind zone alert, full-color head-up display); Power Sunroof ($1,050 -- includes powered glass, tilt-sliding sunroof with sunshade); 18-by-8-Inch Polished Aluminum Wheels ($850); Cold Weather Package ($600 -- includes heated driver and front passenger seats, heated steering wheel rim).
As-tested MSRP$51,510
Assembly locationLansing, Michigan
North American parts content (%)65
ConfigurationLongitudinal front engine, rear-wheel drive
Engine typeTurbocharged, direct-injected inline-4, gasoline
Displacement (cc/cu-in)1,998/122
Block/head materialAluminum/aluminum
ValvetrainDOHC, four valves per cylinder, variable intake + exhaust-valve timing
Compression ratio (x:1)9.2
Redline, indicated (rpm)7,000
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)272 @ 5,500
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)260 @ 1,700
Fuel typePremium unleaded (recommended)
Transmission typeSix-speed automatic with console shifter and steering-mounted paddles with Sport/Competition modes
Transmission ratios (x:1)I = 4.06; II - 2.37; III = 1.55; IV = 1.16; V = 0.85; VI = 0.67
Final-drive ratio (x:1)3.27
Differential(s)Mechanical limited slip
Suspension, frontIndependent MacPherson struts with dual lower ball joints, coil springs, driver-adjustable two-mode magnetorheological dampers, stabilizer bar
Suspension, rearIndependent multilink (double wishbone + toe link), coil springs, driver-adjustable two-mode magnetorheological dampers, stabilizer bar
Steering typeElectric speed-proportional power steering
Steering ratio (x:1)15.3
Tire make and modelBridgestone Potenza RE050A
Tire typeAsymmetrical summer run-flat
Tire size, front225/40R18 (88W)
Tire size, rear255/3R18 (90W)
Wheel size, front18-by-8 inches
Wheel size, rear18-by-9 inches
Wheel materialPolished alloy
Brakes, front12.6-inch one-piece ventilated steel discs with four-piston fixed calipers
Brakes, rear12.4-inch one-piece ventilated steel discs with single-piston sliding calipers
Track Test Results
Acceleration, 0-30 mph (sec.)2.2
0-45 mph (sec.)4.0
0-60 mph (sec.)6.3
0-75 mph (sec.)9.4
1/4-mile (sec. @ mph)14.5 @ 93.9
0-60 with 1 foot of rollout (sec.)6.0
0-30 mph, trac ON (sec.)2.5
0-45 mph, trac ON (sec.)4.3
0-60 mph, trac ON (sec.)6.7
0-75 mph, trac ON (sec.)9.8
1/4-mile, trac ON (sec. @ mph)14.8 @ 93.9
0-60, trac ON with 1 foot of rollout (sec.)6.3
Braking, 30-0 mph (ft.)28
60-0 mph (ft.)112
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph)70.4
Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g)0.89
Sound level @ idle (dB)43.7
@ Full throttle (dB)70.3
@ 70 mph cruise (dB)64.9
Engine speed @ 70 mph (rpm)2,250
Test Driver Ratings & Comments
Acceleration commentsPower braking definitely wakes things up, as there is a bit of initial hesitation without it. Engine pulls pretty hard, but sounds rather industrial. Shifts aren't overly quick. Too much power braking results in excessive wheelspin. Was able to equal best Drive run using the paddle shifters. Can also manual shift with console lever (pull back for downshifts). Blips throttle on downshifts. Holds gears to 7,000-rpm limiter.
Braking commentsFirm pedal with good feel. Well-controlled nose dive and solid, secure stops. First stop was shortest at 112 feet. Sixth (and final) stop was longest at 115 feet. No pedal fade. No excessive brake odor.
Handling commentsSlalom: Compared to the others in its segment, the ATS feels taller and more upright, and as a result, feels like it has a better view out the front. Steering is vague-feeling but responsive and precise. In Sport mode with ESC set to Competitive, the body rolls very little and the car feels a little nervous. The driver needs to use the numb steering wheel to predict and "stay ahead" of the car's dynamics because ESC allows a little bit of skidding. There's an uncommon amount of grip but so little useful information to accompany it. The car is capable in the right hands, but not rewardingly so. Skid pad: Steering effort, even in the sportiest setting, lacks the sort of feedback and effort build-up one expects from a sport sedan. The seat is just adequate for the amount of lateral grip the car can maintain in a corner. Again, Competitive ESC mode allows a modest amount of skidding, and I could use that generous envelope to "steer" with the throttle.
Testing Conditions
Test date4/23/2013
Elevation (ft.)1,121
Temperature (F)61.8
Relative humidity (%)61.4
Barometric pressure (in. Hg)28.8
Wind (mph, direction)4.7 (headwind)
Odometer (mi.)7,148
Fuel used for test91-octane gasoline
As-tested tire pressures, f/r (psi)32/32
Fuel Consumption
EPA fuel economy (mpg)20 city/30 highway/24 combined
Edmunds observed (mpg)21
Fuel tank capacity (U.S. gal.)16
Driving range (mi.)480
Audio and Advanced Technology
Stereo descriptionSeven-speaker Bose stereo with AM/FM/satellite/CD
iPod/digital media compatibilityStandard iPod via USB jack
Satellite radioStandard
Bluetooth phone connectivityStandard
Navigation systemStandard
Telematics (OnStar, etc.)Standard
Smart entry/StartStandard
Parking aidsStandard
Blind-spot detectionOptional
Adaptive cruise controlOptional
Lane-departure monitoringOptional
Collision warning/avoidanceOptional
Dimensions & Capacities
Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.)3,543
Curb weight, as tested (lbs.)3,509
Weight distribution, as tested, f/r (%)50.3/49.7
Length (in.)182.8
Width (in.)71.1
Height (in.)56.4
Wheelbase (in.)109.3
Track, front (in.)59.5
Track, rear (in.)60.9
Turning circle (ft.)38.0
Legroom, front (in.)42.5
Legroom, rear (in.)33.5
Headroom, front (in.)38.6
Headroom, rear (in.)36.8
Shoulder room, front (in.)55.2
Shoulder room, rear (in.)53.9
Seating capacity5
Trunk volume (cu-ft)10.4
GVWR (lbs.)4,654
Bumper-to-bumper4 years/50,000 miles
Powertrain6 years/70,000 miles
Corrosion4 years/50,000 miles
Roadside assistance6 years/70,000 miles
Free scheduled maintenance4 years/50,000 miles
Model year2014
ModelIS 250
Year Make Model2014 Lexus IS 250 4dr Sedan (2.5L 6cyl 6A)
Vehicle TypeRWD 4dr 5-passenger Sedan
Base MSRP$36,845
Options on test vehicleF Sport Package ($3,115 -- includes full-mesh grille, LED headlamps, 18-inch split five-spoke wheels, front sport seats, sport-tuned suspension, center-mounted tachometer with moving bezel); Navigation With Mark Levinson Stereo ($3,225 -- includes Bluetooth, HD radio, navigation, Lexus Enform with Safety Connect, back-up camera, dual USB inputs, Mark Levinson premium surround sound with 15 speakers); Blind Spot Monitor ($600)
As-tested MSRP$43,785
ConfigurationFront engine, rear-wheel drive
Engine typeNaturally aspirated, direct-injection V6
Displacement (cc/cu-in)2,499/152
Block/head materialAluminum/aluminum
ValvetrainDOHC, 4 valves per cylinder, variable intake- and exhaust-valve timing
Compression ratio (x:1)12.0
Redline, indicated (rpm)6,700
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)204 @ 6,400
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)185 @ 4,800
Fuel typePremium unleaded (required)
Transmission typeSix-speed automatic with console shifter and wheel-mounted paddles
Transmission ratios (x:1)I = 3.538; II = 2.060; III = 1.404; IV = 1.000; V = 0.713; VI = 0.586
Final-drive ratio (x:1)3.727
Suspension, frontIndependent double wishbone with high-mount upper arms, coil springs, gas shocks, stabilizer bar
Suspension, rearIndependent multilink, coil springs, gas shocks, stabilizer bar
Steering typeElectric speed-proportional power steering
Steering ratio (x:1)13.2
Tire make and modelBridgestone Turanza ER33
Tire typeSummer performance
Tire size, front225/40R18 (88Y)
Tire size, rear255/35R18 (90Y)
Wheel size, front18-by-8 inches
Wheel size, rear18-by-8.5 inches
Wheel materialAluminum alloy
Brakes, front11.65-inch ventilated disc with single-piston sliding caliper
Brakes, rear11.45-inch solid disc with single-piston sliding caliper
Track Test Results
Acceleration, 0-30 mph (sec.)2.8
0-45 mph (sec.)4.9
0-60 mph (sec.)7.5
0-75 mph (sec.)11.4
1/4-mile (sec. @ mph)15.6 @ 89.0
0-60 with 1 foot of rollout (sec.)7.2
0-30 mph, trac ON (sec.)2.9
0-45 mph, trac ON (sec.)5.2
0-60 mph, trac ON (sec.)7.9
0-75 mph, trac ON (sec.)11.9
1/4-mile, trac ON (sec. @ mph)15.8 @ 88.2
0-60, trac ON with 1 foot of rollout (sec.)7.5
Braking, 30-0 mph (ft.)30
60-0 mph (ft.)118
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph)67.8
Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g)0.84
Sound level @ idle (dB)41.2
@ Full throttle (dB)72.2
@ 70 mph cruise (dB)64.5
Engine speed @ 70 mph (rpm)2,100
Test Driver Ratings & Comments
Acceleration commentsThis naturally aspirated V6 gets completely out-hustled by the turbo-4s. Ultra smooth, but it's soft down low, and always slow-revving. Best run came using steering wheel paddles, shifts more quickly with them and lets you rev it a couple hundred rpm more than in Drive. Can also manually shift with console lever (pull back for downshifts). Will hold gears to 6,700-rpm limiter. Blips throttle on downshifts.
Braking commentsExtremely firm pedal and short travel, at the expense of any feel through the pedal. Longish distances, tires don't feel grippy. First stop was 121 feet. Third stop was shortest at 118 feet. Fifth stop (out of six) was longest at 122 feet.
Handling commentsSlalom: I'd be hard-pressed to sniff out the electric power steering because the steering feels so natural, direct, responsive and precise. Body motions are very well controlled, so transitioning from side to side is quick and confident. The seats are perhaps best-in-class (very supportive and comfortable, too). Ultimately, the ESC starts to trim off the car's tendency to lose grip at the front with individual brake applications. The intervention is quick and effective but eventually falls behind as speed increases. Skid pad: Again, truly excellent steering that also provides a good sense of where the front tires are in terms of grip waning midcorner. There's quite a lot of grip, but the car would clearly respond well to, and benefit from even more. As with the slalom, ESC limits the car's full potential here, but with a combination of brake check and throttle closure.
Testing Conditions
Test date4/23/2013
Elevation (ft.)1,121
Temperature (F)63.1
Relative humidity (%)57.5
Barometric pressure (in. Hg)28.7
Wind (mph, direction)5.6 headwind
Odometer (mi.)3,319
Fuel used for test91-octane gasoline
As-tested tire pressures, f/r (psi)36/36
Fuel Consumption
EPA fuel economy (mpg)21 city/30 highway/24 combined
Edmunds observed (mpg)21.5
Fuel tank capacity (U.S. gal.)17.4
Edmunds estimated monthly fuel cost ($)AM/FM/CD/HD and satellite radio Mark Levinson premium surround-sound system with 15 speakers and 835 watts
Audio and Advanced Technology
Stereo descriptionOptional iPod via two USB jacks
iPod/digital media compatibilityStandard Sirius/XM with three-month trial subscription
Bluetooth phone connectivityOptional with NavTraffic and NavWeather, 7.0-inch display
Navigation systemOptional
Telematics (OnStar, etc.)Standard ignition and doors
Smart entry/StartOptional back-up camera (included with navigation system)
Parking aidsOptional
Dimensions & Capacities
Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.)3,461
Curb weight, as tested (lbs.)3,606
Weight distribution, as tested, f/r (%)53.1/46.9
Length (in.)183.7
Width (in.)71.3
Height (in.)56.3
Wheelbase (in.)110.2
Track, front (in.)60.4
Track, rear (in.)60.6
Turning circle (ft.)34.2
Legroom, front (in.)44.8
Legroom, rear (in.)32.2
Legroom, 3rd row (in.)38.2
Headroom, front (in.)36.9
Shoulder room, front (in.)55.9
Shoulder room, rear (in.)53.4
Seating capacity5
Step-in height, measured (in.)13.8
Operation lockout4 years/50,000 miles
Bumper-to-bumper6 years/70,000 miles
Powertrain6 years/Unlimited miles
Corrosion4 years/Unlimited miles
Roadside assistance5,000 miles


  • fortstring fortstring Posts:

    C'mon Lexus, it ain't that hard, stick a proper engine in that IS250, sheesh.

  • Interesting comparison. The BMW is clearly the best. And it offers a manual, which Lexus doesn't even bother. Hard to be called a legit sports sedan without even the option of a the sportiest transmissions. Strange lineup if this is a $45k shootout. The BMW and Lexus have similar prices, but the Cadillac gets to start at $45k and go up from there? Talk about a home-field advantage! For the Cadillac 2.0T BASE price, you would have a Lexus IS350, with F-Sport package, and money left over! Something tells me if the IS350 F-Sport were sent for $45k, which is doable, the Cadillac ends up in last place. A distant last. The Cadillac is pretty expensive for something that was fighting for last place, not first.

  • And the Cadillac had AWD? Why? I would expect it to win the handling tests with AWD. $7k more expensive than everything else, AWD, and it still almost came in last? Let me know when you have an apples-to-apples comparison. This isn't it.

  • autopal autopal Posts:

    Not at all surprised with this results. With 204 hp and 185 pound feet, a 0 to 60 time of 7.5 sec, I don't see how you could classify the Lexus as a "sport sedan" I would also like someone to dyno both the ATS and the BMW together, as it's either BMW grossly under rate the power of the 328i, or the Caddy hp is grossly over rated. This ATS is a solid effort from Cadillac, but BMW just keep moving the bar, sensational fuel economy for a car this fast.

  • I just bought a used E92 M3, but now I almost wish I would have bought a new 328. As phenomenal as the M3 is, I'm using it to commute to work and occasionally a mountain road jaunt. I bet I could have had just as much fun in the 328i with way better fuel economy...high 13 sec 1/4 mile with low 30's mpg...that's incredible. The 17 mpg mixed driving in the M3 is getting old.

  • It is getting old how biased your opinions of BMW's are. Running either stripped down or overly optioned out competition to better the BMW's standing is becoming clear to your readers and it's just plain old now. For example: The 2013 Cadillac ATS 3.6L RWD can be purchased currently for $45,990 with nav and all options which would easily trump that $45,745 2013 BMW 328i M Sport Line which you just happened to leave out the MANY options that any normal person would have to pay extra for pushing a comparable 2013 BMW 328i M Sport closer to $49,931. Almost $4k more with far less performance or quality. Like I said, start comparing apples to apples and start providing some honest reviewing Edmunds. Your losing readers for a reason.

  • fortstring fortstring Posts:

    realitycheck3 makes a good point. You could have easily optioned an F-Sport IS 350 and still undercut the price of the base BMW 328i. Hm, thanks for checking me there, realitycheck3.

  • joefrompa joefrompa Posts:

    Curious how the BMW would have done if Edmunds had appropriately spec'd it out with the sport line and dynamic handling package (adjustable suspension) rather than the "M-Sport" package (which is primarily a body kit, interior touches, wheels, and a nice steering wheel). That lower slalom speed is somewhat surprising. But man, the base model is pulling a 13.8 quarter mile? That is frigging awesome. I'm reading that the 328i can pull a 13 second even quarter mile on pump gas with a tune and downpipe. I was all about going down the n55/335i route, but that is one amazing 4 cylinder in terms of combining power and economy.

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    They could have used an IS350 and and V6 Caddy and there still would not be much difference in the ratings - all the tests of those cars I've seen have 0-60 in the mid-fives and high-13 quarter-miles...about what the 328i does here. It's simple - the Lexus here probably has fairly accurate power figures; it just doesn't have much power, and it's peaky. The Caddy is making the advertised power, but its powerband is not terribly wide for a turbo engine...it's that simple...and it has only a six-speed tranny. The 328i, in typical German fashion, is making the advertised crank horsepower at the wheels rather than at the crank, makes that power clear out to 7k rather than dying at 5800 like the Caddy, and it has an 8-speed transmission. Basically, with their underrated engines and more efficient transmissions, a 328i performs as well as Cadillac's and Lexus's V6 models, and a 335i performs beyond anything they can do. Then also ya gotta love the million-year-old Turanza tires Lexus uses.

  • duck87 duck87 Posts:

    @autopal: They did dyno both the BMW and ATS engines: http://www.edmunds.com/car-reviews/track-tests/dyno-tested-2013-cadillac-ats.html The BMW's engine is superior in the smoother powerband and sustained power into higher RPMs (the ATS was pulling timi

  • autopal autopal Posts:

    realitycheck3, the impressive thing about the 328i is the 0 to 60 time of 5.4 sec, 13.8 sec quarter, and over 33 mpg. Numbers that the ATS can't touch, regardless of options and price. Its kind of funny, that it appears the 328i is faster than even the V6 variants of these 2 competitors. Does that means that the 335i is in a class of its own?

  • frank908 frank908 Posts:

    I can't get over how dull the 3-series looks compared to the others. It's not because of the others flashiness, it's because the BMW's overtly conservative styling ends up looking boring. I thought I would like that blue color myself, but man, it makes the car look cheapy. I prefer Bangle's influences over the generic Eurobore style.

  • If I opt a 3 series with the M sport, tech, premium, and lighting pkgs it hits well over 51k. For that price I'd take an Audi A6 2.0 premium plus. Yes it's a different level however why not. Why have a 3 when I have an A6 within a 1-2k price level. I wonder why the Cadillac 2.0 performance (42k-49k) wasn't used since the IS used the F sport, and BMW the M pkg. I rented a 3 a few weeks ago. I found the front seats to be very uncomfortable.

  • huybui huybui Posts:

    The BMW's steering is woefully bad. The engine and tranny are good once you press all the buttons to make it perform enthusiastically. It's not a bad car for the reason you cited, but its not one I could buy. And lets see how long term ownership goes... I mean after warranty. Yes, if you have the money to drive one until warranty is up, then you are golden. This is not to say I am picking on it because it won... the other cars aren't really worthy of winning either and you guys made that clear.

  • joefrompa joefrompa Posts:

    Huybui - Curious what model you test drove? There are 4 distinct models when it comes to steering feel. I'll rank them in order of what I feel offers the best/worst. 4th - XI models 3rd - Base models 2nd - Sport models 1st - Sport/M-Sport models with dynamic handling package I've found over the years the steering sucks consistently on the XI and base models. However my test drive of a sport model with dynamic handling package was quite good. I'm coming from an e39 m5 which had hefty, but not great, steering so bear that in mind. Is it as good as an ol rack and pinion, hydraulically assisted, e46 m3? No. But it's good.

  • gpmillar31 gpmillar31 Posts:

    Why would you select the Lexus IS250 and not the IS350? Of course it is slower. The only thing I can figure is you want to make Lexus look bad. Lets put the 350 model in next time. This isn't a fair test.

  • saunupe1911 saunupe1911 Posts:

    It's not the engine or chassy that's giving the 328i the advantage. It's the new 8 speed ZF trans. I have one in my wife's 2013 Charger and I must say its a magnificent piece of engineering. The Charger averaged 32 MPG highway this weekend, so you know what it can do in a lighter vehicle. Also acceleration is brisk and smooth as butter. These transmissions are changing the game. Ford and GM better wake up and get that joint venture 9 speed transmission out the door quick.

  • 1987xjug 1987xjug Posts:

    What a crappy review. First of all everyone on the planet drives the BMW so there is no uniqueness to having that car. The IS is just plain hideous as are most Japanese cars and your comments about build quality, interior, seats, steering wheel and instrument panel are vastly superior" is really subjective. I've driven Mercedes for years and evaluated the 3 Series, and the ATS but ignored the ugly Lexus. The ATS is a much more attractive car and unique in so many regards. In real world driving by real people the ATS is more than a match for the 328 especially in terms of power plant, efficiency and interior. The BMW is bland and characterless. As a matter of fact as you rightly point out the ATS out performs both cars and returns better mileage. The trunk space is more than adequate and with the folding rear seat, voluminous. Personally I hate what the government did to the taxpayers and giving away GM to the UAW, but this is a damn fine car that is world class in every respect. I love my Black & Red 3.6 Premium and the upgraded wheels you shunned are stunning.

  • stevowillco stevowillco Posts:

    I am just curious that if this is a test to see the best luxury sports sedan for 45k why didn't you get the IS 350 to be in this comparison. Could have easily been done within the price range. Being that your biggest complaint against the car was underpowered that seems to be the logical step to do. I know you want to compare apples to apples so comparing Lexus' bigger V6 against the smaller engines from the other manufactures doesn't seem comparable. But when the price is that big of a swing and the title of the comparison seems to be comparing cars under 45k then it would seem fair to compare the best vehicle each company can offer within that price range to truly see who is offering the best vehicle in that price range.

  • saunupe1911 saunupe1911 Posts:

    IL, I thought you guys would have touched on that 8 speed a lot more though. Think about it. All 3 cars are extremely similiar in weight, overall size, steering feel, and overall handling. Yet you say the 328i is in a class of its own on the highway even though it produces around 276 HP at the crank, which is close to the ATS. The 8 speed is the real advantage over the other 2. It's in a class of it's own. That last gen 6 speed in the ATS is just outdated. GM and Lexus focused strictly on chassy improvement and caught up to BMW (or even surpassed BMW) in some areas. But both cars has last generation powertrains. It's back to the drawing board for them, or pull a year later powertrain refresh like Ford did with the 5.0. Better yet, GM needs to take last gen's CTS philosophy. Build a car that flat out surpasses the competition all areas. Don't even make it close, starting with better transmissions.

  • joefrompa joefrompa Posts:

    1987xjug - I tend to agree that some of the comments are subjective, but for me the ATS' interior is clearly a half to full step below the 3-series and Lexus. I think it's a styling thing combined with materials. I would also say that describing the ATS trunk as "voluminuous" is an exercise in descretionary adjective usage :) The ATS trunk was, to me, just too small. It reminded me of a '99-2006 BMW 3-series trunk. Perfectly adequate for lots of people, sure. But definitely not voluminuous. The 3-series is not either, but it's larger and pretty close to a good sized trunk. To me, the ATS is ultimately the better driver. It's more engaging with it's steering and suspension tuning. The 3-series just will not fully regain it's mojo until the steering is adjusted.

  • You can also get into a 335 with more standard equipment than the 328(moonroof, lighting package) for $43k. You skip the MSport package which is largely cosmetic. But you will be paying to get more power which might not make things BETTER per-se. The 328 gives numbers that mirror the ATS 3.6, C350 and IS350. So why the need to bring the extra power of the 335 which is faster yet in a straight line. So who cares if you can buy the 3.6 ATS or IS350 to get the bigger engines when the 328 seems to get the job done just fine.

  • yamahr1 yamahr1 Posts:

    Can't really go by any Edmund's comparison. They rarely show much objectivity, especially when there is a GM product in the mix. "Show us why we shouldn't hate it" is generally their starting point going in with GM. Obviously the reverse is true with BMW.

  • Edmunds prefers BMW? Yawn. And bigger yawn!! So what else is new? I thought the title of this sub-site was "What's Hot"! Clearly Edmunds editors don't have a clue about the temperature of their readers or cars! If they did, they'd stop making non-news.

  • "Lexus and BMW are still in the just-past-Beta phase of development on their infotainment systems, while BMW has firmly established technology." Not sure about that phrase: Did you mean "Lexus and Cadillac are still in....", as Cadillac's CUE system is very recent?

  • noflash1 noflash1 Posts:

    The entry-level/base 3 series is the 180hp 320i. http://www.bmwusa.com/Standard/Content/Vehicles/2013/3/320iSedan/default.aspx?from=/Standard/Content/Vehicles/2013/3/320iSedanRD.aspx&return=/Standard/Content/Vehicles/2013/3/320iSedanRD.aspx

  • huisj huisj Posts:

    I'd rather go to Chicago for a slice of pizza than to New York. I'd even go to Detroit for one over New York. The mileage in the BMW is pretty darn impressive.

  • nedmundo nedmundo Posts:

    In terms of powertrains, the IS250 seems to match more closely to the base ATS with the 2.5L NA four, and the 320i, which is probably underrated at 180 hp and 200 lb.-ft. That would be an interesting comparison, though I'm not sure the base ATS has an available sport suspension like the others, and I'm not sure how they compare on price. Regardless, I'm a little surprised Lexus went with carryover powertrains for the IS, and relies on a relatively weak V6 to compete against powerful turbo fours. (Heck, that 2.5L V6 more closely resembles the four in the TSX. Sheesh.) I agree with joefrompa about the steering in the new 3 Series; it's surprisingly bad, but with all the criticism leveled at it from Car & Driver and other hard core Bimmerphiles, I expect it to improve soon, probably for the 2014 MY. I'm surprised the Edmund's reviewers didn't say more about it.

  • I am inclined to agree with BD. This comparison is not entirely fair since the Cadillac is saddled with all-wheel-drive while the BMW and Lexus are not. Perhaps the results (test numbers and conclusions) might have been different if the Cadillac were rear-wheel-drive like the other cars in this comparison.

  • stovt001_ stovt001_ Posts:

    The AWD for the Caddy must be a typo, as the LT fleet ATS is indeed RWD, like the others in this test.

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