GRAN TURISMO CAR REVIEWS

Luxury Car Comparo: '07 BMW M3 vs. '07 Lexus IS F

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           BMW M3                                   Lexus IS F
Year:     2007                                          2007
Class: Compact Luxury Car         Compact Luxury Car
Type: coupe                                           sedan

Host:     GT5                                         GT5
Country: Germany                                 USA

               M3                      
IS F
Price
: $92,400                    $76,600

M3 Mileage: 0.0 (specs), 170.2 (testing)
IS F Mileage: 0.0 (specs), 0.0 (testing)

M3 Construction: unit steel with carbon fiber roof
IS F Construction: unit steel, aluminum hood 

             M3                    IS F
Length: 181.7"                183.5"
Width: 71.0"                   71.45"
Height: 55.82"                55.7"
Whlbse: 108.7"               107.5" 
Overhang: 6' 1"               6' 4"
F. Track: 60.6"                61.4"
R. Track: 60.6"                 59.6"
Grnd Clr: N/A                 5.30"

Weight: 3,648 lbs.         3,577 lbs. 

Steering: power-assisted rack & pinion (both cars)
Skidpad (R/L): 0.98            N/A

Layout: Front Engine / Rear Drive (both cars)

F. Tires: 245/40ZR-18       225/40R-19
R. Tires: 265/40ZR-18       255/35R-19

M3 F. susp: struts, coils, anti-roll bar
M3 R. susp: 5 link, coils, shox, anti-roll bar

IS F F. susp: dl. wishbones, coils, shox, anti-roll bar
IS F R. susp: multilink, coils, shox, anti-roll bar

Brakes: cross-drilled vented discs w/ABS, EBD (both cars) 

                       BMW M3                       Lexus IS F
Engine: 4.0 liter DOHC V8             5.0 liter DOHC V8
Aspiration:    natural                             natural
Construction: N/A                         alum. block & heads
Fuel Syst:         N/A                          direct injection
Valves / Cyl:        4                                       4
Bore x Stroke: 3.62 x 2.96"                   3.70 x 3.52"
Compression: 12.0:1                                   11.8:1

Starting HP: 403 @ 8,500                       431 @ 7,200
Starting Trq: 280 @ 4,000                      361 @ 5,200
Tested HP:  414 @ 8,500                           as above
Tested Trq: 294 @ 4,000                           as above

Credits / HP*: 229.28                                    177.72
Pounds / HP*: 9.05                                         8.30
Pnds / Torqe*: 12.75                                      9.91
HP per Liter*: 103.5                                       86.7

* These are garage figures only for both cars, fresh from the dealer with 0.0 miles
        
                M3        IS F
Idle Spd:   750       800
Redline:   8,250     6,750
RPM Lmt: 9,000     7,250

Transmission: 6-speed manual (M3)
                    8-speed automatic (IS F)

M3 Driving Aids: TCS, ASM, variable differential lock
IS F Drving Aids: VDIM (TCS & ASM)

Testing for the BMW was done once engine was mostly broken-in, power as near to dealer-quoted as possible. The Lexus was tested straight from the dealer.  
Oil and engine rebuilds were NOT performed. Driving aids were OFF, except for ABS 


                     M3             IS F
0-60 mph:    5.096           4.779
0-100 mph: 11.214          10.543
0-150 mph: 26.483          25.066

0-100 km/h: 5.314           5.006
0-200 km/h: 17.133         15.915

100-zero mph: 4.433        4.800

Daytona:     53.120           52.384
Test Track: 6:06.278        5:59.774

*both Daytona and the Test Track X figures were recorded on Lap 2 going into 3. The Test Track was done before either car had its engine fully broken-in, but Daytona's test featured complete break-in for the BMW, and partial break-in for the Lexus 

Top Gear RPM @ 60 mph: 2,500 (M3), N/A (IS F)

Top Speed at Redline (BMW M3)
1st: 40.8 mph
2nd: 66.x
34d: 101.3
4th: 135.5
5th: 162.4
6th: 188.3 mph @ 7,900 rpm

Top Speed at Redline (Lexus IS F)
1st: 38.2 mph
2nd: 62.3
3rd: 91.0
4th: 116.7
5th: 139.2
6th: 171.x
7th: 190.0 mph @ 6,200 rpm
8th: Nil
 

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----------EXTERIOR / HISTORY----------


Writer's block. This is a term many of you have heard of, and it doesn't require any lengthy sort of explanation. Basically it's a condition us writers occasionally get. We have the desire and the urge to write something, but the words just aren't there. Stephen King describes it as "constipation of the mind". :-O~  

I am lucky in one respect: I get to publish my 'work'  (ha ha) without any pressure from a boss, editors, or publishers. And this means I get to write whenever the hell I want to, and only when inspired to do so. If I ever encounter writer's block, it doesn't matter because there is no schedule to adhere to, see what I'm saying?  

Anyways, this review (before it was a comparison) was originally going to focus on the '07 BMW M3. I started to drive this one in GT5's Supercar Festival, and figured I would add my impressions to the existing BMW M3 review already on this site. But that would be unfair. This new generation of M3 (codenamed E92, if we're talking about the coupe) is a different beast than the older E46, mainly due to engine size, type, and power output. I thought I might give the '07 its own seperate review, but after driving the car, I wasn't really that inspired to write about it. This is where writer's block slowed progress to a halt!!

Then came the idea: what if I were to compare the '07 BMW M3 with some other car?  This would be a cool thing to do, not only because I've never done a "comparo" before, but also because it would be a good way to see if the M3 lives up to all its hype. Would it blow the doors off its competition?  The idea seemed really tempting to try. 

... But what to compare it to?  Which other car or cars?  

I decided to see if another similar Premium auto was extant and available from the dealer. Both cars have to be Premium, I decided. This way, interiors can be compared. Visibility, dashboard functionality, mirrors, that sort of thing. If these cars were both Standards, we'd be able to compare power and handling, price, exterior features & looks, but here's where things would end. So let's step it up to Premium levels. 
 
I decided both cars should also have similar power and body styles, and to really make this review something good to read, both should be from the "luxury" scale. As a final measure of fairness, both would also need to have their engines broken-in, to see if it was possible to reach the power quoted by the dealers. All of these factors (and more) are going to be considered in the final showdown. I will also mock all the car mags, and compare a list of traits, rating each trait from 1 to 10.

Jaguar caught my eye first. Jag versus Bimmer would make for a great showdown!  British snobbery versus the King of German yuppiedom. ...Unfortunately, one of the coupe-style Jaguars is too weak ('07 XK Coupe Luxury only quotes 299 hp), and one too strong (XKR Coupe is rated at 502). I also looked at Lotus, but Colin Chapman only provides 2-seater sports cars that can't truely be compared. Infiniti?  Their G35 Coupe doesn't have enough power. Audi's R8 does have the power, but in my opinion it's more of an exotic, and not to be compared with the BMW M3. It is also a 2-seater, not a 2+2.

The search went on. Then I found the '07 Lexus IS F, quoting 417 horsepower, which is almost exactly what BMW's M3 is claiming. But ... a problem. The IS F is a sedan rather than a coupe. Dang!  For this contest to exist, some compromise is going to be needed, for there isn't another coupe in the Premium lots with just over 400 horses, yet. There aren't enough Premium cars in the lots yet, so coupe versus coupe isn't going to happen. Not today.

The Lexus IS F is an interesting comparison choice, nonetheless, and I feel it is a good one, despite difference in body styles. It's as good as it's going to get, anyways.  Both cars weigh within a hundred pounds of one another, both claim similar horsepower, and both are from the luxury scale. PD's info on the Lexus also specifically states the IS F was created to compete against the best: the Ms, the AMGs, and the Rs of the world.
 
So here we have it folks: BMW versus Lexus ... Germany versus America & Japan! Let's rock.

The BMW M3 has already been discussed at length on this website, so I'm not going to write up an entire history or anything such. Comparing the E92 to the earlier E46 generation, this newer M3 has grown (as many cars do from generation to generation). The E92 is longer (by about 5 inches), slightly wider, and slightly taller. It is about 180 pounds heavier, too. Cars keep getting bigger and heavier. Pretty soon we're all gonna be driving a bunch of Rolls Royces, right? 

And now, the Lexus. I've never written about Lexus's IS models, so let's learn a bit.

Lexus is famous for making upscale luxury autos that are quiet, safe, and about as good (arguably) as the competition from Europe in many ways, and Toyota/Lexus often does so at a lesser cost. But these cars (the ES, LS, and GS especially) often lack in comparison to BMW, Mercedes Benz, and even Cadillac when it comes to driving performance. I've driven the Lexus SC as well several times over the years (in real-life and in the game), but I've never written about it. I've never raced an SC in real-life, but in the game it is sub-par in many ways: hoards of understeer in GT4, and an unrefined rear-end adds to the mess in GT5.
 
 Well, I've driven real-life and virtual Lexus IS cars from time to time, the experience is always a welcome one. In comparison to Lexus's bread & butter, the IS does have the performance: a tighter steering feel, 'hold on to your armrests' braking, and handling that is firmer; not as wallowy or ponderous as the handling found in those other Lexus models. The IS is smaller, lighter, and has a bit more of a sporting style than Lexus's other models, which tend to be rather staid and conservative (ES, LS, & GS) or too girly (SC). 

With the IS F, Lexus had unleashed their top gun, stronger than any previous IS. This higher-performing IS showed up at almost exactly the same time as the 4th edition M3, and this is not a coincidence. The IS F has lots more power than earlier IS models, and claims more performance than anything created before by this manufacturer.  Prior IS cars sported 4 or six-cylinder engines, so in 2007 Lexus stepped up their game, providing us with eight cylinders to play with. So both cars (M3 and IS F) have V8 engines; and this yet another reason to compare them.

Price
Now the first item up for bid: price. Here is where our virtual comparison shall start. When a person first walks into a high-brow dealership (classical music playing in the background, commissioned salesmen hawking out potential customers, etc.) the first thing this person is going to need to consider is price. How much do these luxury machines cost? 

BMW wants 92,400 credits, while Lexus only demands 76,600. To a real-life buyer, this difference of 15,800 could become rather subjective. A real-life buyer could overlook the BMW's higher figure if he or she is interested in the higher prestige (the status) the M3 commands. Which car has a bigger snob factor, basically?  Both of these can be had with a list of features that is so long, I opted not to add it to this already bloated dual-car review. As amazing as Lexus is, as much as Lexus and Toyota have tried to equal automotive products from Germany, the IS F still might be seen as second-rate in comparison to the BMW M3.    

But me?  I don't care about prestige. I don't care what other people think. I drive a '97 Jeep Cherokee in real-life, with an '88 Isuzu Trooper LS for backup. The BMW's higher price, therefore, is being seen as a negative in this case, especially when some other points are being factored later during this review.

Now here's something strange. Real-life versions of both cars happen to cost less than what PD is charging. The Lexus IS F cost $68,000 here in America when it was new ($8,600 less than the in-game car), while BMW's M3 was listed at around  $58,000 according to a couple websites. This means a real M3 costs $35,125 less than the virtual one!

Exterior
Chris Bangle designed the previous generation of BMWs, and I've never liked what he did. The BMW's distinctive boxy shape was traded over to a swoopier, artsy-fartsy design with suave-looking head lamps and a variety of curvy ducts and features. All of this is supposed to 'please the eye', I am assuming.  I have no idea whether or not the E92 was also designed by him, but in my opinion this 4th generation M3 is even more "artsy", and less demure, which is not a good thing (in my opinion). ... I have had trouble in the past trying to voice why I dislike these Bangledized BMWs, and after several years I still can't explain why this is so. I will say this though: they bother me in the same way old black & white movies which get colorized also bother me. 
 
At the rear, circular quad exhausts and some oddly-mishapen tail-light assemblies are featured. The BMW can accept full wing & spoiler kits but can not be completely kitted-up with racing livery.

Now the Lexus. This is supposed to be an American design, actually, not Japanese. Toyota/Japan allowed Americans this task, perhaps because they figured we know our customer base better. The IS F is not as disturbingly artsy as the Bimmer; it's definitely more conservative with its appearance. It's not a boring design (don't get me wrong) but this is a car that does not draw the eye towards it the way the BMW does, nor is it really a head-turner on the tracks.

We can also compare the Lexus with its more direct competition from Japan: Infiniti's G series during the 2000s has more style (more distiction) than the IS does. I like stlyle. I like distinction. I do not like cookie-cutter designs. The Lexus has less distinction and less style when compared with the BMW, and it has less odd & daring choices with features in general. To be honest, the IS F a bit ordinary; at first glance it's difficult to tell the difference between a regular IS and the IS F. The F has a slightly wider stance, with the fender areas bulked outwards a little more. It's easy to see this in real-life or in pictures of real-life IS and IS F Lexi. But in the game? These subtle cues don't really shine forth so much.
 
 The mid-section (doors and windows) has a rather bulky, fattened look to it, wheras the M3's passenger area is a more pleasant design, a sexier design. Of course, we are comparing a coupe to a sedan here, so I'm not considering this into the final equation because it's unfair to do so. The IS F's rear continues with the "ordinary" demeanor of the front and mid sections EXCEPT for those exhausts. Finally, the Lexus stands out. Take a look at these! the car finally commands. Quad exhausts, just as BMW has, but Lexus's are oval shaped and larger. Unlike BMW, Lexus's IS F can be modified fully, with either a wing/spoiler kit or touring car-ish racing bodywork.  
 
It's a tough decision. Overall, I really dislike the Bangledized BMWs (any of them) but the BMW does offer something which the Lexus lacks: style. Both cars are identifyable to me (the BMW looks like a BMW, the Lexus looks like a Lexus) but the IS F's appearance is rather a bit generic. Somebody who knows nothing about cars will be able to identify the BMW soley due to style, while somebody who doesn't might get the IS F confused with a Ford or an Opel. Or maybe a lesser Toyota. 

Preference here? M3 for sure.

Dimensions & weight
Although one auto is a coupe, the other a sedan, their dimensions don't really vary so much. The Lexus is slightly longer and wider than the BMW, and both cars are approximately the same height. Despite the fact that the Lexus is larger (and has a larger engine) it is somehow lighter than the BMW. 71 pounds lighter. This isn't a huge concern, but it might factor in later on when scores are being tallied.

Interior
Since both of these are Premium, here's another first for Gran Turismo Car Reviews: we can compare interior features!  Let's start with mirrors.

When real-life magazines do comparison tests, they always have several drivers take turns in each car. The reason is: different people have different tastes. So theoretically, the opinion of one driver is not going to be the final say once the scores are up. Let's say we have one driver who is tall, and he gets irked by sun visors that block too much of the windshield, even when it's folded upwards, and he gives one car a negative point because of this. In theory, the shorter female driver who is also part of this competition might like this sort of sun visor; for it's illuminated, features a mirror for her to check her makeup, and it's also got pockets, for stowing CDs and hair ties.  

I don't have any other drivers comparing, unfortunately!  So this test is only featuring my preferences. :-/ ... and in this case, I prefer mirrors that are fully on-screen and useful. Both cars have decent center and driver-side mirrors, but the Lexus's are almost half-way off-screen (if the driver does not turn his head) wheras the BMW's mirrors are almost fully on-screen. In both cases, I am using the "Wide" view (rather than Zoom or Extra Zoom). In both cars, there is plenty of reflective glass to work with here; but my vote's going towards the BMW for aesthetic reasons. I like being able to see what's going on around me as I'm driving, and it bugs me if the entire mirror is not on-screen. Even though the Lexus technically seems to give us more mirrored area (and some other driver might vote "Lexus") I am going with the Bimmer.  
 
Visibility in both automobiles is okay; the Lexus has a narrower field of vision (through the front windshield) but it's not so cramped as to make access to cornering lines tricky.   

Now, let's check the horns. HANNK! HANNK! Both cars feature horns that sound like trumpets. The M3's is a little deeper, and a little less annoying (to me) than the IS F's, which sounds a little wanky. In either case, the horn can be heard overtop the sound of the V8 engine at full throttle. Neither horn is really bothersome in my opinion though, and as we've all honked a variety of horns in GT5 by now, we all know that some autos feature horn timbres that can irk us. Good thing PD allows us to change these, right!?    

Instrumentation is a draw. Any driving enthusiast is going to want certain information ready for the viewing at all times; the tachometer is usually the most important feature here, the speedometer is generally slightly less important, but still at the top of the list. Tachs are more important because, well...who wants to over-rev an engine?  In both cars, both of these gauges are present, and easy to read. The steering wheel does not block the view, as it sometimes does in other vehicles. 
 
In the M3, BMW's controversial iDrive is visible in the center dashboard, but it is (of course) not useful in this videogame. The iDrive has actually turned lots of real-life car reviewers off (it's not very intuitive to use), garnering a list of BMWs negative points during real-life comparisons.

Lexus gives us a darker atmosphere, its center console area displaying nothing (no GPS, no digitized readouts...), and it looks as if maybe it could. I personally don't care. Some folks might want to have a little dazzle here, but I don't care. Let's move on.

Which car's interior is prettier? More handsome? Again, this comes down to (my) preference, and I really haven't got one.
 
BMW features a rather dark, charcoal-gray interior; Lexus is more of a solid black. The M3 is slightly more lighted-up with little gizmos. The M3's gauges feature red needles matched with white lettering and numbering, and some unidentifiable red LED lighting between the tach and speedo, showing some information that is illegible. The steering wheel has a set of buttons upon it: these seem to allow one to use a 'hands free' telephone, and probably cruise control and stereo as well. Touches of chrome (or perhaps, brushed aluminum) show on the air vents and at a few other key points. It's a subtle interior rather than a super-dazzling one, sure to please the sporting yuppie. I like it, for it's not distracting (as a Prius dashboard is), and this means the driver is able to concentrate on the road, with information ready for the viewing, but secondary to the task of actually driving.

The Lexus, on the other hand, features blue and white on black gauges. An italicized F is placed right between these guages, a constant reminder to the driver that HE (or she) is special. HE (or she) has managed to get not just any IS, but the very best one available, and not too many of these are going to be on the roads. Gear changes are illuminated via a tiny LED readout (displaying 1 through 8), and there's also a miniscule bit of light showing us if the high beams are on.

The Lexus's dashboard is also crisp and not too complicated. Since Lexus often copies BMW (and Japan generally copies Europe) this is not a surprise. I am loving the blue stitching on the IS F's steering wheel and rear seats; finally a subtle bit of style in this otherwise conservative people-mover! ... It's funny, because whenever I drive a real-life IS (not even an IS F, but a regular IS 250 or whatever) I really like the interior's style. I even prefer it to the M3, which (in real-life) has an extra bit of pampered snobbery associated with it, and this is a turn-off to me. But my favoring of the Lexus in real-life does not come across virtually, for some reason.
 
Well enough of that. Lots of car magazines (Hot Rod and mags like this) won't bother to compare interiors, ingress & egress, and whether mirrors are useful. They only care about horsepower and quarter-mile times. So now, let's follow suit and fire up those engines, eh?
       

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----------ENGINE / DRIVETRAIN----------


In real-life car comparisons all sorts of things can happen. Cars are provided by either the manufacturer itself, or a dealership. And sometimes, things can go wrong. A cup holder might not unfold properly. A mirror might somehow show up with a hairline crack. Perhaps one automobile has some sort of bizarre computer malfunction. When situations like this occur, the magazine reviewing the car is usually not going to rush back to grab a different one; everything gets driven, tested, and written about as-is. There are exceptions of course--sometimes the host might have an extra vehicle on hand, or whatever. But in general, if there happen to be any inconveniences, you can bet the testers are going to make note of this!

So the first anomoly of the day: power.

BMW quoted 414 horses for their '07 M3 as I hurried in and out of the dealership, trying to avoid yet another credit check, but back at the garage the car only tested with 403. This is fine. After much driving, including two laps around Special Stage Test Track X, and racing (A-spec and B-spec) the M3's S65B40-coded 4.0 liter V8 had finally broken-in, and now possessed the 414 horsepower initially quoted. This took 170 miles to accomplish (not to mention a lot of patience) but let's just say I really got to know this car during all these miles.

Now, the Lexus. The dealership quoted 417 horsepower for the IS F, but back at the garage we've now got 431!  ...Things like this happen in real-life all the time, believe or not; the dealership (or whoever provides the test vehicles) either intentionally lies about their product's power, or they are misinformed about it. Normally, I would delight. More power is always better to have, right? Who cares if the dealership got it wrong. But in this case, Lexus is losing a point here. Since the Lexus is stronger than the BMW, this actually makes for an unfair competition. BMW was honest about their product, and Lexus was not.

The Aftermarket
Overall power for the BMW or the Lexus can be raised with the usual three power kits + assorted parts, but no turbos are available for either car.  And here's how it all breaks down...

                2007 BMW M3           2007 Lexus IS F
Tuned HP: 530 @ 9,100               571 @ 7,800

Stage 1:   540 @ 9,200                  613 @ 7,900
Stage 2:   573 @ 9,300                  685 @ 8,000
Stage 3:   591 @ 9,400                  728 @ 8,100

*Ahem* the winner (and the car with the best chances for a longer potential career) here is quite obvious. The Lexus starts with 28 horsepower more than the BMW, yet it winds up with 137 more on the aftermarket from TRD. Interesting.   

Engine Characteristics.
One of the first things to notice is the difference in RPMs. The BMW starts with a wide power band, and a very steep set of revs to play with. Useful revving area starts at about 4,000 in 2nd gear, and there are a total of 5,000 rpms to go before we meet the limit, which is at 9,000 if we're talkin' a stock engine!  The Lexus on the other hand sports a more compact set of revs. Redline is 6,750, RPM limit at 7,250, and virtually all of it is useful, starting at about 3,000 in 2nd gear.

It's hard to say which engine is "better" if we're judging pure RPMs, power-bands, and useful revving areas; they're both amazing in their own ways: the BMW allows us lots of RPMs, the Lexus packs more torque, and in an area we're definitely going to be using (mid-range). BMW's peak torque can only be accessed during the slowest of turns. 

Both have some similarities as well: forcing the driver to "redline" a little bit too often, since both locate their peak power bands within the redline area, and a little too close to the RPM limit for my tastes. (8,500 rpms for peak HP in the BMW with a 9,000 RPM limit / 7200 rpms for peak HP in the Lexus with a 7,250 RPM limit). Why do they do this? I'll never understand. *shrugs*       

Engine Note
Both of these have V8 engines, and both have plenty of torque and power; question is, which car has more 'soul'?  Which engine's sound and RPM characteristics are more delightful aurally? 

Here, I am preferring the Lexus's 2UR-GSE coded 5.0. It's got a bassy grunt at idle, and this transforms into a more snarly sound once the revs start to pick up. Depending on which exhaust is equipped, there's also a really delicious purr (just like a cat's purr) at about 4,000 rpms. Overall, this engine's singing is gruff and serious, and though it's not my favorite set of tones ever, the 5.0's set of music seems totally contradictory to this car's conservative looks. The engine & exhaust sounds more like something out of an aftermarket shop! and so this car does not seem so yuppiefied; which may perturb the typical button-down Lexus customer, but makes a driver like me smile.   

 I personally dislike the BMW's 4.0 here, which also offers the usual V8 hum at idle, also gets snarly mid-range, but has a rather wimpy high-end (where we'll be spending most of our driving). ....eeeeeeeeeeeee!!! .... I am not saying it's annoying, matter of fact, quite the opposite. It's a little too pleasant, and this makes me think of the word "yuppie" once again. This car is packing over 400 horsepower, yet it doesn't shock this driver at all, not aurally. This engine's set of sounds doesn't make me giggle or even smirk. On the other hand, listening to replays of the M3, from outside the car, are a bit more satisfying--the eeeeee at those higher revs now getting mixed in with a lower oooooooooo. I like this a bit more.

So, I have an overall preference here for the IS F's 5.0, as it sings its more masculine song.    

Gearbox
It's really quite a difference here, right? BMW has a standard, old-fashioned 6-speed manual which is placed in the center, while the Lexus gives us a paddle-shifted 8-speed on the steering wheel. Actually, this confused me a bit. In 2008, when the IS F began sales in America, paddle shifters were not available. Several websites I looked at say that this car could be had with a 8-speed automatic only, with no option for manual shifting. So how does a 2007 model have this feature?

It's gotta be a PD screw-up. I am thinking the Japanese version of the IS F (it's clearly Japanese, as it's right-hand drive rather than left-hand) did have paddle shifters, which we did not get here in America, not in 2007 anyways.

My preference is for the BMW. Electromagnetic transmissions are all the rage nowadays, they provide shifts in microseconds, making us quicker on those tracks, but as a driver (not just a racer) I prefer it the old way: a clutch and a shiftstick. I like using my left foot for clutch disengagement, and prefer shifting with the entire palm of my hand, instead of a finger. I like grabbing things as I'm driving, not delicately trying to finger them (ooh..that did not sound right!).

 For one thing: paddle shifters may be quicker, but they can't always be accessed while the driver is turning heavily, since both paddles are on the steering wheel. A stickshift can be accessed. It is also easier I would imagine to accidentally hit a paddle shifter during some hot laps, and this can happen due to nervousness, or as a simple mistake. Now the car's in the wrong gear! ...Such mistakes might also happen with dual-shocks as we game, but putting a real-life car in the wrong gear is not going to happen because of a nervous finger, such an action must be much more deliberate. See what I'm saying? ... And besides all of this, I simply have a preference for the way things used to be done, so far as shifting goes, and I prefer to watch the 'driver' on-screen following suit.

Another thing that bothers me about the Lexus. Yes, it has 8 speeds, which sounds really cool (this is a first in the automotive world as far as I know) but Gear 8 seems to never become needed, wheras in the BMW, all 6 gears find good use, before and after engine tuning. During the top speed test, the IS F's engine made it to 6,200 rpms at 190 mph in 7th gear, which is 550 rpms shy of redline. Even during the Supercar Festival race at Daytona, 8th gear never becomes an option. I have not done a Like the Wind race in this car; here might be a place where we can finally make that final shift. But as far as this comparison goes, the BMW offers a more efficient (and useful) gearbox all around.

Another thing that's a demerit happens on the aftermarket. I prefer options with transmissions when shopping, and the Lexus only gives us one choice: full-custom. BMW on the other hand also allows us a close-ratio 6-speed, and as a lazy gearbox tuner, I like having this extra transmission for tight & technical tracks like the 'Ring. I am a driver who prefers not to tune gears, unless it seems absolutely necessary. BMW wins here. 

Fuel Economy
What comparison test would be complete without considering who sips the least?  Fuel economy has become a bigger issue during these past 10 years, and it's not to be ignored, even virtually. 

For this portion, I decided to drive an '02 Mazda Protege for one lap around Nürburgring Nordschleife, note how much of its tank is gone, and then do the same with both of the powerful luxury demons. As I drove these two latter cars, I made sure to have the Standard fuel gauge up and running (HUD on, in other words), which means gasoline usage in all three could now be compared fairly.

Why include the Mazda Protege? I figured the Mazda (which has a baby 2.0 liter 4) would provide a sort of yardstick of comparison here, since it's more of an everyday economy car than the other two. The Protege gets 25 miles to the gallon in real-life during city driving, and 30 miles of highway driving. The BMW makes 14 city and 21 highway, and the Lexus does 16/23. Notice that even though the Lexus has a 125% larger engine, it gets slightly better mileage than the BMW. This must be due to that 8-speed gearbox.     By the way, all three of these have specs as follows:

Mileage (after 1 Lap): Mazda: 14,529.5
                                       BMW: 14.0  
                                      Lexus: 20.6

Tires: hard sports

Driving Aids: Off, except for ABS on 1

Power, suspension & weight: stock. Both luxury cars also started with very low mileage on their engines, and with no maintenance performed at any time. Transmissions were stock, and I pushed all three cars, keeping their engines revving towards the mid-to-upper end of their tachs as much as possible. Real-life reviewers do plenty of milder driving during their tests (in an effort to really see who gets the best mileage) but in my test, I'm only providing the harder stuff. Who amongst us drives mildly around these tracks, eh?  Not many, I am assuming.      
 
First, the Mazda.  A lap around the 'Ring took 9:23.837, with one slight trip into the sand bank at Aremberg. After an entire lap, its fuel meter had barely even budged. It probably moved a millimeter, and that's all! The Bimmer on the other hand drank about an eighth (1/8) of its tank (8:22.955) with at least two unwanted trips off-track, and a few moments of muscle-car traction-breaks here and there.  

Interestingly, the Lexus used slightly less than the BMW, just as it would in real-life. Its lap time was 8:15.760, and as I write this I am noticing the tank rests at a smidge more (29/32 perhaps, rather than 7/8 (or 28/32 if we want to translate further) as in the BMW) after one completed lap. The Lexus' 5.0 is more powerful, has a significantly bigger engine, but it's also slightly lighter and has more gears. Its engine never revs higher than about 7,500 rpms, while the M3 spends most of its time above 7,500 during grand portions of its racing life. In theory, the Lexus could get at least a lap more out of its tank around this particular track. The margin is small, but definitely there.  

Now let's move on to handling and driving characteristics. The best part of the comparison (some would say) is now to begin.

    

is-f_profile.jpg

-----------CHASSIS / HANDLING------------


Well, I gotta say comparing two cars is a lot of fun. I am enjoying it, how about you? For this portion of the test, I started both cars with their stock tires (hard-grade sports) and power. Since both were eventually raced in GT5's Supercar Festival, I started at High Speed Ring II, and ended at Nürburgring GP/F, with some miscellaneous driving at a variety of other tracks (Tsukuba, Grand Valley, etc.)  Power was eventually raised, and so I've got driving impressions from both stock and Supercar Festival-powered versions.

Let's start with the BMW. First thing that's noticed is this: here is a front engine/rear-drive car that seems to not know what the word "understeer" means. Go ahead, chuck it into a turn, any turn. Pretend you are at a card game, throwing your hand on the table, and as you enter turn after turn, somehow you keep coming up with great sets of cards. Royal flushes, full houses, that sort of thing. Understeer simply does not exist in this car's vocabulary, and we almost never wind up with a bad hand when 'playing cards' because of this.

Now, there are times here and there that the BMW feels as if it's going to start to push, and maybe it does just a tad, but this car's handling seems to have been created specifically for a lack of understeer. BMW has spent the last 40-odd years with 3 series machines just so they can reach this plateau of automotive Godliness: lack of understeer!! Say it loud, and say it proud!

...  I've gotten occasionally lazy with braking zones here and there while driving this car because of this. If I forget to brake at the proper mark, the M3 might struggle a bit, but notice it always keeps turning. Understeer (if it shows up at all) is always kept to a virtual minimum. Trail-braking is a given in the E92 for sure. Granted, there are other FRs that rarely understeer as well, but notice a lot of these are the purer sports cars like Honda's S2000 and Mazda's Miata. The BMW (a heavy 2+2, rather than a lightweight 2-seater) really has achieved near-perfection here. And we're just getting started.

Soft sport tires only seal the deal. Now you've shown up to that Poker game with a hand that's so perfect, the entire table immediately folds. With these in place, the M3 starts handling so perfectly, it almost gets dull to drive. As a car-reviewer, I look forward to moments (honestly) when I get to criticize. But the E92 M3 leaves me with not much to talk down at this level. Not until some power gets added, anyways.   

In High Speed Ring's larger turns (banked and unbanked), the M3's capabilities really start to shine in subtle ways, whether the hard tires are shod or the soft ones are. Throttle-steer and lift-off become useful at times. Enter that turn properly, let off the brakes (or gas) and the front-end digs in, allowing us some options with lift-off oversteer. And if the gas is applied at the right moment (and traction prevails) the rear also starts to throttlesteer. Both of these traits are subtle, though, rather than violent and difficult to use.    

Bottom line: Like the previous edition of M3, the E92 always aims to please in the handling department, despite the fact that it's 188 pounds heavier. It is difficult to find things to criticize, but I'm good at seeking stuff out, right? So there are a couple things to mention: Weight is one of them, as well as power-oversteer.

At 3,648 pounds, the M3 feels rather ponderous at times. I doubt you'll ever hear that from another car reviewer, eh? :-) Longer curves (like at High Speed Ring) are not a prob, but in tighter areas this car finally does start to show its pounds. Understeer may be nearly nonexistent, but this is not a spry 2,200 pound sports sprite, and in those tighter turns the effort needed to haul this one around finally is felt. Extra moments of intense steering, extra moments when the gas-pedal can't be touched yet (but in a lighter sports  car it could be).

So that's one fault, but another thing to discuss here is power-oversteer.

This car has traction controls, stability controls, and a variably-locking differential. With the aids on, the M3 often gets squirelly out of kinks, esses, and hairpins as too much throttle is forced. The car tries to power-oversteer, but then the aids catch these motions, translating them into weird moments where the M3 starts steering from the rear, but in a rather cartoonish fashion. All of this is easy to catch, as the nannying is here to help us.

Now, once we turn the aids OFF, all we've got is BMW's Variable M Differential Lock to save us, and often this device is not enough. Power oversteer often lashes out in a rather frightening fashion if we're not careful! .... This car may not push much, but it definitely steps out a little too easily (and eagerly) at times: too much power, and not enough traction.   

Let's have a look back to the previous generation of M3, now. These were powered by 6-cylinder engines possessing roughly 80 horsepower less than the E90. From a driver's standpoint, the earlier cars (with their weaker engines) are not only safer, but also more fun to drive. They are not as fast, but oversteer can be played with in these earlier machines, while we twist and turn and do other fun things. We can put more power down in these earlier M3s, and moments of  power-oversteer can either be kept at bay, or explored, depending how the driver feels at that moment. We have more of a choice here, basically.  

In comparison, the E92 feels more like a muscle car at times! A highly refined muscle car, designed to please executive-types of all kinds, but a muscle car all the same. Put a little too much power down at the wrong moment, and the rear just turns to mush.

Now, I am not saying that the newer BMWs are awful in this regard. Matter of fact, show a little discretion and they start to behave, just like the 6-banger Bimmers. Give a little less throttle, and we can still do all that fun twisting and turning as we leave some turns behind. But (from a driver's perspective, not a racer's) the older BMW M3s, the E46 generation cars, are better than the new ones in certain ways, simply because the E46 stays within its power/traction capabilites more reliably, and effectively. They are not as frustrating to drive. But we're not judging old versus new. The E46 is not being judged against the E92.

For those who want to work on these muscle-car dilemmas, a limited-slip differential is the best place to start, just as it is in many other vehicles with traction problems. Putting an aftermarket LSD unit into the E46 seems almost akin to blasphemy, but for the E92 such a device soon becomes needed. Before my 500+ horsepower M3 took on the Supercar Festival race at the 'Ring, I threw these settings in place: 12/23/5. I was thinking that I'd have to tweak further, but the M3 became massively more controllable all a sudden. Matter of fact, with LSD in place I could now give full throttle out of some hairpins or loops, let the car get a little sideways (or not) while tire-smoke from the rear now became much more of an option

On the other hand, a tad of understeer finally showed up on-exit with a limited-slip in place. Not enough to ruin things, but definitely something to keep in mind, especially while exiting turns. Notice that the previous generation of M3 would NOT need a limited-slip at all under these same conditions, certainly not while stock or lightly-tuned.  

Now let's talk about the Sexy Lexy. First thing that's noticed around High Speed Ring II (on hard sport tires) is that it's a little less refined than the BMW, but also a little more aggressive. By the way, when we car-reviewers use the word "refined", it's not like we're talking about bottles of wine, here. A car that lacks refinement is going to be more brutal to drive, and our mannerisms (steering, throttle, braking) are going to need to be more delicate because of this. When I say the Lexus is less refined, I mean to say it is slightly less refined. It's like comparing the color red to magenta: they're both red, one is slightly less so.  

During the Specs section at the top of this page, we learned that the BMW simply has superior braking: it stopped from 100 mph in 4.433 seconds, while the Lexus managed 4.800. Both of these figures are amazingly low for Gran Turismo 5 by the way (where +5 seconds is the norm), but the M3 clearly wins this battle. Question is, does it win the war?

Around the curves of High Speed Ring, the Lexus does exhibit moments of understeer. Its front tires have a tread width of 225, while the Bimmer has 245. Granted, these understeery moments are not frightening or super-difficult, but they are definitely there. Overall the car keeps turning, but a point is being docked because in the BMW this means the driver can jump back on the gas sooner than he would be able to in the Lexus. The difference might be just a tenth of a second here, a hundredth there, but tenths and hundredths do add up.

And actually, once I did break very late into Turn 1, and the front-end of the Lexus began to slide, so there's a scary moment of understeer, there. Such a moment simply never happened in the Bimmer, no matter how much I tried, and how late I braked. I am not saying the Lexus is horrible because of its (very minor) front-end pushing, but one must now keep in mind that we can't get too confident and comfortable while hot-lapping.

On the other hand, I am noticing the Lexus happens to offer a bit more aggression with the lift-off oversteer (its front-end grabs more forcefully, causing the rear to step out a bit), and gives us more throttle-steer, too. The latter trait is caused by those 18 extra horses, as well as the IS F's slightly narrower rear tires. Traction gets lost in small increments, which means this car is slightly more fun to drive at such moments, as it starts to sway a bit with power-oversteer. I am liking these traits at High Speed Ring, where power can be placed to pavement safely. Throttlesteer happens in the BMW sometimes too, but the Lexus gives just a little bit more, option-wise.

All this is fun at High Speed Ring II, but what happens when we get to Nürburgring, where it's less about horsepower, more about handling?  Overall, the BMW is a safer (more predictable) machine at High Speed Ring II, but in my opinion the Lexus is slightly more fun to drive. The former offers solid, predictable driving lines every time, and with little fuss. The latter gives us some options to mess with its cornering lines in a more direct fashion.

At the more technical Nürburgring GP/F I am going with the hype, and preferring the M3. At High Speed Ring (where the curves are large) the IS F's more pronounced pushing can be tolerated. As long as the driver knows when and for how long it's going to show up, this driver can plan ahead. But at GP/F, this front-end plowing does become more of a factor. It's not horrible, don't get me wrong, but it is definitely present. As I hot-lapped the Lexus around GP/F, I noticed where the M3's braking zones began, and made sure to add just a little more to them while driving the IS F. 

Both cars allow some lift-off oversteer to help us as we approach mid-turn, but the Lexus takes a smidge more time and effort for this to happen. Notice that as I'm comparing these two, the words "slight", "little bit", and now "smidge" keep coming up. This is because when comparing side by side, the differences are subtle.

There is also the power-oversteer (heh heh). The rear-end traction which can quickly turn into a slide, intended or unintended. With just over 400 horses, both of these yuppie-mobiles feature loads of this sort of behavior once the driving aids are canned (and with no limited-slip installed), and I thought the Lexus would definitely lose here with even more wanton behavior from the rear, since it has more power and less rubber. But truth is, it's hard to honestly say which car is better, and which is worse in this department. Throttle must be tamed in both cars out of many of this track's 14 turns, but can both become "refined muscle cars" that happen to have heated, fully-adjustable (programmable) seats and other such modern touches. The Lexus actually exhibited a bit of understeer when leaving turns at this track, and it was this pushing which became more of a problem, not hoards more rear-end sliding as I expected. 

Anyways, I recorded my lap times (for once), and here are the results. I allowed the M3's engine to include a full break-in, just to try to even up the score a bit.  

BMW: 415 hp @ 8,500 (engine fully broken-in)
Lexus: 432 hp @ 7,200 (engine partially broken-in)  

Tires: Hard Sports
Brake Balancer: off
Aids on: AMS, TCS (2), Strong Active Steering, ABS (1)
Aids off: ABS (1)  

BMW M3 HSR II: 1:18.324 (Aids on), 1:16.630 (Aids off) 
Lexus IS F HSR II: 1:17.265 (Aids on), 1:16.065 (Aids off)

The Lexus wins, but not by much!  And it appears to mostly be due to horsepower at High Speed Ring. There were a couple turns where the BMW's superior braking, steering, and throttle control allowed me to almost catch the IS F. But down those longer straights and curves the Lexy's 18 extra ponies (and 71 less pounds) clearly provided the overall advantage. Now, let's head to Germany.     

BMW: 415 hp @ 8,500 (engine fully broken-in)
Lexus: 432 hp @ 7,200 (engine partially broken-in) 
Tires: Hard Sports
Brake Balancer: off
Aids on: AMS, TCS (2), Strong Active Steering, ABS (1)
Aids off: ABS (1) 

BMW M3 Nürb: 2:26.584 (Aids on), 2:22.897 
Lexus IS F Nürb: 2:25.439 (Aids on), 2:22.213 

Again, the margin is tight, and I really thought the M3 would simply pwn the Lexus (since handling is more of a factor here) but again, it comes down to more horsepower and less weight.

The most anticipated part of any "car comparo" happens towards the end, and this one shall be no different. Lexus versus BMW. So let's open up those envelopes, eh?  

is-f_burnout.jpg

m3_burnout.jpg

LUXURY CAR COMPARISON FINAL RESULTS
 
This comparison is being done on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being best, and 1 being worst. For this first portion of the final results (price, exterior, interior) I started with an assumed vote of "5" for both cars, since neither of these is my favorite, yet both have features that I definitely prefer. Points were added or docked from here, as I considered what is preferred and what is not.
 
For the second portion (engine, power, etc.) I assumed a starting vote of "10" for both cars, since they are both above-average (compared to what's out there on the roads) and also special versions of regular BMWs and Lexi. Again, points were docked or added, depending. And for the final portion of the judging (handling, braking, etc.), I assumed a starting vote of "7". Both of these cars are above average compared to the usual population of vehicles out there, but are not king of the hill (the way purer sports cars often are). So without further ado...  
 

Price, Interior, Exterior
2007 BMW M3
2007 Lexus IS F
Price
1
7
Exterior Design
4
3
Weight
4
5
Mirrors
8
6
Visibility
7
7
Horns
8
7
Instrumentation
7
7
Price, Ext./Int. Final
39
42

The Lexus wins slightly here. The M3 has a few features (inside and outside) that I like, but the the M3's much higher pricetag is a huge problem, when it's considered the Lexus offers features in certain areas better for us as racers: more power and less weight.

Engine, Transmission, Drivetrain
2007 BMW M3
2007 Lexus IS F
Power: Quoted vs. Actual
10
9
Aftermarket Options
7
10
Engine Characteristics
8
8
Driving Pleasure (Soul)
5
8
Gearbox / Drivetrain
10
5
Gas Mileage
3
4
Engine, Gearbox Final
43
44

Lexus wins slightly here!  It's mostly due to its slightly better fuel economy, engine characteristics + much more extensive aftermarket options. I prefer the M3's gearbox, though.

Handling
2007 BMW M3
2007 Lexus IS F
(Lack of) Understeer Issues
9
6
Throttlesteer / Liftoff Capability
9
10
Fast / Slow Turns
5
4
(Lack of) Pwr. Oversteer Issues
2
2
Tuning Capabilities
9
9
Braking
10
8
Fun to Drive?
6
7
Hot Laps (Lap Times)
9
10
Handling Final
59
56

BMW slightly edges the Lexus here, despite the Lexus's ultimately quicker lap times towards the end (which were due mostly to more power, less weight). For "fun to drive", I considered a modern sports car like a Honda S2000 would rate a "10", and adjusted from here. I did find the Lexus slightly more fun to drive (kicking it around with power-oversteer and even pushing it for predictable understeer) but ultimately it's the M3 that wins, just as it often does in real-life.
 
And now...the moment we've all been waiting for. Drumroll please!

Luxury Car Comparion Final
2007 BMW M3
2007 Lexus IS F
Final Results
141
142

Well, what can we say here? ... A very close competition overall. I'd like to thank BMW and Lexus for allowing me the opportunity to thrash their expensive snobmobiles around. It really is a close call towards the end, is it not?
 
Which car would you choose?  Stay tuned for more car comparisons in the future folks. Next comparo: Chick Cars!

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