I own, maintain 3 BMWs. And I even race (legally sanctioned of course) one of them. Yet, here's what I can tell you.
1. Lexus IS has come a long way to mimic BMW 3er. It is true that they take apart an entire BMW and study what's beneath it.
2. The gap between the IS and 3er may not be that close yet but it's getting closer. I have driven the ISF, IS350. They are really decent for the price.
3. On the other hand BMW these days is less about a driver's car and more about a dummy's car. The last good BMW 3er is the E46 series.
4. These days BMW has forgone being the "cult" car and being the greedy bastard, they want the share of the luxury crowd of what Lexus has.
5. BMW always use the "M history" card. It was good for the E36 and E46. But now, it's just getting even remotely further. It was the M background that got some of us (the BMW cult followers) into driving/owning a BMW. But these days you look at a BMW without a freaking dipstick and what's-with-that-I-drive thing, you wonder since when did that happen?
6. Another case in pt. BMW interior ergonomics used to be driver's oriented. Note the 5deg incline towards the driver on the center dash integrated with the cockpit cluster in the E36 and E46. This 5deg disappeared on ALL NEW BMWs. It's now completely straight from cockpit to the passenger's air-vent. Is the 5deg important? Well, ain't BMW suppose to be a driver's car? Not anymore.
7. Seriously, what's with the cup holders located between the front passenger's airbag and glove compartment in the new BMW 3er? Do we need this? Really.
8. Suspension tuning is a black art. I must admit BMW does it well along with the chassis structural design. But trust me, that doesn't mean Lexus is lagging that far behind.
9. BMW actually uses a number of Japanese OEMs. This include the steering wheel, switches and several sensors. Do a search on ALPS Electric.
10. Lastly if you really want to know, the latest BMWs are actually soft (in terms of handling) compared to the last generation and last 2nd generation. So if you think the current BMWs are "nice" to drive, you really missed out the real goodies.
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