Road &Track’s former columnist, Peter Egan, has a long-time friend, Chris Beebe. And on a day, week or month when Peter was scrambling for subject matter, he could invariably count on Chris to pinch hit. Whether Chris was selling, Peter was buying or they were in pursuit of something together, Chris was invariably the toe-may-toe to Peter’s toe-mah-toe, the Beebe ‘yin’ to Egan’s ‘yang’. To date, I haven’t felt the need for that sort of editorial crutch, but then, neither have I had a regular gig at a national pub. And this still isn’t a national pub…but I’d enjoy introducing Joe Yetzer while considering the 2016 Lexus IS 350 F Sport.
I met Joe at some point in the late ‘70s. He was working at Dallas’ Precision Motors, while I was doing the occasional dealer trade for them. Joe wasn’t my main contact at Precision, and we wouldn’t see each other with any regularity until he and I were both selling BMWs for Dallas’ John Roberts BMW, beginning in 1980. Later, in ’83 and ’84, we’d take the unusual step of pooling our incomes and splitting them down the middle, in hopes of moderating the ups and downs of the dealership’s commission-only pay structure. (Much later, as a freelance writer I once again hoped to pool incomes with Joe. And I’m still hoping…)
Fast forward thirty years and Joe continues to sell BMWs at BMW of Dallas and, of import to this narrative, drives a 2004 330i. With a black exterior, that oh-so-smooth six and under 70K miles, this is an understated eyeful when compared to what the guys in Bavaria are currently selling. And while the most recent 3-Series, as reviewed by us earlier this summer, is its own splendor on the gas, it also enjoys and/or suffers a bigger footprint when compared to Joe’s 12-year old 330i or Lexus’ IS 350 F Sport.
A quick look at their comparative dimensions suggests that if wishing for a newish 330i like Joe’s, you would do well to consider the Lexus. While the Lexus wheelbase is up by three inches when compared to the ’04 BMW, and overall length is up by almost eight, both have roughly the same interior dimensions at ninety cubic feet. Regrettably, the Lexus is some 450 pounds heavier than Joe’s BMW, but then, the safety and crashworthiness of the newer car comes at an obvious weight penalty.
That weight gain is more than offset by the Lexus’ additional displacement, torque and horsepower. While the BMW delivers 225 horsepower and 214 lb-ft of torque, the 2016 Lexus boasts 306 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque, which is more than enough to offset those 450 pounds.
Beyond mere numbers, though, are the subjective impressions provided by the two cars, despite being separated by over a decade. Both the older BMW and newer Lexus deliver the very real intimacy you want from a sport sedan. While the interior remains a cabin and not – notably – a cockpit, there’s a very real connection (via the steering, transmission and brakes) between you and the road. And since both spaces provide adequate room for four and never room for five, the trip with three passengers is more akin to sitting at a corner table in a small, comfortable setting; with no room for anyone else to join you, you simply focus on who’s there and what’s in front of you.
Over the last few months we’ve enjoyed Lexus coupes, the larger GS F Sport, the IS 200t (equipped with a turbocharged 2.0 liter four and delivering 241 horsepower) and this, the IS 350 F Sport. With handling appropriate to the F Sport descriptive, a smooth and oh-so-responsive six delivering the ample goods to the rear wheels, a footprint that fits almost anywhere and a Monroney under $50K, we’re damn close to ‘smitten’. Obviously, it ain’t Joe Yetzer’s 330i, but Joe’s not selling his BMW. Lexus, of course, is open for business. And if this one’s sold they’ll simply get you another.