2023 BMW 3 Series Gran Limousine vs Lexus ES 300h: The Lines of Luxury Blur

Can the sports-sedan-turned-limo 3 Series run rings around an actual luxury sedan whose only job is to pamper you? We find out the answer as we pitch these two luxury sedans against each in this comparison test.

By Shivank Bhatt | on February 20, 2023 Follow us on Autox Google News

Can the sports-sedan-turned-limo 3 Series run rings around an actual luxury sedan whose only job is to pamper you?

Be it pandemic outbreaks or new automotive trends, China always seems to be at the forefront of it all. Take the leg-stretching long-wheelbase luxury sedans, for instance. The Chinese were the first to demand the ‘L’ badged cars, and over time, they’ve become so popular that they are now spreading to other parts of the world, including India.

A case in point is the 3 Series Gran Limousine or the 3 GL, which debuted in India in 2021. Fast forward to 2023, the stretched 3 Series has now received a mild makeover. The bigger news, however, is that BMW has now done away with the regular 3 Series.

BMW 3 Series GL Vs Lexus ES300h Front Three Quarter1

With the 3 GL as your only option in the regular 3 Series line-up, it seems that BMW now cares and caters more to the needs of backseat occupants than hardcore sports sedan purists – at least, on paper. And it’s truly punching above its weight on this front. The question, however, is – is it worth saving a few lakhs by opting for this stretched limo instead of a tailor-made luxury sedan that’s got all the bases of luxury and comfort covered? We brought the sleek Lexus ES300h into the scene to find out.

Prestige vs Pizzaz 

Modern Lexus designs are all sharp and snazzy, and the ES300h is a living example. It’s got sharp angles and creases, along with a heavy dose of bling. Its sleek headlamps, signature ‘Spindle’ grille, classy dual-tone alloys, and coupe-like roofline make it stand out from the regular crowd of German Luxo-barges, and how! Plus, with an impressive length of almost five metres in length, it has a regal appearance, which makes it look more special than its peers and a lot more special than the 3 GL.

The ES has a stately stance that makes it look more special than the 3 GL

Now, while most of the modern BMWs have controversial designs, mainstream products such as the 3 and 5 Series remain, thankfully, unscathed from the brand’s new design language and still maintain a touch of sophistication. However, in its updated avatar, the 3 GL has got some nice and some not-so-nice updates. The M Sport package is standard now, so it looks properly sporty. However, both the front and rear bumper designs are busier than the previous iteration, and, dare I say, it seems like an afterthought – in short, not a fan! The 3 GL has a long wheelbase – it’s 110mm longer than the 3 Series, at 2,961mm. More impressively, though, its footprint is even bigger than that of the Lexus (2,870mm)!

Lexus ES300h and BMW 3 Series GL

The 3 GL’s on-road presence is still that of a sports sedan – sure, it’s a little longer than the standard car, but it will hardly be noticed for this reason. Even though Lexus’ wheelbase is smaller, it is actually slightly longer in terms of overall length (4,975mm vs 4,823mm). On the move – or while standing still – the Lexus’ design has, surprisingly, more appeal and looks posher than the Bimmer. If you pull into a five-star hotel with the Lexus and BMW together, there’s a higher chance of the attendant reaching out for the ES’ rear door first. The Lexus has a more prestigious appeal, you can say. 

Back Seat Driver

What about the rear seat comfort? Well, let’s cut straight to the chase – the ES does this job better! How? Well, there are three aspects to it – space, luxury, and comfort. Even though the Lexus’ wheelbase is shorter than the BMW, it’s got more legroom than the latter – in fact, the difference is substantial. So, how did this happen? You see, the ES is a front-wheel drive sedan, and its powertrain is mounted transversely – perpendicular to the direction of travel – making the cabin more spacious, obviously. The BMW, on the other hand, is a rear-wheel drive, so the engine is mounted longitudinally. This results in a relatively longer bonnet and a less spacious cabin than the Lexus’.

The long-wheelbase 3 Series caters more to the needs of backseat occupants than the purists

Next up, is the feel-good factor. In this regard, I must say that the Lexus and BMW are evenly matched. While the Lexus’ rear seats are more sumptuous and accommodating, the BMW’s lighter upholstery, superior quality levels, and better fit-and-finish give it a rich feel. The Lexus has more gadgets at the back and a heck of a lot more buttons. It also gets electrically reclining heated rear seats. The BMW offers none of these creature comforts, and the seat squab is not as plush either. The under-thigh support isn’t as great as it’s in the Lexus. The updated 3 GL comes with cushy headrests, although overall it’s the Lexus that feels more comfortable. That said, taller passengers will find the headroom to be a bit tight in the ES, thanks to its sloping roofline. This isn’t a problem in the 3 GL. What’s more, since the GL gets a panoramic sunroof, the cabin has an airier feel. The dark theme of the Lexus doesn’t help its case either – although, you can opt for hazel / light brown upholstery. Both cars should be strictly treated as four-seaters since the transmission tunnel is quite high in both. 

BMW 3 Series GL Rear Seat1

Last but not least, the comfort. This is another area where the Lexus pulls ahead of the BMW rather fashionably. The ES’ ride quality is unshakeable – good roads, bad roads, highways or potholes, the suspension will never let you know what’s happening underneath. It offers the proverbial magic carpet ride, as it glides and swallows every undulation and road imperfection. What’s more, the noise isolation is stellar – you don’t hear any outside sound. 

In isolation, the 3 GL’s ride quality is cossetting, making it worthy of the limousine tag. Compared to the regular 3, the suspension’s been softened, resulting in a supple and absorbent ride quality. During everyday driving, it will give you no reason at all to complain. However, if you compare it with the Lexus, you’ll be left wanting more. Going over big potholes at speeds over 60 – 70km/h can catch the suspension by surprise, and at times, you can hear loud thuds, which filter straight into the cabin. The refinement and NVH levels are exemplary otherwise.

The Tables Turned

One of the reasons why the BMW’s ride quality isn’t as plush as the Lexus is because of the speeds you end up doing. That’s because whenever you drive it, you tend to give it the full beans. The 3 GL’s petrol version – 330 Li – features the company’s tried-and-tested 2.0-litre turbo petrol motor, which churns out 255bhp and 400Nm. Coupled with an 8-speed automatic and classic rear-wheel drive, it can clock 0 – 100km/h in just over 6 seconds, meaning before you ask your driver to slow down they would’ve already raced past the speed limit! 

The BMW’s performance is flawless – the engine is silky smooth even if you rev it to the redline, and the gearbox complements it with its well-judged shifts. The Lexus, on the other hand, gets a hybrid powertrain – a 2.4-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine along with an 88kW electric motor – with a combined power output of 214.5bhp. This is mated to an e-CVT transmission. The Lexus is a much heavier car, and it’s nearly 3 seconds slower than the BMW in reaching the 100km/h mark. It’s no slouch, though. The acceleration is brisk if not scintillating. Plus, when you take off, it initially works only in EV mode. The petrol engine comes on only when you – or your chauffeur – increase the pace. In fact, the transition is so seamless that you barely notice it. However, if the driver mashes the accelerator for a quick overtake, the transmission does produce that typical CVT drone, and the noise does filter into the cabin, which isn’t very pleasing. 

BMW 3 Series Gran Limousine Drift

What if you like to drive your limo yourself? Well, this is an open-and-shut case – the Lexus can’t hold a candle to the BMW in this department. With its 50:50 weight distribution, peppy powertrain, delectable and precise steering, and rear-wheel drive, the BMW will outrun and out-drag the Lexus all day, every day. The 3 GL may be longer and softer, but it’s still a sports sedan first and a luxury sedan second. You’ll sense a clear connection between yourself and the BMW, which is somewhat lacking in the Lexus. Make no mistake, the Lexus isn’t an uninspiring or dull car to drive. In fact, it’s got decent steering feedback and the handling is neutral. But since it’s FWD and has a heavy front end owing to its hybrid powertrain, it feels cumbersome around corners and even in tight parking spaces. 

With its 50:50 weight distribution & RWD, the BMW is more engaging to drive

What’s more, when you’re behind the wheel and closer to the dashboard and the gadgetry on offer, the BMW will again sweep you away with its futuristic and up-to-date cabin. The main highlight here is, of course, the seamless screen, which is lifted directly from the likes of the i4 and iX. It’s a combination of a 12.3-inch digital driver display and a 14.9-inch infotainment touchscreen. The display is crisp, vivid, and easy to use. The Lexus’ dashboard, meanwhile, is a button fest. There are big chunky buttons for virtually everything – quite practical, no doubt, but aesthetically, not so pleasing. The 12.3-inch infotainment screen has great resolution, albeit the camera quality is sub-par. The user interface is also quite complicated when compared to BMW’s iDrive. There are some classy touches in the Lexus, though – the analogue clock, Mark Levinson sound system, and the rotary driving mode selector on the top of the dash, among others. All told, though, if you’re someone who is in tune with the times, you’ll find the Lexus’ cabin a bit yesterday and a generation behind that of the BMW. 


The BMW is engaging to drive, comfortable, spacious, feature-loaded, and modern. Plus, it gives you more bang for your buck – both as a sports sedan and a long-wheelbase sedan. If you’re someone who likes to be chauffeured around 5 days a week but will happily take the wheel whenever your driver pulls a sickie, the BMW is the one to go for. However, if all you care about is comfort and prestige and an overall better and opulent backseat experience – and you don’t mind spending a million bucks more – the Lexus will suit you better. What’s more, with its hybrid tech, it’s also good PR if you’re the rich and famous kind. 

BMW 3 Series GL Vs Lexus ES300h Lead2

Put simply, the Lexus is for someone who’s already arrived in life, while the BMW is all about arriving in life, with a bit more flair and pizzazz.    

  • Lexus ES300h
  • BMW 3 Series Gran Limousine

Fuel: Petrol

Engine: 2,487cc / 4-Cylinder / Hybrid

Transmission: e-CVT / Front-Wheel-Drive

Power: 214.5bhp

Price: ₹61.60 - 67.90 Lakh (Ex-Showroom)

X-Factor: Luxurious, spacious, comfy, and classy – the ES300h is a luxobarge in the true sense of the term.

• Comfort
• Hybrid engine

• Outdated cabin

Fuel: Petrol

Engine: 1,998cc / 4-Cylinder / Twin-Scroll Turbo

Transmission: 8-Speed AT / Rear-Wheel-Drive

Power: 255bhp @ 5,000rpm

Torque: 400Nm @ 1,550 – 4,400rpm

Price: ₹57.90 - 59.50 Lakh (Ex-Showroom)

X-Factor: Sports sedan on Sunday, luxury sedan on Monday!

• Ride-and-Handling
• Performance
• Space & Features

• Expensive

Also read, 

BMW 3 Series Gran Limousine Review: A Cocktail of Sportiness and Comfort

Auto Expo 2023: All-new Lexus RX SUV Makes India Debut; Bookings Now Open

Tags: BMW BMW 3 Series Gran Limousine Lexus Lexus ES300h

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