Should You Buy a Lexus IS or a Mercedes-Benz CLA?

Competition in the luxury sedan segment is growing increasingly tighter. If you’re in the market for a new car, it can make choosing one a difficult task. And neck-and-neck are the 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA and Lexus IS. 

If you’re torn between these two compact luxury cars, check out our breakdown of their pros and cons. We sort through the specs and features to show you what you need to know about these high-end sedans.

The 2020 Lexus IS

Edmunds says the 2020 Lexus IS 300 is a little stale because it hasn’t received a significant upgrade for the better part of six years. But for 2020, Lexus introduced the Blackline Edition, offering attractive wheels and a black-and-indigo trim.

Under the hood, the base Lexus IS 300 comes with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that offers 241 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. The 300 is available in four trims: RWD, AWD, F Sport RWD, and F Sport AWD. There’s also the IS 350, which includes a more robust, 3.5-liter V6 engine harnessing 260 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque. The 350 offers the same four trim levels as the 300. And all of the sport variations feature a sport-tuned suspension and gaping mesh grille.

With the Lexus IS, you’ll experience a refined ride, excellent predicted reliability, and a good number of features.

The 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA

RELATED: It’s Clear Who Should Buy a Lexus and Who Should Buy a Mercedes-Benz

Competing with the 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA is a tough proposition. Motor Trend‘s Miguel Cortina says this sedan offers a “warm welcome into the Mercedes family.” He adds that the CLA is precisely what an entry-level luxury car should be.

All three 2020 CLS trim levels come with four-cylinder engines, but they boast varying levels of power. The base CLA 250 offers a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder for 221 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. It also comes with standard front-wheel drive, but you can add an optional 4Matic all-wheel drive.

The two other trim levels — AMG CLA 35 and AMG CLA 45 — offer more power. According to Edmunds, “The CLA 45 gets the biggest power bump to its turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder (382 hp and 354 lb-ft), which is connected to an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission. All-wheel drive is standard with the CLA 45.”

U.S. News and Edmunds agree that the Mercedes-Benz CLA boasts incredibly agile handling and robust roster of standard features.

Lexus IS and Mercedes-Benz CLA drawbacks

As for cons, the 2020 Lexus IS needs a refresh and lacks a few key tech features. For example, if you want Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, you’ll have to buy a 2021 model. Edmunds also points out the Lexus IS achieves below-average fuel economy with its V6 engine and offers slightly subpar trunk space.

The Mercedes-Benz CLA’s handling can sometimes feel stiff and, like the Lexus, is a tad limited in the trunk.

Discerning which compact luxury sedan is for you might come down to pricing. The 2020 Lexus IS starts around $38,560, but adding in packages and higher trims could quickly translate to $50,000. The entry-level Mercedes-Benz CLA has a starting MSRP of $36,650, which is lower than the IS but is also $3,500 higher than the 2019 CLA. And much like the Lexus, a top-of-the-line 2020 CLA costs upward of $55,000.

So, should you buy a 2020 Lexus IS or a 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA? It’s too close to call. The decision might ultimately come down to your personal preference. Test-driving each will help you make your final choice.