Picking them apart, side by side

If you’re in the market for a new mid-size four-door from Japan, Toyota’s offering up the 2019 Avalon, while Lexus has the 2019 ES, and truth be told, there’s lots of overlap between the two. However, there’s also several critical differences, so to find out which was best, we put ‘em side by side and broke out the magnifying glass.

Continue reading for the full story.

How Are They The Same?

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Note: 2019 Lexus ES pictured on the left, 2019 Toyota Avalon pictured on the right.

Chassis

Unsurprisingly, the 2019 Lexus ES and 2019 Toyota Avalon share the same basic chassis underneath the skin. Lexus calls it GA-K, or Global Architecture-K, while Toyota calls it TNGA K, or Toyota New Global Architecture K, and both are the result of the automaker’s latest move to a modular platform production strategy. Both get loads of strength-enhancing features and lower weight, and while there are a few small differences (the Lexus, for example, comes with a extra bits of bracing here and there), GA-K and TNGA K are more or less identical.

Engines And Drivetrains

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Note: 2019 Lexus ES pictured on the left, 2019 Toyota Avalon pictured on the right.

Providing motivation in both the 2019 Lexus ES and the 2019 Toyota Avalon is a naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V-6, which comes with features like D-4S fuel injection and variable valve timing. Output for both is rated at a little over 300 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque, with fuel returns coming in at 22 mpg in the city, 33 mpg on the highway, and 26 mpg combined. An eight-speed automatic transmission handles the cog swaps for both. Accelerating from 0 to 60 mph takes around 6.6 seconds.

Both models also offer a hybrid variant, which combines a gas-powered 2.5-liter four-cylinder with a single electric motor and nickel-metal hydride battery pack. While the tuning is slightly different between the Lexus and the Toyota, both make upwards of 215 horsepower and return as much as 44 mpg in the process. Both send power to the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission. The run to 60 mph is done in about 8 seconds.

Suspension

Considering both the ES and the Avalon run the same platform, it should come as no surprise that both also utilize the same suspension setup, with MacPherson struts in front and a multi-link in the rear. However, even the suspension components are similar, including the available adaptive dampers.

Offered by Lexus through the F Sport model and the top Touring model on the Toyota, these high-tech units are trickle-down components from the Lexus LC Coupe, and make a huge difference in the car’s handling and comfort.

Both Are Comfortable, Quiet, Roomy, And Surprisingly Engaging To Drive

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Note: 2019 Lexus ES pictured on the left, 2019 Toyota Avalon pictured on the right.

After sitting in the hot seat of both the Lexus ES and the Toyota Avalon, I can say with confidence that both vehicles offer very similar driving experiences. Both hush the outside world, offering plenty of space to stretch out, a refined ride, and loads of comfort features, which is exactly what you want when it comes to cruising through the miles without killing your backside.

Both are quite easy to drive, offering great forward visibility and operator-friendly inputs. Both are also bit difficult to park in narrow spots, mostly due to the vehicles’ large exterior dimensions and poor rear visibility.

After sitting in the hot seat of both the Lexus ES and the Toyota Avalon, I can say with confidence that both vehicles offer very similar driving experiences.

However, despite the size, both the ES and the Avalon offer a surprisingly engaging driving experience, feeling poised and planted when slinging through some corners.

Interior Technology

Both the ES and the Avalon come dripping with tech, which means, inevitably, there’s a few systems shared between the two vehicles. For example, there are crossover safety systems like Pre-Collision, Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, and Lane Departure Alert, plus infotainment stuff like the inclusion of Amazon Alexa and Apple CarPlay.

How Are They Different?

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Note: 2019 Lexus ES pictured on the left, 2019 Toyota Avalon pictured on the right.

Styling

Without a doubt, the dominant styling feature for both the Lexus and the Toyota can be found in the front fascia, where both vehicles sport a massive grille and intake. However, viewed side by side, the Lexus is undoubtedly the more stylish option. Not only does it work the grille to better effect, but it’s also sleeker and more attractive from just about ever other angle as well.

Interior Design

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Note: 2019 Lexus ES pictured on the left, 2019 Toyota Avalon pictured on the right.

The same can be said of the interior design, where the Lexus once again one-ups its Toyota-badged sibling. Don’t get me wrong - I think the Avalon’s interior looks great. The upward sweeping center console, the broad, simple dash design, the curvy center console… all lovely.

However, the Lexus is just, well, better. Throw in more high-end materials, including exclusive stuff like Hadori Aluminum with the ES F Sport, and the Lexus handily takes the win in this category.

Interior Tech

Go for the Lexus, and you’ll get additional gadgets and gear over the Avalon, plus higher-quality equipment to boot. For example, the stereos are nicer in the Lexus, with a 10-speaker system from Pioneer as standard, and a 17-speaker unit from Mark Levinson as an option. You also get some additional safety tech in the ES.

Small Improvements Everywhere For The Lexus

Whether you’re talking about interior noise, comfort, or the way it takes a corner, the Lexus is one step ahead of the Avalon in just about ever respect. The difference isn’t huge, but driving the vehicles back to back, it’s definitely noticeable.

Pricing

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Note: 2019 Lexus ES pictured on the left, 2019 Toyota Avalon pictured on the right.

Much to our surprise, the difference in pricing isn’t that huge either, but it is a factor. We have yet to get exact numbers from Lexus on where the 2019 ES will slot in, but expectations are that it’ll start at about $39,000. Meanwhile, the 2019 Avalon starts at $35,500, ranging up to $42,800 for the top Limited hybrid model and $42,200 for the gas-only Touring model.

Depending on what gear you’re after, it looks like you could save several thousand bucks by going with the Toyota.

Badge Perception

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Note: 2019 Lexus ES pictured on the left, 2019 Toyota Avalon pictured on the right.

Let’s be honest - plenty of folks judge a book by its cover, and plenty of folks judge a car by its badge. While owners should care more about what’s inside (i.e., the equipment, the driving experience, etc.), badge perception is still very much a thing, and the Lexus obviously beats the Toyota on that front.

So Then, Which One Is Better?

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Note: 2019 Lexus ES pictured on the left, 2019 Toyota Avalon pictured on the right.

Truth be told, both the 2019 Lexus ES and 2019 Toyota Avalon are excellent vehicles, and choosing one over the other really comes down to what you want.

Let’s start with the Avalon. If you’re looking for the smarter buy, something that comes packed to the gills with goodies without a bank-breaking price tag, this is a good place to start. The Avalon comes with all the same essential qualities as the Lexus, but flies a little lower under the radar and keeps extra jingle in your pocket. Our suggestion - go for the Hybrid Limited trim and relax a little bit.

Now, the Lexus. This is where you should head if you’re looking for something with more style and flash, plus a sumptuous, definitive luxury experience inside the cabin. It’s also the way to go if you’re trying to get a bit sporty here and there, and although it’s not as performance-oriented as some of its European rivals, it’s still got the right flavor to satisfy a casual spirited drive now and then. Our suggestion - go for the Lexus ES 350 F Sport and enjoy yourself.

Which would you rather have?

Further Reading

2019 Lexus ES - Driven Exterior
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Read our full driven review on the 2019 Lexus ES.

2019 Toyota Avalon Exterior
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Read our full driven review on the 2019 Toyota Avalon.

2016 Lexus ES High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2018 Lexus ES.

2019 Toyota Avalon Exterior
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Both engines mate with an eight-speed direct-shift automatic transmission

Read our full review on the 2019 Toyota Avalon.

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Read more Lexus news.

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Read more Toyota news.

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