Underneath their skins, the Lexus ES Hybrid and the Toyota Avalon Hybrid are practically the same car. They share a vehicle architecture, a gas-electric powertrain, and lots of underlying bits and pieces. Think of them as the Property Brothers on wheels: twins that dress differently.
One is more expensive than the other one. The Lexus ES Hybrid starts at $41,760 (plus a destination charge of $1,025), while the Avalon Hybrid starts at $36,850 (plus a destination charge of $955). Each is available in three trim levels, topping out at $45,610 for the Lexus and $43,150 for the Toyota.
Both cars are full-size sedans with roomy interiors and big trunks. They use a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, an electric assist motor with a low-speed EV mode, and a nickel-metal hydride battery pack. Total system horsepower measures 215, and most versions get 44 mpg in combined driving according to the EPA.
So, which one is better? Well, that all depends on how much money you have to spend.
A 12.3-inch widescreen display is available for the Lexus, but you must use a fingertip trace pad or voice controls to use it. The standard 9-inch display in the Toyota is touch-sensitive and works like a smartphone or tablet computer. (Photos: Lexus and Toyota. Lexus ES 350 F Sport shown)
The best things about the Lexus ES Hybrid
As you would expect from a Lexus, the ES Hybrid adds a layer of sophistication and refinement that is lacking in the Toyota. From its exterior design to the look and feel of the interior, the Lexus has a cohesive sense of style.
Beyond this, the Lexus is equipped with superior driving assistance and collision avoidance technologies, longer trial periods to connected services like a Wi-Fi hotspot and automatic collision notification, and longer warranty and roadside assistance coverage.
Spend money on options, which is necessary if you want to match or exceed the equipment offered for the Avalon Hybrid, and you can upgrade to exclusive features like premium leather upholstery, 14-way power-adjustable front seats, a powerful 17-speaker Mark Levinson premium sound system, and a power rear window sunshade.
You should know, however, that careless checking of option boxes can result in a price tag nearing $55,000. That’s about $10,000 more than a loaded-up Avalon Hybrid.
Given their shared vehicle architecture, it’s not surprising that the Lexus ES Hybrid and Toyota Avalon Hybrid look similar to one another. Both are great looking from this angle. (Photos: Lexus and Toyota)
The best things about the Toyota Avalon Hybrid
Look at the photo above, and you might wonder why anyone would spend more money to get the Lexus. The Avalon Hybrid Limited looks good, doesn’t it? Now look at the photo below. For some reason, Toyota can’t get grilles right, and the jagged one on the Avalon is no exception.
Ah, but we’re supposed to be talking about the best things about the Avalon Hybrid, so let’s focus on value. With the Toyota, you’re going to spend less to get what is, essentially, the same car as the Lexus minus the added refinement and some of the exclusive content.
Another great thing about the Avalon Hybrid is that it comes with a far more satisfying infotainment system user experience. In the Lexus, you need to use a fingertip trace pad to operate the display, which is not touch-sensitive. In the Toyota, you get a big, 9-inch touchscreen that is super easy to reference and use.
Choose Limited trim, and the Avalon Hybrid comes with more equipment than a standard ES Hybrid. You also get two years or 25,000 miles of free scheduled maintenance at the Toyota dealership.
Spindle grille or jagged grille? Neither is ideal, but the one on the Lexus looks as though forethought went into it, while the one on the Toyota looks like an afterthought. (Photos: Lexus and Toyota)
Lexus ES Hybrid vs. Toyota Avalon Hybrid. Which is better?
The short answer to this question is the Lexus. But it also costs up to $10,000 more, so it should be a better car.
If, however, you simply want a large, fuel-efficient, reliable, and safe car, and you don’t really care about the prestige and ownership benefits associated with a luxury brand, then you can’t go wrong with the Toyota.