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Toyota Avalon Limited vs Lexus ES 350

gohawaiiangohawaiian Honolulu, HawaiiPosts: 84
I thought it might be interesting for owners & prospective buyers of the Toyota Avalon Limited and Lexus ES 350 to compare these two models. I recently comparison-shopped those 2 cars and wound up trading in my 97 ES 300 for an Avalon Limited. My reasons are set out below. Perhaps others would like to offer their own views and make the case for either car!

Before buying an Avalon Limited, I looked at and ruled out both the 2006 ES 330 and the 2007 ES 350 for different reasons. The 06 330 has a much smaller, less fuel efficient 6 cyl. engine than the Av, while the 07 350 has essentially the same engine as the Av. Both Lexus models (330 & 350) are smaller than the Av, inside and out. The Av compares in size to the LS 430, the Lexus flagship. And in fact, some car magazine reviews have described the Av Ltd. as a "poor man's LS 430", and a car that offers 85% of what the LS 430 offers. (If you can overlook the absence, on the Av, of the Lexus badge and the V8 engine of the LS 430, you can argue that the Av seriously rivals the $60,000 LS 430 for a whopping 45% less, approximately, in MSRP). As for the comparison of the Av Ltd. to the ES 350, you'd have to order the ES 350 with a $2500 "Premium Plus" package (boosting its total MSRP over $36,300) to get that car with heated/ventilated leather seats, driver's seat cushion extender, and rain-sensing wipers, all of which are standard on the Av. Ltd. Even then, your ES 350 still wouldn't have the power rear sunshade, wood-trim steering wheel, HID headlights, and a 12 speaker premium sound system that are all standard equip. on the Av Ltd. At Lexus, those items are either additional cost options or are only available as part of a much more expensive option package on the ES 350. In fairness to the ES 350, it does come standard with electronic stability control (optional on the Av); a power tilt/telescope steering column (these are manually adjustable on the Av); and knee airbags for driver and front seat passenger (only a driver knee airbag on the Av.) You will likely find that Toyota dealers will be willing to offer you a MUCH more substantial discount on the Av Ltd. than you will get on the ES 350. In May 2006, I was offered 11% off list on a 2006 Av Ltd. and 19% off list on a brand new 2005 Av Ltd. Try asking for discounts like that at a Lexus dealer! (In fact, my local Lexus dealer offered me, as a return customer, only 5% off a 2006 ES 330, a model which they needed to unload quickly to make room for the new ES 350 models arriving - (so much for "customer loyalty & appreciation" discounts - that discount was almost insulting!) With discounts over 10% at Toyota, one could add on the electronic stability control and laser cruise control options (together they add about $1250 to the list) and still come out thousands below a comparably equipped ES 350. That's my take on the value proposition represented by the Avalon Limited - and, more importantly, I love the car, too! Given all these facts, what makes the ES 350 seem like a preferred choice/better buy in the view of its owners & admirers?


  • zekeman1zekeman1 Posts: 422
    I have both cars, so I can compare pretty closely from experience.

    The 350 is made completely in Japan so (IMO) is better put together and has more quality control.

    The 350 has a longer warranty, even though one probably won't use it that much.

    The Avalon's handling in comparison to the 350 is pretty sloppy...I feel sometimes like I'm going to be seasick.

    The 350 has a backup camera if you have Nav; lots of complaints about the Avalon not having one.

    The 350 does not have the transmission shifting problems everyone has complained about on the Avalon, at least not yet on mine.

    The 350 has Bluetooth - the 05 Avalon does not. Not sure about the 06 model.

    The 350 has IPOD connectivity - the Avalon does not.

    Yes, the Avalon is less expensive so if it fits your checkbook, I would say buy it. If you can afford the Lexus and it fills the bill and you can afford it, buy that one.

    I'm sure there are a few other points that I'm missing, but at first blush, that's my 2 cents worth. I like both cars, the Avalon IS a good buy, I just prefer the 350.
  • maximafanmaximafan Posts: 592
    For me, the ES350 comes out on top mainly
    because the Avalon is a little too large for
    my tastes. I don't remember the length of
    the Avalon, but if it's over 191 inches, I'm
    going to have difficulty fitting it in my
    garage. Also, I've decided when my lease is
    up on my Maxima, I'd really like to upgrade
    to one of the premium manufacturers such as
    Lexus, Acura or Infiniti (Unless Nissan
    manages to suck me back in with the 2007
    Maxima and very well could, although this
    car supposedly is gaining several inches in
    length, also, and could be a problem for me)
    because of the longer warranty offered by
    these manufactures.

    It's kind of funny because when Lexus came out
    with the 2007 IS, I loved it, but felt it was
    too small. Until now, I would have never
    considered a car such as the ES series before
    the 2007's came out. It's a whole different
    story now. The size of the ES350 is just
    about perfect. At this point the ES and the
    Acura TL are the top two on my wish list, and
    being that I enjoy sporty cars, you'd think
    the Acura would be my choice hands down
    (also, size-wise the Acura is perfect!)
    But the 2007 ES is just so compelling for me
    right now, so I guess it's going to come down
    to who's going to give me the best deal.
    Ooh, I can't wait!!!
  • rocketdanrocketdan Posts: 28
    As a long term Toyota driver with a '97 Avalon XLS w/ 148K miles, I drove both the Av Ltd. and the ES350 as possible replacements. Both were impressive with obvious similarities. But the ES is actually about the size of my '97, while the Avalon has become cavernous. Great for a family, but I am retiring and this is my personal car. The Avalon did seem more open and brighter, but when I floored it in the Avalon the engine roar was clearly audible, while the ES was barely so. The body roll was better controlled in the ES. Value is clearly better with the Avalon.

    There isn't much difference in major options. It's just a different feeling between the two. For me, the ES was the one. The more intimate size, the little niceties like the electronic tilting wheel on the memory, the greater isolation and sense of quiet, all added up to my new car. I ordered the ES w/ premium plus + nav last week.
  • regisregis Posts: 94
    Contrary to popular belief, the 2006 Avalon XLS is priced substantially higher than the new Lexus ES350 (at least in Canada). The base price of the 2007 ES350 here is $42,900 compared to the base XLS of $40,150 but the ES has standard features such as VSC, brake assist, seat ventilation + memory, extended warranty etc. To equip an Avalon with the same features requires the purchase of Package B that brings the Avalon's Listing up to $43,725. And, factor in the extra cost of bringing the Avalon's warranty up to the Lexus standard. So what do you get for this extra cost? Maybe a larger ES350?
  • neil5neil5 Posts: 118
    I have to agree with youe logic. I have 06 Limited Av. with Bluetooth, BU camera, all the bells. I looked at IS and GS models and was turned off by the lack of discounting, size, same parts on much of the car. Service is also much less (I get loaners and bring my own synthetic oil $26 for oil changes. Now my colleagues are looking at the Av as well. Money doesn't grow on trees.
  • rocketdanrocketdan Posts: 28

    Just curious. I don't remember the backup camera being offered on the Av Ltd. Is this an aftermarket unit you have installed post delivery? How about the bluetooth?

    I was recently able to negotiate about the same discounts on the ES as on the Av Ltd. Of course in FL, Toyota dealers have to work around the onerous SET fees. So, the difference was around $3500, about 8% more for the ES. I paid it willingly, for the ES is the one that felt right for me...and I find it too frustrating finding aftermarket installers to provide what I wanted in the first place. To each his own path. They are both fine vehicles.
  • tnfantnfan Posts: 18
    I too looked at the Avalon Ltd before purchasing the ES350. The Avalon I looked at did not have the back up camera or bluetooth. Also I did not like the manual tilt for the steering wheel. My wife did not like the look and feel of the controls for the radio, nave, etc. The Avalon had a nice ride but for me it felt as if the Lexus was a more complete car. Purely subjective. Also, I was looking for something smaller after having driven a BMW 740iL for several years. Both cars are great values in my opinion. Really boils down to a matter of personal likes.
  • neil5neil5 Posts: 118
    Backup camera was added as aftermarket to display on my NAV screen. Cost about 400.00 plus 100.oo install. I used G-net system with License plate CCD camera. Outstanding at Night!!! To see pics go to Galleries Avalon 3 generation. Far better than what is offered by Toyota over 1000.00 add on by Southeastern toyota distributors
  • gohawaiiangohawaiian Honolulu, HawaiiPosts: 84
    What I find really interesting in the comments posted to date on this topic is that the concept of "value" seems not even to enter the equation for the Lexus buyers. Various considerations other than value (such as car size, availability of bluetooth, backup camera for Nav, etc) are being cited as the deciding factors for the Lexus buyers who have commented on their choice of car. There's nothing wrong with that, of course - it's your money and to each his own! - but at what point does a savvy buyer conclude: "You know what, this is no longer a reasonable price for what is, after all, still an entry-level luxury model." The fact that Lexus no longer includes leather seats as part of the car's standard equipment and now makes you select an option package if you want leather, speaks volumes (to me) about what is really going on here: Lexus has figured out that its buyers want the car, at just about any price, regardless of value, and until customers balk and say "enough is enough", I suspect that Lexus will be laughing all the way to the bank with your money. But hey, it's a beautiful car, and for that kind of money, Lexus owners certainly deserve to enjoy it! :)
  • rocketdanrocketdan Posts: 28
    You use the word value as if it is a constant, or a universal formula that others are ignoring or too dense to see. It is not. Value is highly subjective. I can remember years ago when Automated Climate Control seemed to me a silly waste and of no value. Certainly I could push the fan button manually! Today, I demand it.

    I paid less than $40K for my ES w/Premium+ (including the leather), Nav, HID/AFS, and other options. If I look at the "value" of this to other cars many would consider comparable entry luxury cars, it is a good value. How about a MB C350? Similarly equipped, its MSRP is $46K, TMV of $41.5. I vastly prefer the ES. An Audi A4 3.2? MSRP $42.2, TMV $40.3 and I prefer the ES. The A6 is way overpriced - and I still prefer the ES. How about the (vastly inferior, IMHO) Jaguar X-Type. MSRP $41K, as they try to get rid of them for TMV $35.8. I consider the ES a much better value, since the Jag isn't satisfying and the resale is awful. Compare the Cadillac CTS 3.6L, and the prices are similar but the car is not up to the ES's standard. An Infiniti M35 w/ Journey Pkg +Nav is MSRP $46.3, TMV $44.7. I preferred the ES. Many people like the similarly spec'd BMW 330i for MSRP $44.3, TMV $42.3. To me it is not comfortable and the electronics are old. There is no value to me in accepting that.

    I'm sure your list of what is of value is different from mine, and many others. That doesn't make your list right and mine wrong. I'm glad you like the Avalon. It's a very good car. But to me there is no value in extra space I don't use. There is value in little pampering things, and the feel of quietness and isolation. Yes, if what I enjoy is a feeling, then there is value in feeling! (BMW fans like the steering feel, so they place value in that.)

    Your post restricts "value" to some very small list of things. I think you are being very narrow minded there. And, having looked at so many other vehicles and carefully weighed the value of the features of those cars to me before selecting the ES350, I do consider myself a fairly "savvy" buyer!

    Sorry about the length of the reply. It seemed called for.
  • gohawaiiangohawaiian Honolulu, HawaiiPosts: 84
    I agree with you that value is subjective and as I said (in Message #10), to each his own. But you yourself have stated (in Message #4) that you feel value is clearly better in the Avalon. That was my central point in comparing the Av Ltd. and the ES 350. I'm certainly not impugning your judgement since I agree with your statement regarding the Avalon's superior value! :)
  • maximafanmaximafan Posts: 592
    Well said! I couldn't agree more. A lot
    of your opinions on the pros and cons of the
    various cars named is right on. I also have
    lots of pros and cons of the various cars that
    I'm looking at for my next car when my lease
    is up. Although Lexus vehicles in general do
    tend to get pretty pricey when you start
    adding in option packages, I think the 2007
    ES has really become a great value.

    I now see the 2007 ES as being a car that
    can run anywhere from, what, 33k up to 40k
    with either the basic stadard options, which
    aren't too shabby, or the optioned-out Ultra
    Lux option. You're also getting a longer
    warranty, not to mention A+ treatment from
    a Lexus dealership. Yes, some of the other
    cars I'm interested in cost somewhat less
    and maybe have just as many options or more
    options than the ES (Acura TL comes to mind)
    But here in Tampa, I haven't heard very many
    positive things about the only dealership
    in Tampa for an Acura. That's weighing
    heavily with me.

    So, yes, "Value" is highly subjective!
  • rocketdanrocketdan Posts: 28
    Aha! Another classic case of "we have met the enemy and they is us." I should have been more precise in using "value" in my first post. I really should have said "valuation" as in one of the term's meanings of "market valuation. " The Avalon is in a different valuation class (lower price class.)

    Peace. If you have or get the new Avalon, I hope you are as happy with it as I have been with my '97 Av. In 148K miles, I haven't even replaced the brake pads!
  • rocketdanrocketdan Posts: 28

    I think the ES with UL and additional options ranges up to about $44K, but a good Premium+ w/ nav, HID/AFS and other options lists <$41K.

    If you are serious about the ES and you are in the Tampa area, I would suggest that you talk to Lexus of Sarasota. I am also in the Tampa area and although I had pleasant experiences with both Clearwater and Tampa dealers, I ended up buying at Sarasota. I'm so happy, I just heard my car is in and I will pick it up Saturday! (Only 3 weeks wait.)

    I'll be driving...anywhere...for this holiday weekend!
  • maximafanmaximafan Posts: 592
    Thanks for the advice, Rocketdan. I have
    heard some very positive things reading the
    Lexus boards on Edmunds with regard to Lexus
    of Sarasota, particularly with regard to
    negotiating a fair deal. I will definitely
    keep Lexus of Sarasota open as an option if
    I decide to spring for the ES. The RX350
    is also a vehicle of interest for me. It
    seems that Lexus is offering some pretty
    decent deals on the RX. So this will give
    me some extra things to consider. Thanks!
  • gladiator99gladiator99 Posts: 104
    Hi zekeman!
    As I understand both the Avalon and the ES 350 use the same 3.5 V6 however the Avalon recommends regular fuel while the ES 350 recommends premium. The horsepower and torque are very close. Is the compression ratio higher in the ES 350 or is the recommendation to use premium just for better performance. I have not driven the ES yet but I do own the 05 Avalon and the performance is great with regular (87 octane) fuel. I am considering moving into the ES sometime but I will have to go to another city nearby because we don't have a Lexus dealer here. I hope to get to drive one later this summer.
    Take care!
  • zekeman1zekeman1 Posts: 422
    Is the compression ratio higher in the ES 350 or is the recommendation to use premium just for better performance.

    Honestly, I haven't got a clue. The performance of both have been gas mileage is approaching 26 mpg in city/highway driving and I'm consistenly at-the-speed-limit on highway driving due to too many greeting cards from the highway patrol. All I know is the car zooms :) when I want it to and I get very acceptable mpg.

    When you do get to drive one, hopefully you'll be pleased -I definitely am!
  • dingchavezdingchavez Posts: 19
    Thanks for the great read. The Avalon in my oppinion is a better car than the ES350. The body is gracious, commanding and demands respect as far as a premium sedan. FWD or not this is a great vehicled for the price..
  • gladiator99gladiator99 Posts: 104
    Hi zekeman!
    Do you use regular or premium grade fuel?? What does your owners manual recommend for the ES 350?
  • zekeman1zekeman1 Posts: 422
    I use regular. My manual recommends premium just like all the rest of the 350's; I mentioned to the service manager at my dealer and he said I might get less "performance", whatever that equates to. I see no difference from the first tank which the dealer provided - assume it was premium. As I said in a previous posting, I feel I get good mileage and acceleration, so don't really give it a second thought.
  • gohawaiiangohawaiian Honolulu, HawaiiPosts: 84
    That was a good choice of words to describe the Avalon! I agree that the Avalon seems to have more "presence", maybe because of its larger size and/or more formal roofline, than the ES 350. The two cars weigh about the same, yet to me, the Avalon looks heavier and more solid, and therefore more imposing.
  • gohawaiiangohawaiian Honolulu, HawaiiPosts: 84
    I happened to spot something that might be of interest to those who have been following this comparison of the Avalon Limited vs Lexus ES 350: The Edmunds Road Test of the ES 350 recorded a sound level of 67.5 decibels @ 70 mph. The 2005 Avalon Limited, one of several cars tested in Edmunds' Comparison Road Test of Full Size Sedans, recorded 66 decibels @ 70 mph. Will this news leave Lexus fans even quieter than their "fairly" quiet cars? (just a friendly joke :D )
  • zekeman1zekeman1 Posts: 422
    Yeah, but were the tests done on smooth roads with the same tires???? I mean, 1.5 db means alot to some analytic folks who peruse these boards!!! :):):)
  • richbf2richbf2 Posts: 73
    I appreciate for taking time out to give such an extensive & detail comparison. It is very informative.
    Another aspect that you have to take into consideration is that people buy Lex. over T. b/c of the Name. It is all about status! One has to have $$$ to afford a Lex. Now, if he or she has money then big discount or not would not be an issue. Right? Anyway, i am keeping your comp. of the 2 vehicles for future ref. :) thanks
  • neil5neil5 Posts: 118
    I have scanned the Lexus IS 350/250 site and many complaints about squeaks and gearing, clutch issues. Seems like they are not immune
  • neil5neil5 Posts: 118
    Just came from Lexus dealer and sat in 07 ES350, best feature compared to my 06 Limited were the seats! I liked the side support and feel. Otherwise the Limited has as much or more. The model I sat in had no NAV/BU cam and was 44k. Wheel rims were not to my liking. My car is definetly bigger, more robust. Really better value and buy for the dollar...I am not disappointed.
  • I purchased my ES 350 about 6 weeks ago and it has been great! Although I have have been talking about buying a new Avalon for years, I have been waiting for a better looking model to come out. However, after driving behind a new Avalon for nearly an hour drive with my 14 year old son to his soccer game a couple of months ago, he voiced what I was thinking when he said that the Avalon is still "one ugly looking car." Today, when I picked him up from a golf camp, he told me that my ES 350 has a great look to it. At least for me, the Avalon has yet to get its design right. Once they do, I will seriously consider buying it.
  • We just bought our ES350 for my wife. We had compared the ES with Avalon before making the decision. Totally agree that the Avalon has some catching up in exterior design to come close to competing with the ES. It didn't take my wife too long to decide that the ES is what she wanted to drive home in.
  • vluuvluu Posts: 100
    The 2 cars that I have seriously considered to buy are the 06 Avalon and the 07 ES350. I have to say both cars have the bells and whistles, plus both are reliable. However, it seems to be that 90% of the Avalon owners/drivers are grandpa and grandma. Hope this doesn't offend anyone? I'm in my mid thirties and that's one of the reason I'm planning to go with the ES350 over the Avalon. I feel like I would fall into that stereotype owner. Anyone else feel this way?
  • nimiminimimi Posts: 249
    The ES looks quite similar to the Avalon, albeit a bit slower. And I hope your sensibilities won't be crushed when a series of geezers in their Avalons leaves your ES in dust off the line.
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