2019 Lexus ES Series vs. 2019 Audi A3 Sedan

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

The ES Series offers an optional Panoramic View Camera to allow the driver to see objects all around the vehicle on a screen. The A3 Sedan only offers a rear monitor and front and rear parking sensors that beep or flash a light. That doesn’t help with obstacles to the sides.

The ES Series has standard Safety Connect®, which uses a global positioning satellite (GPS) receiver and a cellular system to help track down your vehicle if it’s stolen or send emergency personnel to the scene if any airbags deploy. The A3 Sedan doesn’t offer a GPS response system, only a navigation computer with no live response for emergencies, so if you’re involved in an accident and you’re incapacitated help may not come as quickly.

Both the ES Series and the A3 Sedan have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front wheel drive, height adjustable front shoulder belts, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, crash mitigating brakes, daytime running lights, rearview cameras and available blind spot warning systems.

For its top level performance in IIHS driver and passenger-side small overlap frontal, moderate overlap frontal, side impact, roof strength and head restraint tests, its standard front crash prevention system, and its headlight’s “Good” rating, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety grants the ES Series its highest rating: “Top Pick Plus” for 2019, a rating granted to only 36 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The A3 Sedan has not been fully tested, yet.

Warranty

Lexus’ powertrain warranty covers the ES Series 2 years and 20,000 miles longer than Audi covers the A3 Sedan. Any repair needed on the engine, transmission, axles, joints or driveshafts is fully covered for 6 years or 70,000 miles. Coverage on the A3 Sedan ends after only 4 years or 50,000 miles.

Reliability

A reliable vehicle saves its owner time, money and trouble. Nobody wants to be stranded or have to be without a vehicle while it’s being repaired. Consumer Reports rates the ES Series’ reliability 25 points higher than the A3 Sedan.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2018 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that Lexus vehicles are better in initial quality than Audi vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Lexus 8th in initial quality, above the industry average. With 21 more problems per 100 vehicles, Audi is ranked 25th, below the industry average.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2018 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that Lexus vehicles are more reliable than Audi vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Lexus first in reliability, above the industry average. With 42 more problems per 100 vehicles, Audi is ranked 13th.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2018 Auto Issue reports that Lexus vehicles are more reliable than Audi vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Lexus first in reliability. Audi is ranked 7th.

Engine

The ES 300h’s standard 2.5 DOHC 4 cyl. hybrid produces 31 more horsepower (215 vs. 184) than the A3 Sedan 40 TSFI’s standard 2.0 turbo 4 cyl. The ES 350’s standard 3.5 DOHC V6 produces 74 more horsepower (302 vs. 228) and 9 lbs.-ft. more torque (267 vs. 258) than the A3 Sedan 45 TSFI’s optional 2.0 turbo 4 cyl.

Fuel Economy and Range

On the EPA test cycle the ES 300h gets better fuel mileage than the A3 Sedan 40 TSFI (43 city/45 hwy vs. 26 city/35 hwy).

Regenerative brakes improve the ES Series Hybrid’s fuel efficiency by converting inertia back into energy instead of wasting it. The A3 Sedan doesn’t offer a regenerative braking system.

In heavy traffic or at stoplights the ES Series Hybrid’s engine automatically turns off when the vehicle is stopped, saving fuel and reducing pollution. The engine is automatically restarted when the driver gets ready to move again. (Start/Stop isn’t accounted in present EPA fuel mileage tests.) The A3 Sedan doesn’t offer an automatic engine start/stop system.

To lower fuel costs and make buying fuel easier, the Lexus ES Series uses regular unleaded gasoline. The A3 Sedan 45 TSFI requires premium for maximum efficiency, which can cost 20 to 55 cents more per gallon.

The ES Series’ standard fuel tank has 1.4 gallons more fuel capacity than the A3 Sedan 45 TFSI Quattro’s standard fuel tank (15.9 vs. 14.5 gallons).

Transmission

An eight-speed automatic is standard on the Lexus ES Series, for better acceleration and lower engine speed on the highway. Only a seven-speed automatic is available for the A3 Sedan.

The ES 300h has a standard continuously variable transmission (CVT). With no “steps” between gears, it can keep the engine at the most efficient speed for fuel economy, or keep it at its peak horsepower indefinitely for maximum acceleration. The A3 Sedan doesn’t offer a CVT.

Suspension and Handling

The ES Series offers an available driver-adjustable suspension system. It allows the driver to choose between an extra-supple ride, reducing fatigue on long trips, or a sport setting, which allows maximum control for tricky roads. The A3 Sedan’s suspension doesn’t offer adjustable shock absorbers.

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the ES Series’ wheelbase is 9.2 inches longer than on the A3 Sedan (113 inches vs. 103.8 inches).

For better handling and stability, the track (width between the wheels) on the ES Series is 1.7 inches wider in the front and 3.3 inches wider in the rear than on the A3 Sedan.

Chassis

The ES Series F Sport uses computer-generated active noise cancellation to help remove annoying noise and vibration from the passenger compartment, especially at low frequencies. The A3 Sedan doesn’t offer active noise cancellation.

Passenger Space

Because it has more passenger and cargo room, the EPA rates the ES Series a Mid-size car, while the A3 Sedan is rated a Subcompact.

The ES Series has 13.9 cubic feet more passenger volume than the A3 Sedan (99.9 vs. 86).

The ES Series has 1 inch more front headroom, 1.2 inches more front legroom, 1.1 inches more front shoulder room, 1.7 inches more rear headroom, 4.1 inches more rear legroom and 1.3 inches more rear shoulder room than the A3 Sedan.

Cargo Capacity

The ES Series has a much larger trunk than the A3 Sedan (16.7 vs. 12.3 cubic feet).

To make loading groceries and cargo easier when your hands are full, just kicking your foot under the back bumper can open the ES Series’ available trunk, leaving your hands completely free. The A3 Sedan doesn’t offer a hands-free gesture to open its trunk, forcing you to put cargo down if your hands are full.

Ergonomics

When three different drivers share the ES Series, the optional memory system makes it convenient for all three. Each keyless remote activates different, customized memories for the driver’s seat position, steering wheel position and outside mirror angle. The A3 Sedan doesn’t offer a memory system.

The ES Series’ optional easy entry system raises the steering wheel and glides the driver’s seat back when the door is unlocked or the ignition is switched off, making it easier for the driver to get in and out. The A3 Sedan doesn’t offer an easy entry system.

Smart Access standard on the ES Series allows you to unlock the driver’s door, trunk and start the engine all without removing a key from pocket or purse. This eliminates searching for keys before loading groceries, getting in the vehicle in bad weather or making a hurried start to your trip. The Audi A3 Sedan’s available Audi Advanced Key doesn’t unlock the trunk.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) conducts detailed tests on headlights for their range both straight ahead and in curves and to be certain they don’t exceed acceptable amounts of glare to oncoming drivers. The ES Series’ headlights were rated “Good” to “Acceptable” by the IIHS, while the A3 Sedan’s headlights are rated “Acceptable” to “Poor.”

To help drivers see further while navigating curves, the ES Series offers optional adaptive headlights to illuminate around corners automatically by reading vehicle speed and steering wheel angle. The A3 Sedan doesn’t offer cornering lights.

A power rear sunshade is optional in the ES Series to help block heat and glare for the rear passengers. The A3 Sedan doesn’t offer a rear sunshade.

When the ES Series with available tilt-down mirrors is put in reverse, both rearview mirrors tilt from their original position. This gives the driver a better view of the curb during parallel parking maneuvers. Shifting out of reverse puts the mirrors into their original positions. The A3 Sedan’s mirrors don’t automatically adjust for backing.

Optional air-conditioned seats in the ES Series keep the driver and front passenger comfortable and take the sting out of hot seats in summer. The A3 Sedan doesn’t offer air-conditioned seats.

On extremely cold winter days, the ES Series’ optional heated steering wheel provides comfort, allowing the driver to steer safely and comfortably before the car heater warms up. The A3 Sedan doesn’t offer a heated steering wheel.

Recommendations

Consumer Reports® recommends both the Lexus ES Series and the Audi A3 Sedan, based on reliability, safety and performance.

The Lexus ES Series outsold the Audi A3/S3 by almost three to one during 2018.

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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