2020 Lexus ES Series vs. 2019 Volkswagen Jetta

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

© 1999 - 2019 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved. This vehicle comparison and all of the content in it are provided only by license from Advanta-STAR Automotive Research Corporation of America. If you are not a legally licensed user of this vehicle comparison, it is against federal law to access it, copy it, forward it or use it in any manner whatsoever. Any unauthorized use of this vehicle comparison is a violation of U.S. and international law and is punishable criminally and civilly. 6IUEX-0KENZ 45.55.47.189 2019/10/21

For enhanced safety, the front and rear seat shoulder belts of the Lexus ES Series have pretensioners to tighten the seatbelts and eliminate dangerous slack in the event of a collision and force limiters to limit the pressure the belts will exert on the passengers. The Volkswagen Jetta doesn’t offer pretensioners for the rear seat belts.

Over 200 people are killed each year when backed over by motor vehicles. The ES Series offers optional Intuitive Parking Assist with Auto Braking that uses rear sensors to monitor and automatically apply the brakes to prevent a rear collision. The Jetta doesn’t offer backup collision prevention brakes.

The ES Series’ lane departure warning system alerts a temporarily inattentive driver when the vehicle begins to leave its lane and gently nudges the vehicle back towards its lane. The Jetta doesn’t offer a lane departure warning system.

The ES Series offers an optional Panoramic View Camera to allow the driver to see objects all around the vehicle on a screen. The Jetta only offers a rear monitor.

The ES Series’ driver alert monitor detects an inattentive driver then sounds a warning and suggests a break. According to the NHTSA, drivers who fall asleep cause about 100,000 crashes and 1500 deaths a year. The Jetta doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.

Both the ES Series and the Jetta have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, front wheel drive, height adjustable front shoulder belts, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, post-collision automatic braking systems, daytime running lights, rearview cameras, available blind spot warning systems and rear cross-path warning.

The Lexus ES Series weighs 690 to 816 pounds more than the Volkswagen Jetta. The NHTSA advises that heavier cars are much safer in collisions than their significantly lighter counterparts. Crosswinds also affect lighter cars more.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does 35 MPH front crash tests on new vehicles. In this test, results indicate that the Lexus ES Series is safer than the Volkswagen Jetta:

ES Series

Jetta

Driver

STARS

5 Stars

4 Stars

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.

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 46 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The Jetta was last qualified as only a standard “Top Pick” in 2017.

Reliability

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A hardened steel chain, with no maintenance needs, drives the camshafts in the ES Series’ engine. A rubber cam drive belt that needs periodic replacement drives the Jetta’s camshafts. If the Jetta’s belt breaks, the engine could be severely damaged when the pistons hit the opened valves.

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 20 points higher than the Jetta.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that Lexus vehicles are better in initial quality than Volkswagen vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Lexus 8th in initial quality, above the industry average. With 23 more problems per 100 vehicles, Volkswagen is ranked 25th, below the industry average.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that Lexus vehicles are more reliable than Volkswagen vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Lexus first in reliability, above the industry average. With 25 more problems per 100 vehicles, Volkswagen is ranked 12th.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2018 Auto Issue reports that Lexus vehicles are more reliable than Volkswagen vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Lexus first in reliability. Volkswagen is ranked 16th.

Engine

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The ES 300h’s standard 2.5 DOHC 4-cylinder hybrid produces 68 more horsepower (215 vs. 147) than the Jetta’s 1.4 turbo 4-cylinder. The ES 350’s standard 3.5 DOHC V6 produces 155 more horsepower (302 vs. 147) and 83 lbs.-ft. more torque (267 vs. 184) than the Jetta’s 1.4 turbo 4-cylinder.

As tested in Consumer Reports the ES 350 is faster than the Volkswagen Jetta (automatics tested):

ES Series

Jetta

Zero to 30 MPH

3 sec

3.6 sec

Zero to 60 MPH

6.9 sec

9 sec

45 to 65 MPH Passing

4.2 sec

5.5 sec

Quarter Mile

15.4 sec

17 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

97 MPH

87 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range

© 1999 - 2019 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved. This vehicle comparison and all of the content in it are provided only by license from Advanta-STAR Automotive Research Corporation of America. If you are not a legally licensed user of this vehicle comparison, it is against federal law to access it, copy it, forward it or use it in any manner whatsoever. Any unauthorized use of this vehicle comparison is a violation of U.S. and international law and is punishable criminally and civilly. 6IUEX-0KENZ 45.55.47.189 2019/10/21

On the EPA test cycle the ES 300h gets better fuel mileage than the Jetta (43 city/44 hwy vs. 30 city/40 hwy).

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

The ES Series’ standard fuel tank has 2.7 gallons more fuel capacity than the Jetta (15.9 vs. 13.2 gallons).

Transmission

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The Lexus ES Series comes standard with an automatic transmission, for driver comfort, especially in the city. Automatic costs extra on the Jetta.

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 Jetta doesn’t offer a CVT.

To facilitate fast shifting and allow the driver to focus on the road, the ES Series F Sport has a standard up-shift light to indicate when the engine is approaching redline. The Jetta doesn’t offer an up-shift light.

Brakes and Stopping

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For better stopping power the ES Series’ brake rotors are larger than those on the Jetta:

ES Series

Jetta

Front Rotors

12 inches

11.5 inches

Rear Rotors

11.1 inches

10.8 inches

The ES Series stops shorter than the Jetta:

ES Series

Jetta

60 to 0 MPH

132 feet

135 feet

Consumer Reports

Tires and Wheels

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For better traction, the ES Series has larger standard tires than the Jetta (215/55R17 vs. 205/60R16). The ES Series’ optional tires are larger than the largest tires available on the Jetta (235/45R18 vs. 205/60R16).

The ES Series’ standard tires provide better handling because they have a lower 55 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the Jetta’s standard 60 series tires. The ES Series’ optional tires have a lower 40 series profile than the Jetta R-Line/SEL Premium’s 55 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the ES Series has standard 17-inch wheels. Smaller 16-inch wheels are standard on the Jetta. The ES Series’ optional 19-inch wheels are larger than the 17-inch wheels on the Jetta R-Line/SEL Premium.

Suspension and Handling

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For superior ride and handling, the Lexus ES Series has fully independent front and rear suspensions. An independent suspension allows the wheels to follow the road at the best angle for gripping the pavement, without compromising ride comfort. The Volkswagen Jetta has a rear torsion beam axle, with a semi-independent rear suspension.

The ES Series has standard front and rear stabilizer bars, which help keep the ES Series flat and controlled during cornering. The Jetta’s suspension doesn’t offer a rear stabilizer bar.

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 Jetta’s suspension doesn’t offer adjustable shock absorbers.

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the ES Series’ wheelbase is 7.3 inches longer than on the Jetta (113 inches vs. 105.7 inches).

For better handling and stability, the average track (width between the wheels) on the ES Series is 2 inches wider in the front and 2.8 inches wider in the rear than the track on the Jetta.

Chassis

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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 Jetta doesn’t offer active noise cancellation.

Passenger Space

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

The ES Series has 5.2 cubic feet more passenger volume than the Jetta (99.9 vs. 94.7).

The ES Series has 1.3 inches more front legroom, .6 inches more rear headroom, 1.8 inches more rear legroom and .3 inches more rear shoulder room than the Jetta.

Cargo Capacity

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The ES Series has a much larger trunk than the Jetta (16.7 vs. 14.1 cubic feet).

With its sedan body style, valet key and remote trunk release lockout, the ES Series offers cargo security. The Jetta’s non-lockable remote release defeats cargo security.

A standard locking glovebox (which can’t be accessed with the valet key) keeps your small valuables safer in the ES Series. The Jetta doesn’t offer locking storage for small valuables.

To make loading and unloading groceries and cargo easier when your hands are full, the ES Series’ power trunk can be opened or closed just by kicking your foot under the back bumper, leaving your hands completely free. The Jetta doesn’t offer a power or hands-free opening trunk.

Servicing Ease

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The ES Series uses gas struts to support the hood for easier service access. The Jetta uses a prop rod to support its heavy hood. It takes two hands to open the hood and set the prop rod, the prop rod gets in the way during maintenance and service, and the prop rod could be knocked out, causing the heavy hood to fall on the person maintaining or servicing the car.

J.D. Power and Associates surveys of service recipients show that Lexus service is better than Volkswagen. J.D. Power ranks Lexus second in service department satisfaction. With a 50% lower rating, Volkswagen is ranked 18th.

Ergonomics

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The ES Series offers an optional heads-up display that projects speed and other key instrumentation readouts in front of the driver’s line of sight, allowing drivers to view information without diverting their eyes from the road. The Jetta doesn’t offer a heads-up display.

If the windows are left open on the ES Series the driver can close them all at the outside door handle. On a hot day the driver can lower the windows at the outside door handle or from a distance using the keyless remote. (Your Lexus service department must activate this window function.) The driver of the Jetta can’t use the remote to operate the windows.

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 Jetta’s headlights are rated “Marginal” to “Poor.”

The Jetta R-Line/SEL Premium’s cornering lamps activate a lamp on the front corner when the turn signal is activated. The ES Series’ optional adaptive cornering lights turn the actual headlight unit up to several degrees, depending on steering wheel angle and vehicle speed. This lights a significant distance into corners at any speed.

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

The ES Series’ standard outside mirrors include heating elements to clear off the mirrors for better visibility. Volkswagen charges extra for heated mirrors on the Jetta.

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 Jetta’s mirrors don’t automatically adjust for backing.

The ES Series has standard automatic dimming rear and side view mirrors which automatically darken quickly when headlights shine on them, keeping following vehicles from blinding or distracting the driver. The Jetta offers an automatic rear view mirror, but its side mirrors don’t dim.

The ES Series has a standard dual zone air conditioning allows the driver and front passenger to choose two completely different temperatures so people with different temperature preferences won’t have to compromise. This makes both the driver and front passenger as comfortable as possible. Dual zone air conditioning is only available on the Jetta SE/R-Line/SEL/SEL Premium.

Both the ES Series and the Jetta offer rear vents. For greater rear passenger comfort, the ES Series has standard rear air conditioning vents to keep rear occupants cool in summer or warm in winter. The Jetta doesn’t offer rear air conditioning vents, only heat vents.

To quickly and conveniently keep personal devices charged without cables tangling and wearing out, the Lexus ES Series offers an optional wireless phone charging system (Qi) in the center console. The Jetta doesn’t offer wireless personal charging.

Economic Advantages

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Insurance will cost less for the ES Series owner. The Car Book by Jack Gillis rates the ES Series with a number “1” insurance rate while the Jetta is rated higher at a number “3” rate.

The ES Series will cost the buyer less in the long run because of its superior resale value. The IntelliChoice estimates that the ES Series will retain 48.23% to 49.19% of its original price after five years, while the Jetta only retains 42.99% to 45.75%.

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the ES Series is less expensive to operate than the Jetta because it costs $54 less to do the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance for 50,000 miles. Typical repairs cost much less on the ES Series than the Jetta, including $286 less for a water pump, $217 less for a muffler, $151 less for a starter, $4 less for fuel injection and $80 less for a fuel pump.

Recommendations

© 1999 - 2019 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved. This vehicle comparison and all of the content in it are provided only by license from Advanta-STAR Automotive Research Corporation of America. If you are not a legally licensed user of this vehicle comparison, it is against federal law to access it, copy it, forward it or use it in any manner whatsoever. Any unauthorized use of this vehicle comparison is a violation of U.S. and international law and is punishable criminally and civilly. 6IUEX-0KENZ 45.55.47.189 2019/10/21

Consumer Reports® recommends both the Lexus ES Series and the Volkswagen Jetta, based on reliability, safety and performance.

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

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