2020 Lexus ES Series vs. 2019 Volkswagen Passat

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 Passat doesn’t offer pretensioners for the rear seat belts.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tests front crash prevention systems. With a score of 6 points, IIHS rates the Pre-Collision System in the ES Series as “Superior.” The Passat scores only 3 points and is rated only “Advanced.”

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 Passat doesn’t offer backup collision prevention brakes.

The ES Series offers an optional Panoramic View Camera to allow the driver to see objects all around the vehicle on a screen. The Passat 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’ 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 Passat doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.

Both the ES Series and the Passat 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, crash mitigating brakes, post-collision automatic braking systems, daytime running lights, rearview cameras, available blind spot warning systems and rear cross-path warning.

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 Passat:

ES Series

Passat

Driver

STARS

5 Stars

4 Stars

HIC

120

312

Neck Injury Risk

24%

39%

Neck Stress

239 lbs.

391 lbs.

Neck Compression

30 lbs.

47 lbs.

Passenger

STARS

4 Stars

4 Stars

HIC

319

384

Chest Compression

.8 inches

.8 inches

Neck Injury Risk

33%

41%

Neck Stress

159 lbs.

297 lbs.

Neck Compression

62 lbs.

85 lbs.

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 Passat was last qualified as only a standard “Top Pick” in 2017.

Reliability

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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 41 more horsepower (215 vs. 174) than the Passat’s 2.0 turbo 4-cylinder. The ES 350’s standard 3.5 DOHC V6 produces 128 more horsepower (302 vs. 174) and 83 lbs.-ft. more torque (267 vs. 184) than the Passat’s 2.0 turbo 4-cylinder.

Fuel Economy and Range

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On the EPA test cycle the ES 300h gets better fuel mileage than the Passat (43 city/44 hwy vs. 25 city/36 hwy).

Regenerative brakes improve the ES Series Hybrid’s fuel efficiency by converting inertia back into energy instead of wasting it. The Passat 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 Passat doesn’t offer an automatic engine start/stop system.

Environmental Friendliness

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In its Green Vehicle Guide, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates the Lexus ES Series higher (5 to 7 out of 10) than the Volkswagen Passat (3 to 7). This means the ES Series produces up to 24.5 pounds less smog-producing pollutants than the Passat every 15,000 miles.

Transmission

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

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 Passat doesn’t offer a CVT.

Brakes and Stopping

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The ES Series stops shorter than the Passat:

ES Series

Passat

60 to 0 MPH

132 feet

136 feet

Consumer Reports

60 to 0 MPH (Wet)

139 feet

147 feet

Consumer Reports

Suspension and Handling

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

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the ES Series’ wheelbase is 2.6 inches longer than on the Passat (113 inches vs. 110.4 inches).

For better handling and stability, the average track (width between the wheels) on the ES Series is .6 inches wider in the front and 2.1 inches wider in the rear than the track on the Passat.

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 Passat doesn’t offer active noise cancellation.

Cargo Capacity

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The ES Series has a larger trunk than the Passat (16.7 vs. 15.9 cubic feet).

To make loading and unloading groceries and cargo easier, especially for short adults, the ES Series offers an optional power trunk, which opens and closes automatically by pressing a button or just by kicking your foot under the back bumper, completely leaving your hands free. The Passat doesn’t offer a power trunk, so its trunk has to be closed manually.

Servicing Ease

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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’ 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 Passat doesn’t offer an easy entry system.

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 Passat doesn’t offer a heads-up display.

The ES Series’ power parking brake sets with one touch and releases with one touch or automatically. The Passat has a lever-type parking brake that has to be strenuously raised to engage properly. It has to be lifted up more and a button depressed to release it.

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 Passat 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 Passat’s headlights are rated “Poor.”

While driving with high beams on, sensitive light sensors standard on the ES Series detect other vehicles which could be blinded and automatically switch to low beams. The Passat doesn’t offer automatic dimming high beams.

The Passat (except S/R-Line/GT)’s optional 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 Passat doesn’t offer a rear sunshade.

The ES Series’ standard outside mirrors include heating elements to clear off the mirrors for better visibility. Volkswagen only offers heated mirrors on the Passat SE R-Line.

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 Passat’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 Passat offers an automatic rear view mirror, but its side mirrors don’t dim.

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 Passat 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 Passat doesn’t offer a heated steering wheel.

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 Passat SE R-Line.

Both the ES Series and the Passat 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 Passat 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 Passat doesn’t offer wireless personal charging.

Economic Advantages

© 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

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 Passat only retains 33.69% to 34.46%.

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the ES Series is less expensive to operate than the Passat 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 Passat, including $61 less for a water pump, $211 less for a muffler, $204 less for a starter and $13 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 Passat, based on reliability, safety and performance.

The Lexus ES Series outsold the Volkswagen Passat by 17% during 2018.

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

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