2020 Nissan Altima vs. 2019 Lexus ES Series

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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In the past twenty years hundreds of infants and young children have died after being left in vehicles, usually by accident. When turning the vehicle off, drivers of the Altima are reminded to check the back seat if they opened the rear door before starting out. The ES Series doesn’t offer a back seat reminder.

Over 200 people are killed each year when backed over by motor vehicles. The Altima SV/SL/Platinum has standard Rear Automatic Braking that uses rear sensors to monitor and automatically apply the brakes to prevent a rear collision. The ES Series doesn’t offer backup collision prevention brakes.

The Altima offers all-wheel drive to maximize traction under poor conditions, especially in ice and snow. The ES Series doesn’t offer all-wheel drive.

To help make backing safer, the Altima’s optional cross-path warning system uses wide-angle radar in the rear bumper to alert the driver to vehicles approaching from the side, helping the driver avoid collisions. The ES Series doesn’t offer a cross-path warning system.

The Altima’s 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 ES Series doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.

Both the Altima and the ES Series have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, height adjustable front shoulder belts, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, crash mitigating brakes, rearview cameras, available daytime running lights, lane departure warning systems, blind spot warning systems and around view monitors.


There are almost 5 times as many Nissan dealers as there are Lexus dealers, which makes it much easier should you ever need service under the Altima’s warranty.


J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that Nissan vehicles are better in initial quality than Lexus vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Nissan 7th in initial quality, above the industry average. With 4 more problems per 100 vehicles, Lexus is ranked 8th.


The Altima’s optional 2.0 turbo 4 cyl. produces 6 lbs.-ft. more torque (273 vs. 267) than the ES 350’s optional 3.5 DOHC V6.

As tested in Motor Trend the Nissan Altima 2.4 4-cylinder is faster than the ES 300h:


ES Series

Zero to 60 MPH

7.4 sec

7.8 sec

Quarter Mile

15.7 sec

16 sec

Fuel Economy and Range

On the EPA test cycle the Altima gets better fuel mileage than the ES Series:




S/SV/SL 2.5 DOHC 4-cyl.

28 city/39 hwy

SR/Platinum 2.5 DOHC 4-cyl.

27 city/37 hwy

2.0 turbo 4 cyl.

25 city/34 hwy


S/SV/SL 2.5 DOHC 4-cyl.

26 city/36 hwy

SR/Platinum 2.5 DOHC 4-cyl.

25 city/35 hwy

ES Series


3.5 DOHC V6

22 city/33 hwy

F Sport 3.5 DOHC V6

22 city/31 hwy

Regardless of its engine, the Altima’s engine automatically turns off when the vehicle is stopped, saving fuel and reducing pollution. (Start/Stop isn’t accounted in present EPA fuel mileage tests.) Lexus only offers an automatic engine start/stop system on the ES Series Hybrid.

The Altima AWD’s standard fuel tank has 2.8 gallons more fuel capacity than the ES Series Hybrid’s standard fuel tank (16 vs. 13.2 gallons), for longer range between fill-ups.

Environmental Friendliness

In its Green Vehicle Guide, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates the Nissan Altima higher (7 out of 10) than the Lexus ES Series (5 to 7). This means the Altima produces up to 8 pounds less smog-producing pollutants than the ES Series every 15,000 miles.

Brakes and Stopping

The Altima stops much shorter than the ES Series:


ES Series

60 to 0 MPH

118 feet

140 feet

Motor Trend

Tires and Wheels

The Altima has a standard easy tire fill system. When inflating the tires, the vehicle’s integrated tire pressure sensors keep track of the pressure as the tires fill and tell the driver when the tires are inflated to the proper pressure. The ES Series doesn’t offer vehicle monitored tire inflation.

Suspension and Handling

The Altima SR handles at .89 G’s, while the ES 300h pulls only .78 G’s of cornering force in a Motor Trend skidpad test.

The Altima Platinum executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver 2.1 seconds quicker than the ES 300h (26.3 seconds @ .68 average G’s vs. 28.4 seconds @ .6 average G’s).

For better maneuverability, the Altima S’ turning circle is 1.9 feet tighter than the ES Series’ (36.1 feet vs. 38 feet). The Altima SR/SV/SL/Platinum’s turning circle is 1.4 feet tighter than the ES Series w/18-19” wheels’ (37.4 feet vs. 38.8 feet).


The Nissan Altima may be more efficient, handle and accelerate better because it weighs about 250 to 450 pounds less than the Lexus ES Series.

The Altima is 3 inches shorter than the ES Series, making the Altima easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.

The design of the Nissan Altima amounts to more than styling. The Altima has an aerodynamic coefficient of drag of .26 Cd. That is lower than the ES Series (.26 to .29) and many sports cars. A more efficient exterior helps keep the interior quieter and helps the Altima get better fuel mileage.

The front grille of the Altima uses electronically controlled shutters to close off airflow and reduce drag when less engine cooling is needed. This helps improve highway fuel economy. The ES Series doesn’t offer active grille shutters.

Passenger Space

The Altima has 1.7 inches more front headroom, 1.4 inches more front legroom, 2.3 inches more front shoulder room, .2 inches more rear hip room and 2.8 inches more rear shoulder room than the ES Series.

Cargo Capacity

The Altima’s standard rear seats fold to accommodate long and bulky cargo. The ES Series doesn’t offer folding rear seats.

Servicing Ease

A maintenance reminder system is standard on the Altima to save the owner time and money by calculating maintenance intervals for oil changes and tire rotation based on odometer mileage. This takes the guesswork out of keeping your vehicle in top condition and helps it last longer. Lexus doesn’t offer a maintenance reminder on the ES Series.


The Altima has a standard remote vehicle starting system, so the vehicle can be started from inside the driver's house. This allows the driver to comfortably warm up the engine before going out to the vehicle. The climate system will also automatically heat or cool the interior. The ES Series doesn’t offer a remote starting system.

The Altima’s speed-sensitive wipers speed up when the vehicle does, so that the driver doesn’t have to continually adjust the speed of the wipers. The ES Series’ standard manually variable intermittent wipers have to be constantly adjusted.

Consumer Reports rated the Altima’s headlight performance “Good,” a higher rating than the ES Series’ headlights, which were rated “Fair.”

Economic Advantages

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Altima is less expensive to operate than the ES Series because typical repairs cost much less on the Altima than the ES Series, including $140 less for a water pump, $109 less for a muffler, $2 less for front brake pads, $212 less for a starter, $96 less for fuel injection, $67 less for a fuel pump, $221 less for front struts, $871 less for a timing belt/chain and $729 less for a power steering pump.


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

The Altima was chosen as one of Automobile Magazine’s “All Stars” in 2019. The ES Series has never been an “All Star.”

The Nissan Altima outsold the Lexus ES Series by over four to one during 2018.

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

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