Not-Quite-Identical Cousin: The 2015 Lexus ES350

Side view of 2015 Lexus ES350
The 2015 Lexus ES350.
More than half a century ago, there was a weekly TV sitcom called "The Patty Duke Show".  Patty Duke, then in her teens, played identical cousins, one American and one British.  As the theme song went, "they laugh alike, they walk alike, at times they even talk alike".  Casting was a breeze, since both roles were played by the same actress.

Which, hot on the heels of our review of the 2015 Toyota Avalon Limited, brings us to its not-quite identical cousin, the 2015 Lexus ES350.

Rear 3/4 view of 2015 Lexus ES350
2015 Lexus ES350.
Park them side-by-side and you would d be hard pressed, apart from the badging, to tell them apart. The ES350 is based on the Avalon platform, stepping up from its more prosaic Camry roots prior to the 2013 model year.

Pricing is roughly the same. In fact, the base price of the ES350 is $2,430 less than the top-of-the-line Avalon Limited.  The engine, a 268-horsepower 3.5-liter V6, is the same, as is the EPA fuel economy estimate of 21 city/31 highway.  The standard equipment list (click here) is lengthy. It is in the details that the ES350 and the Avalon step apart from each other.

2015 Lexus ES350 interior view
2015 Lexus ES350 interior.
Those details are most pronounced on the inside, where the ES simply does away with the Toyota interior and puts premium materials and feature after feature directly in your face where you are unlikely to miss it.  Our test vehicle also had upgraded 18-inch wheels with liquid graphite finish ($880), heated and ventilated front seats ($640), a hard disk drive navigation system with backup camera, 8-inch VGA screen, voice command, and the Lexus Enform app suite ($1,795) and the Premium Package with memory driver's seat, outside mirrors and power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, remote keyless entry-linked memory and Espresso birds-eye maple trim ($730), wood and leather-trimmed shift knob and steering wheel ($330).

Put that together with $925 delivery, processing and handling fee and the as-tested price came to $42,850.  That's only $955 more than the as-tested price of the Avalon Limited.  On paper, one would think it was no contest, but...

The Avalon's interior doesn't photograph as well as the ES350's, but I found it easier to live with.  Fewer buttons, fewer distractions.  I liked the layout better.  Ultimately, it just seemed less fussy to me. You may prefer the ES350.  The good news is that both are excellent sedans, both equally powerful and reliable. It's hard to lose.