Toyota Avalon gives richer Lexus cousin a run for the money –

It’s hard to miss the Toyota Avalon. It’s the sedan with the biggest grille on the planet.

How big is the Avalon’s kisser? On the car ferry across Seattle’s Puget Sound, two whale-watchers mistakenly identified it as a humpback whale. In the Seattle Seahawk stadium parking lot, two fans asked if they could cook brats on it. Parked next to a mega-grille Lexus RX350, you won’t notice the Lexus.

I get it. Mainstream sedans need to stand out in an SUV-dominated world, and the Avalon demands attention. It’s a strategy followed by Avalon’s close competitor, the VW Arteon sedan. Indeed, the stunning, all-wheel-drive Arteon gives a comparable Audi A6 a real run for its money. More affordable. More hatchback cargo room. More powerful turbo engine.

Speaking of intra-family squabbles, the Avalon demands attention next to its luxury sibling, Lexus. Because Avalon’s fancy face is just the beginning.

“You brought a Lexus,” said my son as I rolled up to his Seattle apartment for a Thanksgiving visit.

My $44,000 Toyota tester was certainly worthy of the Lexus badge. Except a comparably equipped, all-wheel-drive Lexus ES250 sedan costs $3,800 more. Buy the Toyota. Avalon matches the Lexus inside with caramel leather, leather-wrapped console, quilted leather door insets, sunroof and head-up display.

But it’s the ergonomics that seal the deal. Perched high on the dash, the tablet infotainment screen is operated by touch, a vast improvement over Lexus’ cursed, mouse pad-controlled system. Operating it will drive you to drink. Mrs.