The waffle has a much higher surface to mass ratio, leading to more "cooked" area, which is what changes the texture so much. Waffle batter also tends to be a bit sweeter, and has a more international flair. (Just ask the Belgians...but don't ask them at breakfast. Waffles are a dessert item, and I've gotten some dirty looks in the hotel asking after them in the morning.)
French Toast is, of course, a whole different beast. I can appreciate the differences of all three. If I have to pick from the classic version of each, it would be pancakes. But Belgian dessert waffles would trump those. And the Stuffed French Toast at Disneyworld (PB and banana) might be the best of the lot.
I'm with you completely. The waffle batter usually has stiff beaten egg whites that give them a lighter texture than pancakes. My wife considers them to be much too much trouble at home, so I go out for them.