How Does the New Subaru Ascent Stack Up Against its Rival 3-Row SUVs?

Those in the market for a midsize SUV with three rows of seating will find that the Subaru Ascent offers a lot of beneficial features. It's spacious, offers a comfortable ride height, is more than capable on the road, and can seat up to eight people with ease. Of course, it's brand new to the market, so it can be difficult to tell just how the Ascent stacks up against some of the market's traditional mainstays like Toyota's Highlander, or Honda's Pilot. We'll demystify things in our head-to-head comparison.

Subaru Ascent Overview

The Subaru Ascent is a brand new model for 2019. It features three rows of seats and can accommodate up to eight people. It also offers some of the best cargo room in its class, and the third-row seats enjoy more space than in almost any other model. It also offers other niceties that you may not find with other options in the market, including up to 5,000 pounds of towing capacity.

You will find four trim levels offered here, including the base model, Premium, Limited, and Touring trims. Note that all models use the same engine - a turbocharged 2.4-liter 4-cylinder with 260 HP. All trims also feature standard all-wheel drive, which is not the case with the Ascent's competitors.

The base trim offers 18-inch wheels, automatic headlights, triple zone climate control, and a 6.5-inch infotainment system screen. It also includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and all of the safety and driver assist features found in Subaru's EyeSight® system, such as adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking.

The Premium trim adds rear seat climate controls and a larger touchscreen, as well as a Wi-Fi hotspot and blind spot monitoring. The Limited trim brings 20-inch wheels, additional USB ports, adaptive LED headlights, and leather accents, while the Touring trim adds chrome accents, rain-sensing wipers, a front-view camera, and other features that make it stand out from the pack.

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How Does the New Subaru Ascent Stack Up Against its Rival 3-Row SUVs?

Subaru Ascent vs. Toyota Highlander

For 2019, the Highlander gets some minor exterior revisions and little else. While it is one of the more expensive options in the segment, the Highlander suffers from some surprisingly basic issues, such as no CarPlay or Android Auto functionality, a weak base engine, and a lack of room in the third-row seats.

There are six trim levels to choose from with the Highlander - the LE, LE Plus, XLE, SE, Limited, and Limited Platinum. The base 2.5-liter engine is standard in the LE trim, so buyers must upgrade to the LE Plus at the minimum to get the V6 with enough power to handle the Highlander's bulk. The LE Plus also brings a power liftgate, an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system, and some smartphone connectivity (but not CarPlay or Android Auto - those are not offered on any trim level). The XLE adds voice recognition, a navigation system, push-button start, and better driver instrumentation, while the SE brings a sportier style and 19-inch wheels. The Limited Trim offers LED running lights and a sport-tuned suspension, and the Limited Platinum trim level offers rain-sensing wipers, a panoramic sunroof, a surround-view camera, and parking sensors.

While the Highlander is a good option, the Ascent takes the cake thanks to standard AWD, more intuitive smartphone technology, and better cargo space.

Subaru Ascent vs. Honda Pilot

The Honda Pilot sees a few exterior tweaks for the 2019 model year, as well as the availability of the Honda Sensing suite. Buyers often complain that access to the third-row seats is very restrictive, and the transmission, while improved over the previous model, still does not shift smoothly.

Honda offers the Pilot with five trim levels - the LX, EX, EX-L, Touring, and Elite trims. The same 3.5-liter engine is used for all models. They are also all front-wheel drive, although all-wheel drive is available as an optional upgrade on the two highest level trims.

The LX trim offers 18-inch wheels, a five-inch infotainment screen, folding rear seats, and a multi-view rear camera. It also comes with adaptive cruise control, automatic braking, lane keeping assistance, and high-beam assist. The EX brings LED fog lights, as well as keyless entry and a triple-zone climate control system to the table.

Moving up to the EX-L trim gets you a power liftgate, as well as a sunroof and additional power adjustments for the front seats. Optional equipment (additional cost) includes a 10.2-inch infotainment system, a Blu-ray player, and an intercom that works with the included headsets. The Touring trim offers 20-inch wheels and a roof rack, a Wi-Fi hotspot, and the option of heated captain's chairs for the second-row seats.

The Ascent is a sportier choice than the Pilot and still offers all of the reliability, comfort, and safety that modern-day drivers need.

Subaru Ascent vs. Ford Explorer

The 2019 Ford Explorer is unchanged from the 2018 model, ahead of Ford's planned complete overhaul of the SUV for the 2020 model year. Buyers can choose from the base, XLT, Limited, Sport, and Platinum trim levels.

Some of the features available across all trim levels include reverse sensing, LED exterior lighting, voice recognition for the navigation system, an available (optional Sony audio system), leather seats, a twin-panel moonroof, and 20-inch wheels. However, the 2020 model promises to bring completely new accessories and features.

If you want a capable SUV that can comfortably take you through paved city roads and the rougher roads off the beaten path, stick with the Subaru Ascent over the Explorer.

Ascending Above the Competition, the Subaru Ascent is a Welcome Addition to the Segment

When it is all said and done, the Ascent brings more to the table than most competitors can offer, and it does so with style and panache, in a package that manages to seat eight people in comfort. Choose your level of luxury and get the best in tech and safety features currently offered in the class of third-row SUVs.

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