The New Subaru SUV and How it Compares to the Competition

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Stepping into 2019, Subaru has stepped into offering a new Subaru model, entering into a whole new class—a three-row, 8-passenger family SUV. The Subaru Ascent reviews are in and the 2019 Subaru Ascent is ready to hit the streets with its counterparts the 2019 Honda Pilot and the 2019 Toyota Highlander. If you are in the market to upgrade or up-size your family touring vehicle, then let us help you out by laying out a few key factors that can help you decide on the best vehicle for your family's needs.

Now, if you are going to be toting eight passengers around, an important question would be, how feasible will a family trip to Disneyland be? Or a kid-packed trek to Nevada for a soccer championship? A legit road trip to Florida to see grandma and grandpa? Or a weekend camping getaway in the backwoods of Prescott. Whatever the grand or petite adventure is, let's see what will be the most conducive for your voyage.

Size Matters

Let's start with the interior to make sure there is plenty of room for the passengers and their stuff

Having three rows of seating provides an exuberant amount of room for eight people, seven if you opt for a second row of captain chairs instead of a bench seat—available across the board.  If you don't have a full house, the seats easily fold down to allow for way more cargo space.

  • The Ascent, the biggest Subaru SUV, offers a cargo capacity that grows from 17.6 cubic feet behind the third row to 47.5 cubic feet behind the second row and 86.5 cubic feet behind the first row of seats
  • The Pilot comes in second largest with 16.5, 46.8, and 83.9 cu. ft of cargo space
  • The Highlander offers 13.8, 42.3, and 83.7 cu. ft. of cargo space

Say it is a full-house, we want to make sure the passengers have room to stay comfy, here is where the Honda Pilot takes the lead on the overall cabin space with 172 cubic feet, allowing 41” of leg room, though the Toyota Highlander takes the cake with 44” of leg room; the cabin space is 159 cu.ft. The Subaru Ascent comes in at 154 cu. ft. and a hair above the Pilot at 42” of leg room, while the Ascent also boasts 4” more legroom in the 3rd row over Highlander.

How does that third row compare?

Well, the Honda Pilot comes in on top with the comfort level, the Toyota Highlander did not perform well with the lack of space to get back to the third row, seemingly designed more for children. The Subaru Ascent came in second ranking for space and comfort.

Where they all fare well is the thoughtful tri-zone climate control. There is a control panel in front and at the second row of seats for all three SUVs, with vents to blow on the third row. The Honda Pilot added a sweet touch with an upgrade option for heated seats for the back rows too. Though the Subaru Ascent gets kudus for making the panoramic roofing available in all trim levels, that is pretty enjoyable for backseat riders.

Towing Capability

Just in case the there's not enough room inside the cabin. Towing is also an option for these SUVs.

Depending on the chosen trim level, each SUV model can tow up to 5,000lbs. The Honda Pilot can only tow 3,500lbs with the 2WD option, Subaru's Ascent can only tow 2,500lbs with the base model.

Torque varies from each model:

  • Subaru Ascent: 277 lb-ft
  • Toyota Highlander: 263 lb-ft
  • Honda Pilot: 262 lb-ft

A bonus for the Subaru Ascent is the Trailer Stability Assist senses any unsafe yaw conditions and automatically applies braking to specific wheels to help the driver maintain control of the vehicle.

Now that everyone is comfy and all gear is loaded – how many times will you expect to fill up along the way?

Efficiency in Fuel Economy

Traveling can be expensive, the fewer stops at the gas station the better, especially if hauling extra weight on the hitch.

Subaru models come standard with the all-wheel drive (AWD) drive-type. To maximize the fuel efficiency of their vehicles, Subaru uses a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

The advantage of a CVT is that it makes for a smoother ride with improved fuel economy.  CVT is based on a ratio of three components: gas pedal position, the speed of the vehicle and the speed of the engine. Because these factors are always changing, this style transmission is designed to calculate the best combination for the most efficient use of the fuel. This is especially felt in an up-hill ascent where most automatic transmissions struggle, the CVT offers a smooth, steady output.

With a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder, turbocharged Boxer engine, with an impressive 260 horsepower, the Subaru Ascent offers an efficient 20-21 city / 26-27 highway MPG.  The fuel tank carries 19.3 gallons and can  run about 502 miles, in optimal conditions.

What's a Boxer engine? Great question – Subaru manufactures its vehicles with the Boxer engine style, meaning the four cylinders are laid on their side rather then standing up, which allows for the engine to sit lower in the hood of car to create a lower center of gravity to provide quicker handling.

The Toyota Highlander and the Honda Pilot come with the traditional automatic transmission. The Highlander's base model is a 6-speed front-wheel drive, with a 2.7L 4-Cyl engine. The higher trim models come with an 8-speed transmission, a 3.5-liter V6 engine, 295 horsepower. The fuel efficiency tallies to be 19-30 city / 24-28 highway MPG (Note – Toyota offers a Hybrid Highlander which achieves the 30 MPG). The fuel tank holds 19.2 gallons to last 499 miles.

The Pilot offers a 6-speed automatic transmission and a 9-speed with the same size engine as the Highlander, with a 280 horsepower with a fuel economy of 18-20 city / 26-27 highway MPG, with a 19.5-gallon gas tank to last 507 miles.

Planning the trip is the fun part, getting there safely is the most important part.

Let's look at the Safety Features for the Subaru Ascent, The Honda Pilot and the Toyota Highlander

Subaru is known for its safety features, the best in its class really. For the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) 2019 Top Safety Pick+ awards, Subaru was the leading manufacture with seven Subaru models receiving the Top Safety Pick+ award and the eighth model getting the Top Safety Pick award.

With the increased standards for the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ and Top Safety Awards for 2019, the Honda Pilot received a Top Safety Pick award, getting an acceptable rating in the Passenger side small overlap front crash test. 

The Toyota Highlander also received a Top Safety Award falling short in the passenger side crash test and getting dinged on their headlights.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rated Subaru Ascent, the Honda Pilot and the Toyota Highlander five stars in overall crash testing.

Standard on all Subaru trim levels is the Subaru EyeSight Driver Assist Technology which bundles forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning. Also, standard is a rear-vision camera.

The Honda Pilot and the Toyota Highlander also have similar advanced safety features that come standard. The Honda Sensing is now standard on the 2019 model, and Toyota offers the Toyota Safety Sense with a similar bundle.

The safety features get more advanced with each higher-level trim for the Subaru:

  • Blind-spot monitors are included with Premium trim.
  • Reverse automatic braking goes into Limited models.
  • On Touring models, the standard rear-facing camera's view is projected onto the inside rearview mirror.
  • Touring models add a 180-degree forward-facing camera.

Safety?…Check!  Let the Fun begin!
The road trip is for making memories and having fun. This means throwing on some tunes or entertainment to help ease the travel time from A to B.

Both the Honda Pilot and the Subaru Ascent have a pretty impressive infotainment system.

The Subaru features the Subaru Starlink multimedia system, which comes equipped with the following features:

  • Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Pandora and Aha smartphone app integration
  • Starlink cloud-based applications include Yelp, iHeartRadio, Magellan navigation, SiriusXM All Access Satellite Radio and Travel Link
  • Up to 8” high-resolution LCD touchscreen display
  • Six-speaker audio system
  • AM/FM/CD player, HD Radio with iTunes tagging capability
  • Up to 6 USB port
  • iPod control
  • Bluetooth audio streaming
  • Hands-free phone connectivity

The Honda Pilot offers very similar entertainment features. The features also get more advanced in both the Pilot and Ascent in the higher trim levels. The Toyota Highlander gets slighted some for not offering the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integrations.

What's an adventure without taking the road less traveled?

While on your family adventure, it may be enticing to veer off the beaten path and explore a little off-road to see what hidden gems the fam can post on Facebook.

Trusting the fuel efficiency of the Subaru Ascent, the driver will feel safer taking a side trip in between planned fuel fill-ups and won't be as risky compared the Pilot or Highlander.

But, how do these big SUVs handle the rougher road?

With the greatest amount of ground clearance at 8.7”, the Subaru Ascent is more capable off road. The Pilot offers 7.3” ground clearance and the Highlander 8”.

As advised on a Toyota dealership's blog, the 2019 Highlander can handle light off roading, though it is best to avoid rough and uneven terrain.

Opting for the Honda Pilot's AWD option will allow for better off-road handling, distributing the torque more efficiently. It has modes to handle snow, mud and sand, though it lacks the hill descent control and other off-road abilities that the Subaru Ascent offers.

The following drivetrain features come standard on all Subaru Ascents:

  • X-MODE
    • Reduces individual wheelspin, providing optimal traction on low friction, slippery wet surfaces
  • Hill Descent Control
    • maintain a constant vehicle speed when traveling downhill, to maintain vehicle control
  • Vehicle Dynamics Control
    • Wheel speed, steering angle, brake pressure, vehicle yaw rate, and lateral g-forces are constantly being monitored. If the path of the vehicle is getting off course, the system will apply braking power and/or reduce engine torque to help correct its path
  • Traction Control System
    • When a loss of traction is detected the system applies braking force to the slipping wheel or wheels to maintain proper vehicle motion
  • Active Torque Vectoring
    • Provides better handling, sharper turn-in, more neutral steering, and higher cornering limits while turning

Both the Highlander and the Pilot offer an AWD power terrain, though the upgrade costs around $2,000 more.

After all is said and done – how do the prices compare?

The cost of new Subaru SUV, the Subaru Ascent, which supports four model options, Base, Premium, Limited and Touring, ranges in price from $31,995 - $44,695, all come standard with Subaru's Symmetrical All Wheel Drive.

The Honda Pilot makes itself available in five model options, LX, EX, EX-L, Touring and Elite, ranging in price from $31,450 – $48,020

The Toyota Highlander offers six model options, LE, LE Plus, XLE, SE, Limited, Limited Platinum ranging in process from $31,330 - $47,010. The Highlander also offers hybrid model options as well.

Northern Arizona's Trusted Subaru Dealership

Findlay Subaru Prescott is an Arizona Subaru dealer that serves the Quad City region with a professional, courteous staff who go above and beyond for their customers. The Subaru dealerships offers new Subaru cars for sale or lease, as well as used Subarus and other makes and models.  We invite any driver to bring their vehicle onto the lot and into our service center to get the best care and maintenance from our certified service technicians.  We care for the safety of all drivers and passengers alike and are happy to provide standout service, so you and your vehicle can enjoy a long ride together. 

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