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2023 Honda Pilot vs. Subaru Ascent

Comparison between 2023 Honda Pilot and Subaru Ascent

1. Introduction

The midsize SUV class continues to get increasingly popular all over the world. As we all know, the main reason SUVs get popular is because they are all-in-one cars. SUVs are able to carry passengers adequately and carry goods or family equipment at once with no hassle. Moreover, SUVs are a good choice for families with an off-road lifestyle, getting to the highway or even to an uncharted area. They also have good safety with the driver's visibility and capability of being seen by other drivers. Threats of accidents can be minimized by driving an SUV. All car manufacturers compete to create their best SUVs to gain more customers to buy their products. We can see evidence of this with the Asia car manufacturer giants Honda and Subaru. Both companies are ready to launch their new SUVs. Honda will launch their new 2023 Honda Pilot, while Subaru will launch their 2019 Subaru Ascent. Both cars are ready to face off and bring a comparison between the 2023 Honda Pilot and the 2019 Subaru Ascent. This could be interesting to find out which of these cars will win the comparison. 1

1.1. Overview of the 2023 Honda Pilot

Overview of Honda Pilot Honda Pilot, being around since 2002, has a reputation of a versatile and practical sport utility vehicle (SUV) in mind. It is a tried and true choice for families who need three rows of seats and minimal hassle. The 2023 Honda Pilot stays true to its reputation by offering large cargo space, spacious third-row seating, and robust safety and driver-assistance features emphasizing its family-oriented focus. However, dynamic changes such as eliminating the boxy look to a more rounded and softer appearance in the third generation and subsequent minor changes in the fourth generation have left people questioning its direction given the strong beginning to the first two generations. The main gripe has been a tough front-end appearance and robbing the square rear-end styling which started in the third generation, ultimately making it look like a larger version of the CR-V. The third generation is when the Honda Pilot transitioned from its boxy SUV to a softer, minivan-like SUV, which led to a loss of interest for some consumers looking for a true SUV. Minor overall changes have been seen through each generation with special emphasis on second-generation mid-cycle changes in 2006 for 2006-2008 Honda Pilots and 2009 for the second generation.

1.2. Overview of the Subaru Ascent

New in 2019, the Ascent serves as Subaru's latest addition to its SUV lineup. The automaker has attempted to incorporate the traits that have made its cars successful: a boxer engine, standard all-wheel drive, and a focus on safety, all into the Ascent's DNA. The design is attractive without being overbearing, with a low ride height and simple styling. Wheel arch cladding and rocker panel trim serve as attempts to make the Ascent look more rugged, though the approach and departure angles are more reminiscent of a minivan than an SUV. Thankfully, Subaru has not made the mistake of trying to offer the Ascent with a third row of seating. This is not to say that children should be prevented from playing musical chairs, as the Ascent's two different seating arrangements allow for either seven or eight passengers. A set of captain's chairs are available for the second row, but only on the more expensive trim levels. These occupants will likely end up being envious of those in the front, as the Ascent's dash and center console are extremely spacious, with lots of storage and logical placement of controls. Step-in height is also lower than in many rival SUVs, making the Ascent more elderly- and kid-friendly. High-quality materials abound, with an available panoramic sunroof really opening things up. Overall, the Ascent's interior is a major selling point and should help endear it to Subaru fans who are starved for additional space.

2. Exterior Features

Both of the vehicles have a very sophisticated exterior that looks advanced and functional. The Pilot and Ascent both feature front headlights and fog lights wrapped in LED lighting. In both vehicles, the taillights are LED as well. The Pilot's fog lights are also LED, and a panoramic sunroof is available on the Touring and Elite trims. LED lighting is widely considered to be brighter, uses up less energy, and lasts longer than traditional halogen lighting. As a result, LED lighting is considered to be safer as well. LED taillights illuminate more quickly than halogen bulbs, so drivers behind you are more likely to notice when you're coming to a stop. The Ascent's Premium, Limited, and Touring trims all feature steering-responsive headlights. While the details about this feature are limited, it likely enhances safety by helping drivers see better around corners at night. The Limited and Touring trims of the Ascent feature high beam assist, which automatically switches between high beams and low beams depending on if there is oncoming traffic. Both vehicles offer auto on-off headlights as well. The Ascent comes standard with raised roof rails and lower side cladding while the Pilot does not. Roof rails are very convenient for carrying cargo and other large items, and lower side cladding helps to protect the vehicle from scratches and small dings. Although curb appeal is subjective, exterior styling is an important factor when considering any vehicle. In terms of design, the new 2023 Pilot has a sportier exterior compared to the 2019-2022 models, while the Ascent still maintains some resemblance to the Outback. This category is largely subjective, so feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments. 2 3

2.1. Design and Styling

While the Pilot stays ahead of Subaru in terms of offering a good design, the 2023 Ascent holds its own. Honda's full-size SUV also is typical in design, it can be upgraded to look better than the base LX model. The Ascent however already offers a good show of class with its base model. The updated front end has been enhanced by the grille and the strong lines on the hood. The Touring and Elite trims are particularly appealing because they offer more premium features. Abundant use of piano black and chrome around the windows and rear liftgate make for a good contrast against the body color. The Ascent's designers have made an effort to add curves and character lines along the side of the car. Step to the rear of the Ascent and you'll find a spoiler that sits above the rear window, and provides LED lighting on all trims. Below that, the lines of the rear windows roll over to a body line that connects both rear taillights. The rear end is premium looking due chrome and black above and below the license plate, but there is a bit too much black and it can look too plain on the lower bumpers and cladding of lower trims. Both full sized SUVs offer seventeen to twenty inch wheels depending on trim level. An area where the Ascent has an advantage over the Pilot is the inclusion of standard roof rails. While the Pilot can now be equipped with them, they do not come with the base model and are only optional on the EX and EXL trims; though they are standard issue on the Touring and Elite trims. This is particularly important for vehicles in this segment because it could be a deciding factor for outdoor enthusiast consumers who want the option to carry gear and equipment on the roof. Both vehicles can have an array of accessories attached to these roof rails including cross bars for items like skis, snowboards, and kayaks. The Ascent also has a functional design because it offers 8.7 inches of ground clearance, which is quite a bit for a vehicle in this class. This will make it easier to tackle off-road trails and deep snow, but also makes for simple entry and exit of the vehicle. At the rear, there is a lower step in height for the cargo area, making it easier to lift heavy items into the vehicle. This is a small but very useful convenience feature. Step-in height for passengers is also ideal with wide opening doors and lower rocker panels. Step in height is the distance between the floor and the seat bottom and can be problematic for older consumers. This area would be considered a tied improvement with the Pilot, which is already easy to get in and out.

2.2. Size and Dimensions

The size of the Pilot will largely remain unchanged, a good thing for those who love its current dimensions. In fact, according to Honda, the new car is approximately 3 inches longer than the Outback, at 196.5 inches. Height is also taller than the Subaru at 68.3 inches, a difference of 1.3 inches. Its width is listed exactly the same as the 2017 model. One stat worthy of consideration is the ground clearance. Climbing into the Pilot might be a little bit easier than before, but at 7.3 inches, it's substantially less than the 8.7 inches found in the Outback. This is a consideration for those who typically take their SUVs on light off-road tracks, or live in rural areas that experience heavy snowfall. Moving into the cargo carrying part of a vehicle, the Outback and Pilot are near identical. A difference of 0.3 inches in passenger volume isn't substantial enough to even notice, and the same thing applies for cargo space behind the second row and third rows. Both vehicles also provide a standard towing rate of 1,500 lbs, with the ability to haul up to 2,000 lbs on certain trim levels. The length and width of the Outback is sure to elicit the comments from many that it isn't even a true SUV, it's just a wagon. Seeing the two vehicles here today, it's easy to understand why people choose to make that statement.

2.3. Lighting and Safety Features

The Subaru Ascent does, however, come with a few additional safety features that the Honda Pilot did not offer, specifically in entry-level and mid-level trims. These features include pre-collision braking, pre-collision throttle management, lane departure and sway warning, and a few other features. All upper-level (Honda Sensing Elite) and touring models of the Honda Pilot come with pre-collision braking and throttle management, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, and traffic sign recognition. The Pilot does not have a rear seat reminder, and I was unable to find a feature which was similar to Subaru's lane departure prevention/steering assist. Both Subaru and Honda offer blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and a host of other safety features. It's important to note these safety features are constantly changing and being updated in new vehicles, so it is likely that less expensive Pilot models in the future will come with more safety features. When comparing lighting and safety features, the Ascent does have a slight advantage in offering more safety features in lower-level trim models.

Both the Honda Pilot and the Subaru Ascent come equipped with automatic on/off LED headlights, daytime running lights, and LED fog lights. The Subaru Ascent claims to have steering responsive headlights and high beam assist, which allows the driver to switch between high beams and low beams depending on the traffic conditions. There were no informative details on the Honda Pilot website regarding the steering responsive headlights. Both manufacturers have done a great job when it comes to exterior lighting and visibility. LED lighting offers more visibility at nighttime, uses less power, and has a longer lifespan, so owners will likely spend less time changing bulbs in their vehicles. These features will certainly affect which vehicle I will purchase in the future, seeing how much I frequently drive at night.

3. Interior Features

Both the Pilot and Ascent are three-row SUVs that boast seating capacity for up to eight passengers down here in the mainstream. Specified 7- and 8-passenger seating configurations are provided, as are 2nd-row captain's chairs (on EX-L and higher Pilots and on all Ascents other than the base model). One thing you might not notice about the Pilot is its slightly superior space and versatility relative to the Ascent. The biggest telltale is in the 2nd row, where Pilots realize more walk-in space to the 3rd row. The difference is substantial, and increased 3rd-row access is a huge plus for anyone who's regularly going to be using the 3rd row. The Pilots' 2nd-row seat also easily slides and moves forward to provide the aforementioned extra space in the back, and it is split into two separate seats in all but the base LX model. This is a benefit for the times when a child seat needs to be installed in one position while still allowing relatively easy access to the 3rd row from the other side. The Ascent's 2nd-row seat is a split-folding bench in all models, which can't be beat for overall child seat/cargo versatility, but it doesn't have quite the same simple and functional 3rd-row access. A level 5 child seat can also be installed in the center position of the Pilots' 2nd-row seat, which applies to a larger number of parents than you might think. The Ascent's greater flexibility lies in the fact that its two individual 2nd-row seats can be moved forward to create an access way to the 3rd row even with child seats installed.

3.1. Seating and Comfort

The Subaru Ascent also comes with front seats that are supportive and comfortable, with manual lumbar adjustment for the driver. The Ascent can also come with heated and ventilated front seats, heated second row captain's chairs, and a heated steering wheel in higher end models.

The Honda Pilot's driver's seat can be raised and lowered, as well as having a manual lumbar adjustment. The seats are supportive and comfortable. The same can be said for the front passenger's seat. Higher end models also come with heated and ventilated front seats, heated second row captain's chairs, and a heated steering wheel.

The Subaru Ascent also comes with standard seating for 8 passengers, as well as the option for 7 passengers, replacing the standard 2nd row bench seats with captain's chairs. The Ascent's second row is incredibly spacious with good access to the third row, which is also split 60/40 and can slide and recline. The third row in the Ascent offers excellent usable space for both children and adults.

The Honda Pilot comes with standard seating for 8 passengers. However, upper range models can be equipped with captain's chairs in the second row, reducing seating capacity to 7. The higher end models also come with a middle seat shoulder belt that can be converted into a jump seat, increasing seating capacity to 8 passengers. The second row is the highlight of the Pilot's interior, with easy access to the third row that is split 60/40 and can also slide for easier access. The third row is competitive in terms of comfort and space compared to other vehicles in the same class.

3.2. Infotainment and Connectivity

Subaru's STARLINK is available on select trims of the 2019 Ascent and is similar to previous Subaru models. The standard connectivity uses Bluetooth, which enables the user to transfer 200 contacts and MP3/WMA files, enabling audio streaming and hands-free phone calling. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard features, enabling easy smartphone connections and an alternate intuitive interface projecting smartphone apps right to the STARLINK display. These trims with the standard 6.5-inch touchscreen will not use built-in navigation. Instead, users have the option to accessory purchase a TomTom-powered navigation application via an additional cost and use it on their smartphone to display on the STARLINK touchscreen. It would not be until the top-tier Limited and Touring trims that built-in navigation will be viable. SiriusXM all access will be included with a free 4-month trial. On Touring trims and above, sound systems will consist of an equivalent 14 Harman Kardon speaker and amplifier system using their proprietary Clari-Fi upscaling technology to compensate for poor bit rates in digital audio files. Rear seat passengers will be subject to a 3-month free trial of SiriusXM radio and a subscription-free All Access 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot with the ability to connect up to 8 devices. There is a possibility that some STARLINK features may require a subscription for the 'Security and Safety Plus package'.

The infotainment system for the Honda Pilot is certainly a standout feature, and hands down the best in its class (6/10/14). The system is intuitive and snappy with a simple interface and quick responses. While the base LX and EX trims come with a 5-inch display, the UI will still have shared similarities to the higher-end 8-inch touchscreen on the EX-L, Touring, and Elite trims. The 8-inch touchscreen, as well as physical volume and tuning knobs, are a welcome sign, as many manufacturers have removed them from their infotainment systems, forcing the use of steering wheel controls or touch screen inputs. What really stands out is the Garmin Navigation system included on the EX-L and above trims, which leads the group in available navigation systems. The layout of the navigation system and 3D rendered mapping/triangulated interface is very similar to Garmin's standalone models. Also included is SiriusXM radio and 90 days of free service. The Touring and Elite trims will have benefits of their own, including HD radio and Pandora compatibility, as well as Song By Voice control (a feature that plays tunes and music listed on a compatible iPod in response to the user's voice commands). Compatible phones will have the option to integrate HondaLink smartphone connectivity. This will enable the user to connect to the vehicle via a cable and access Aha internet radio. The feature is free on the Touring and will require the purchase of a subscription for the Elite trim. Included with the infotainment system is a traditional 8-12 speaker sound system using commodity speakers designed by Alpine and Pioneer where applicable. No model will include more sophisticated sound systems such as a Harman branded equivalent. A BluRay and DVD entertainment system with HDMI inputs and a 115-volt power outlet is an available feature on the EX-L via the 'RES' trim and comes standard with the Touring and Elite.

3.3. Cargo Space and Versatility

If the pilot's 16 cubic feet of cargo room behind the third row seems unimpressive, the Ascent offers a competitive 17 cubes. The Subaru's advantage grows when you fold the third row: total cargo capacity is 47 cubic feet, compared with the Honda's 46 cubic feet. It's in the area of maximum cargo space where the Pilot begins to make up ground. With its second and third rows stowed, the Honda offers a commodious 83 cubic feet, falling just shy of the Ascent's 86-cubic-foot maximum. But the Ascent boasts an innovative second-row bench seat with available captain's chairs; the wider center aisle provided by the two individual seats facilitates third-row access, and it also makes available a seven-passenger configuration with a pair of captain's chairs in the middle. The Pilot's second-row captain's chairs don't offer a similar increase in utility. Both vehicles come with a plethora of cupholders and storage cubbies to help keep the peace on long road trips, and all but the base trim levels offer USB ports in all three rows. Where the Subaru really pulls away in the versatility contest is in being able to offer a comprehensive solution for owners who need to haul various combinations of passengers and cargo. The Ascent is the only three-row SUV to come standard with second-row bench seating, providing a cost-effective way to squeeze in an extra passenger compared to models with the captain's chairs. If you don't need to maximize passenger space, you can remove the bench and install a pair of captain's chairs for easier access to the third row. Finally, for families that are done with child seats and frequently shuttle adult passengers to dinner or other social engagements, a comfortable 4-passenger configuration can be achieved with two captain's chairs in the second row and the third row stowed. High on safety and wisdom, but low on glamour and excitement, this level of vehicle wisdom is truly where both vehicles' primary market wants to be.

3.4. Advanced Safety Technologies

The Pilot and Ascent have equally strong safety credentials, and each has a wide array of features aimed at preventing accidents, protecting vehicle occupants, and pedestrian safety. Both vehicles received the highest safety rating from the IIHS and NHTSA. Honda Sense is standard on every Pilot and includes features like adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, collision mitigation braking, and road departure mitigation. The Subaru EyeSight package is standard on the Limited and Touring trim and includes features like adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, lane departure and sway warning, and lane keep assist. The Honda comes out ahead if you opt for the highest trims on both vehicles. Subaru's driver monitoring system, which alerts the driver if its systems detect signs of driver distraction or drowsiness, only comes standard on the Touring trim. The Pilot Touring also adds on to Honda Sense with parking sensors, rear cross traffic alert, and blind spot monitoring. On the top level Elite trim, the Pilot gains rain sensing wipers. Both vehicles also have standard LED headlights and tail lights which were rated acceptable to good by the IIHS. Overall, both vehicles have standout safety ratings and features. Buyers may choose the Honda for the added safety technologies on the Honda Sense package for the highest trims. The driver monitoring system may also be a big selling point for the Ascent. LED lights are now a standard safety feature and the best place to find them will be on a new SUV. Buyer's main priority in the area of safety will be to decide if they prefer the prevention of an accident through active driver assistance technologies or the added protection for an impending accident primarily involving seat belt and airbag technologies.

4. Performance and Efficiency

Engine options and power are a significant point for both vehicles. The Honda Pilot has one engine option. It is a 3.5-liter V6 and is considerably underpowered in comparison to the base models of the Subaru Ascent, which carries a 2.4-liter turbocharged engine. The underpowered Honda Pilot produces a measly 280 bhp and 262 lb ft of torque. This is less than the Subaru Ascent's base model at 260 bhp and 277 lb ft of torque. The Subaru wins this round, as power is more readily available in the turbocharged engine. The Honda Pilot's engine drawbacks are further amplified, as the Ascent also offers a higher model which boasts 85 additional horsepower in a 3.6-liter V6 engine and an additional towing capacity of 2000 pounds. The only potential downside to the Ascent is potential damages to the 2.4-liter turbo engine, as turbo engines are generally more fragile over long-term use compared to a standard naturally aspirated engine. But in comparison, the Honda Pilot is not the model of reliability either, consuming significant quantities of engine oil, with 2019 and 2020 model owners citing complaints on CarComplaints.com about the engine oil issues and the gross expenditures in fixing said problems. In some cases, Honda has yet to provide a sufficient solution to older models having oil dilution issues due to subpar factory software.

4.1. Engine Options and Power

The 2023 Honda Pilot will exclusively feature a 3.5-liter Direct-Injected i-VTEC V6 engine. This engine is expected to have a peak horsepower of 280 with 262 pound-feet of torque. This powertrain should be familiar as it is essentially the same engine currently found in the latest Acura MDX. Aside from this familiarity, there is limited information about any changes that may distinguish this new powerplant from previous iterations in the Pilot. The Pilot's current engine, which provides the same power, has proven to be reliable and powerful and can still be considered a strong point of the vehicle. A significant difference in power cannot be expected, but an update to fuel efficiency may be possible. Due to the lack of information about any changes to this powertrain, it could also be possible that the engine currently used in the Pilot will carry over into the 2023 model year. The Ascent has really defined itself in the Subaru lineup as a 7-8 passenger alternative to a fully-sized SUV that does not compromise serious off-road ability and on-road confidence and safety. As such, the power requirement for such a large vehicle is higher than what is needed for the average compact or midsize. Subaru has addressed this power need with the introduction of an all-new Turbocharged 2.4L Boxer 4-cylinder engine that makes 260 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque. This engine is standard on all trims and has AWD. This fuel-efficient yet powerful Subaru engine has been well received and should provide excellent horsepower and towing capacity for its size with the Ascent.

4.2. Transmission and Drivetrain

Both the Pilot and the Ascent use "transmissions of the future", Automatic Variable Transmissions (AVT). Removing gears leaves an infinitely adjustable setup, as with CVT, however where CVT lacks actual gears or gear changes, the AVT will physically change its planetary gear ratio based on driving conditions. This provides the advantages of a CVT, but increases durability and performance, since CVTs are notorious for failing under load or slipping due to power. Front wheel drive comes standard with both SUVs. Symmetrical All Wheel Drive, available on all Subarus, means they will always handle the same, regardless if you're going down the road or sliding through dirt. Honda stuck to their roots developing IVTM4 System. It offers 4 different driving modes - Normal, Snow, Mud, and Sand; no true low gear 4WD option unfortunately. Being a Honda, the Pilot drew our attention toward safety with this system, and it won't take much convincing for someone to go from standard 2WD up to AWD. It's a solid system, but perhaps not quite on par with the Subaru in terms of all wheel handling. Both manufacturers promise reasonable towing capacities for their 4WD/AWD models, Honda saying around 5000 lbs and Subaru claiming 5000-5000. With the only experience being a quick tow test in the Ascent, we will have to wait and see until we can give an honest opinion on towing for either SUV.

4.3. Fuel Efficiency and Range

Having a 2.4WD model gives the new 2023 Honda Pilot a 3.5L V6 engine with 295 horsepower at 6300rpm and 263 lb-ft of torque at 4700rpm. The engine gets 20-22mpg of gasoline consumption. The car also has the optional Intelligent Variable Torque Management (i-VTM4) AWD System for its higher trims (upper than LX), which means there would be no more standard 2WD for the Pilot. Although the fuel consumption is quite thirsty, Honda made the Pilot have a good fuel tank capacity of 19.5 gallons, enabling the car to go on longer trips without worrying too much about fuel. The battle of 2023 Honda Pilot MPG vs Subaru Ascent would be a tough one. But if we talk about power, the Honda Pilot would be the winner, especially with its 2WD system. With the same value of horsepower and torque, the engine still has more power than the AWD one. Stepping to its rival, the 2023 Subaru Ascent would get the most dependable power from a 2.4L turbocharged BOXER engine that delivers 260 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque. This new BOXER engine combined with the standard Lineartronic CVT and Subaru's Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system enables the car to have good fuel consumption with 21/27 MPG. Compared to the previous generation (8.7 inches) and even with the fuel efficiency, the engine is still a downgrade because the new engine only has a 5,000 pounds towing capacity. With the Continuously Variable Transmission and a lighter engine, we could not expect too much power from the car. Stepping back to the Honda Pilot, MPG is not a problem when driving out as well. A good power plus saving fuel with the 2WD system could give an advantage to the Honda Pilot in this battle. Thus, we could see a longer range trip for both cars, but the Honda Pilot would have a safer bet on this.


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