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2023 Subaru Ascent vs. 2023 Honda Pilot

Comparison between 2023 Subaru Ascent and 2023 Honda Pilot

1. Overview

Subaru has nailed their interior features on the Ascent, offering a luxurious and modernized feel. A sleeker design for the Ascent's center console has been implemented, and it comes with an 8-inch multimedia system featuring Android Auto and Apple CarPlay with the now standard rear seat reminder feature. Climate control is a very strong suit for every trim with three-zone control and 8-9 vents each for the second and third-row seats. In higher trims, these vents are upgraded to captain's chairs with the option to switch to a bench seat for better passage to the third seating row. Unfortunately, the Pilot's interior feels outdated in comparison to the Ascent and lacks in providing a more luxurious feel compared to similar Honda models. While the Pilot has so much to offer in cargo space and seat arrangement, the plastic look of the interior, smaller 5-inch basic LCD screen, and lack of three-zone climate control on all trims do not do any justice.

The 2023 Subaru Ascent maintains a modern and expected standard of exterior design. The inclusion of 20-inch wheels on much higher trims adds to the overall presence of the Ascent, which comes with a standard roof rail that can be upgraded to a sturdier tower with more load capacity. Meanwhile, the 2023 Honda Pilot is not for those who enjoy bold styling. Upon first look, the Pilot is far less striking than the Ascent with 18-inch wheels and ugly black plastic cladding featured on the base LX and most EX trims. The higher trims do offer more aesthetic appeal with 20-inch wheels excluding the black plastic, but it is still not comparable to the Ascent that simply looks better overall.

1.1. Exterior Design

At the rear, Ascent provides dual exhaust outlets, even though it uses the same engine that Mazda CX-9 has been used for better breathing and torque, while Honda keeps the single exhaust outlet. A minimal difference, but it keeps Honda's tradition of fuel efficiency. Both Ascent and Pilot have their own pros and cons in terms of exterior design; it depends on your personal preferences.

In terms of length, both are equally long, and Honda provides a slightly wider body. What can you grip from the exterior difference of both? Subaru brings more of a station wagon look rather than an SUV itself. The real SUV look is on the boxy 2006-2014 Forester. Ascent is sleeker and curvier at the front and rear fascia, less aggressive and rugged than the earlier generation Forester, but you can still notice the Forester signature in the side view of the vehicle. This is because both Ascent and Forester use the same global platform. Honda Pilot is rugged and meaner with a more boxy SUV look, with identifiable Honda's LED projector headlight and its bulky front fascia. Both bring different SUV looks depending on your preference.

As for the 4-season outdoor enthusiast, Ascent provides an 8.7-inch ground clearance compared to Pilot's 7.3-inch ground clearance for better snow/dirt drive and a cooler rugged look with black lower cladding. While both come standard with 18-inch alloy wheels, Ascent limited and touring trims will get 20-inch alloy wheels.

Subaru Ascent comes in 7 or 8 seat arrangements, while Honda comes with either 7 or 8 seats depending on the trim. However, Ascent provides more excessive room and easier access to the third row, especially in the 8-seater configuration. Ascent's available second-row captain chairs also provide similar easier access to the third row and comfortability if you don't need to maximize passenger space. Both of them provide easy access to the third row because of the large rear door, sliding and reclining second row, and one-touch access to the third row.

1.2. Interior Features

The Ascent has the accommodation for seven or eight passengers in three rows of seats, and comes with a second-row bench seat or the no-cost option of captain's chairs. The Pilot has seating for seven or eight people. It has 16.5 cubic feet more cargo space than the Ascent with the rear seats up (18.5 cubic feet in the Honda vs. 2.0 in the Subaru), but only 0.5 cubic foot more with the second and third rows folded down (83.9 cubic feet in the Pilot vs. 83.4 in the Ascent). The Ascent comes in standard, Premium, Limited and Touring. The Pilot comes in LX, EX, EX-L, Touring and Elite. The Ascent's lower dashboard has a sturdy shelf, and in higher trim levels, the space is dedicated to a genuine woodgrain appliqué. The Pilot has a useful storage bin at the front of the center console, a standard feature that was avoided in the previous-generation model. Both vehicles have cupholders galore and multiple USB ports and 12-volt power outlets. Quality materials are found throughout the interiors of the Subaru Ascent and Honda Pilot, including available leather, heated and ventilated front seats, heated second-row seats, and an available heated steering wheel. Both vehicles feature an available rear-seat entertainment system, front and rear panoramic sunroof, premium audio, navigation, and a suite of advanced driver-assist safety technology. Optional creature comforts in both vehicles include a power rear liftgate and tri-zone automatic climate control.

1.3. Performance and Engine

Transportive to every sense in its execution, the all-new Subaru Ascent hauls up to 8 passengers, 241 horsepower, standard all-wheel drive, and 8.7 inches of ground clearance. This is where evolution meets the needs of the people who drive this vehicle. The latest 4th generation of the Honda Pilot comes equipped with a 280-hp, 3.5-liter, direct-injected, i-VTEC V-6 engine, backed with 262 lb.-ft. of torque and upgraded 6-speed automatic transmission. You can have your choice of standard front-wheel drive or available all-wheel drive on all variants. When it comes to fuel efficiency, the Ascent standardly comes equipped with Auto Start-Stop technology paired with the Subaru Boxer engine and Lineartronic CVT that allows the vehicle to receive up to 21/27 MPG. This is notably better than the 6-speed automatic or 9-speed automatic transmission that comes with the Pilot, maxing out at 20/27 MPG. Both vehicles are equipped with the latest safety features and ratings on the market to ensure safe travels for you and your precious cargo. For a smoother, more efficient ride and handling, the Pilot features Eco Assist. While driving, it will visually inform the driver on when the engine is operating in a fuel-efficient range, ultimately leading to better fuel efficiency. This is a benefit that will be hard to notice any differences from just driving naturally and may cost more in gas consumption from not maintaining speed and maximum acceleration. Lasting safety is a guarantee with Subaru Ascent as it is predicted that its foundation in the latest Subaru Global Platform will produce vehicles that are highly safe and secure.

2. Safety and Technology

2023 Subaru Ascent has the feature of iSight, which is a driver assist technology that is designed to help prevent frontal and adjacent side crashes. This is done by alerting the driver and applying the brake where necessary. The 2023 Honda Pilot also has a similar technology called Honda Sensing. Like Subaru, Honda has similar features, e.g. Collision inciting mitigated braking and Road departure mitigation. Both technologies on each car are pretty similar; however, Subaru has also adopted Lane Change Assist to its iSight system. This is a system that alerts you when changing lanes across double lines. This feature sends off an alarm and flashing indicator on the dash. This gives the Subaru another reason to why it is just as safe or even safer than the Honda Pilot. The iSight technology is great on the Subaru Ascent as it takes into account its surroundings and potentially the situations of other drivers compared to the Honda system, which is aimed to only assist the driving of the car on the technology. Subaru's Ascent also has more airbags (knee airbags for the driver and front passenger), and the rear door of the Honda Pilot is said to be dangerous with a high chance of the door becoming damaged in a crash. This can cause strains to ding to injuries on passengers, so they would need to be wary of this point of the Honda Pilot's safety. Both cars have a 5-star ANCAP safety rating, but the Subaru has come out on top with more advanced and preventative technology.

2.1. Advanced Safety Features

When it comes to safety features, both the 2023 Subaru Ascent and the 2023 Honda Pilot carry advanced safety features and have been awarded top safety pick and 5-star safety rating, respectively. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS, n.d.), the 2023 Subaru Ascent is equipped with "Superior" crashworthiness and crash avoidance features including: optional front crash prevention system that earns "Superior" ratings in vehicle to vehicle and vehicle to pedestrian crash prevention, and standard LED headlights with high beam assist that earns an "Acceptable" rating. Both crash avoidance and headlight systems earn top IIHS awards of TSP or TSP+. On the other hand, the 2023 Honda Pilot is equipped with Honda Sensing advanced safety features which is a suite of safety and driver-assistive technologies designed to enhance driver and passenger safety that includes: collision mitigation braking system that applies brake pressure when an unavoidable collision is determined, road departure mitigation system that uses a small wheel input to keep the vehicle from leaving the road, and adaptive cruise control that maintains a set following interval on the expressway. TSP with IIHS ratings come with Pilot Touring trims and above due to the LED projector headlights with automatic on/off and LED fog lights earning an "Acceptable" rating and the front crash prevention system earning a "Superior" rating. This positions the Pilot Touring models with the top IIHS safety rating compared to Ascent that requires purchase of the Limited or Touring trim and requires the additional purchase of an option package on the Limited trim, due to the lower TSP rating on older model Ascents implemented with a non-rule-rated feature of acceptable or marginal ratings (IIHS, n.d.). Both the Ascent and Pilot are capable of seating 7 or 8 passengers, but since the Ascent requires activation of a second-row bench seat a middle seat passenger push, Ascent 7 or 8 passenger models have an IIHS crustal test rating of "marginal" compared to Pilot with a rating of "good" due to head restraints and seats (IIHS, n.d.). This tests the protection for the second-row outboard passengers in a collision with another vehicle. With all outboard and second-row middle seats, both IIHS static ratings (vehicle had no passengers) for driver and passenger are Ascent and Pilot ratings of "good".

2.2. Infotainment System

Infotainment is not just an important feature; it is a feature that can make or break a sale for a car. Both of these vehicles offer a decently functional infotainment system along with a few perks unique to the model. The Subaru Ascent comes with a STARLINK multimedia system that comes equipped with standard Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a remote engine start with climate control feature. Added to the basic features, the Ascent Premium offers several more apps, voice command ability, and a bigger screen. However, the top trim Ascent model offers the most with integrated navigation powered by TomTom, SiriusXM Traffic, and a 14-speaker Harman Kardon sound system which includes a GreenEdge amp and Clari-Fi music restoration in addition to all other aforementioned features. Some unique perks to the Ascent system include an app that projects the vehicle's speed, throttle input, brake input, G-forces, and other performance metrics onto the screen called "Overhead Throttle and Brake" and a feature that shows the viewers a 360-degree view of the car and its surroundings called "Convex Mirror Rearview Recognition".

3. Comfort and Space

Like the Ascent, the Pilot can seat seven or eight passengers with the second-row bench or the captain's chairs. Getting into the Pilot's third row is a bit trickier as the space between the captain's chairs is only 21.3 inches. Also, the second row doesn't slide as far forward as that of the Ascent, and there is no tilt and slide feature for easier third-row access. Once in the third row, the Pilot has less head and legroom than the Ascent. Also, only the Ascent offers LATCH points in all three second-row seats and the wider third row, making it possible to install four car seats in the Ascent, which is perfect for young families with five or more children.

In terms of seating capacity, both the Ascent and Pilot offer three full rows of seating. However, the Ascent has a slight advantage. The second row can be configured with either a bench that allows for eight passengers or captain's chairs, which is optional and decreases the passenger total to seven. The base and popular premium trim comes standard with a bench, while the limited and touring have the option for the captain's chairs. The third row is easy to get to with 19.6 inches of space to walk through to the back. The bench can slide, and the Ascent offers a one-touch lever to move and tilt the seats forward for ease of access to the third row.

3.1. Seating Capacity and Versatility

The Subaru Ascent seats up to eight passengers across three rows. On all but the base model, the second-row bench is swapped out for two captain's chairs, which drops seating capacity to seven. The Ascent is on the large side for a midsize SUV, and as such, Subaru has managed to make all three rows quite spacious. Even third-row occupants should be fairly comfortable, with 31.7 inches of legroom that compares favorably to the 29.6 inches a Toyota Highlander provides. Step-in height is quite low, even for the third row, which makes getting back there easier. Both the second and third rows have a standard 60/40 split flat-folding bench. Upper trim levels have an option for second-row captain's chairs, reducing seating capacity from eight to seven. These also include a pair of one-touch folding buttons with audible chimes for the folding and flipping of the seats, granting easy access to the third row. The Ascent offers a class-competitive 17 cupholders in all. The Honda Pilot also seats up to eight passengers with the standard three-person bench in the second row. Second-row captain's chairs are also available, though only on the top-tier Elite and Black Edition trims. The Pilot's third row provides 31.9 inches of legroom (or 32.1 inches for models without a moonroof), and it's easier to get back there, thanks to the slimming of the second-row's seatbacks and a one-touch sliding feature for the outboard seats. Honda has also significantly improved third-row access with wider footpaths between the captain's chairs and a tilt-and-slide mechanism for the seats. Like the Ascent, the Pilot offers a 60/40 split flat-folding bench for the second row and the same for the third-row bench. High-spec Pilots also get one-touch buttons with LED indicators on the bottom of the lower seat cushion to assist in folding and sliding the second row. Regarding storage options, an eight-person Pilot has 16 cupholders.

3.2. Cargo Space

In terms of cargo space, the Subaru Ascent and Honda Pilot rank among the best in class. The Ascent offers 17.6 cubic feet behind the third row, 47.5 cubic feet behind the second row, and 86.5 cubic feet behind the first row. The Pilot bests those figures with 16.5, 46.8, and 83.9 cubic feet, respectively. Both SUVs offer underfloor storage in the rear, but the Pilot's is larger and more usable. The Pilot also offers a smidge more third-row space, likely making it a bit more functional with all seats in use. The Ascent features an innovative seat belt fastening system for the third-row seats that allows child seats to stay installed and utilize the Easy Entry feature to access the third row, but the seat belt might not be any better than the system used by other automakers, though the Easy Entry function is notably handy.

4. Price and Value

The 2023 Subaru Ascent is priced between $35,000 to $55,000, whereas the 2023 Honda Pilot is priced between $33,000 to $50,000. Both vehicles come with a variety of mid-range priced options, allowing for the same quality of vehicle to be purchased at a more affordable cost. Both these vehicles are rated as some of the best long-term choices, retaining their value over a long period and being easy to resell. According to Kelley Blue Book, the Ascent is expected to retain 50% of its value over a period of 3 years and 41% over 5 years, whereas the Honda Pilot is expected to retain 52% over 3 years and 42% over 5 years. The average for both new and used vehicles is 50% over 3 years and 38% over 5 years, so the results for the Ascent and Pilot show a significant positive deviance. Due to the price point being relatively similar and both vehicle models having a reputation for retaining value, it is more worth the investment to purchase a new Ascent or Pilot as opposed to a new model of a different vehicle in the same class. Because of the high resale value, Ascent and Pilot also find themselves with a lower total cost to own compared to other vehicles. The base model for the Ascent is marginally more expensive than the base model for the Pilot. However, there are not any major differences in the expected long-term cost between the two base models and the margin relevance of the price will differ between customers. The most noticeable differences in price occur when looking at the top trim for each vehicle. The 2023 Ascent Touring is priced at around $45,000, whereas the Pilot Elite is priced at around $48,000. Elite being the top trim for Pilot, it offers more features and capabilities which make it a superior choice to the top trim Ascent. The main thing to consider here is that the $3,000 price difference is not significant if taking into account the long-term value and cost benefits of the Pilot. This will be explained in the following section.

4.1. Base Price and Trims

At a base tag of $41,040, the Ascent Touring comes in either 7 or 8 passengers and represents an $800 increase compared to the 2022 model, but with more features and increased MSRP than its base 2023 Premium model. This includes exclusive Java Brown Leather with a second-row bench seat or shadow silver with 7 passenger configurations, ventilated front seats, semi-aniline leather 2nd-row captain's chairs, and a front camera. By this time, the MSRP has reached $45,460 for a fully packaged vehicle.

Desirable features/safety features such as the all-weather package, power moonroof, foldable mirrors with integrated turn signals, power rear gate, keyless and push-button start, 8-way power seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel/shifter, blind spot detection system with power folding mirrors, and a premium sound system can all be had at a maximum price of $40,355. This essentially makes the 2023 Ascent Premium its own premium sub-brand above the base model. The $1,460 option package can be added to the midrange Ascent Premium and Limited as well.

Subaru offers a base Ascent with a heavy-hearted price tag of $33,585, which is $2,295 more than the entry-level 2022 model. It comes in a Premium trim as its base model with 7 or 8 passenger configurations. Subaru will eventually offer seven different configurations of the Ascent Premium because it will be available in 7 or 8 passengers, with or without a $1,460 option package that adds a power moonroof, power rear liftgate, and blind-spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert.

4.2. Warranty and Maintenance

This is the first year that the Pilot will come with complimentary scheduled maintenance, and Honda includes it for 3 years or 36,000 miles. While Subaru has a better warranty and longer complimentary maintenance, the cost for maintenance and repairs on either vehicle would be very close, and the length of time will be the same. While Subaru is saving you more money in maintenance because of the complimentary maintenance program and the longer powertrain warranty, overall, the long-term cost of repairs and maintenance for a Pilot and Ascent will not be too different. Given the lower cost of maintenance during the warranty period and longer warranty, Subaru wins on the cost to maintain either vehicle.

Subaru offers the longest warranty in the class, with Honda's warranty being quite average. While Honda offers a more comprehensive warranty and more perks than they have in the past, Subaru's warranty is overall better. Subaru offers a 3-year, 36,000-mile warranty, and a 5-year, 60,000-mile powertrain warranty. This is far longer than the Pilot's 3-year, 36,000-mile powertrain warranty. Subaru wins on maintenance as well, offering two years of complimentary scheduled maintenance on the Ascent. Honda does not offer any complimentary maintenance and has a shorter warranty. This would add an average $350-450 in maintenance fees Subaru is saving you within the first 3 years of ownership.