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Honda Pilot vs Subaru Ascent 2023

1. Design and Exterior Features

The Honda Pilot, surprisingly, looks more sporty and rugged despite being designed as a 3-row passenger family car. Honda Pilot's design is an evolution of the previous generation and the changes are not that significant. The front fascia has been redesigned and it now features headlights that are connected in the middle with a grill, giving the car a very wide-looking appearance. It gives the Pilot a more aggressive look for a family vehicle and that reminds me of the Range Rover Sport's front end, albeit a much cheaper version of it. The rear has chrome accents everywhere which may or may not be appealing to some people. The taillights have been stretched toward the rear window and the backup lights have been integrated into the taillights. This is an all-around design that I'm digging for a vehicle in this class. The profile view hasn't changed much from the previous generation, except for the front fascia that I mentioned earlier. This design will make it difficult to differentiate between a third generation and a second generation. A good thing for anybody trying to buy a used third-generation Pilot, but not for the ego of the new car owner. Honda has actually made the new 20" wheel standard and a 2-tone paint option. Usually larger wheels and a darker color scheme give a car a more aggressive appearance, but I think this generation of the Pilot looks best in plain white color with base wheels, to be honest. Overall, I think anybody buying the new Pilot won't be too disappointed with what the car looks like for a minivan/SUV. In terms of size, the third-generation Pilot is a bit longer and wider than the previous generations. It feels very spacious inside and you can feel that you are sitting high off the ground which I personally like, but my wife thinks it feels like a truck. A lot of the interior features will vary depending on the trim level so maybe the rest of you will feel like it's a minivan. Depending on the trim level, the car can seat 7-8 passengers. If you have kids like me, you'll probably want the 8-seater to avoid their quarreling. The second row of seats are captain chairs with wide armrests and there are actually special slide and hinge functions to make it easier to get into the 3rd row. The head clearance and knee clearance for the second and third row are quite spacious. This is important for any parent that's ferrying around a bunch of kids or maybe bringing the grandparents along for a ride. And of course, the interior of the car is built with durability compared to other cars in its class, so you can be tough on your kids and not worry too much. Coming from a 2015 model, the upgrade in interior probably looks the most appealing to me. The new touch screen and digital gauge of the Elite trim is a big improvement compared to the older models. 3rd row passengers have their own air conditioning zone and they didn't have to cheap out on those silly door windows. We still have a good old roll-down window! Step by step, my kids have to learn about the struggles of us being old fart parents. Overall, Honda nailed it with the interior and for a family man like me, I need to keep the kids happy because unhappy kids equals headache for me. This is looking promising for a hassle-free ride.

1.1. Honda Pilot's design elements

Honda has made changes throughout the Pilot. Every model has a revised front and rear fascia in an effort to make the vehicle look more rugged than before. The headlight and taillight trim has been changed to chrome, and LED taillights have been made standard on all models. Honda Sensing is now standard on every trim, which includes collision mitigation braking, road departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control, and lane keeping assist. It comes with new 20-inch alloy wheels (black and machined finish on elite trims) and still has 18 on the base model. The only model that does not have visible chrome on the exterior of the vehicle is the black edition. Every other model has visible chrome around windows and roof rails. Step bars have been added to the EXL and above trims, and dual exhaust trims can be found on EX and above trim models. Overall, the new design changes give the Pilot a much more modern and sleek appearance.

Lower door trims with updated look, rear windshield wiper with updated look. This is not the Honda Pilot you asked for, but a return to the original idea of a family-oriented all-weather utility vehicle. Most likely, it will be a 3.6L V6 mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission. A competent AWD system will make the most of that powertrain. Expect the Ascent to be less off-road and more all-weather with good fuel economy. EyeSight will come standard on all vehicles, and hopes are high for top IIHS safety ratings. Pricing will probably start a few hundred above the base Pilot, which currently starts at $30,945.

1.2. Subaru Ascent's exterior features

One of the exterior features of the new Subaru Ascent is the body design. The exterior appearance of the 2019 Subaru Ascent will be tougher and more sturdy by adopting the concept of Subaru Global Platform using High Strength Steel as the base body so that it has excellent vibration resistance and impact absorption. The implementation of the platform is also believed to maximize the entire compact SUV from Subaru. One of the changes to the platform is also a significant increase in the torsional rigidity so the car will be much better to be controlled when driven. This will provide a better driving experience with better and safer stability. The toughness and sturdiness are further emphasized on the exterior through a series of cladding in various parts of the body that will provide protection against minor impacts, dents, and scratches on the body so as to maintain its appearance. These parts will be found in the front and rear bumper, wheel fender, and around the door. The front will look more assertive with a new grille design combined with the sharp LED headlamps. At each corner, there will be given a ground clearance and approach angle, ramp breakover angle, and departure angle better so that the Ascent will excel in the class, and will be offered with the wheel size that can be selected starting from 18 inches or 20 inches. Step on the back side, there is an interesting feature of the resin-made tailgate and the opening angle is almost 90 degrees. This is done so it will make it easier to put heavy luggage, as well as the side that is lower making it as a practical place to sit while changing shoes when outdoors. The last part of the exterior of the Ascent is present in the form of the Roof Rails that unify the toughness and elegance so as to provide a touch of all activities that can be done using Ascent. All of these changes, of course, will make the Subaru Ascent 2019 be tougher and more elegant than its predecessor with a variety of features that will support all activities both in the city or outdoors. Step into the interior, many changes are done to create a comfortable and fun car to drive and full-size SUV that is family-friendly. Starting from the door structure that is made with large Swing Ingress/Egress doorways and rear doors with a 45-degree opening so it will make it easier to enter and exit the car, especially for users of child safety seats, riders who are sitting in the second and third-row seats, and also parents or grandparents who are elderly. These seats can accommodate seven to eight riders with the front row captain's chair and the choice of Rear Bench or Captain's Chair for the second row. The seats are designed to be easier to move and provide a path and space for passengers who sit in the third row. In addition, there are several choices of features to make it special and give a special experience for the rider.

2. Performance and Engine Specifications

The 2023 Honda Pilot is powered by a new 3.5L V6 engine. Peak power slides to 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. The engine is a carryover of the 3rd generation, so it retains its previous specs of using direct fuel injection with Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) standard on the Pilot Touring and Elite trims. All engines are still mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission that does have a selectable idle-stop feature to help conserve fuel. Honda's front-wheel drive system (FWD) is standard on all trims except the Elite, which comes with standard all-wheel drive (AWD). Honda's i-VTM4 all-wheel drive system comes standard on AWD Pilots. This is a simpler and less sophisticated torque vectoring all-wheel drive system than the previous generation. The 2023 Subaru Ascent uses the same turbocharged 2.4L 4-cylinder boxer engine as the outgoing model. The FA24 mill is shared with the Outback and Legacy models. It makes 260 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque. Though the Ascent is heavier than the Outback, the acceleration from the smaller 2.4L engine feels more sprightly. The motor has smooth power delivery and can pull hard from a stop, and makes city driving and passing at highway speeds equally effortless. Unfortunately, the high output nature of the turbo boxer engine causes its fuel efficiency to drop. Step-off acceleration does bog down the engine and can take a moment before the programmed simulated gears in higher acceleration modes kick down and allow the CVT to get more engine RPM to make an overtake or pass.

2.1. Honda Pilot's engine options and performance

These engine performance figures are very similar on paper to its competitors such as the Toyota Highlander and Kia Telluride. However, the Pilot will definitely stand out with the all-new Trail Sport Edition trialed with a Honda Performance Development (HPD) package. This package is available for both the Passport and Pilot models. Honda claims this package will improve off-road capabilities with a more aggressive off-road tire, an extra 1.0-inch lift kit, HPD bronze wheels, and an exclusive new color to go with the HPD-themed exterior. If the HPD package will bring any performance enhancements to the Passport and Pilot models is still to be updated.

The Honda Pilot comes in with a 3.5-liter V6 engine to put out 280 horsepower and 262 lb/ft of torque. This engine was first introduced in 2016 and has since been ported over to the 2023 model with a few improvements and features. The V6 engine for the Pilot includes variable cylinder management and cylinder deactivation to improve fuel efficiency. This is a technology developed by Honda to increase its MPG on larger displacement engines even during heavy load. The Pilot will be made available to consumers in both AWD and FWD. The AWD version will come with the Intelligent Variable Torque Management system. This system is designed to not only maximize fuel efficiency but also to get the best possible traction by dynamically adjusting the torque distribution from front to rear axles.

2.2. Subaru Ascent's powertrain and performance capabilities

The Subaru Ascent is a newly developed engine and a powerful turbocharged BOXER. Thus, it is easy to tell Subaru is likely targeting best-in-class acceleration for a vehicle of this size. The Ascent utilizes the latest version of the EA888 2.0L found in various Audis, 2017-up models for the Mustang, the Tiguan, and more. This engine has been extensively revised for truck applications and Subaru's specification. It has a longer stroke and is only paired with the R-Type world engine! The R-Type features a heavy-duty low friction camshaft made of heat-treated chromium molybdenum steel and stellite. A stellite-tipped monorail system is available as a single item for the highest level of durability available in these engines. Special racing versions of the standard products are also being offered with the stellite monorail for drag racing or other extreme applications. The torque curve is ultimately controlled by the stroke, the distance the piston travels within the cylinder. At a given rpm, a longer stroke will produce more torque. At 3500 revs, the 2.0L Ascent engine will produce over 38 ft-lbs more torque than the FA20 DIT engine. With the R-Type engines, the stroke is increased with a semi-closed deck block, strengthening the lower end for continued durability. A special full counterweight 79mm crankshaft is used, with connecting rods featuring a modified big end to accommodate the large 52mm rod journal. High-strength 3SGE specification rod bolts are included, with pistons and rods being available for purchase separately as individual items. Finally, a 79mm stroke billet crankshaft can be purchased separately, creating a 2.35L stroker kit for even more torque.

2.3. Fuel efficiency comparison

Subaru's Lineartronic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) comes as standard on all Ascent models. This is paired with the latest version of Subaru's highly regarded Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system. Subaru claims the Ascent will get 21 mpg when driving in the city and 27 on the highway. This gives the vehicle an estimated range of over 500 miles. Subaru's initial estimates suggest that the Ascent will have a 19.3-gallon fuel tank, which is 0.2 gallons less than the tank on the 2018 Forester and Outback. The estimated combined fuel efficiency rating of 23 mpg for the Ascent makes it fuel economy the best amongst the current 3-row, mid-size crossover lineup.

The updated Pilot receives the latest generation of Honda's Variable Cylinder Management system that allows the engine to run on just 3 cylinders during light throttle operation situations. This enables enhanced fuel efficiency. Dynamic improvements were also made to the all-wheel drive system to further increase the vehicle's efficiency and overall performance. Details on how the new changes are expected to impact fuel efficiency have not yet been provided.

Honda Pilot gets 20 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city, 27 on the highway, and 23 combined for most of its trims. That standard all-wheel drive system costs the Pilot 1 mpg in all those measurements. This combines to a range of around 370 miles on a 19.5-gallon tank. It uses regular gasoline. Those figures are pretty frugal for a large, three-row crossover. The Elite and Black Edition trims are rated at 19 mpg city/26 highway/22 combined, while the top-of-the-line Platinum gets docked a bit more due to its heavier weight and unique 9-speed automatic.

3. Interior and Comfort

The comfortable and luxurious features provided in the interior of the cars usher in this new trend of the ultimate comfortable SUV. The Honda Pilot is ever so spacious and has options of both a 7 and 8 seater, making it extremely versatile when related to the consumer's choice of purchasing an SUV. The Pilot has ample space in all three rows, offering plenty of head and leg space for an adult to sit comfortably. Although the same cannot be said for the Subaru Ascent, which seems to be lacking in space when comparing the third-row seating. An adult or teenager would not be able to sit comfortably in the third row, so it would be pertinent to say that the Ascent would best suit a family of only four. Both SUVs have a similar wheelbase, with the Pilot being 111 inches and the Ascent having a 113-inch wheelbase. However, the Ascent fails to utilize its wheelbase to provide optimal cabin space. The Honda Pilot is also equipped with an array of divinely entertaining features, such as a 10.2-inch Blu-Ray compatible media screen and an 11-speaker audio system to make those long car rides that much more enjoyable. The elite model for the Pilot is also equipped with the same second-row captain's chairs and a center console, providing versatility for the consumer to choose whether they would want a seven or eight-seater option. When comparing this to the Ascent, which provides a single model second row for both the 7 and 8 seater options, the Pilot is superior in regards to meeting the personalized needs for the consumer. Although the Ascent is comparative in terms of its available features with regards to second-row entertainment choices, the sound system provided is not as clear nor loud, showing the difference in price range for comparative models.

3.1. Honda Pilot's cabin space and seating arrangements

The new Pilot is 3 inches longer than the Pathfinder and has 22 inches more cargo space behind the third row at 18.5 ft³. The Ascent has 20.8 ft³ of cargo space behind the third row and has a total of 82.5 ft³ of cargo space. This is 9.5 ft³ more than the Pilot. Another carryover from the Outback is Subaru's decision to not install second-row captain's chairs as an option in the Ascent. The Pilot offers second-row captain's chairs on the Touring and Elite trim levels, reducing the total seat number to 7. But as a standard option, the Pilot has an 8-seat configuration. The third row is usable in both for short trips. Both vehicles are available with all-weather interior packages to clean up spills and messes made by children. The Pilot comes standard with Honda Sensing on every trim level, and the Ascent comes standard with EyeSight on every trim level. The Ascent has 19 cup holders throughout the vehicle compared to the Pilot's 16. The Pilot has 4 LATCH positions in the 2nd and 3rd row vs. the Ascent's 5 LATCH positions in the second row only. Overall, parents should feel good about the safety and capability of lugging around multiple children in both of these vehicles.

3.2. Subaru Ascent's interior features and comfort amenities

The first and second rows are comfortable and supportive for all-day drives. Occupants in the first row are treated to some wide, accommodating seats with a commanding view of the road. In the second row, even the bench seat offers plenty of space for full-sized adults and is comfortable for up to three. Flexible room and easy-to-use child seat anchors make the second row ideal for kids. The standard three-seat bench also features a segment-exclusive one-touch tumble feature for easy access to the third row. Opting for the second-row captain's chairs doesn't greatly impact passenger comfort in the third row, and they give the Ascent a grown-up look and feel. A trio of third-row seating positions offer enough space for adults on short trips, making the Ascent one of the few vehicles in the segment that's realistically capable of seating a family of up to eight.

The Subaru Ascent has three rows of seating and is designed to accommodate seven or eight passengers. All models have a second-row bench seat and can have captain's chairs instead. However, the standard setup for the second row allows for inboard passengers to walk through to the third row, which is rare in this segment but only usefully wide. We rate it a 9 for comfort and quality, adding points for the spacious interior and another for the overall value.

3.3. Cargo capacity and versatility

Cargo capacity is where the Honda Pilot absolutely excels. This is a large vehicle, and it shows when you get to the back. There is tons of space behind the third row of seats; actually, Honda says there's 18.5 cubic feet of storage space, which is two or three cubic feet more than its competitors. It'll be even better in the deep cargo well in the Touring and Elite trims, yet you'll have to stick with tucking things beneath the cargo cover (which isn't all too secure). Storage well behind the third row is what most of us will be utilizing and here the Pilot excels. With the third row up, you can easily fit things like a large cooler, tool box, or cobweb-covered duffle bag of camping gear. A stroller will fit lengthwise and there's really no need to worry about what will and will not fit. And like we found out during our crossover comparison, it's easier to get bulkier items in or out of the back without having to worry about hitting the lift gate with something hanging out. Fold down the third row, and you'll be able to fit an absurd amount of stuff. At 55.9 cubic feet, it's about the same as what a number of midsize SUVs offer behind their second row, and it's double the space of others like the Ford Edge. Open up the doors to the second row, and parents may have to fight the urge to do a victory dance. There is so much space to get kids situated with wide door openings to plop them in their child seats, and enough distance to the second row where there will be no threat of accidentally bumping their heads on the door to the third row (a common occurrence in most car-based crossovers). Now to install our Britax Boulevard and its wide wings, we have to put it on one of the outboard seats because it won't fit in the middle; too bad we can't have isofix/latch or tether child seats in the center position for a bit more secure and snug position. The outboard seats also slide and tilt to access the third row. Honda's specifications page states that the third-row headroom and legroom are class leading, yet we can't actually find any specific numbers for what they're actually leading. That being said, Pilot's third row is very much an adult-friendly space for short trips. With very usable dimensions and a comfortable seat, it could very well relegate the second row to kid duty and serve the carpool function in a pinch. And last but not least, load tests with two dogs in the back were met with the dogs' enthusiastic approval. A golden retriever and Labrador heavy into shedding season are no match for hidden cargo bins and cargo covers. All that hair on dog beds can easily be hosed off of wet and muddy paws in the Pilot's cavernous cargo area.

4. Safety and Technology

Adaptive Cruise Control specifically has been an odd omission up to this point for Honda and Acura models, and we heartily recommend this feature to those who tend to drive often on the highway. Honda estimates that ACC can save a driver hundreds of hours in a typical driving year by lessening the need to brake and reset at highway speeds. ACC and Lane Keeping Assist Systems take your hands off the steering wheel and feet off the pedals, bringing commuting one step closer to autonomous driving. This is not reinventing the wheel; this is Honda catching up with other manufacturers with similar technology, and the brand has no shame in admitting that. The problem for some potential customers with these features on Honda vehicles will be finding a dealer that has one available for a test drive with Sensing installed.

The Pilot has available a suite of active safety features which Honda calls Honda Sensing, and it hopes it will percolate throughout its entire model lineup. It includes all the important accident-avoidance systems such as Forward Collision Warning, Collision Mitigation Braking, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Assist System, Road Departure Mitigation, and Adaptive Cruise Control. Honda Sensing is available in all but the base LX model and may be configured for as little as $1,000.

Honda Pilot proves that safety is a priority with the best-in-class collision avoidance system. It prevents accidents from ever happening and offers advanced infotainment and technology. The previous-generation Honda Pilot had already achieved excellent safety ratings. It is an IIHS Top Safety Pick and holds a 5-star overall rating by the NHTSA, which also tests the 2016 Pilot for frontal crash, side crash, and rollover scenarios. But Honda has gone way beyond just making the grade or meeting these expectations for a family vehicle with the latest version.

4.1. Honda Pilot's advanced safety systems

The Honda Sensing suite of safety and driver-assist technologies is standard on every 2021 Pilot trim. This adds to the Pilot's even higher safety ratings. Even the US News best safety rating for the Subaru Ascent is ranked under the Pilot. Honda Sensing gives owners a false sense of security, however, it has some of the same issues that have caused negative criticism of Subaru's Eyesight system. In 2018, Honda issued a recall for 2018-2019 Accords and Insights because a programming issue can cause the display to not warn drivers if the CMBS system cannot apply the brakes (the same problem I pointed out in the Ascent's system). This recall also includes a software update to the Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS) in 2020 Pilots. The Pilot and other Honda vehicles have had problems with false positive and false negative warnings related to "inadequate, misaligned or excessive wheel speed sensor calibration." According to the NHTSA, this can increase the risk of a crash. If this issue surfaces again with the Pilot, it can be anticipated that there would be a similar NHTSA investigation and recall. These programming issues and calibration errors would be less prevalent in an older Pilot with only low-speed autonomous emergency braking (AEB). Like the Ascent with pre-collision throttle management, higher-speed AEB would not prevent the need for an increase in software/coding related recalls for a Pilot with more complex driver-assist features.

4.2. Subaru Ascent's safety technology and driver-assist features

Safety is paramount, so let's talk about the Subaru Ascent which comes standard with a plethora of safety features to encompass their goal of making their vehicles extremely safe. EyeSight Driver Assist Technology is standard on all trim levels and includes Automatic Pre-Collision Braking, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure and Sway Warning, and Lane Keep Assist. The Ascent comes standard with EyeSight Assist Monitor which provides a head-up display to show system warnings and other data. All but the base model include a Blind-Spot Detection/Rear Cross-Traffic Alert system which is very helpful on the road. Reverse Automatic Braking is a new standard feature which can apply the vehicle's brakes if an obstacle is detected while reversing. The next notable safety upgrade would require jumping up to the Limited trim for the LED Steering Responsive Headlights and High Beam Assist which is standard only on the Limited and Touring models. Subaru's STARLINK Safety and Security, which comes standard on all but the base model, includes services such as Automatic Collision Notification which in the event of an accident will alert an operator and notify local emergency services. SOS Emergency Assistance, which in the event of a non-collision emergency, can connect you to an operator and send assistance to your GPS location. The Enhanced Roadside Assistance provides vehicle information to an agent who can then send the appropriate help. Courtesy Transportation is available if your vehicle is inoperable and the Remote Services allows you to locate your vehicle, lock or unlock the doors, and set the horn and lights to activate and locate your vehicle. A few other safety features are available on select trims or as an upgrade such as 180-Degree Front View Monitor, Smart Rear View Mirror, and STARLINK Safety and Security with the Remote Engine Start with Climate Control feature.

4.3. Infotainment and connectivity options

Subaru offers only a single infotainment package in the 2023 Ascent, but it's the best one they've got. Honda has taken the upper hand in multimedia with its Ascent, providing a pair of color displays, multiple speakers, and a host of connectivity features including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Despite a close head-to-head in screen size (8" for the Honda and 8.7" for the Subaru), Honda offers a faster and more user-friendly system that responds to inputs instantly and is easier to navigate. With a superior system, more speakers (7 to Subaru's 6), and subwoofers on higher-trim Pilots, Honda takes the lead not only in the quality of their multimedia but also the improvement of in-car sound quality through the latest developments in speaker technology. Audio is played exclusively through the front of the vehicle in a Subaru Ascent, while in top-trim Pilots Honda has included a speaker in the headliner by the moonroof to play sound to both the front and rear, providing a more immersive in-car listening experience. This is in addition to Honda's silence-insulating acoustic windshield and front door glass, yet another feature not available on any Subaru Ascent. Audio lovers will undoubtedly prefer to stay in a Honda Pilot. Additional features like mobile hotspot capability, multiple USB ports in every row, a wireless phone charger, and CabinControl make the Honda's Ascent an even more connected experience. Honda's Ascent also comes with a 90-day SiriusXM radio trial, which is not available on the Subaru.