Sunday, June 23

Three-Row SUV Battle: 2023 Toyota Highlander vs. 2023 Subaru Ascent

Three-Row SUV Battle: 2023 Toyota Highlander vs. 2023 Subaru Ascent

Three-row SUVs got smaller when the Toyota Highlander arrived in the market. Now, there are many competitors in this class, including the Subaru Ascent.

The 2023 model year represents four years that we’ve had the Ascent in the market, giving this three-row crossover enough time to build some cache in the market. That said, it’s time to see how the Subaru stack up with the Toyota model, giving us an incredible pair of SUVs to put up against each other. Let’s see which one comes out on top.

In What Ways is the Highlander Better than the Ascent?

The Highlander is More Efficient than the Ascent

The new powertrain of the 2023 Toyota Highlander offers more torque than the outgoing model. This new system is smaller, giving drivers a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that produces 265 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. This is more torque than the outgoing V6, which delivered only 263 lb-ft. The fuel mileage reaches 21 city/28 hwy mpg in FWD models and 22 city/29 hwy mpg in AWD versions. This compares favorably to the 2023 Subaru Ascent, which returns 20 city/26 hwy mpg and has standard AWD.

There’s also a hybrid powertrain for the Highlander, which increases fuel mileage to 36 city/35 hwy mpg in FWD models and 35 city/35 hwy mpg in AWD versions.

The Highlander Offers the Toyota Reputation for Reliability

When comparing any vehicle to a Toyota, there’s an uphill climb for that other model. This is certainly true when you look at the 2023 Toyota Highlander and 2023 Subaru Ascent SUVs. Toyota has a long reputation for reliability, which translates to incredible resale value and low running costs. If you keep your Highlander for five years, the resale value, insurance costs, fuel costs, and maintenance fees are much better than the Ascent.

The Exterior Design is More Engaging on the Highlander

The 2023 Toyota Highlander arrives with a unique design that offers some impressive lines, curves, and visual appeal that you don’t find on many other SUVs. The 2023 Subaru Ascent offers updated styling for this year, but it still looks similar to other Subaru models, making it one of the more conservative of the two SUVs. It’s easy to look at the Highlander and say that it’s the more attractive of the two models when it’s time for an easy drive.

In What Ways is the Ascent Better than the Highlander?

The Ascent is More Engaging to Drive

You might not look at the three-row crossovers of the 2023 Toyota Highlander and 2023 Subaru Ascent as being performance machines, but there’s no reason for the drive to be boring. Although the new turbo-four of the Highlander is more responsive than the old V6, the Ascent is still more engaging to drive. This three-row Subaru has a gutsy character and offers quicker acceleration and performance on every road. The sprint time for the Ascent is only 6.9 seconds to hit 60 mph compared to 8.0 seconds for the Highlander.

Standard AWD Makes a Huge Difference

In this category, the Ascent beats the Highlander twice. First, the Subaru Ascent comes with standard Symmetrical AWD to offer power and control at all four wheels in every model. The Highlander comes standard with FWD and requires you to pay an additional $1,000 to add AWD.

The second way the Subaru bests the Highlander in this category is with price. The base price of the Toyota is $38,000, while the Subaru is $35,000. Add AWD to the Highlander, and you’ve got a $4,000 price gap to have a three-row SUV with AWD.

Surprisingly, the Ascent has more Cargo Volume than the Highlander

The area behind the third row of the 2023 Subaru Ascent measures 17.8 cubic feet, while the 2023 Toyota Highlander offers only 16.0 cubic feet of cargo room behind the third row. Fold down one row of seats, and the Toyota has the advantage with 48.4 cubic feet versus 47.5 for the Ascent. Go one more row and fold the middle row down, and you’ve got a lead for the Ascent once again. The Subaru offers a maximum of 86.5 cubic feet of cargo volume compared to 84.3 cubes for the Toyota SUV.

The Ascent has More Rear-Seat Legroom than the Highlander

Both of these SUVs are midsize crossover three-row models, which never translates to spacious third-row seats. That said, one of these SUVs has more to offer than the other. The Subaru Ascent delivers 31.7 inches of rear legroom for passengers in the third row. The Toyota Highlander is much smaller in this space, with 27.7 inches for rear passengers to place their legs.

The Ascent Offers Better Standard Tech than the Highlander

Lower trim levels of the 2023 Subaru Ascent provide better tech features than the 2023 Toyota Highlander. All models of the Ascent come equipped with a large 11.6-inch infotainment screen that offers wireless connectivity, giving you the desired functionality in this SUV.

Looking at the Highlander, the lower trims receive an 8.0-inch touchscreen and a 7.0-inch instrument cluster. This SUV also offers wireless connectivity, but the larger size of the Ascent’s infotainment screen puts it ahead. Move to higher trims of the Highlander, and you’ll find more than a higher price tag. This is where you’ll see a 12.3-inch infotainment display and a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster to give you the desired visual appeal.

The Results Deliver a Closer Verdict than Expected

You might expect the Highlander to be far ahead of the Ascent in this comparison because of its longevity and Toyota brand name, but the results are much closer than expected. The Highlander delivers the design, fuel mileage, long-term value, and a hybrid engine to hit some important boxes for you. The Ascent provides standard AWD, a lower starting price, better overall cargo volume, better performance, and better high-tech features at the base trim levels.

If you’re shopping at the lower trim levels, the 2023 Subaru Ascent is the right model to buy. When you’re willing to step up and spend a little more money for higher trim levels, the 2023 Toyota Highlander is the right three-row midsize crossover SUV for you to drive. Of course, if you want a hybrid powertrain, the Highlander is the only option in this comparison.

This post may contain affiliate links. Meaning a commission is given should you decide to make a purchase through these links, at no cost to you. All products shown are researched and tested to give an accurate review for you.

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