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Subaru Ascent vs. Toyota Highlander: What’s The Difference?

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As the world has made a massive switch to traveling on the road in the last year and a half, three-row SUVs are more popular than ever. With so many car manufacturers producing excellent SUVs, it can take a lot of time and effort to decide which one is best for you, or in some cases, what the difference even is!

The Subaru Ascent and Toyota Highlander are two worthy additions to this conversation, both representing incredible vehicles that provide lots of value and technology. If you need help choosing between the two, have no fear. We here at CoPilot have compiled all the information you need to know about the Subaru Ascent vs. Toyota Highlander debate. 

A Brief Overview

The Subaru Ascent and Toyota Highlander are both worthy choices for any driver looking to get a three-row SUV. They’ll both keep you and your passengers safe and keep you entertained with plenty of features. The major difference between these two lies in the extent of their technology and their pricing.

If you want all the latest features and are willing to pay a few thousand dollars more, the Toyota Highlander is the SUV for you. On the other hand, if you’d prefer to save money and cut down on a few of the nicer pieces of equipment, you should consider buying a Subaru Ascent.


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One major battleground in the Subaru Ascent vs. Toyota Highlander competition is performance. The 2021 Subaru Ascent is decently powerful with its turbocharged 2.4 Liter engine, generating up to 260 horsepower.

However, this is bested by the 2021 Toyota Highlander’s strongest engine: a V6, 295 horsepower engine. Something great about the Highlander is that you actually get a choice here, as you can replace this powerful engine with a gas/electric hybrid engine with 243 horsepower. 

You also can’t look past how much cargo space your three-row SUV will get. The Ascent just barely wins here with a grand total of 86.5 cubic feet when the seats are down. This is a couple of cubic feet better than the Highlander, which has a little under 84.5 cubic feet.

Many people prefer to fill up the space behind their third-row seating while the seats are up, too, so let’s take a look at those numbers as well. Here, you’ll get almost 18 cubic feet with the Ascent and 16 with the Highlander.

Safety and Reliability

Safety and reliability are hugely important in any three-row SUV, often being marked as one of the top priorities in these vehicles by drivers. When it comes to Subaru Ascent vs. Toyota Highlander, both SUVs have a great suite of safety features, but the Highlander wins due to the fact that it gives more in all of its trim levels. The new Toyota Sense 2.5+ system has recently been rolled out into the 2021 Highlander, equipping the car with adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, automatic emergency braking, and more.

These features are present in each and every Highlander trim, as well as blind-spot monitoring. The 2021 Ascent’s EyeSight system is comparably impressive but not quite as robust. This provides drivers with safety features like lane assists, automatic emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control but doesn’t give base trims the same blind-spot monitoring and other features that the Highlander does. Even so, you’ll be in good hands driving either SUV.

The 2021 models of both the Highlander and the Ascent received a Top Safety Pick + award from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, indicating their immense reliability. 

Gas Mileage

The Toyota Highlander is definitely the winner in the fuel economy portion of the Subaru Ascent vs. Toyota Highlander race. Depending on what engine you get, it might even blow the Ascent out of the water. The 2021 Subaru Ascent’s engine returns an estimated 21 miles per gallon in the city and 27 miles per gallon on the highway.

This is slightly worse than the 2021 Toyota Highlander’s 295 horsepower engine, which gets about 21 miles per gallon in the city and 29 miles per gallon on the highway. However, if you go with the gas/electric hybrid engine in the Highlander, you can expect a whopping 35 miles per gallon for both city and highway driving, which is just about the best gas mileage you can get for a car of this kind. 


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Both of these three-row SUVs have great technology, but the Ascent just doesn’t match the Highlander’s prowess here in the Subaru Ascent vs. Kia Telluride competition.

Even if you just get the base Highlander trim, you’ll enjoy a nice eight-inch touchscreen that features Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Alexa. This technological suite is rounded out with three-zone automatic climate control and LED headlights. 

The Ascent’s original trim also has handy features, but they don’t quite meet the standards set by the Highlander. With the base Ascent model, you’re provided with a six-and-a-half-inch touchscreen featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The more you’re willing to spend on trim levels for either of these cars, the more cutting edge the technology gets, but the top Ascent trim level just can’t compete with the finest Highlander trim.


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With the amount of advanced technological features the Highlander has over the Ascent, it comes as little surprise that it’s a bit pricier. In the cost aspect of the Subaru Ascent vs. Toyota Highlander battle, the Ascent comes out as the less expensive vehicle. The 2021 Subaru Ascent’s price starts around $32,300 for its base model, which is a few thousand dollars cheaper than the base 2021 Toyota Highlander’s price of roughly $36,000.

These prices continue to scale up as you get fancier with the trim levels, but with the Highlander, you’re paying for a more robust set of features. This means that if you care a lot about those extra features in the Highlander, you can shell out a bit more. If not, you have the option of saving thousands and going with the still incredible Ascent.

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