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2021 Ford Explorer vs Subaru Ascent

2021 Ford Explorer vs Subaru Ascent
Reviewed & fact checked by
James Murdoch

2021 Explorer vs Ascent - How do they stack up? Which is Better?

If you want a fun and functional SUV but shy away from the traditional look they often entail, you can find an athletic model that fits your desires in a few different places. One of the more popular SUVs that exudes athleticism is the 2021 Ford Explorer. This model is adorned with exterior accents that pulls its sporty attributes together in a cohesive package. Another preferred model that is a bit more outdoorsy is the 2021 Subaru Ascent. Designed by a brand that is known for their utilitarian design and off-road performance, the Ascent comes from a long line of all-terrain SUVs. The 2021 Subaru Ascent looks sophisticated, but do not let this appearance fool you. It is well-equipped for fun off-road travel in style.

One of the main facets that sets the 2021 Ford Explorer and the 2021 Subaru Ascent apart from competitors is their third-row layout. While many vehicles made for transporting seven or eight passengers are rather bulky and conventional, these models are here to prove you can have fun with these larger models. Not only can you adeptly travel on rough terrain, but you can bring your entire family and your friends along for the ride, too. Both Ford and Subaru put their best efforts forth in the design of these two SUV models, as well. They manage to balance sporty aesthetics with modern technology and interior facets well. In doing so, the 2021 Ford Explorer and the 2021 Subaru Ascent can be used for daily travel and for off-road purposes. They offer the best of both worlds to buyers looking for this specific potential.

The 2021 Ford Explorer and the 2021 Subaru Ascent are different, yet similar all at the same time. They provide a comfortable ride for passengers with a third-row layout and off-road credit. While the Ford Explorer places its emphasis on passenger space and tech amenities, the Subaru Ascent enjoys offering an upscale cabin and plethora of driver assistive aides to owners. Modern and forthcoming, the 2021 Ford Explorer and the 2021 Subaru Ascent are SUV models worth comparing and considering for purchase.

The Powertrain

Powertrain options are limitless in the 2021 Ford Explorer. This is an SUV model that is hard to compete with. A base model is accompanied by a 2.3-liter 300 horsepower four-cylinder engine, while higher trims gain access to a 3.0-liter 365 horsepower twin-turbocharged V-6 engine. At the highest level, an upgraded version of the 3.0-liter V-6 is enhanced to produce up to 400 horsepower. Quite the feat in a full-size SUV, the 2021 Ford Explorer achieves everything that is considered impossible. It even incorporates a hybrid powertrain into its lineup of diverse engine options. This hybrid setup consists of a capable 3.3-liter V-6 engine that is paired with an electric motor, which makes the creation of up to 318 horsepower possible.

How does another SUV model even begin to live up to those standards? The 2021 Subaru Ascent does not even come close. For buyers who prefer simplicity, this may be an ideal setup. Yet for those who enjoy options, the 2021 Ford Explorer reigns supreme. The 2021 Subaru Ascent relies on a 2.5-liter four cylinder engine that can produce up to 260 horsepower. The Ascent is outfitted with Subaru's signature all-wheel drive setup, as well as a modern continuously variable transmission (CVT). Although this model may show a little more hesitation and stress when pulling large loads, the 2021 Subaru Ascent can do it with a little motivation. On weekends when you want to take a boat to the lake or pull a camper to the campground, the 2021 Subaru Ascent can get it done.

By exploring all your options in the 2021 Ford Explorer and the 2021 Subaru Ascent you can evaluate every associated towing capacity that is available. The Ascent leads the way with its single engine option that offers an impressive 5,000-pound towing capacity. The Explorer features a specific towing package that can be added to models as an upgrade, which increases its towing capacity to 5,300 pounds. All-wheel drive can also be added to the 2021 Ford Explorer to improve its handling while towing, but the 2021 Subaru Ascent already includes this facet as standard across its models.


Efficient driving is not a foreign concept to either of these models. Even the 2021 Ford Explorer's base four-cylinder engine is quite capable and potent, which is unexpected of a modest engine like this one. Rear-wheel drive comes standard on the 2021 Ford Explorer, but an upgrade to all-wheel drive improves its handling for those who opt for it. A composed ride is evident in the Ford Explorer, but exciting is a concept this SUV is not familiar with. Composed and steady, this SUV can be modified to boast a more athletic feel in the ST trim, too. If there is one thing the 2021 Ford Explorer has going for it, it is the ability to transform vastly among its trim level options.

High points of the 2021 Subaru Ascent include its playful attitude, comfortable ride, and smooth demeanor. Slow throttle response is negated by paddle shifters mounted on the steering wheel that create a potential for quick and easy transmission adjustments. While the Ascent soaks up bumps in the road well and absorbs jolts, it is rather noisy in the cabin which can be a turn off for potential buyers. Lightweight and accurate steering makes the 2021 Subaru Ascent easy to control and command from behind the wheel, especially in situations where abrupt changes are necessary.

When buyers consider the purchase of a full-size SUV, they are often looking for the space that goes together with these models. While the four carry-on capacity behind the rear seat of the 2021 Ford Explorer may be disheartening, its expansion accommodates 31 carry-on bags with its back two rows folded flat makes up for it. In comparison, the 2021 Subaru Ascent can hold up to five carry-on suitcases in the back with the seats folded up. This SUV is the ultimate solution for storage concerns. With various cubbies and storage compartments, the Subaru Ascent includes multiple seat adjustments and cargo floor configurations to create more space for stowing items.

Buying Tip:

To avoid overpaying on a new car, shop prices online first. Get up front pricing before you walk into a dealership. We recommend the following free services; Car Clearance Deals, NADAguides, CarsDirect & & Motortrend.
These free services will offer you the lowest prices and supply you with multiple competing price quotes. You will know the best price before you visit the dealer.


Overt safety features are expected in all types of SUV models. From small to large, we expect SUVs to incorporate the latest and greatest driver-assistive options and standard safety features available. As an ode to this object, both the 2021 Ford Explorer and the 2021 Subaru Ascent both earned five star safety ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. However, the 2021 Ford Explorer missed out on being named as a Top Safety Pick by the IIHS because of its substandard performance in front-overlap crash testing. Comparatively, the 2021 Subaru Ascent has yet to be crash tested by the IIHS. However, in its 2020 model, the Subaru Ascent was named as a Top Safety Pick+.

Both full-size SUVs make standard safety features an inclusion across all trim levels. They do not just save the best attributes for the top trims, either. The 2021 Ford Explorer and the 2021 Subaru Ascent think everyone should have access to equitable safety elements. Offering features like forward-collision warning and lane-departure warning as standard, the 2021 Ford Explorer also adds in self-parking assistance that elevates its safety offerings a bit.

The 2021 Subaru Ascent also makes it a mission to make driver assistive safety features as standard. While blind-spot monitoring and lane-departure warning are common safety features, it also incorporates a few more attributes that most vehicles do not gain access to as standard amenities. An example of this type of feature includes adaptive cruise control, which is rarely offered as a standard safety element.

Which Has the Best Value?

A vehicle's value is determined by many features, which means it can also change over time. Difference facets hold different levels of importance for each buyer, so it is important to evaluate the concepts and attributes you find most influential in a vehicle to determine its relative value to you. On another note, a vehicle's value can be generalized for all buyers sometimes. It is cost in relation to its trim level options, upgrades, safety features, and technology can also be evaluated.

When it comes to power and various powertrain selections, the 2021 Ford Explorer in inherently more valuable in this area. It offers a plethora of engine options that vary in horsepower and even introduces a hybrid option for consumers to consider. Its wide array of engine selections is something the 2021 Ford Explorer takes pride in. Yet, the 2021 Subaru Ascent sets its sights elsewhere. This model is straightforward with just a sole engine option to consider. Its other powertrain components get an upgrade, as well as its interior cabin detailing and safety inclusions.

If your mindset is that of putting safety first and foremost, the 2021 Subaru Ascent will likely be more valuable to you than the 2021 Ford Explorer. These two SUVs battle it out with nearly identical driver assistive safety features. They even score the same in safety testing performed by the NHTSA. Yet, the Explorer missed out on a prestigious accolade from the IIHS, whereas the 2020 version of the Subaru Ascent nailed it. Although the 2021 Subaru Ascent has not yet been crash-tested, its minimal body changes from last year led us to believe it will score just as well as its predecessor.

Which is Better?

The term "better" is a figurative statement that can vary based on buyer preference. Depending on what you are looking for in a new vehicle model will ultimately determine which SUV you deem to be better between the 2021 Ford Explorer and the 2021 Subaru Ascent. If you enjoy mainstream brands that have a knack for power production and offer multiple options under the hood, the 2021 Ford Explorer is the one for you. Starting off at a mid-level price, the Ford Explorer offers six trim levels and one hybrid trim to choose from. The fact that this model offers three engine variations, and a hybrid powertrain is quite impressive to those who have different uses for their SUV.

However, if you enjoy a model that is straightforward and to the point, the 2021 Subaru Ascent is the model consider. It does not range much in price from the 2021 Ford Explorer, but the 2021 Subaru Ascent offers just four trims to choose from. Accompanied by one engine, the Subaru Ascent does not wear you down with multiple options to consider. While some may revel in this concept, others simply will not be happy with it. If we had to choose between the 2021 Ford Explorer and the 2021 Subaru Ascent, we would go with the more equipped and versatile Ford Explorer.

Used 2021 Ford Explorer: