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2022 Ford Explorer vs Subaru Ascent

2022 Ford Explorer vs Subaru Ascent

2022 Explorer vs Ascent - How Do They Stack Up? Which is Better?

As you shop online or in person for a nifty new third-row SUV to replace your current (and potentially smaller) vehicle, you will find that the market is currently loaded with these vehicles at the moment. This segment happens to be one of the most competitive, as all of these big ol' SUVs attempt to top one another in terms of available space, power, and included technological features. The 2022 Ford Explorer and the 2022 Subaru Ascent are two such rivals that demand your close attention.

The 2022 Ford Explorer serves up a spacious cargo area into which you can pack all types of items. There is also get a good series of engine options that deliver plenty of power, and the rear-wheel-drive (RWD) gives the Explorer enhanced towing and handling capabilities. However, you will notice a good amount of wind noise rushing past at higher rates of speed. On top of that, the price is hard to justify given how uninspired and cheap the interior materials look and feel.

The 2022 Subaru Ascent has an impressively long list of standard and optional technological features and advanced driver aids. Its cabin is designed with high-quality materials, and the infotainment system is user-friendly. Of course, you get the added benefit of standard all-wheel drive (AWD) and 8.7 inches of ground clearance, making this one capable off-roader.

On the downside, the Ascent suffers from a lot of engine and road noise intrusion. Its gas pedal is super touchy, and hitting bumps at higher rates of speed sends shudders throughout the cabin. On top of all that, shoulder room is tight in the second row, and the third row is a squeeze for everyone.

Which one of these two SUVs is going to be the best people hauler? Does one offer significantly more value than the other? Which vehicle fits into your budget the most easily? Let's compare these two vehicles to find out, then you can make an informed decision.

The Powertrain

A solid and beefy powertrain can make owning a massive SUV an enjoyable enough experience. They have to be able to haul a lot of weight around. However, an under-powered powertrain can leave you feeling left in the dust by every other vehicle sharing the road with you.

The 2022 Ford Explorer gives buyers a few different powertrain choices. Standard is the base trim's turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine, which is able to make 300 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. This engine gets paired to a 10-speed automatic transmission. RWD is standard although all-wheel drive (AWD) is an option. On the Timberline trim, AWD comes standard. You can order the Limited trim as a gas-powered model or as the Limited Hybrid. The latter has a V6-based hybrid powertrain that generates 318 hp combined. Additionally, it musters up the best fuel economy of the bunch, getting up to an EPA-estimated 27 mpg in combined city/highway driving. The ST trim is powered by a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 engine that makes 400 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque and has a sport-tuned suspension.

If you want some composed handling and swift acceleration, the Explorer is the third-row SUV to get. Even the standard engine feels eager to quickly accelerate. There is also a lot of road grip from whichever size of tires you decide to equip. This vehicle handles all the power it puts forth quite easily. The robust turbo four-cylinder base engine sprints right past the competition. Never mind the crazy turbo V6 on the ST that goes all-out on delivering a powerful performance. The 10-speed transmission downshifts right when you give it the prompt to do so, but in slower traffic, its shifting can feel somewhat indecisive.

The turbo 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine gets slightly better EPA estimates than its top rivals. A model with RWD gets 24 mpg combined, and the AWD gets 23 mpg combined. That's about 1 or 2 mpg better than most competitors. Real-world tests struggle to match these estimates though. Those get more like 21 mpg combined. This aligns more with lower-rated rivals.

The 2022 Subaru Ascent is powered by a standard turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 260 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque. This engine gets paired up with a continuously variable automatic transmission (also referred to as a CVT). As per usual for a Subaru, AWD is standard on every trim level.

The turbo engine delivers a lot of power whenever you ask for it, so when you press down even a little on the accelerator, you will get a thrust of power all at once. In everyday driving, you will need to exercise some finesse in order to make the CVT feel smooth in its shifts. Even just a modest throttle input will lead to quite the surge in acceleration, and that sure will send you thrusting forward in your seat. The standard AWD includes software-controlled traction and hill descent control, so, with the 8.7 inches of ground clearance you get, this vehicle will perform quite well in snow, rain, and off of the beaten path.

Real-world tests indicate that you can get 23.6 mpg in combined driving, which just bests the EPA estimated 22 mpg combined. You might even be able to get closer to 25.2 mpg combined, depending on how and where you are driving the Ascent. To make things even sweeter, you can absolutely use regular 87 octane fuel in the Ascent. No need to fill up with premium fuel here.


Drivability is an all-encompassing term that we use to describe how well-rounded a vehicle functions as a daily driver. How comfortable are the seats to sit in for hours on end? Is the ride quality cozy and soft enough without coming off as too drifty? Are the materials used in the vehicle's interior design of high quality? Are the cabin's controls intuitively laid out? Are the tech features easy to use? How much cargo space is available, and how many small item storage areas can you utilize? These are some of the major factors we talk about when discussing a vehicle's drivability status.

The 2022 Ford Explorer's front seats are comfy and well shaped, contouring to the body with ease. You just might want to consider skipping the optional massaging ones since the massaging mechanism makes the seats feel bumpy when the massager is off. Seat comfort dwindles as you go back in rows. The ride is mostly smooth, although smaller road imperfections will be somewhat noticeable.

The automatic climate control system requires that you make more manual adjustments than it should, and the air vents don't pump out as much air when you lower the temperature. Also, the Explorer isn't all that quiet. The engine noise isn't hidden all too well, and a lot of wind noises can be heard even at medium highway speeds.

Front seat space is immense, and you can easily adjust the driving position. Visibility is good thanks to there being enough glass on the windows and sizable side mirrors. Unfortunately, the second-row passengers don't have much room for their knees and legs, and the third row is definitely not suitable for taller adults. Access via the rear door is tricky if the doors aren't able to be opened past the first detent. The third-row's power-folding mechanism is helpful enough, but raising the row for occupants can only be done from inside the hatch.

The lower Explorer models start you off with a standard 8-inch touchscreen, Sync 3 infotainment system, and smartphone app integration via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. On the Limited, you receive an integrated navigation and an utterly impressive Bang & Olufsen premium sound system. There is an optional 10.1-inch vertical touchscreen, but its slenderized profile does not work very well with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and the rearview camera's visuals.

The Explorer's cargo hold is absolutely immense. When you leave the third-row seats up, a touch too tight, but about three or four rolling suitcases can be stashed back there. Up front, you get an abundance of small-item storage, and child seats can easily be installed into the second row. RWD makes the Explorer tailored for towing, even with a 5,000-pound max towing capacity. The trailer tow package gives you a receiver hitch, four- and seven-pin wiring, a tow-haul transmission mode, support for an add-on electric trailer brake controller, and an advanced blind-spot monitoring system that extends the entire length of your trailer.

Meanwhile, the 2022 Subaru Ascent offers up some comfy and alluring interior design elements. Third-row passengers will wish the seat covers were softer to help them get through long car rides though. The cabin is kept feeling cozy thanks to the climate control system, and passengers sitting in the back will enjoy the ceiling-mounted vents that distribute air quite evenly.

Unfortunately, whenever you roll over cracks and crevasses in the pavement, you will hear an abundance of tire noise and feel vibrations rattling through the cabin. You will also hear plenty of engine noise, which can be as quiet as a low hum and increase to a downright thunderous moan as your RPMs approach redline. While this SUV does not come off as being too floaty, the ride comfort just isn't up to par with other vehicles in this segment.

The seven-seater version works well for full-size adults, but if you're lugging kids around, the eight-seater is good for hauling kids and cargo. Drivers of all sizes will feel comfortable behind the wheel, and the controls are all clearly labeled.

The massive windows and door-mounted side mirrors lend a lot to side visibility, and you won't need to rely on the rear-view camera for a good view out the back. The hood does slope down, which leads to some confusion as to where the bumper sits.

Tech is a tour-de-force on the Ascent. Subaru's Starlink system is - ahem - stellar. Its responsive and sharp-looking touchscreen is user-oriented, and there are several ways to connect your smartphone. A plethora of USB ports will keep everyone's tablet or smartphone charged up.

The Ascent comes with a decent amount of cargo space, giving you up to 17.8 cubic feet behind the third row. Space maxes out at 86 cubic feet when you fold the second and third rows. The load floor isn't totally flat, but it is adequate. While the small item storage spaces are small-ish, there sure are plenty of them. Also, most of the Ascent trims have a max towing capacity of 5,000 pounds. Trailer Stability Assist is standard and helps reduce trailer sway. You will need to add the optional trailer hitch assembly that gives you a wiring harness.


Safety is a primary concern for virtually every driver on the road. Auto manufacturers are aware of the demand for advanced safety features and designs. Both Ford and Subaru are know full well how to create well-working driver aids and equip quite a few of them on their SUVs.

The 2022 Ford Explorer has frontal collision mitigation, a blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, lane keep assist, and trailer sway control. The ST-Line adds more driver assist features, such as the full lane keeping system, evasive steering assist, adaptive cruise control, and a surround-view camera system. The Limited equips additional technology and driver assist features from the ST-Line and Timberline. The ST gets a digital instrument panel, and the King Ranch has rear automatic braking. On the line-topping Platinum, there are adaptive headlights and an automated parking system.

The 2022 Subaru Ascent starts you off with adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist as part of the EyeSight bundle of advanced driver aids. When you upgrade one trim level to the Premium, you get a blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert added on. You can also opt to equip rear automatic braking on the eight-seater, and it is standard on the seven-seater. Going up to the Touring trim gets you a 180-degree forward parking camera.

Which Has the Best Value?

Before you set about finalizing your decision on which vehicle that you want to buy, consider what vehicle brings the most to the table for you. Which vehicle has the most overall value? Buyers need to do their research and hear about owners' experiences since taking a vehicle for a test-drive can only tell you so much.

The 2022 Ford Explorer is beleaguered by hard plastics, hideous paneling gaps, and bland details all over. This isn't some run-of-the-mill economy vehicle, so we should be seeing more quality. Top rivals feature well-equipped top trims cost less the measly Explorer XLT with the bare minimum in options. Also, the Explorer's warranty coverage is lackluster by comparison.

Potential buyers of the Explorer should prioritize rugged road agility and strong powertrain performance if they want to balance out all the drawbacks. The 2.3-liter EcoBoost delivers better fuel economy... theoretically, at least. But most won't achieve the EPA ratings in everyday driving. This makes overall value unexceptional.

2022 Subaru Ascent buyers will be those looking for a capable off-roader and winter warrior. Sure, the cabin does not look as simple as some of the Ascent's rivals, but the build quality is right on par with them. Roadside assistance and warranty coverage are industry standard, too. AWD and 8.7 inches of ground clearance is what helps any Subaru sell, and this one gives you a lot of cargo space to boot.

Which is Better?

While the 2022 Ford Explorer is a generally likable vehicle, the 2022 Subaru Ascent is the one that works best as an all-weather, almost-all-terrain daily driver. Its first two rows of seats are comfortable, and you do get an option for a seven- or eight-seat configuration which makes for a nice touch. Overall, the Ford Explorer is oriented more for a powerful performance but requires a lot of fuel while the Ascent is practical but also versatile.

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2021 Ford Explorer VS Subaru Ascent