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2020 Subaru Ascent vs Honda Pilot

2020 Subaru Ascent vs Honda Pilot

2020 Ascent vs Pilot - How do they stack up? Which is Better?

Looking for a reasonably priced, family-friendly SUV? Chances are that you have likely come across the 2020 Subaru Ascent and 2020 Honda Pilot. Both of these vehicles pack in plenty of comfort and have quite a few standard features for vehicles in their price range. They are both fairly powerful too. But they do have things that set them apart.

For one, they have different powertrains that get these vehicles moving. They also offer different comfort levels while driving, and one is a much capable off-roader than the other. But which one is that? We will get to that in just a moment.

Knowing what you are buying is crucial when you are investing your hard-earned money in a brand-new vehicle. You need to know that the one you choose is going to fit your needs and do so for years to come. Read on through this comparison review. In the end, we will tell you whether the 2020 Subaru Ascent or the 2020 Honda Pilot offers the best value and is the better vehicle overall.

The Powertrain

Let us get things started with the powertrains that come equipped on each vehicle. Whether they send enough power or cause some lag in the gear shifting can make or break the whole driving experience. The 2020 Subaru Ascent, for starters, is powered by a standard 2.4-L 4-cylinder engine and a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that gets the Ascent 260 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque. This engine is indeed quite powerful but requires a gentle touch since the CVT will experience surging acceleration with just a moderate amount of throttle.

Altogether, the Ascent gets a combined 22 mpg (with 20 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway). Real-world estimates, which are about 23.6 to 25.2 mpg combined, show that the EPA estimate is probably pretty accurate. This vehicle is pretty fuel-savvy, and it can be taken off the beaten path with its 8.7 inches of ground clearance, standard all-wheel drive, and hill descent control.

What about the Pilot? Is it more powerful? More efficient? The Pilot has a standard 3.5-L V6 engine that is paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission on the lower trims and a 9-speed automatic transmission on the Touring trim level and higher. Front-wheel drive comes standard on the lower trim levels, but all-wheel drive gets equipped on the Elite and Black Edition (although it is an option for the lower trims).

The Honda Pilot can make a sufficient panic stop from 60 mph in 129 feet, and it only needs 7 seconds to get from 0 to 60 mph with the 9-speed automatic transmission equipped. On the all-wheel drive models, you get 22 mpg combined. Real-world estimates reflect this number, averaging at about 24.2 mpg combined. In that regard, the Pilot is right on par with the Ascent.


Okay, so the powertrains make up a good portion of these vehicles' drivability factors, but what else is there? Well, a lot, actually. Of course, the way a car does drive is paramount, but comfort, interior design, and technology features all factor in as well.

So, how do the 2020 Subaru Ascent and 2020 Honda Pilot compare overall in terms of drivability? Let's find out, starting with the Ascent. Its CVT is touchy, as we have already mentioned above, but the interior mostly makes up for it. The ride quality is comfy, though the third row of seats are a little too firm for most people to truly enjoy for long periods of time. The climate control is excellent, and its rear ceiling vents ensure that all passengers get the right amount of ventilation. There is some tire noise that can be heard while going over pavement cracks. The engine growls a lot more as you increase RPMs. The ride is not exactly light, but it definitely feels below average for its class when it comes to comfort.

The interior is, however, quite easy to use and fits all sizes of people. The controls are clearly laid out, although some of them do have a few acronyms that will take a peek inside of the user's manual to suss out. You will enjoy the expansive outward visibility from your spot in the driver's seat, and there is a high-definition rear-view camera that comes standard. The hood does slope down in a way that makes where the Ascent's nose sits hard to ascertain.

The Starlink infotainment system is definitely a user-friendly one and probably one of the better ones on the market this model year. It has an appropriately responsive touchscreen infotainment system, and the smartphone app integration will easily cover you when it comes to navigation. Overall, the technology is pretty solid and is geared toward the everyday user.

As far as utility goes, the Ascent has a respectable 17.6 cubic feet of cargo space with all seats left in place. When you take them down, you get up to 86 cubes - not a bad showing for this segment. There are a few handy small item storage areas, but most of them border on the small side. Even some of the bins seem a bit more miniscule than what you need for storing your personal items inside of the vehicle. The towing capacity maxes out at 5,000 pounds, which is pretty typical for this segment.

But what about the Pilot? How does it best the Ascent? Are there any ways in which it fails by comparison? Let's start off by looking at how it drives. It is, in many ways, a very capable and reliable vehicle. It feels light on the steering, which is great for when you want to take some curvy mountain roads. You get a lot of precision from handling and steering despite the fact that there is not a whole lot of road feel going on. Just be aware that the Pilot is not designed for off-roading adventures like the Ascent; it lacks ground clearance and hill descent control on the front-wheel drive models.

The interior lives up to Honda's high standards for comfort and user-friendliness. The body is very well-controlled, and you get a great amount of ride comfort. Small bumps are easily smoothed out, and the front seats are superbly supportive. The second row is able to recline and slide for extra comfort, and the first two rows are roomy. The third row is, well, a third row. It is about average on space, which is not something that comes in abundance inside of third-row SUVs. The one-touch button that tilts and slides the second row does make third-row access a lot easier.

Taller drivers will need to spend a little time adjusting the steering wheel to the proper position, but one will be found. The external view from the driver's seat is remarkably clear and vast. The touchscreen is simple in terms of its use, and if you get built-in navigation, is it a system that is quick to respond. Also, the 10-speaker sound system that you can get is nothing short of amazing. If you nab a Touring or Elite trim level, you get the added benefit of WiFi hot-spot connectivity.

The Pilot falls ever-so-slightly short of the Ascent's cargo space (coming in at 84 cubic feet, max), but it gets some truly innovative under-floor storage space. There are a ton of well-sized small-item storage areas to be found. You can get a maximum of 5,000 pounds of towing from the all-wheel drive models, and the front-wheel drive ones will get you 3,500 pounds.

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Safety is obviously a huge deal for automakers. Who wants to be known for having a vehicle that could be potentially hazardous while on the road? Honda and Subaru compete pretty well in this arena. The 2020 Subaru Ascent comes with standard Eye Sight - a system that bundles driver aids together. This suite gives you adaptive cruise control, advanced adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist with sway warning, a pre-collision brake system, and throttle management that is engaged when an imminent crash is detected. The 2020 Honda Pilot has a similar bundle. You get blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist, and adaptive cruise control. Adaptive cruise control is not terribly refined though and only works while going over 20 mph. Also, lane keep assist can get invasive while taking lengthy turns.

Safety ratings are just as crucial as safety features, perhaps even more so since they tell us how a vehicle will hold up in the event of a wreck. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS, for short) labeled the Ascent as one of its 2020 Top Safety Picks. It did get a "Poor" rating on the halogen headlights since they showed excessive glare. However, the LATCH child car safety system got a "Great!" rating. The IIHS gave the 2020 Honda Pilot "Average" scores on its small overlap front driver and passenger crash tests, "Average" for LATCH, and "Average" on the halogen high beams/ LED low beams since they showed some glare.

The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) also assigned some ratings for each vehicle. It gave the Ascent 5 stars overall, although it got 4 stars on its rollover assessment, in which a 17.00% risk of a rollover was noted. This number is slightly higher than average. There have been no recalls yet, but complaints are biggies. The complaints include numerous reports of random cracking of the windshield as well as failure of the vehicle to start.

NHTSA also assessed the Honda Pilot. It was given 5 stars overall, with 4 stars each on the front driver and passenger sides and 4 on the rollover, as it had a 17.50% rollover risk. There are currently two recalls out there for the 2020 Honda Pilot, and there are also some pretty serious complaints. Drivers have experienced the rear window exploding out of nowhere and the electrical system shutting down after cracking is heard in the speakers. The latter issue requires a hard reboot, and it has been an issue on Pilots since 2017. Honda knows this is a problem yet has not addressed it.

Which Has the Best Value?

The 2020 Subaru Ascent and 2020 Honda Pilot are pretty similar when it comes to their value. The Pilot starts at $31,650 while the Ascent starts at just a little over $1,000 more. You get just about the same features, but the Honda's powertrain feels bit more capable than the Ascent's. It also has more versatile storage. That helps the Pilot earn the title of 'Best Value' - but just by a hair.

Which is Better?

These vehicles both offer a lot of comfort and tech-friendliness. But they both clearly have some issues with how safely they function. Based on its innovative design elements and better powertrain, the 2020 Honda Pilot is the better of the two SUVs. There are definitely other competitors out there worth checking out, but these two are some of the top contenders for the model year, for good reason.

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