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2020 Subaru Ascent vs Outback

2020 Subaru Ascent vs Outback

2020 Ascent vs Outback - How do they stack up? What are the differences?

With the Ascent and Outback, Subaru has given its customers two solid options. These SUVs are reliable, capable, and versatile, making them ideal for many people, especially those who are active and want vehicles that can keep up with their busy lifestyles. The main way in which the Ascent and Outback differ is in terms of size, as the Ascent is a three-row SUV while the Outback is a traditional two-row vehicle. There are several other ways in which the models can be distinguished from each other, and this guide will go over all of those areas.

Size and Styling

When the two vehicles are lined up next to each other, it's clear that the Subaru Ascent is the larger SUV. It's the biggest Subaru there is, answering the call for a SUV that can accommodate more than five people. It has an overall length of 196.8 inches and a height of 71.6 inches, making it about five inches longer and five inches taller than the Outback. This extra length, along with its different seating arrangement, gives the Ascent over 150 cubic feet of passenger volume. The Outback is still very sizable, with a passenger volume of 109 cubic feet.

Leg room influences can really influence how comfortable passengers feel inside the cabin of a vehicle. In the Outback, front-row leg room is 42.8 inches, and rear-seat leg room is 39.5 inches. In the Subaru Ascent, there is nearly the same amount of front-row leg room and less than an inch less of second-row leg room. The third row in the Ascent isn't the largest out there, but it still comes with 31.7 inches of leg room. This would be perfect for children, and smaller adults will still fit back there.

Total cargo room in the Ascent is greater than that of the Outback, as one would expect given the overall dimensions. The Ascent has a small cargo area behind the third row, and since all the back seats can be folded down, this area can expand to have a volume of 86.5 cubic feet. The Outback has more dedicated cargo space behind its second row of seats, measuring 32.5 cubic feet, and its maximum cargo volume is 75.7 cubic feet when the seats are lowered.

Making it easier to change things around is a 60/40 split bench seat in the Outback. The seatbacks can recline to enhance comfort, and one or two passengers can sit in the back alongside larger items. In the Ascent, the second row can come as a 60/40 split bench, or it can be configured as two captain's chairs. Some people prefer this option because it opens things up, though it loses one seat. In the third row, there is another 60/40 split bench. This allows for numerous seating configurations.

Both models have similar exterior stylings. While the Outback starts out with 17-inch wheels and gets upgraded with 18-inch wheels, the Ascent comes standard with 18-inch wheels, with 20-inch wheels being available. The Outback has LED headlights, LED fog lights, and available satin chrome-finish side mirrors. The Ascent has similar features, with the addition of available chrome door handles.


The two SUVs have engines that are approximately the same size. The Ascent has a 2.4-liter model, and its capabilities are enhanced because it's a turbocharged version. It gives drivers 260 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque, and it has a towing capacity of up to 5,000 pounds. This is a respectable capability and enhances the "tough" nature of the SUV.

This same type of engine is actually found on the Outback as well, though it's limited to the Onyx Edition XT, Limited XT, and Touring XT. The other four trims, which are the base model, Oreium, Limited, and Touring, run on a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. It has a traditional design, without the turbocharger, and it comes with 182 horsepower and 176 pound-feet of torque. Towing capacity in the first four trims of the Outback is 2,700 pounds, and in the turbocharged models, it's 3,500 pounds.

Fuel economy in the lower trims of the Ascent is an estimated 21/27 (city/highway) miles per gallon. It drops ever so slightly to 20/26 miles per gallon on the Ascent Limited and Touring trims. The Outback does better in this department. Its 2.5-liter models come with an estimated fuel efficiency of 26/33 miles per gallon. The XT models that are powered by the turbocharged engines can achieve approximately 23/30 miles per gallon. This is still better than what the Ascent can do.

What's great is that both the Ascent and Outback have many features designed to improve handling and performance. They come standard with symmetrical all-wheel drive, which can really come in handy when the roads are slippery. They also have X-MODE, which enhances all-wheel drive capabilities. Hill Descent Control can be useful when going downhills, as it works to maintain a continual speed rather than letting the SUV pick up too much speed. When people are towing cargo, the Trailer Stability Assist feature should keep things steady.

Comfort, Options and Performance

When looking at the cabins of the Ascent and Outback, it's very evident that the SUVs are built by the same manufacturer. Taking the third row out of the picture, the vehicles share many of the same features. They start out with manual driver's seats and cloth upholstery, and they move up to power-adjustable front seats with heating and ventilation, leather upholstery, and leather-wrapped steering wheels and shifter handles. Some slight differences are that the Outback is the only model with the option to get Nappa leather and StarTex water-repellent upholstery, and the Ascent comes with ivory carbon fiber, ivory leather, or woodgrain-patterned interior accent trim.

In addition, there are variations related to at when certain upgrades are integrated into these Subaru SUVs. For example, the first two trims of the Outback have cloth upholstery, while the others either have the StarTex synthetic material, leather, or Nappa leather. In the Ascent, the base model has cloth seats, the next trim is upgraded with a stain-resistant cloth, and the others have leather. Also, the heated steering wheel is built into the Ascent at the Limited trim, and in the Outback, it is only seen on the Touring and above.

Likewise, people will find the same types of convenient amenities in the Subaru Ascent and Subaru Outback. For instance, they both have keyless access with push button start, auto-dimming rear view mirrors with HomeLink universal remotes, multiple USB ports in all seating rows, and clever storage compartments as available features. The Outback has a hands-free power rear gate, but the power rear gate in the Ascent doesn't have the hands-free function. What the Ascent does have that the Outback doesn't are climate controls in the second row, along with a tri-zone climate system and rear air vents. This is especially key given the larger cabin of the Ascent.

In the area of technology, the Ascent and Outback both stand out in a crowded market. The Ascent starts out with a 6.5-inch touchscreen, and it has Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, HD Radio, and SiirusXM Radio. Its infotainment system is upgraded to have an eight-inch touchscreen on the mid-level trims, and the highest trims have navigation and a Harman Kardon Quantum Surround Sound system with 14 speakers and a 792-watt amplifier. The standard set-up is six speakers, and all Ascents, with exception of the base model, have 4G LTE Wi-Fi capability.

The touchscreen in the Outback has almost the same package as what is found on the Ascent's base model, but it's slightly larger with a measurement of seven inches. On the mid-level trims, the system is enhanced to have an 11.6-inch touchscreen, and the higher trims have integrated navigation. The Outback starts out with four speakers, moves up to six speakers with the next trim, and then jumps to a 12-speaker Harman Kardon system with a 576-watt amplifier. Like the Ascent, the Outback has the ability to act as a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, though this isn't included on the base model.

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As mentioned before, symmetrical all-wheel drive really does a lot to improve stability, traction, and control. All trims of the Ascent and Outback have four-wheel anti-lock brakes, tire pressure monitoring, daytime running lights, a rear vision camera, and multiple air bags. They also have Brake Assist, which ensures that maximum pressure is applied to the brakes if the driver suddenly hits the brake pedal. In an emergency situation in which someone might have to focus on steering and braking and be under intense stress at the same time, it can be useful to have this function. A minor distinction is that the Outback uses LED technology in its daytime running lights, while the Ascent just has standard lights.

The Ascent and Outback both have EyeSight Driver Assist Technology, which is a suite of driver-assist features that looks out for potential problems. As issues arise, drivers are warned and prompted to take action, and if they're unable to react appropriately, the Subaru vehicles can take certain corrective measures. EyeSight Driver Assist technology consists of adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking that reduces the chances of a frontal collision, lane departure and sway warning, and lane keep assist. There are some additional safety features that come on the mid-level and higher trims, and here is where some more distinctions can be found.

Starting with the Outback, there are automatic high beams on every trim. A DriverFocus Distraction Mitigation System is included on the Touring and higher trims. Blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and lane change assist is built into the Limited and higher trims, as is reverse automatic braking.

In the Subaru Ascent, the automatic high beams, which can be very convenient to have if one is driving on a dark, country road, are found on the Limited and Touring trims. These same trims have reverse automatic braking, and this feature can prevent people from backing into objects they may not be able to see. The blind spot monitoring system, with the rear cross-traffic alert and the assist function for changing lanes, is integrated into the SUV at the Premium level.

Which Model to Choose?

When deciding between the Subaru Ascent and Subaru Outback, it mostly comes down to whether someone needs the extra row of seats. Having room for two additional people can be very important for busy families, those who frequently drive their friends around, or anyone who anticipates having a cabin filled with passengers. Overall cargo space is greater in the Ascent than in the Outback, though when all the seats are lowered, the difference isn't really that significant. The Ascent has about 11 cubic feet more cargo volume than the Outback does, and remember that they both have roof rails for securing gear.

Examining what's under the hood is another way to determine which model would be better for a particular customer. The Ascent outshines the standard Outback by having a turbocharged engine, though the Outback also has a more premium engine available. This enhanced engine has the same horsepower and torque as the Ascent's engine, but it doesn't have the same amount of towing capacity. If potential customers are planning on towing trailers somewhat frequently, then the Ascent is definitely the one to choose.

It's hard to say whether interior amenities are better in the Ascent or the Outback. It is all dependent on the specific trim selected. The Ascent only has four trim options, while the Outback has seven. High-end features, like leather seats and heated and ventilated front seats, can be found in both models, as long as someone is willing to get one of the upgraded trims.

Of course, affordability can't be overlooked. The Outback starts at $26,645, which is a competitive price. In contrast, the Ascent has a starting price of $31,995. This is enough to turn some people away from the Ascent. The Outback Premium is priced under $30,000, but all the other trims are offered for between $30,000 and $40,000.

With the Ascent, the Premium costs approximately $34,000, the Limited is priced at around $39,000, and the Touring tops things off at about $45,000. For these higher prices, customers do get a lot in return, but some people might not be interested in spending so much money.

In the end, customers will have to consider size, capability, and price when choosing between the Ascent and Outback.

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