Car Buying Strategies
Home | New Cars | Subaru | 2022 Subaru Ascent

2022 Subaru Ascent vs Toyota Highlander

2022 Subaru Ascent vs Toyota Highlander

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

Three-row SUVs are becoming very popular, and the Subaru Ascent and Toyota Highlander are some of the sought-after models. These are attractive vehicles because of their interior size in addition to their capability, safety, technology, and practicality. While they're not inexpensive by any means, they do have relatively competitive pricing given all that they have to offer.

It could be hard to pick which vehicle to get, and after that decision is made, a customer has to decide on a particular trim. There are five options for the Ascent, and there are even more associated with the Highlander. Toyota makes 11 total trims of the Highlander, four of which are hybrids. This comparison should hopefully help prospective buyers.

The Powertrain

Things are pretty straightforward with the Ascent, since there's only one available engine. It's a 2.4-liter turbocharged engine with four cylinders. Its size and the fact that it has a turbocharger work in its favor. It's able to make 260 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque, and it gives the SUV a maximum towing capacity of 5,000 pounds.

This engine is paired with a Lineartronic continuously variable transmission. Traction control is standard, as is active torque vectoring that helps with handling and cornering. As people may already know, the Ascent comes standard with symmetrical all-wheel drive. This is a hallmark of Subaru SUVs, and it provides excellent traction. A related system called X-MODE can increase grip when the conditions prove challenging, and hill descent control can be engaged to limit speed on downhills.

With the Toyota Highlander, there are two options. The first is a 3.5-liter V6 engine. Though it doesn't have a turbocharger like the Subaru's engine does, it's fairly sizable. It's able to generate 295 horsepower and 263 pound-feet of torque. This gives it a little more horsepower but a little less torque than the Ascent. It may be hard for the average driver to tell the difference between the two engines.

All-wheel drive is optional with the Highlander. Otherwise, it would have front-wheel drive. Toyota has paired the engine with a direct shift eight-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission. Like the transmission in the Ascent, it does an excellent job and shouldn't be anything to be concerned about.

The other choice with the Toyota Highlander is to get a hybrid powertrain. This system uses a battery and electric motors along with a 2.5-liter engine. Net horsepower is 243. Like the traditional versions, the hybrid versions of the Highlander can either come with front-wheel or all-wheel drive. The hybrid Highlander can tow up to 3,500 pounds, and the non-hybrid has the same towing capacity as the Ascent (5,000 pounds).

The obvious advantage that the hybrid Highlander has over the regular Highlander and the Ascent is that it's more efficient. The hybrid can earn up to 36 miles per gallon in the city and 35 miles per gallon on the highway. These numbers, to be honest, aren't that amazing compared to hybrid sedans, but they are good when compared with the regular Highlander. The models with the tradition engines can earn up to 21 miles per gallon in the city and 29 miles per gallon on the highway. With all-wheel drive, efficiency drops slightly.

Fuel economy on the Ascent is in the same range. Two trims have an estimated fuel economy of 21/27 (city/highway) miles per gallon, and the other three can earn an estimated 20/26 miles per gallon.

Keep in mind that there is a sportier version of the Toyota Highlander. It's called the XSE trim. It can be equipped with dynamic torque vectoring all-wheel drive, which does a great job of making adjustments in order to optimize performance. It also has a sport-tuned independent front suspension.

All of the Highlanders have different drive modes. People can choose from Sport, Eco, and Normal modes, and there's even a Snow mode. The Snow mode is present on the non-hybrid Highlander whether it has all-wheel drive or front-wheel drive. The hybrids have a special EV mode that lets them rely exclusively on electric power. This would only work for short distances. The hybrids also have Trail mode if they've been upgraded with all-wheel-drive capability. Finally, the non-hybrids with all-wheel drive can have a Multi-Terrain Select program, in which users can choose from mud and sand, rock and dirt, and normal modes.


These vehicles offer comfortable rides and have space for many passengers. They both have three rows of seats, with room for up to eight total people. Three people can ride in the third row, and three more can be accommodated in the second row of the models that have bench seats. Some models of the Ascent and Highlander have a pair of second-row captain's chairs instead, and in this case, they would have a total of seven seats.

The Ascent has a lot of room in the first two rows, with not as much space in the back. First-row leg room is 42.2 inches, and second-row leg room is 38.6 inches. It might be best for children to ride in the last row since there is only 31.7 inches of leg room back there.

It's a similar story in the Highlander, and actually, the difference in space between the second and third rows is even more drastic. First-row leg room is 42 inches, and second-row leg room is a very generous 41 inches. Passengers in the third row may feel a bit cramped with only 27.7 inches of leg room.

When it comes to cargo, the Highlander has more overall space than the Ascent does. It has a maximum cargo volume of 84.3 cubic feet. In comparison, maximum cargo volume in the Ascent is 75.6 cubic feet. This is still a lot of space to hold cargo, but some people who frequently have large items to carry might appreciate the extra room in the Toyota.

When all of the seats are occupied, there's not a significant cargo hold in either vehicle. The Ascent has a bit less than 18 cubic feet of space behind its third row. The Highlander only has 16 cubic feet. Some people will likely lower the third row, or at least half of the third row, in order to accommodate more items.

In terms of parking, these SUVs should fit in most spots. They both have a similar length, of around 197 inches. It may be a bit difficult to see around the side and back of these SUVs when their cabins are full of passengers, but that's why it's nice to have a rear-view camera and available blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.

Subaru has given the Ascent a pretty solid infotainment system. The base trim has a 6.5-inch touchscreen, which comes with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, SiriusXM, HD Radio and Bluetooth. It has two USB ports in the front row and two more in the second row.

All of the other trims have eight-inch touchscreens, with most having two more USB ports in their third rows. All of the trims with the larger touchscreens also have Wi-Fi capability, which can be important to some consumers. Navigation is optional on two trims and standard on the highest one, which is called the Touring. The Touring has a Harman Kardon premium sound system with 14 speakers, whereas the other trims have six speakers.

Toyota has focused a lot of its attention on technology, too. The Highlander starts off with an eight-inch touchscreen, six speakers, smartphone compatibility, Bluetooth, and SiriuXM and HD Radio. Plus, it has Wi-Fi capability. One thing that the Highlander has that the Ascent does not is Amazon Alexa. This can be especially convenient for those who have other Alexa-compatible device. The technology package on the Highlander offers one USB media port and four USB charging ports.

Navigation is optional on mid-level trims of the Highlander. On the Limited, Hybrid Limited, Platinum, and Hybrid Platinum, it's standard. These trims also have JBL audio systems that consist of 11 speakers. Notably, the Platinum trims have 12.3-inch touchscreens.

Another extra system that the Highlander has is Driver Easy Speak. It amplifies the driver's voice through the speaker system so that anyone sitting in the back can hear more clearly.


Subaru and Toyota are two companies that are known for building safe vehicles. In recent years, they've incorporated driver-assist technologies into most of their models. The Ascent and Highlander have similar safety packages called EyeSight Driver Assist Technology and Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+, respectively.

EyeSight Driver Assist Technology comes with pre-collision warning and automatic emergency braking. It also has programs that can alert the driver when he/she is veering out of position. Adaptive cruise control with lane centering is another standard component. Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+ has all of those features as well as steering assist and road sign assist. Road sign assist can be useful in reminding drivers of what rules or upcoming traffic patterns they should be paying attention to.

Automatic high beams are included on both models. In addition, most of their trims have blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, as mentioned earlier in this overview.

There are a few ways in which the Ascent and Highlander differ in this area, though. First, the Ascent offers reverse automatic braking, which can be quite useful in parking lots, driveways, and in other tight spots. The top-level Ascent has an 180-degree front-view camera as well.

The Highlander can have something similar to reverse automatic braking. An available program is called Front and Rear Parking Assist with Automatic Braking. It works at low speeds and can prevent the Highlander from hitting stationary objects around it. It also works to prevent collisions with crossing vehicles when the Toyota is in reverse.

With the Highlander, instead of an available front-view monitor, there's an available 360-degree camera system. It provides a top-down view of the vehicle and the objects around it. The Highlander has an available head-up display, too. It measures ten inches and comes in color, and it can provide useful information, such as anything related to safety warnings or navigation instructions.

Which Has the Best Value?

Since there are so many options with the Subaru Ascent and Toyota Highlander, it might be best to quickly review the price range of the two models and then compare the entry-level options as well as the premium ones.

Starting out at just under $33,000, the Ascent is fairly affordable for a vehicle of this size. There are reasonable price increases associated with each higher trim, and the Touring tops off the list with a cost of about $46,000.

The L trim of the Highlander has a cost of approximately $36,000, and that doesn't include the additional cost that would be incurred if the SUV was equipped with all-wheel drive. There are many options for consumers interested in mid-level trims. Many of them are available as hybrids, and the hybrid powertrain costs about $1,500 extra. The most expensive Highlander is the Hybrid Platinum, with a starting price of just under $50,000.

The entry-level models of the two SUVs seem comparable in regards to what they have to offer. They have good technology as well as LED lights and tri-zone automatic climate control. The Highlander benefits from a power-adjustable driver's seat, while the Ascent sticks with a manually adjustable one.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Ascent Touring and the Highlander Hybrid Platinum are quite impressive. The Ascent has a panoramic moonroof and leather upholstery. Its front seats are heated and ventilated, and more heating elements are found in its rear seats and steering wheel. Its further equipped with a smart auto-dimming rearview mirror and the technology that was discussed in the section above.

The Highlander has heated and cooled front seats and a heated second row, and its steering wheel has a heating element, too. It also has a panoramic moonroof. However, the Highlander has a larger touchscreen. Its extra safety components, which are the head-up display and 360-degree camera, may be appealing to some people. There remains the question of whether these extra items are worth the added cost.

Which is Better?

These SUVs have many of the same features, though there are important differences. Most notably, the Highlander is available as a hybrid, while the Ascent is not. The hybrid option is going to be intriguing for many people.

Though these models have comparable performance, the Ascent comes standard with all-wheel drive. That being said, it should be easy to find a Highlander with all-wheel drive. The only potentially issue is that this would increase its cost by a small amount.

The size of the vehicles should be highlighted as well. The Highlander has more overall cargo space but a little less room in its third row. If anyone plans on carrying a full load of passengers quite frequently, then the Ascent is the better choice.

There aren't too many big differences when it comes to cabin amenities. Drivers and passengers will find plenty of convenient features in either of these vehicles. The technology and safety packages are also similar, with the Toyota Highlander having the slight edge.

View Comparisons for other Years:

2021 Subaru Ascent VS Toyota Highlander
Follow Us:

Face Book

Copyright ©