Subaru Ascent vs Toyota Highlander 3-Row SUV Comparison in Huntington Beach, CA

There are many things that set Subaru apart from the rest. With industry recognition including the Best Resale Value for 2020 and the lowest 5-Year Cost to Own of all brands, it's easy to see why so many are choosing Subaru. For families who need more space with all the benefits that come with a Subaru, the recently introducedthree-row Subaru Ascent is the perfect SUV. That's not to say that there aren't competitors on the market; the 2020 Toyota Highlander is a popular choice, as well. But, as you'll see below, Subaru offers you much more for your money.

Second and third rows of the 2020 Subaru Ascent

Subaru Ascent vs Toyota Highlander: Size

In designing the Ascent, the experts at Subaru kept comfort for all occupants in mind. That's why you'll find a cavernous cabin with 153.5 cubic feet of passenger volume! At 141.3 cubic feet of passenger volume, the 2020 Toyota Highlander doesn't offer nearly the same level of comfort as the Subaru Ascent. But it isn't just in passenger volume where the Subaru Ascent has the upper hand. Whether all seats are in place, the third row is folded down, or the second and third rows are both folded down, the Subaru Ascent has more cargo capacity than the Toyota Highlander. Roof rails for surfboards and other oversized gear are also standard on the Subaru Ascent, giving you even more capability. To get roof rails on the Toyota Highlander, you'll have to pay more for an upgrade.

Bottle in a bottle holder next to a Harman Kardon speaker

Subaru Ascent vs Toyota Highlander: Interior Convenience

Convenience is key in a three-row SUV, and the 2020 Subaru Ascent is impressively convenient. The standard underfloor cargo-area storage tray lets you keep things more organized, but convenient little cubby holes like this are just the beginning of the advantages you'll find in this Subaru SUV. For instance, the 2020 Toyota Highlander, you'll find twelve cup holders where the 2020 Ascent has nineteen cup and bottle holders. This not only ensures a place for cups and bottles, but also those odd items like stray socks and chewed-up lollipop sticks from younger passengers. We don't know how those always show up in cup holders, either--we just know that they do! It's true that both SUVs do have features like tri-zone automatic climate control, but it's the extra consideration for space that really sets the Subaru Ascent apart.

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Subaru Ascent with kayaks on its roof driving down a coastal road

Subaru Ascent vs Toyota Highlander: Performance

Whether you're driving on the road or off of it, the Subaru Ascent is the perfect choice. Its flat BOXER® engine reduces noise, vibration, and harshness when compared to the traditional V6 design in the Toyota Highlander. This defining flat design of the Subaru engine provides a host of other advantages including improved handling from the lower center of gravity, which also makes it far less likely to roll over. When it comes to power numbers, the Toyota Highlander does look a little more powerful on paper. However, it still offers the same towing capacity as the Subaru Ascent and they both offer nearly the same fuel economy. At least they do if you're just comparing the entry level models. Look just beyond the power numbers, and you'll find a big performance difference between the entry-level Subaru Ascent and the much more expensive base Toyota Highlander model.

You see, every new Subaru Ascent comes equipped with Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, a powerful AWD system that delivers remarkable performance, capability, and safety that you won't find in the Toyota Highlander. That's because the midsize SUV from Toyota starts out as a front-wheel drive vehicle. To upgrade it to an AWD system that's still not as impressive as Subaru Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, you'll have to pay even more. While standard all-wheel drive may be one of the more significant performance advantages of the new Subaru Ascent, there are many more. For example, you'll get standard steering wheel paddle shifters, a longer and wider footprint, and a noticeably higher ground clearance when you go with the new 3-row SUV from Subaru.

Close-up of Subaru Ascent wheel

Subaru Ascent vs Toyota Highlander: Safety

In case of an accident, you can count on features like advanced airbags and sturdy construction in both vehicles. They both even have standard driver assist features like pre-collision braking and adaptive cruise control. But there is one big difference when it comes to safety, and it's something we mentioned above: the standard AWD system. The increased traction that comes from all-wheel drive means that you'll be able to handle a variety of road conditions without losing control. Other safety advantages available in a Subaru Outback include reverse automatic braking, standard daytime running lights, and satellite telematics. These are just a few of the safety features that you won't find in the new Toyota Highlander.

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Subaru Ascent vs Toyota Highlander: Value Comparison

Even at the entry level, the Subaru Ascent has a starting MSRP that's well over $2,000 less than that of the Toyota Highlander. Add all-wheel drive to the Toyota Highlander and it will cost even more! By choosing the Subaru Ascent, you can either save money or put that money to use by adding features like a power-adjustable driver's seat and a windshield wiper de-icer--all for less than the starting MSRP of the Toyota Highlander.

2020 Subaru Ascent2020 Toyota Highlander
$31,995Starting MSRP*$34,600
277 lb-ftTorque263 lb-ft
StandardAll-Wheel DriveAvailable Upgrade
21 City MPG / 27 Highway MPGAWD Gas Mileage20 City MPG / 27 Highway MPG
5,000 lbsTowing Capacity5,000 lbs
StandardRoof RailsAvailable Upgrade
153.5 Cubic FeetPassenger Volume141.3 Cubic Feet
86.5 Cubic FeetMaximum Cargo Capacity84.3 Cubic Feet
14-Speaker Harman Kardon Quantum Surround SoundAvailable Audio System11-Speaker JBL System

*Manufacturer's suggested retail price does not include destination and delivery charges, tax, title and registration fees. Destination and delivery includes handling and inland freight fees and may vary in some states. Prices, specifications, options, features and models subject to change without notice.