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In the past twenty years hundreds of infants and young children have died after being left in vehicles, usually by accident. When turning the vehicle off, drivers of the Highlander are reminded to check the back seat if they opened the rear door before starting out. The Ascent doesn’t offer a back seat reminder.
The Highlander has a standard Secondary Collision Brake, which automatically applies the brakes in the event of a crash to help prevent secondary collisions and prevent further injuries. The Ascent doesn’t offer a post collision braking system: in the event of a collision that triggers the airbags, more collisions are possible without the protection of airbags that may have already deployed.
The Highlander (except L/LE/XLE) offers an optional Bird’s Eye View Camera to allow the driver to see objects all around the vehicle on a screen. The Ascent only offers a rear monitor and rear parking sensors that beep or flash a light. That doesn’t help with obstacles to the front or sides.
The Highlander’s driver alert monitor detects an inattentive driver then sounds a warning and suggests a break. According to the NHTSA, drivers who fall asleep cause about 100,000 crashes and 1500 deaths a year. The Ascent doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.
Both the Highlander and the Ascent have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, driver knee airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, height adjustable front shoulder belts, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, crash mitigating brakes, lane departure warning systems, rearview cameras, available all wheel drive, daytime running lights, blind spot warning systems and rear cross-path warning.
Toyota pays for scheduled maintenance on the Highlander for 2 years and 25000 miles. Toyota will pay for oil changes, lubrication and any other required maintenance. Subaru doesn’t pay scheduled maintenance for the Ascent.
There are almost 2 times as many Toyota dealers as there are Subaru dealers, which makes it much easier should you ever need service under the Highlander’s warranty.
J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that Toyota vehicles are better in initial quality than Subaru vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Toyota 8th in initial quality, above the industry average. With 23 more problems per 100 vehicles, Subaru is ranked 25th, below the industry average.
J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that Toyota vehicles are more reliable than Subaru vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Toyota second in reliability, above the industry average. With 28 more problems per 100 vehicles, Subaru is ranked 14th.
From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2019 Auto Issue reports that Toyota vehicles are more reliable than Subaru vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Toyota third in reliability. Subaru is ranked 7th.
The Highlander’s 3.5 DOHC V6 produces 35 more horsepower (295 vs. 260) than the Ascent’s 2.4 turbo 4-cylinder.
In heavy traffic or at stoplights the Highlander’s engine automatically turns off when the vehicle is stopped, saving fuel and reducing pollution. The engine is automatically restarted when the driver gets ready to move again. (Start/Stop isn’t accounted in present EPA fuel mileage tests.) The Ascent doesn’t offer an automatic engine start/stop system.
For better stopping power the Highlander’s brake rotors are larger than those on the Ascent:
For better handling and stability, the track (width between the wheels) on the Highlander is .9 inches wider in the front and 1.2 inches wider in the rear than on the Ascent.
For better maneuverability, the Highlander’s turning circle is .6 feet tighter than the Ascent’s (37.4 feet vs. 38 feet).
The Toyota Highlander may be more efficient, handle and accelerate better because it weighs about 150 to 300 pounds less than the Subaru Ascent.
The Highlander’s cargo area provides more volume than the Ascent.
Third Seat Folded
48.4 cubic feet
47.5 cubic feet
To make loading groceries and cargo easier when your hands are full, the Highlander Limited/Platinum’s liftgate can be opened and closed just by kicking your foot under the back bumper, leaving your hands completely free. The Ascent doesn’t offer a hands-free gesture to open its liftgate, forcing you to put cargo down if your hands are full.
The Highlander’s standard towing capacity is much higher than the Ascent’s (5000 vs. 2000 pounds).
The Highlander Platinum has a standard heads-up display that projects speed and other key instrumentation readouts in front of the driver’s line of sight, allowing drivers to view information without diverting their eyes from the road. The Ascent doesn’t offer a heads-up display.
The power windows standard on both the Highlander and the Ascent have locks to prevent small children from operating them. When the lock on the Highlander is engaged the driver can still operate all of the windows, for instance to close one opened by a child. The Ascent prevents the driver from operating the other windows just as it does the other passengers.
The Highlander’s front and rear power windows all open or close fully with one touch of the switches, making it more convenient at drive-up windows and toll booths, or when talking with someone outside the car. The Ascent’s rear power window switches have to be held the entire time to open or close them fully.
If the windows are left open on the Highlander the driver can close them all at the outside door handle. On a hot day the driver can lower the windows at the outside door handle or from a distance using the keyless remote. (This window function must be activated by your Toyota service department.) The driver of the Ascent can only operate the windows from inside the vehicle, with the ignition on.
The Highlander’s standard outside mirrors include heating elements to clear off the mirrors for better visibility. Subaru only offers heated mirrors on the Ascent Premium/Limited/Touring.
When the Highlander Limited/Platinum is put in reverse, both rearview mirrors tilt from their original position. This gives the driver a better view of the curb during parallel parking maneuvers. Shifting out of reverse puts the mirrors into their original positions. The Ascent’s mirrors don’t automatically adjust for backing.
To quickly and conveniently keep personal devices charged without cables tangling and wearing out, the Toyota Highlander XLE/Limited/Platinum has a standard wireless phone charging system (Qi) in the center console. The Ascent doesn’t offer wireless personal charging.
The Highlander is available in both front-wheel drive and four-wheel drive configurations. The Ascent doesn’t offer a two-wheel drive configuration.
The Toyota Highlander outsold the Subaru Ascent by over three to one during the 2019 model year.
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