2021 Volkswagen Atlas vs. 2020 Subaru Ascent

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

© 1999 - 2020 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved. This vehicle comparison and all of the content in it are provided only by license from Advanta-STAR Automotive Research Corporation of America. If you are not a legally licensed user of this vehicle comparison, it is against federal law to access it, copy it, forward it or use it in any manner whatsoever. Any unauthorized use of this vehicle comparison is a violation of U.S. and international law and is punishable criminally and civilly. 6IUEX-0KENZ 45.55.47.189 2020/08/06

The Atlas has a standard Automatic Post-Collision Braking System, 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 Atlas SEL Premium has a standard Overhead 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.

Both the Atlas and the Ascent have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, height adjustable front shoulder belts, plastic fuel tanks, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, crash mitigating brakes, daytime running lights, rearview cameras, available all wheel drive and lane departure warning systems.

Warranty

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The Atlas comes with a full 4-year/50,000-mile basic warranty, which covers the entire truck and includes 24-hour roadside assistance. The Ascent’s 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty expires 1 year and 14,000 miles sooner.

The Atlas’ corrosion warranty is 2 years longer than the Ascent’s (7 vs. 5 years).

Volkswagen pays for scheduled maintenance on the Atlas for 2 years and 20,000 miles. Volkswagen will pay for oil changes, lubrication and any other required maintenance. Subaru doesn’t pay scheduled maintenance for the Ascent.

Reliability

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The Volkswagen Atlas’ engines use a cast iron block for durability, while the Ascent’s engine uses an aluminum block. Aluminum engine blocks are much more prone to warp and crack at high temperatures than cast iron.

To reliably start during all conditions and help handle large electrical loads, the Atlas has a standard 680-amp battery. The Ascent’s 530-amp battery isn’t as powerful.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that Volkswagen vehicles are more reliable than Subaru vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Volkswagen 12th in reliability, above the industry average. With 5 more problems per 100 vehicles, Subaru is ranked 14th.

Engine

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The Atlas’ optional 3.6 DOHC V6 produces 16 more horsepower (276 vs. 260) than the Ascent’s 2.4 turbo 4-cylinder.

As tested in Motor Trend the Volkswagen Atlas V6 is faster than the Subaru Ascent:

Atlas

Ascent

Zero to 60 MPH

7.3 sec

7.5 sec

Quarter Mile

15.6 sec

16 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

90.8 MPH

88.6 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range

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In heavy traffic or at stoplights the Atlas’ 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.

Brakes and Stopping

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The Atlas stops shorter than the Ascent:

Atlas

Ascent

70 to 0 MPH

174 feet

178 feet

Car and Driver

Tires and Wheels

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For better traction, the Atlas SEL Premium’s optional tires are larger than the largest tires available on the Ascent (265/45R21 vs. 245/60R18).

The Atlas SEL Premium’s optional tires provide better handling because they have a lower 45 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the Ascent Limited/Touring’s 50 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the Atlas SEL Premium offers optional 21-inch wheels. The Ascent’s largest wheels are only 20-inches.

Suspension and Handling

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The Atlas has vehicle speed sensitive variable-assist power steering, for low-effort parking, better control at highway speeds and during hard cornering, and a better feel of the road. The Ascent doesn’t offer variable-assist power steering.

The Atlas’ drift compensation steering can automatically compensate for road conditions which would cause the vehicle to drift from side to side, helping the driver to keep the vehicle straight more easily. The Ascent doesn’t offer drift compensation steering.

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the Atlas’ wheelbase is 3.5 inches longer than on the Ascent (117.3 inches vs. 113.8 inches).

For better handling and stability, the track (width between the wheels) on the Atlas is 2.8 inches wider in the front and 3.6 inches wider in the rear than on the Ascent.

The Atlas SEL Premium 4Motion handles at .84 G’s, while the Ascent Limited pulls only .79 G’s of cornering force in a Car and Driver skidpad test.

Passenger Space

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The Atlas has .5 inches more front hip room, .4 inches more front shoulder room, .4 inches more rear headroom, .5 inches more rear hip room, .5 inches more rear shoulder room, 2 inches more third row headroom and 2 inches more third row legroom than the Ascent.

Cargo Capacity

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The Atlas’ cargo area provides more volume than the Ascent.

Atlas

Ascent

Behind Third Seat

20.6 cubic feet

17.8 cubic feet

Third Seat Folded

55.5 cubic feet

47.5 cubic feet

Second Seat Folded

96.8 cubic feet

86.5 cubic feet

A low lift-over cargo hatch design makes loading and unloading the Atlas easier. The Atlas’ cargo hatch lift-over height is 29.7 inches, while the Ascent’s liftover is 32 inches.

The Atlas’ cargo area is larger than the Ascent’s in almost every dimension:

Atlas

Ascent

Length to seat (3rd/2nd/1st)

23.8”/53”/85”

19.9”/47.6”/82.5”

Max Width

61.6”

50.5”

Min Width

45”

45.9”

Height

37.5”

33.9”

To make loading groceries and cargo easier when your hands are full, the Atlas’ available 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.

Servicing Ease

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The Atlas uses gas struts to support the hood for easier service access. The Ascent uses a prop rod to support its heavy hood. It takes two hands to open the hood and set the prop rod, the prop rod gets in the way during maintenance and service, and the prop rod could be knocked out, causing the heavy hood to fall on the person maintaining or servicing the car.

Ergonomics

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The power windows standard on both the Atlas and the Ascent have locks to prevent small children from operating them. When the lock on the Atlas 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 Atlas’ 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 Atlas SE/SEL/SEL Premium the driver can close them all at the outside door handle. The driver of the Ascent can only operate the windows from inside the vehicle, with the ignition on.

The Atlas’ rain-sensitive wipers adjust their speed and turn on and off automatically based on the amount of rainfall on the windshield. This allows the driver to concentrate on driving without constantly adjusting the wipers. The Ascent’s standard manually variable intermittent wipers have to be constantly adjusted.

Heated windshield washer nozzles are standard on the Atlas SE/SEL/SEL Premium to prevent washer fluid and nozzles from freezing and help continue to keep the windshield clear in sub-freezing temperatures. The Ascent doesn’t offer heated windshield washer nozzles.

The Atlas’ 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 Atlas SEL/SEL Premium is put in reverse, the passenger rearview mirror tilts from its original position. This gives the driver a better view of the curb during parallel parking maneuvers. Shifting out of reverse puts the mirror into its original position. The Ascent’s mirror doesn’t automatically adjust for backing.

To quickly and conveniently keep personal devices charged without cables tangling and wearing out, the Volkswagen Atlas SE/SEL/SEL Premium/R-Line has a standard wireless phone charging system (Qi) in the center console. The Ascent doesn’t offer wireless personal charging.

The Atlas SEL Premium’s Park Assist can parallel park or back into a parking spot by itself, with the driver only controlling speed with the brake pedal. The Ascent doesn’t offer an automated parking system.

Model Availability

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The Atlas is available in both front-wheel drive and four-wheel drive configurations. The Ascent doesn’t offer a two-wheel drive configuration.

Economic Advantages

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According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Atlas is less expensive to operate than the Ascent because typical repairs cost less on the Atlas than the Ascent, including $67 less for front struts.

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