2021 Volvo XC90 vs. 2021 Subaru Ascent

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

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The XC90’s pre-crash front seatbelts will tighten automatically in the event the vehicle detects an impending crash, improving protection against injury significantly. The Ascent doesn’t offer pre-crash pretensioners.

For enhanced safety, the front and middle seat shoulder belts of the Volvo XC90 are height-adjustable to accommodate a wide variety of driver and passenger heights. A better fit can prevent injuries and the increased comfort also encourages passengers to buckle up. The Subaru Ascent doesn’t offer height-adjustable middle seat belts.

Both the XC90 and Ascent have child safety locks to prevent children from opening the rear doors. The XC90 has power child safety locks, allowing the driver to activate and deactivate them from the driver's seat and to know when they're engaged. The Ascent’s child locks have to be individually engaged at each rear door with a manual switch. The driver can’t know the status of the locks without opening the doors and checking them.

The Volvo XC90 offers an optional built in child booster seat. It’s more crash worthy than an added child seat because of its direct attachment to the seat. Subaru doesn’t offer the convenience and security of a built-in child booster seat in the Ascent. Their owners must carry a heavy booster seat in and out of the vehicle; XC90 owners can just fold their built-in child seat up or down.

Using vehicle speed sensors and seat sensors, smart airbags in the XC90 deploy with different levels of force or don’t deploy at all to help better protect passengers of all sizes in different collisions. The XC90’s side airbags will shut off if a child is leaning against the door. The Ascent’s airbags don’t have smart features and will always deploy full force.

The XC90 has standard Automatic Braking After Collision, which automatically apply 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 XC90 offers an optional 360-Degree Surround 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 XC90’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 XC90 and the Ascent have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, driver knee airbags, side-impact head airbags, front and rear seatbelt pretensioners, 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, lane departure warning systems and rearview cameras.

Warranty

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The XC90 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 XC90’s corrosion warranty is 7 years longer than the Ascent’s (12 vs. 5 years).

Volvo pays for scheduled maintenance on the XC90 for 3 years and 36,000 miles. Volvo 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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To reliably power the ignition and other systems and to recharge the battery, the XC90 has a standard 210-amp alternator. The Ascent’s 190-amp alternator isn’t as powerful.

To reliably start during all conditions and help handle large electrical loads, the XC90 has a standard 800-amp battery. The Ascent’s 530-amp battery isn’t as powerful.

The battery on the XC90 is in the trunk, which protects it from hot underhood temperatures that can degrade battery life. By keeping the XC90’s battery 20 to 30 degrees cooler, its life is increased by years. The Ascent’s battery is in the hot engine compartment.

Engine

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The XC90 T6’s standard 2.0 turbo/supercharged 4-cylinder produces 56 more horsepower (316 vs. 260) and 18 lbs.-ft. more torque (295 vs. 277) than the Ascent’s 2.4 turbo 4-cylinder. The XC90 Recharge’s standard 2.0 turbo/supercharged 4-cylinder hybrid produces 140 more horsepower (400 vs. 260) and 195 lbs.-ft. more torque (472 vs. 277) than the Ascent’s 2.4 turbo 4-cylinder.

As tested in Car and Driver the Volvo XC90 is faster than the Subaru Ascent:

XC90 T6

XC90 Recharge

Ascent

Zero to 30 MPH

2.3 sec

n/a

2.7 sec

Zero to 60 MPH

6 sec

5.3 sec

6.9 sec

Zero to 100 MPH

15.5 sec

14.6 sec

19.4 sec

5 to 60 MPH Rolling Start

7.1 sec

5.8 sec

7.8 sec

Passing 30 to 50 MPH

3.4 sec

n/a

3.9 sec

Passing 50 to 70 MPH

4.6 sec

n/a

5.1 sec

Quarter Mile

14.6 sec

14 sec

15.5 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

97 MPH

98 MPH

91 MPH

Top Speed

132 MPH

132 MPH

130 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range

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On the EPA test cycle the XC90 Recharge running on electricity gets better fuel mileage than the Ascent:

MPGe

XC90

AWD

Electric Motor

58 city/53 hwy

Ascent

MPG

AWD

2.4 turbo 4-cyl.

21 city/27 hwy

Limited/Touring 2.4 turbo 4-cyl.

20 city/26 hwy

On the EPA test cycle the XC90 running its gasoline engine gets better fuel mileage than the Ascent:

MPG

XC90

FWD

T5 2.0 turbo 4-cyl.

21 city/30 hwy

AWD

T8 2.0 turbo/SC 4-cyl. Hybrid

26 city/28 hwy

T5 2.0 turbo 4-cyl.

20 city/28 hwy

T6 2.0 turbo/SC 4-cyl.

19 city/28 hwy

Ascent

AWD

2.4 turbo 4-cyl.

21 city/27 hwy

Limited/Touring 2.4 turbo 4-cyl.

20 city/26 hwy

The XC90 Recharge can drive on battery power alone for up to 18 miles. The Ascent must run its internal combustion engine to move.

Regenerative brakes improve the XC90 T8’s fuel efficiency by converting inertia back into energy instead of wasting it. The Ascent doesn’t offer a regenerative braking system.

In heavy traffic or at stoplights the XC90’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.

The XC90 has a standard cap-less fueling system. The fuel filler is automatically opened when the fuel nozzle is inserted and automatically closed when it’s removed. This eliminates the need to unscrew and replace the cap and it reduces fuel evaporation, which causes pollution. The Ascent doesn’t offer a cap-less fueling system.

Environmental Friendliness

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In its Green Vehicle Guide, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates the Volvo XC90 higher (5 to 7 out of 10) than the Subaru Ascent (3). This means the XC90 produces up to 24.5 pounds less smog-producing pollutants than the Ascent every 15,000 miles.

Brakes and Stopping

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For better stopping power the XC90’s front brake rotors are larger than those on the Ascent:

XC90 T5/T6

XC90 Recharge

Ascent

Front Rotors

13.6 inches

14.4 inches

13.1 inches

Rear Rotors

12.6 inches

13.4 inches

13 inches

The XC90 stops much shorter than the Ascent:

XC90

Ascent

70 to 0 MPH

167 feet

178 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

113 feet

125 feet

Motor Trend

Tires and Wheels

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For better traction, the XC90’s optional tires are larger than the largest tires available on the Ascent (275/45R20 vs. 245/60R18).

The XC90’s standard tires provide better handling because they have a lower 55 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the Ascent’s standard 60 series tires. The XC90’s optional tires have a lower 35 series profile than the Ascent Limited/Touring’s 50 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the XC90 has standard 19-inch wheels. Smaller 18-inch wheels are standard on the Ascent. The XC90’s optional 22-inch wheels are larger than the 20-inch wheels on the Ascent Limited/Touring.

Suspension and Handling

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The XC90 offers an available driver-adjustable suspension system. It allows the driver to choose between an extra-supple ride, reducing fatigue on long trips, or a sport setting, which allows maximum control for tricky roads or off-road. The Ascent’s suspension doesn’t offer adjustable shock absorbers.

The XC90 R-Design/Inscription has a standard automatic front and rear load leveling suspension to keep ride height level with a heavy load or when towing. The XC90’s height leveling suspension allows the driver to raise ride height for better off-road clearance and then lower it again for easier entering and exiting and better on-road handling. The Ascent doesn’t offer a load leveling suspension.

The XC90 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.

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the XC90’s wheelbase is 3.7 inches longer than on the Ascent (117.5 inches vs. 113.8 inches).

For better handling and stability, the average track (width between the wheels) on the XC90 is 1.3 inches wider in the front and 1.6 inches wider in the rear than the track on the Ascent.

The XC90’s front to rear weight distribution is more even (51.7% to 48.3%) than the Ascent’s (54.2% to 45.8%). This gives the XC90 more stable handling and braking.

The XC90 T6 AWD handles at .84 G’s, while the Ascent Limited pulls only .79 G’s of cornering force in a Car and Driver skidpad test.

The XC90 T6 AWD executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver quicker than the Ascent Touring (26.8 seconds @ .65 average G’s vs. 27.4 seconds @ .63 average G’s).

For greater off-road capability the XC90 w/Air Suspension has a 1.2 inches greater minimum ground clearance than the Ascent (9.9 vs. 8.7 inches), allowing the XC90 to travel over rougher terrain without being stopped or damaged.

Chassis

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As tested by Car and Driver while under full throttle, the interior of the XC90 T6 AWD is quieter than the Ascent Touring (71 vs. 73 dB).

Passenger Space

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The front step up height for the XC90 is 1.9 inches lower than the Ascent (15.8” vs. 17.7”). The XC90’s rear step up height is 2.1 inches lower than the Ascent’s (16” vs. 18.1”).

Cargo Capacity

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A low lift-over cargo hatch design makes loading and unloading the XC90 easier. The XC90’s cargo hatch lift-over height is 30.8 inches, while the Ascent’s liftover is 32 inches.

The XC90’s cargo area is larger than the Ascent’s in almost every dimension:

XC90

Ascent

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

21.8”/49.6”/80.3”

19.9”/47.6”/82.5”

Max Width

54.7”

50.5”

Min Width

44.5”

45.9”

Height

35”

33.9”

The XC90 has a standard third row seat which folds flat into the floor. This completely clears a very large cargo area quickly. The Ascent doesn’t offer seats that fold into the floor.

Pressing a switch automatically lowers or raises the XC90’s optional third row seats, to make changing between cargo and passengers easier. The Ascent doesn’t offer automatic folding seats.

To make loading groceries and cargo easier when your hands are full, the XC90’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.

Towing

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The XC90’s minimum standard towing capacity is much higher than the Ascent’s (4000 vs. 2000 pounds).

Servicing Ease

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The XC90 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 XC90’s standard Easy Ingress and Egress Seat glides the driver’s seat back, making it easier for the driver to get in and out. The Ascent doesn’t offer an easy entry system.

The XC90 offers an optional 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 XC90 and the Ascent have locks to prevent small children from operating them. When the lock on the XC90 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.

If the windows are left open on the XC90 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. The driver of the Ascent can only operate the windows from inside the vehicle, with the ignition on.

The XC90’s 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 optional on the XC90 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.

In poor weather, headlights can lose their effectiveness as grime builds up on their lenses. This can reduce visibility without the driver realizing. The XC90 has standard headlight washers to keep headlight output high. The Ascent doesn’t offer headlight washers.

A manual rear sunshade and rear side window sunshades are optional in the XC90 to help block heat and glare for the rear passengers. The Ascent doesn’t offer a rear sunshade.

The XC90’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 XC90 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.

The XC90’s standard rear and side view mirrors have an automatic dimming feature. These mirrors can be set to automatically darken quickly when headlights shine on them, keeping following vehicles from blinding or distracting the driver. The Ascent offers an automatic rear view mirror, but its side mirrors don’t dim.

The XC90 Inscription offers optional massaging front seats in order to maximize comfort and eliminate fatigue on long trips. Massaging seats aren’t available in the Ascent.

The XC90 R-Design/Inscription’s optional Park Assist Pilot 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 XC90 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 XC90 is less expensive to operate than the Ascent because it costs $19 less to do the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance for 50,000 miles. Typical repairs cost much less on the XC90 than the Ascent, including $225 less for front struts.

Recommendations

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The Car Book by Jack Gillis recommends the Volvo XC90, based on economy, maintenance, safety and complaint levels.

Motor Trend selected the XC90 as their 2016 Sport Utility of the Year. The Ascent has never been chosen.

The XC90 was chosen as one of Automobile Magazine’s “All Stars” in 2016. The Ascent has never been an “All Star.”

A group of representative automotive journalists from North America selected the XC90 as the 2016 North American Truck of the Year. The Ascent has never been chosen.

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