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Subaru Ascent Vs. Toyota Highlander - One New 3-Row SUV's Upgrade Outshines The Other

Which 3-Row SUV is the best? There are many choices for new vehicle shoppers. Check out the 2023 Subaru Ascent Vs. the 2023 Toyota Highlander report. One recent upgrade gives one model a distinct advantage.


Midsize SUV shoppers who need three rows of seats are in high demand, and there are many choices, but which is the best for growing families? We'll examine two newly-upgraded 3-Row models, the newly-upgraded 2023 Subaru Ascent and the new 2023 Toyota Highlander. There are significant differences worth noting. One recent upgrade gives one model a distinct advantage.

The Ascent is Subaru of America's newest SUV. New for 2019, the 2023 model gets significant upgrades. Consumer Reports says it's now one of its recommended 3-Row SUVs. The Toyota Highlander has been around since 2001 but also brings new improvements.

2023 Subaru Ascent

However, with fierce competition from rivals like the new 2023 Toyota Highlander, it's only natural to wonder which SUV is better for families. So check out each model's key attributes and see your best choice between the two 3-Row SUVs.


On the performance front, the newly-upgraded Subaru Ascent has one clear edge over the new Toyota Highlander. With standard Subaru Symmetrical all-wheel-drive and 8.7 inches of ground clearance, the Ascent offers confidence and control whether traveling off-road on the weekend or commuting to work in inclement weather.

2023 Toyota Highlander

With the new Toyota Highlander, you'll still have standard front-wheel drive, but you'll have to pay extra to get its all-wheel drive system.

The Ascent's most significant upgrade is that the 3-RowSUV now comes with dual-function X-Mode for active families who use the vehicle for off-pavement adventures. The Ascent will handle rough terrain, and you won't get stuck in deep snow, mud, or sand.


The new Subaru Ascent and Toyota Highlander can seat up to eight passengers, making them perfect for growing families. However, the new Subaru Ascent has a slight edge over the Toyota Highlander regarding interior space.

Families have complained that the new Toyota Highlander is cramped in its rearmost seats, so only smaller children can ride comfortably in the third row. By comparison, the new Subaru Ascent has enough head and leg room across all three rows. Plus, with more cargo room behind its second row, the Ascent is better equipped for shoppers with more active lifestyles to carry sports gear and outdoor equipment.


The new Subaru Ascent and Toyota Highlander are equipped with innovative infotainment technology. However, when you compare the Subaru Starlink multimedia infotainment system and the Toyota infotainment system, you'll note that the Subaru suite has some clear advantages. With a larger infotainment screen, more responsive design, and an intuitive menu structure, the new Subaru Ascent is more sophisticated on the tech front than its rival.


While the new Subaru Ascent has many advantages over the Toyota Highlander, both models are on an even footing regarding safety technology. The Subaru Ascent comes available with Subaru EyeSight driver assist technology, while the new Toyota Highlander comes with the available Toyota Safety Sense 2.5. Both systems offer innovations like Forward Collision Mitigation, Lane Keeping Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and more.

The most significant advantage the 2023 Subaru Ascent has over the 2023 Toyota Highlander is the Ascent's X-Mode and dual-function X-Mode. The Toyota Highlander is a good choice if you need a family hauler for city commutes. For active families who use their SUV for off-pavement and mountain excursions to get out of the city, the 2023 Subaru Ascent outshines its rival.

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Denis Flierl has invested over 30 years in the automotive industry in a consulting role working with every major car brand. He is an accredited member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press. Check out Subaru Report, where he covers all of the Japanese automaker's models. More stories can be found on the Torque News Subaru page. Follow Denis on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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Photo credit: Subaru, Toyota