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Honda Pilot VS Subaru Ascent

42357 Views 106 Replies 38 Participants Last post by  hokiefyd
We are strongly considering a Pilot EX and are also considering the Highlander (and possibly even the Odyssey w/o the 9 speed transmission). I have recently started hearing more about the new Subaru Ascent with all the news coming out of the LA International Auto Show. Does anyone have thoughts on how this vehicle will compare with the Pilot - pros and cons? So far, the initial information sounds positive - reliable AWD system, solid safety features and good reliability. Thanks!
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Have you driven the CVT in larger vehicles? It pairs way better because of their larger, higher torque engines. The new turbo 4's in some smaller vehicles are helping but I have always felt Nissan's VQ35/CVT combination was one of the best applications of a CVT. We test drove brand new Pathfinders before settling on a used car and it was nothing like driving our old Rogue.
Confess I haven't. Only CVT I have experience with is our 16 CRV.
If you are used to getting regular unleaded. The Ascent will probably be using premium since it is turbo charged. It my turnoff some buyers. Especially if mpg numbers are subpar.
The Ascent is tuned to use 87 octane in this engine.

There is speculation that this engine will also be used in the next WRX STi, and I'm sure it will be tuned to use 91 octane and put out 300+ hp. But for the Ascent, it is designed to run on 87.
Confess I haven't. Only CVT I have experience with is our 16 CRV.
I thought the CVT in our 2016 CRV was not that great once I got my 2016 civic turbo....it just holds so much better, the crv seemed to take longer to wind up and seemed to be odd...not sure about other cars and their CVT. We also chose the Pilot because it still has the lanewatch (one thing wife didn't want to get rid of), so since no other makers had it, that made the decision easy. Then once she drove the Pilot, she fell in love...she is happy, I am happy! :grin:
Have you driven the CVT in larger vehicles? It pairs way better because of their larger, higher torque engines. The new turbo 4's in some smaller vehicles are helping but I have always felt Nissan's VQ35/CVT combination was one of the best applications of a CVT. We test drove brand new Pathfinders before settling on a used car and it was nothing like driving our old Rogue.
Hmmm. My understanding is that CVTs have been limited in their application to larger vehicles because of susceptibility to wear and intolerance of high torque. Maybe a flatter torque curve from the engine is a good thing in terms of CVT performance, but designers have struggled to make CVTs tolerant of high peak torque. A broken or frayed "band" will stop a CVT dead.

Granted, technology moves on. But a feature of the new turbo 4's is a relatively broad, flat torque curve. In other words, the engine has "grunt" at relatively low rpm, unlike "peaky" normally aspirated high-revving little 4-bangers that don't wake up until about 5000 rpm.
Confess I haven't. Only CVT I have experience with is our 16 CRV.
It's just my opinion of course but if you happen to be looking after it's released (or are bored and want something to do, which is why I frequently test drive new models) go give 'er a rip.
As an owner of a Honda Pilot and a Subaru, I was selected about 9 months ago to be in a focus group with the production Ascent (yes -- I got to see it 9 months ago... so awesome!!) compared to a Pilot and others. We couldn't drive them or use the infotainment, but I was inside and out, front and back, for about 2 hours.

I will say without a doubt that the Ascent compares VERY favorably to the Pilot and beats it in many (most) ways.

As an owner of the 2017 Pilot Touring, I would consider trading it in for the Ascent in a heart beat.

Interior materials are NOT cheap. This is the most luxurious Subaru ever. Take a look at the press photos and you will see high quality design and soft touch materials most everywhere.

The driver's seat has a thigh-support extension (like you see on some BMW's) that makes it far and away the most comfortable Subaru seats ever made, and more comfortable than the Pilot.

In the current generation, Honda dumbed-down and cheapened the 3rd row seats to be fixed to the floor and pretty flat. Subaru's design for the 3rd row is very similar to the prior Pilot where the seats actuate up from the floor to provide a little bit of thigh support. Just roomy enough for 2 adults or 3 kids, at least for shorter trips. WAY more space than a Highlander's 3rd row and about on par with Honda's 3rd row.

I still haven't gotten used to the complete lack of knobs on our Touring's infotainment system. The Ascent's wonderful use of real ergonomic buttons and knobs is probably the biggest differentiator. Really really nice controls.

The only missing feature I have seen on the Ascent is that there is no rear-seat entertainment system, which is standard on the Pilot Touring and above. Subaru thinks that most kids are using their own devices anyway, and instead, the space on the ceiling is used for an enormous 54" panoramic moonroof.

As far as the CVT -- I don't understand why there is so much hate for them. Subaru's CVT's work great and are smooth as butter. I think people were burned by other brands' poor performance years ago (like 1st gen Nissan Rouge) and assume all CVT's are bad. I love love love the smooth and responsive CVT in my Subaru Forester. Subaru has been using a high-torque CVT in the Forester XT and WRX for years and I have no worries about it in the Ascent. The CVT in the Ascent is even more ruggedized and durable, which is how they got the 5,000 pound tow rating. Besides, it is now tuned to simulate 8 gears, so most people won't even know it's a CVT!

A few other notes:
* Ascent is 2" longer than a Pilot but about 2" narrower. More like a stretched Highlander dimensionally. I think that's just right, because the Pilot is so wide that I only have about 2" on each side of my mirrors when pulling into the garage. It's too wide for me!
* Subaru's new global platform has been getting RAVE reviews for ride and handling, and the first drive of the prototype by Motor Trend confirms that the new Ascent has class-leading ride, handing, and quietness.
* Subaru added some nifty unique features like a digital rear view mirror camera and a front camera, and they have reverse auto braking which uses the reverse sensors to determine if you're going to hit something and actually puts the brakes on to avoid the collision.

Bottom line is that if you are on the fence, you SHOULD DEFINITELY WAIT until early summer 2018 to test the Ascent before making a decision. I'm already trying to convince my wife to trade in our Pilot for the first Ascent off the truck!
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Hmmm. My understanding is that CVTs have been limited in their application to larger vehicles because of susceptibility to wear and intolerance of high torque. Maybe a flatter torque curve from the engine is a good thing in terms of CVT performance, but designers have struggled to make CVTs tolerant of high peak torque. A broken or frayed "band" will stop a CVT dead.

Granted, technology moves on. But a feature of the new turbo 4's is a relatively broad, flat torque curve. In other words, the engine has "grunt" at relatively low rpm, unlike "peaky" normally aspirated high-revving little 4-bangers that don't wake up until about 5000 rpm.
I'm going to say we are both right?

Clearly the early CVT's mated with V6's (or bigger turbo 4's) were horrendous, chewed up and spit out by those torque rich engines. But they have evolved (as with anything) and are now reliably applied to those engines (I'd have to look at the torque numbers for all applications but I'm assuming high 200 ft-lb's).

I totally agree with your statement about the turbos and their broad, flat torque curve. There is no denying that for all but foot to the floor acceleration, that engine is far superior to a NA engine mated to a CVT. Because V6's torque peak is lower in RPM's I'm assuming the same effect occurs, giving you a much more refined constant 1500 to 2000 RPMs instead of screaming at 3000+ for normal acceleration.
The Ascent is tuned to use 87 octane in this engine.

Sounds good to me. Subaru claims 500 mile range. With a 19.3 gallon tank that averages to 25.9 a gallon.
As the OP for this thread, I'm fascinated with the opinions and thoughts shared so far...just what I was looking for. It seems that many people are in a similar situation - presently looking for a Pilot-size vehicle - but are open to options in addition to the Honda product. In particular, I will likely follow up with eps105 (via PM) regarding his personal experience with the new Ascent - especially considering that he currently drives a Pilot Touring. Please keep additional comments/opinions coming...very helpful. Thank you.
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I'd stay away from the Ascent for a year or so until any infotainment or other issues have been worked out for first year release. It's the same for every brand, Pilot included. The Pilot already has a few years under its belt and it's almost certain that the new model should address the complaints about the lack of volume knobs.
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I too would share the sentiment that this needs a year to shake out but one big thing going for the Ascent is that I believe it will be made at the Indiana facility that used to produce Camrys. Yes, you read that right; Subaru used to make Camrys for Toyota at their Indiana plant. And if you starting doing some searching on the Internet you'll find that Subaru-made Camrys were more desirable because they were rated as having better build quality than Camrys produced at other locations. So one positive thing going for the Ascent is that it is coming from a factory that has a proven track record in build quality.
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I'd stay away from the Ascent for a year or so until any infotainment or other issues have been worked out for first year release. It's the same for every brand, Pilot included. The Pilot already has a few years under its belt and it's almost certain that the new model should address the complaints about the lack of volume knobs.
If we define "new model" as after the mid-cycle-refresh, which for Honda typically occurs after 3 model years, you're probably correct. But it's unclear what, if anything, will happen in the interim.
Prior to and since purchasing our '17 Pilot, I've enjoyed spending time reading and researching new and existing entries into this market. With the new Ascent, I have to laugh at the marketing video included. All these car manufacturers really try and make you think their car is somehow doing it better than everyone else. Let me add some comments.

1. Like Pilot's Elite, Subaru's top level trim is ONLY a 7 seater.

2. The Ascent's cargo capacity is pretty woeful. 72 cu compared to Honda's 82 cu. That's barely bigger than the Mazda CX-9. And remember, the primary reason to have these vehicles is to haul people and stuff. Sure, you can always throw on a cargo box. But I love how Subaru focuses on passenger volume, not cargo volume. LOL.

3. All wheel drive. I've seen a couple of people lauding Subaru's all-wheel drive system. My experience with it was my boss' 2013? Outback. It got totally suck on an icy hill and nothing we could do worked. That was the viscous coupling system and it sucked. It could not transfer power to individual wheels. Instead, it acted like an open differential, constantly spinning the front wheel and back wheel which had no traction.

Contrast that with Honda's system in the Pilot (but not the CRV). I read the tech specs on Honda's system and it can actually send power to individual wheels. Go view those videos of the Honda Pilot powering through a mud bog. Does Subaru have any video's like that?

4. No RES. When my wife and I were first considering a vehicle, we thought we didn't need a RES because the kids will just use their iPads. Well...boy were we wrong. Of course, our kids are young, so teenagers might be completely different. I'll also point out that as a driver, what use does the huge glass roof have for me? Are my kids going to spend all their time looking out the roof or looking at their devices after the honeymoon is over?

In the year that I've owned my Pilot, I can count on one hand the times I've driven around town with the sunroof open and maybe twice that many times I've pulled back the sunshade. The problem is that a glass roof lets in a LOT of heat on a sunny day. I personally find that annoying and uncomfortable.

5. As several people have posted, you have to think twice about buying this car the first year it is out. Not only is this the first year of this vehicle, it's the first year of 3rd crossovers for Subaru in like a decade. Anyone who thinks this car is going to be error free has clinically diagnosable optimism as a disease.

6. Newer cars are always going to find reviewers who will rave about them. Look at the VW Atlas.

7. There is no perfect SUV. The Ascent sure as hell ain't it. I honestly don't see anything in the marketing that gets me excited and having 15% cargo space gets me very unexcited.

Do I sound negative? It's probably because I have a negative reaction to the marketing videos of that try and dupe me into thinking they've got the best car out there when they don't. When your family hauler has one of the worst cargo specs in the market, you'd be better served to address that head on and explain why you went that way and why it's not a deal-breaker.
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Just a little info. There are 12,378 Honda dealership and approximately 600 Subaru dealership in the US. I am spoiled since I have 10 Honda dealership in a 20 mile radius. So any recall or major service can be handled within reason. The Subaru dealership near me is small and so is there maintenance department. My question is would they be able to handle the additional load, if the Ascent sells like crazy? Current or former Subaru owners please chime in.

https://www.consumerreports.org/car...consumer-reports-car-reliability-survey-2017/
All good points, but be careful about "cargo volume". That's measured up to the roof, and that's not how I typically load my SUV. Roof height and slope of the rear hatch glass make a big difference in the cargo volume measurement. For instance, specs for our 3rd-gen MDX are 38 ft^3 behind 2nd row, 68 behind 1st row. 3rd-gen Pilot claims 47 ft^3 behind 2nd row, 84 behind 1st row. But cargo area floor area and cargo volume up to the bottom of the rear windows are nearly identical.

Sure, sometimes it's nice to have the extra volume, or extra height for bulky items, and if Pilot weren't such a good road-trip vehicle it wouldn't be in my stable, but for typical use that total cargo volume can be misleading. When I shop for a road-trip vehicle these days I show up at a dealer with my biggest luggage. That's a measure I trust.

Ask me about the rental Hyundai Santa Fe Sport we ended up with for a trip to Yosemite, having reserved a "Toyota 4Runner or similar". That thing got loaded to the roof, and every cubic inch. :frown:

As for the AWD system, you're preaching to the choir, but Pilot has an open diff at the front. Pilot does have electronically controlled "limited slip" capability at the rear. Some manufacturers are going toward open diffs with brake-based traction control, including some reputable German manufacturers. The devil is in the details. The electronic control system can make or break any of these modern AWD systems.

What qualifies as "Symmetrical All-wheel Drive" or "quattro" or whatever is subject to the whims of the respective manufacturers these days, and it takes some deep digging to get real specs. Apparently, most drivers don't care. Viscous couplings are old-school; they suck power and fuel, and their performance degrades over time. It will be interesting to see more detail about the AWD system in the Ascent.
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Ex-Subaru owners here, manual (2009 Legacy and 2015 WRX) and auto (2009 Legacy). Subarus have multiple systems depending upon the model. Compared to the Legacy AWD in both configurations, the 2016+ Pilot AWD system is superior in our experience. WRX was pretty decent.

That said, we like the looks of this new Ascent.
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All good points, but be careful about "cargo volume"
Valid point. What nobody gives specs on is usable space. Nevertheless, given that most sites report the vehicle as 4" longer, it's odd that the listed volume is less regardless of where it is measured.

Pilot does have electronically controlled "limited slip" capability at the rear.
The Pilot can send 100% of the torque to either wheel in the rear. It can also send 100% of the torque to the front wheels under normal driving. The AWD system can also "overdrive" the rear wheels to assist in cornering. Now maybe the Ascent will do that...but maybe it won't.
Just a little info. There are 12,378 Honda dealership and approximately 600 Subaru dealership in the US. I am spoiled since I have 10 Honda dealership in a 20 mile radius. So any recall or major service can be handled within reason. The Subaru dealership near me is small and so is there maintenance department. My question is would they be able to handle the additional load, if the Ascent sells like crazy? Current or former Subaru owners please chime in.

https://www.consumerreports.org/car...consumer-reports-car-reliability-survey-2017/
I am thinking your information is not correct on dealership counts. The National Automobile Dealers Association web site references that there are 16,708 new car dealerships across all brands in the US. Honda's car sales volume is about 2.5 times what Subaru's is, so I would expect there would be about the same ratio of dealerships.

The linked Consumer Reports article references an initial quality problem with the radio head unit. I am thinking that the "car electronics" category of quality issues has been steadily rising due to the continued advancement in that category. Given a choice, I would much rather have a radio problem than a mechanical problem. I would think that is a much easier fix in most cases (software update).
Haha good catch I didn't look at the break down. Its 1049. I thought it seemed really high.

https://hondainamerica.com/investment-map/#!national|all|employment

Few more links on reliability. Notice how some cars on the both list contradict each other. Go figure.

http://www.jdpower.com/press-releases/2017-vehicle-dependability-study

https://www.consumerreports.org/car...ion/car-brands-reliability-how-they-stack-up/
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