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I am currently divided in making a choice between Honda Pilot AWD (2018 and onwards EX-L or Touring trims) or Subaru Ascent (2020/21 Limited trim) as an 8 Passenger SUV. Trying to keep the two cars at par when it comes to the active safety feature set for a better comparison.

I live in midwest and we get extended months with snow here so keeping that in consideration as well when it comes to car handling and performance in snow/ice conditions on the roads, which fares better than the other ?

2.4L CVT on the Ascent vs the 3.5L V6 9speed auto on Pilot ? Engine and road sounds in Ascent vs in Pilot ?
Passenger and cargo room in the two cars ?
Any other things that you think will make one car stand out from the other ?

Appreciate your comments and suggestions in helping me make the choice.
 

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Hello and welcome!

The ZF 9-speed in the Pilot seems to have a love/hate response from drivers. Note the EX-L traditionally has Honda's own 6-speed automatic, while Touring and above have the ZF 9-speed. I would definitely drive one to see how it operates and to see if you like it. The same is true, actually, of the Ascent. The CVT is different from a traditional automatic and it takes some getting used to. Either one may suit you well, but only you can decide that for yourself.

Regarding the engine, Honda's 3.5L V-6 is definitely a very solid engine...it's been refined over about 20 years' worth of development time (the J-series V-6 debuted in about 2000). Its biggest drawback is the timing belt which requires replacement every 100k miles or so. The spark plugs are due at the same time and owners often do the plugs, belt, and water pump at the same time. Having everything done at a shop runs about $2k, which is not inexpensive. Otherwise, the engine is solid. The Ascent's 2.4L turbo engine has proven to be a good one for Subaru. It has a timing chain that does not need preventative maintenace/replacement.

My family has a 2020 Ascent, but also has a 2009 Honda Ridgeline and a 2005 Acura MDX. We've had wonderful service from our Hondas, so the 2019+ Pilot was definitely on our short list. However, we were generally uninspired by its interior, and the 3rd row was pretty cramped. At least in the 2020 model we saw at the auto show, the 3rd row bench was very low to the floor (poor comfort). If you anticipate regular use of the 3rd row, we felt the Ascent's third row was more usable.

Subaru's AWD system is also excellent. The Pilot has the newest version of Honda's VTM-4 system (which takes elements from Acura's SH-AWD system) and is quite good itself...however, the Subaru will be at least as good, if not better, on slippery surfaces.

The 2020 Ascent is rated 20/26/22 mpg, which compares favorably against the Pilot at 19/26/22 if equipped with the 9-speed or 18/26/21 if equipped with the 6-speed. The fuel tanks on both vehicles are sized about the same (19.3 gal in the Ascent and 19.5 gal in the Pilot), so highway range should be similar.

Both are very solid and capable SUVs. I definitely recommend driving all three (Ascent, 9-speed Pilot, and 6-speed Pilot) to see which feels the best to you. The interiors will feel and fit differently and the cars will drive differently. Objectively, they're all great family SUVs. The devil is often in the small details, and you may find the Honda or Subaru more or less to your liking than the other one based on some of the smaller details.

Good luck!
 

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I am currently divided in making a choice between Honda Pilot AWD (2018 and onwards EX-L or Touring trims) or Subaru Ascent (2020/21 Limited trim) as an 8 Passenger SUV. Trying to keep the two cars at par when it comes to the active safety feature set for a better comparison.

I live in midwest and we get extended months with snow here so keeping that in consideration as well when it comes to car handling and performance in snow/ice conditions on the roads, which fares better than the other ?

2.4L CVT on the Ascent vs the 3.5L V6 9speed auto on Pilot ? Engine and road sounds in Ascent vs in Pilot ?
Passenger and cargo room in the two cars ?
Any other things that you think will make one car stand out from the other ?

Appreciate your comments and suggestions in helping me make the choice.
while the safety features may be the same, that will be true in name only. there is a pronounced difference in the performance that should be taken into consideration. Research the safety features in depth as well as the differences in the AWD operation. I am in Colorado and short of a 4 wheel drive vehicle nothing does as well as a Subaru. Do not expect miracles in the winter if you use the OEM tires on snow and or ice. I mounted Blizzaks for the winter and when it came time for my OEM to be replaced I mounted the Wildpeaks AT tires. Other posters have good experiences with other tires as well. Depending on your terrain and winters you may be able to do well with just the Wildpeaks.

I have a 2019 Ascent Limited and I have had warranty work completed on it as have most other owners. This is my first Subaru and now my son has his own Impreza. I can not say enough good things about Subaru backing their product. they are very proactive and transparent. I have seen them follow through nicely on their commitments. They are building brand loyalty which they have with me. My wife is next in line for her Subaru. No more kids and the cats will have to wait until self driving Subaru. That was one key element in my decision process particularly given that my model was a first year product. I have no personal experience with Honda backing their products.

I had compared five different manufacturers vehicles at the time and I thought the Subaru had the best overall value for its features without spending a lot more for equivelency. Make sure you test drive it thoroughly. some owners complain about the seat comfort or other surprises. Make certain what you evaluate what is truly important to you. I had no real surprises and no disappointments. I used the forum many months prior to my purchase decision so I new exactly what I wanted to order and the price I should pay. Two months after the order I had my vehicle. Since I was coming from a much older less technology laden vehicle it took me some time to learn and get used to the Ascent. No complaints here.
 

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I have tried Pilot few times (my wife original preference) but for me Ascent drives way better than Pilot. Doesn't feel like bigger car. Can't say the same about Pilot...
In addition we wanted brown seats and Honda doesn't have that. Interior space is also better. And is my third Subaru soooo there is that.
 

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Just traded in my ‘07 Ridgeline as part of the Ascent purchase. I believe the Pilot uses similar Awd as the Ridgeline. Mine of course was much older. I will say the Ridgeline was outstanding in Winter, (Winnipeg -40C, ice, loads of snow but very little in the way of hills) and I’m finding the Subaru even better.
Personally I like the styling, inside and out of the Ascent better than the Pilot. The cargo space is more useable and passenger room is more comfortable in the Ascent as far as I’m concerned. I’ve seen some mixed reviews on the 3rd row, but at 5’8” I can sit back there fairly comfortable, but I wouldn’t want to fit three of me back there, 2 would be ok. Just to see, my wife, (5’3”) and both kids, (8&10) sat back there and they all fit just fine.
So far so good with the engine and CVT for me. Has a bit more get up and go than the Ridgeline had. But that 3.5 Honda uses is bulletproof.
Ever since Honda started back with the sharing tech with GM nonsense, I decided to stay away from them. I doubt any GM will see it’s way into anything other than Electric vehicles, maybe hybrids but I’m not willing to take the chance.
 

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It was a tough decision for us, we were trying to make the same decision as you. We told ourselves that whichever we could get cheaper new, we would buy and that ended up being the Ascent.

The AWD system in the honda is actually very good - it is essentially the same AWD system that acura uses. The ZF 9 speed makes the honda about a half second faster 0-60 and we actually much preferred the get up and go vs. the Ascent.

The major drawback for us on the honda was that the tech features weren't quite as good. The interior is a bit dated and the pilot is due for a full refresh next year and we figured that would make a pretty big dent in depreciation right away.

If you have not test driven them both I highly recommend that you do. We did them essentially back to back on the same day.

We were cross shopping Pilot SE and Ascent Touring. Just signed papers for Ascent Touring today for about $2k less than the Pilot SE offers we got.
 

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I put a lot of emphasis on the service department. I've had nothing but good fortune with Subaru in this aspect. Can't say enough good things about them. They even replaced the block on a Forester that was burning a quart of oil every 1200 miles or so. And they did it in 3 days. Never a dime out of my pocket and never a shirk in their obligation on fixing things right. They always give me a late model loaner of my choice while they have my car and even offer to deliver it and pick up the loaner.

I have no idea what Honda does or even other Subaru service departments, so your mileage may vary...
 

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I live in midwest and we get extended months with snow here so keeping that in consideration as well when it comes to car handling and performance in snow/ice conditions on the roads, which fares better than the other ?
Subaru is pretty nearly unmatched in winter performance because of the symmetrical all wheel drive system. You will also not find a safer vehicle on the road.
 

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I am surprised that Honda would still be using a timing belt. I would not want one. With that rant aside test drive them and see which one fits you better and which one gets you more excited.
 

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I am surprised that Honda would still be using a timing belt.
Belts and chains both have advantages and disadvantages. Belts are almost entirely trouble-free and quiet, but do require periodic replacement. Chains shouldn't require periodic replacement, but are more challenging to design and manufacturer and require oil pressure lubrication (and, thus, are harder on oil). Most timing chain systems are good, but there are notable examples (such as some GM and Ford V-6s and Nissan's KA 4-cylinder engines) where poor timing chain designs create real problems in the long term. If a chain does need replacement, it's usually a really involved job (because those parts aren't designed for easy access). Belts are designed to be serviced and access is usually easier.

I couldn't say for sure, but I suspect market demand for "touchless" vehicles ("I want it to run forever without putting a dime into it") has driven the move to timing chains over timing belts.

Another interesting point about Honda engines -- they use old school mechanical lash adjusters. Unlike hydraulic lash adjusters most engines use today, Honda's cam followers can be adjusted on the engine as the system wears over several hundred thousand miles. Engines that use hydraulic lash adjusters cannot be adjusted in this way, and parts must be replaced as tolerances open up. I've personally replaced the timing belt, water pump, and spark plugs on both of our Honda V-6 engines, and I've also done the valve service. Aside from getting the crank pulley off for the timing belt job, all the service work is pretty straightforward and pleasant to do for a DIY wrench. It is a costly procedure if one pays to have it done, however.

After having owned many engines with both timing belts and chains, I appreciate the benefits of both systems and I generally don't have a preference one way or the other. I do like the "lifetime" nature of a timing chain, but if and only if the chain really does last as long as the engine without service. That doesn't always happen and the chain system sometimes determines the life of the engine rather than the other way around. Fortunately, Subaru's timing chains seem to be good.
 

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My brother had a Honda pilot touring, I didn't care for the Honda sense being at the front of the grill. It easily gets caked with snow build up and dirt debris causing the safety sense system to deactivate.

That was what I didn't like about my Toyota tundra. When the snow build up on the logo the safety stuff turns off, and the only way to clear is to get out of the car and wipe it down.

Unlike subaru eyesight that is behind a windshield.
 

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I watched this AWD comparison between Subaru, Honda, and Toyota a while back. They are comparing the compact SUVs, but I expect it should be practically the same for the mid-size vehicles as well.

 

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I couldn't say for sure, but I suspect market demand for "touchless" vehicles ("I want it to run forever without putting a dime into it") has driven the move to timing chains over timing belts.
I believe that "zero clearance" engine design led to the return of chains over belts. Belt failures can be catastrophic with no warning whereas failing chains make noises that even the most non-knowledgeable owner would get checked out. I think the combination of ignoring belt replacement schedules and the ensuing lunched engines contributed to the return of chains.
 

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You are not going to have any problems with either the Pilot or the Ascent. It will all come down to which exterior design and which interior you like, and how the space is configured inside that vehicle. Right now, I would take the Ascent because of styling alone. The superior AWD system of the Acura line has trickled down to the Honda line, and it is right on par with the Subaru.

The Subaru's are a bit more difficult to work on since the engine is lower on the frame and workspace is limited underneath the hood. The Pilot has the VCM (Variable Cylinder Management) which some people despise. Honda has greatly improved the system and it is pretty much undetectable when shutting off 3 cylinders. There are simple ways to defeat the system, if you choose to.

Be certain to drive any vehicle you are considering, and don't buy just what someone else tells you to purchase. I imagine both the vehicles you are considering will be competitively priced. Have fun shopping.

Here is a simple explanation of the iVTM-4 AWD system on the Pilot. They are talking about the Ridgeline, but they are identical in that regard.

Text White Line Font Colorfulness
 

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You are not going to have any problems with either the Pilot or the Ascent. It will all come down to which exterior design and which interior you like, and how the space is configured inside that vehicle. Right now, I would take the Ascent because of styling alone. The superior AWD system of the Acura line has trickled down to the Honda line, and it is right on par with the Subaru.

The Subaru's are a bit more difficult to work on since the engine is lower on the frame and workspace is limited underneath the hood. The Pilot has the VCM (Variable Cylinder Management) which some people despise. Honda has greatly improved the system and it is pretty much undetectable when shutting off 3 cylinders. There are simple ways to defeat the system, if you choose to.

Be certain to drive any vehicle you are considering, and don't buy just what someone else tells you to purchase. I imagine both the vehicles you are considering will be competitively priced. Have fun shopping.

Here is a simple explanation of the iVTM-4 AWD system on the Pilot. They are talking about the Ridgeline, but they are identical in that regard.

View attachment 6708
The are previous posts on this forum specifically describing in detail how the Subaru AWD system works for each Subaru model. A buyer of an AWD vehicle should first determine what they want out of a AWD system. The biases of each type of system will have an experiential impact. It really just depends on what you are looking for and what type of driving you typically do. I suspect most Ascent or Ridgeline owners are not looking for a sporty ride. We are looking for good handling and mostly to get to and through tough road conditions that are less than true rock crawling and may even be covered in snow. At the same time we want to haul our families and gear in comfort on paved roads.

 

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I drove the Honda Pilot and Passport and the Ascent on the same day. I asked the Honda salesman if the suspension on the Hondas were different based upon the trim level, he said they were not. My butt felt every seam in the road when driving the Hondas. I did not feel any seams in the exact same road, roughly 30 minutes later when driving the Ascent. I wanted the 3rd row for periodic passengers and dogs, so I went with the Ascent, as opposed to the Outback. I keep my cars for around 10 years. That's the cliff notes version of my story.
 
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