2023 Nissan Pathfinder vs 2023 Subaru Ascent

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  • 2023 Nissan Pathfinder

    A grey 2023 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek is angled left.

    Starting at


    2023 Subaru Ascent

    A black 2023 Subaru Ascent is angled right.

    Starting at


    6,000Max. Towing (lbs)5,000
    20/27Fuel Economy (city/hwy MPG)20/26

    Three-row SUVs are some of the best family vehicles. For drivers looking for something that will keep the whole crew comfortable and content while offering excellent safety and infotainment features, the 2023 Nissan Pathfinder vs 2023 Subaru Ascent are two notable models that often go head-to-head against each other. Each of these three-row SUVs has solid engines under the hoods to power their hefty frames, along with impressive towing abilities, making them great camping and outdoor excursion vehicles. With configurable seating for seven or eight, they offer drivers the choice to pack up the vehicle to the brim with passengers or elect captain's chairs in the second row for a roomier cabin.

    Both Nissan and Subaru are highly reputable brands, each in a similar price range. We know that three-row SUVs are your carpool cars, your road trip companions, and generally vehicles people spend a lot of time in for their daily tasks, so it's important to us to give our customers the information they need to make an informed decision about these vehicles. Ultimately, while the vehicles are in the same class and price range, the Nissan Pathfinder does rise above because it offers better fuel economy, a more powerful engine, a higher towing ability, and some more advanced interior and tech features than the Subaru Ascent, all while offering a lower starting price point. Let's take a closer look at how the Pathfinder offers a considerable edge over the Ascent.

  • Perfomance

    A red 2023 Nissan Pathfinder is shown from the front at an angle.

    The Pathfinder's 3.5L V6 Engine

    An SUV is a lot of vehicle. Its frame is large, and it's usually expected to transport a lot of people and belongings. That's why you need a powerful engine underneath the hood of a three-row SUV. The Nissan Pathfinder has a strong 3.5L V6 engine that creates an impressive 295 hp. With oomph like that, you won't feel a lag when you accelerate or use the vehicle's towing abilities. It will feel like it responds to your demands to speed up quickly and will generally be fun to drive.

    Towing Capability

    The Subaru Ascent falls behind in its engine offering, with a 2.4L Turbo BOXER engine. These engines have their benefits, like a low center of gravity and a nice balanced feel; however, they simply do not offer the power you find in a V6 engine, getting roughly 260 hp. Not surprisingly, the Subaru Ascent also has a 1,000-pound lower towing capacity than the Nissan Pathfinder. In the Pathfinder, you can tow up to 6,000 lbs, but that drops to 5,000 lbs for the Subaru Ascent. Depending on what you want to haul, that 1,000-lb difference could be quite limiting.

    The Pathfinder's Versatile Drive Modes

    More on performance, the Subaru Ascent has a standard Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system that can help you maintain control in a variety of situations. However, its system is not as fine-tuned as the Pathfinder's ability to adapt to different roads. The Pathfinder gets an Intelligent 4X4 system that boasts up to seven drive and terrain modes, depending on your model. These include Mud/Rut, Snow, Sport, Eco, Sand, and Tow. The Subaru Ascent has some snow and mud modes, but otherwise, it is limited in its ability to adjust to different environments.

    Fuel Economy

    Finally, the Nissan Pathfinder gets slightly better fuel economy than the Subaru Ascent. This might surprise some drivers because the Ascent has a continuously variable transmission, which is supposed to be one of the more efficient types. However, because the Pathfinder has a nine-speed transmission, it offers more than enough steps for optimal efficiency. As such, the EPA estimates that the Nissan Pathfinder gets 20 MPG in the city and 27 MPG on the highway. For the Ascent, it gets 20 MPG in the city and 26 MPG on the highway, giving the Pathfinder a slight edge regarding efficiency.

  • Interior

    The brown interior of a 2023 Nissan Pathfinder is shown from the passenger side during a 2023 Nissan Pathfinder vs 2023 Subaru Ascent comparison.

    The Pathfinder's Innovative EZ FLEX 2nd-Row Seating System

    Step inside either vehicle, and you'll find attractive, comfortable seats, a spacious cabin, and loads of storage compartments throughout the rows for passengers to stash those road trip essentials. However, third-row passengers will have an easier time accessing their seats in the Pathfinder, thanks to the EZ FLEX 2nd row seats that slide forward and tilt, allowing access from both sides of the vehicle. Additionally, only the Pathfinder has a handy pass-through console, so front-seat passengers can easily move things to the rear.

    The Pathfinder Offers an Edge With More Driver Customization

    Drivers and passengers will be content with the temperature in these vehicles, as each offers tri-zone climate control and even heated second-row seats on upper trims. Both vehicles offer driver seat memory on upper trims, too; however, the Pathfinder takes convenience to another level by also offering steering wheel and exterior mirror memory, helping the driver instantly get all components into the perfect position for a trip.

    Other Interior Enhancements

    You'll find a welcoming panoramic moonroof in each vehicle, letting passengers take in their surroundings; however, when the sun comes in too hot, the Pathfinder is where you'll find a power shade for that moonroof, as well as available rear shades for more protection from harsh rays. If you are an audiophile and consider a good sound system critical to an equally good road trip, you might find yourself torn between these vehicles. The Pathfinder offers a Bose sound system, while the Ascent offers a Harmon Kardon. Music lovers are at odds over which one is best, so the decision might come down to your preferred sound system.

  • Technology

    The black interior of a 2023 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek is shown from the center console.

    The Pathfinder's Wireless Advantage

    With all of the hours drivers tend to spend in their SUVs, we like to recommend ones with cutting-edge technology that not only keeps people entertained but also helps keep them safe and keep up with their hectic days. The Nissan Pathfinder and the Subaru Ascent live up to the challenge of delivering excellent technology. They both get smartphone compatibility, allowing drivers to use their favorite apps right on the vehicles' large touchscreens. They also offer Wi-Fi hotspots, meaning kids can tackle homework on their laptops, stream shows on long road trips and more. However, only the Pathfinder offers wireless smartphone charging. In the Ascent, you'll still need to deal with messy cords to power up your device.

    Safety and Driver Assistance Features

    In the driver assist department, each vehicle offers similar tools. Both will offer standard features like automatic emergency braking, lane departure warnings, blind spot monitoring, rear traffic alerts, and pedestrian detection. Both offer adaptive cruise control, too, but only the Pathfinder adds semi-autonomous driving through the ProPILOT assist. This will incorporate steering assist and a stop-and-hold function, which will partially take over the vehicle's driving in certain conditions, giving drivers a little break. This feature is a major value add if you spend long periods on the road, as it offers a much more intuitive cruise control experience when compared to the Ascent's more standard version.

    Other Notable Features

    The Pathfinder does stand out in one other way: its door-to-door navigation. Simply search for your destination on the MyNISSAN app, and directions will be sent to the center console's touchscreen. Finally, busy parents who hope their little ones will nap in the vehicle will love that both of these vehicles boast very quiet cabins, too. The Pathfinder, in particular, has excellent insulation and thick glass that keeps outside noises outside. For Nissan, innovative technology is more than just what's on a touchscreen; it's about providing the best driving experience possible, and the Pathfinder clearly demonstrates this attention to detail.

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