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Some people buy SUVs tailored toward their active lifestyles, while others do so to fit their families’ needs. No matter your purpose for purchasing a three-row SUV, value likely plays a huge role in your decision making. That’s why it’s hard to believe that most shoppers would consider buying a 2021 Ford Explorer over a 2021 Subaru Ascent.

The Explorer isn’t a bad SUV by any means, and it holds quite a few advantages over the Ascent. However, there are plenty of reasons to avoid this Ford SUV. Meanwhile, Subaru’s largest model gets the most crucial aspects of an SUV right, providing better value to consumers.

Considering buying a midsize SUV is one of the largest purchases your family will make, you can afford to make the wrong choice. Before you make a final decision, let’s take a look at everything the Explorer and Ascent have to offer.

We’ll break down which type of driver is better off in the 2021 Ford Explorer. Plus, we’ll outline the laundry list of advantages that the 2021 Subaru Ascent has over its rival, making it a top contender in its class.

The 2021 Ford Explorer is a performer at heart

A white 2021 Ford Explorer parked on display in front of a country house.
The 2021 Ford Explorer on display | Photo via Ford

Do you like untamed power? If so, then you might want to test-drive the 2021 Ford Explorer. This midsize SUV shines in the performance category, as Ford offers three robust engine options.

A 300-hp 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine powers the base model, and it only gets more intense from there. Meanwhile, a 260-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine lies under the hood of every 2021 Subaru Ascent, and it can’t even compete with the Explorer’s standard powerplant.

Meanwhile, the 3.3-liter V6 and electric motor on the 2021 Ford Explorer Hybrid delivers quite a kick, combining to create 318 hp. Finally, the Explorer’s available 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 kicks out 365 hp on the Platinum trim, and it’s tuned to make 400 hp on the ST trim.

However, it begs the question that if you’re looking for a high-performance vehicle, should you even bother looking at a three-row SUV? These models will appeal to a small number of consumers. But most drivers are simply looking for a dependable vehicle to take on their daily grind.

The 2021 Subaru Ascent offers value at every corner

A blue 2021 Subaru Ascent driving down a road
The 2021 Subaru Ascent in action | Photo via Subaru

Horsepower looks great on the spec sheet, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Most drivers will be using their SUV to drive their kids to soccer practice, pick up groceries, and go on family road trips. If this sounds more like your lifestyle, then you may want to consider the SUV that’s built specifically for these needs.

The U.S. News & World Report notes in its review of the 2021 Ascent that it has a roomier cabin and higher quality materials than the Explorer. These advantages aren’t too small to overlook for families who are always on the go. The Ascent’s 19 cupholders are just further proof this SUV is made with your loved ones in mind.

Additionally, the 2021 Subaru Ascent is one of the safest midsize SUVs on the market. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the Ascent and Explorer its highest honor of Top Safety Pick +. However, the 2021 Ascent holds two key advantages. It earned top marks in headlights and LATCH ease of use, while the IIHS gave the 2021 Explorer average ratings in both categories.

It seems like the Explorer holds the edge in performance, but the Ascent one-ups its rival in one area. Like nearly every Subaru, the 2021 Ascent comes standard with an all-wheel-drive system. Meanwhile, Ford charges extra to add a four-wheel-drive system to the Explorer. This feature is extremely desirable for many SUV drivers, as it provides better traction on slick surfaces and uneven terrain.

Which three-row SUV is right for you?

The 2021 Ford Explorer is enticing at first glance, but the 2021 Subaru Ascent is too good to pass up upon further inspection. The Ascent’s spaciousness, standard AWD system, and higher quality materials will be much more beneficial to your family than a little extra horsepower. 

However, if you plan to use your SUV for rugged adventures, it may be worth looking into an Explorer. Just make sure to add the available 4WD system.


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