Toyota 4Runner vs. Subaru Ascent: It’s Not Even Close

If you’re the outdoorsy type, Toyota 4Runner and the  Subaru Ascent are probably on your shortlist of new midsize SUVs. The 4Runner has some extreme off-road capabilities, and the Ascent is trail-rated too. But as you do more research, you’ll see that the 4Runner and Ascent are almost incomparable.

Subaru Ascent vs. Toyota RAV4 off-road 

2020 Subaru Ascent in the snow
2020 Subaru Ascent | Subaru

Subaru initially launched the Ascent as an all-new vehicle for the 2019 model year. Only a few notable changes exist between the 2019-2021 versions but all feature the same powertrain. The Ascent has a turbocharged 260-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder and a continuously variable automatic transmission. 

The Ascent’s turbo-four makes for a cushiony, luxury-like driving experience. It drives smoothly over rough roads and is notably quiet too. What makes the Ascent more compelling is its adventure-readiness. It’s standard all-wheel-drive and 8.7 inches of ground clearance makes it a good choice for mild off-roading. 

a trail edition 4runner SUV off-road in some hilly countryside
2021 4Runner Trail Edition | Toyota

Conversely, the 4Runner is far more impressive off-road and can even hold its own against the Jeep Wrangler. The 2021 4Runner is still very old-school. Unlike the Ascent, the 4Runner is a truck-based SUV. All 4Runners still have a 270-hp, 4.0-liter V6 and a five-speed automatic. 

The 4Runner’s standard reinforced skid plates protect its engine, and its 9.6 inches of ground clearance contribute to its off-road capabilities. For even more off-road goodies, you’ll want to consider the TRD Pro trims. Although, the 4Runner’s biggest flaw is its on-road performance. This Toyota is clumsy and rough even on smooth pavement. Its engine can get pretty loud too. 

Comparing interior elements 

Bright, open Subaru Ascent Interior featuring white upholstery
Subaru Ascent Interior

The Ascent is remarkably comfortable and can seat up to eight people in its standard configuration. The upper-level trims have available captain’s chairs, which reduces seating to seven. Along with its roominess, this Subie also impresses with its high-quality trimmings. The 4Runner is comfortable too, but it’s plastic finishings make it feel less upscale. 

If you stick with the 4Runner’s typical setup, it accommodates five passengers. You can add a third-row that boosts seating to seven. However, the 4Runner’s third-row isn’t as spacious as the Ascent’s. 

2020 Toyota 4Runner interior
2020 Toyota 4Runner interior | Toyota

As U.S. News highlights, the Ascent is a class leader when it comes to cargo room. This Subie has 86.5 cubic feet of cargo space with the seats folded down. The 4Runner offers a bit more with 88.8 cubic feet of total cargo space with all rear seats folded.

The current Ascent and 4Runner models offer lots of modern in-car tech. Both SUVs come with advanced safety features, including adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning functionality. The Ascent and 4Runner also come with infotainment apps, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Although, the 4Runner has more freebies, including a larger touchscreen display and a standard wifi hotspot. 

So, Toyota 4Runner or Subaru Ascent?

2021 Subaru Ascent parked outside of a house
2021 Subaru Ascent | Subaru

The 2021 Ascent begins at $32,295, and the 2021 4Runner starts at $36,340. It’s almost unfair to compare the Ascent and the 4Runner. Subaru’s Ascent aims to be a well-rounded family SUV with adventurous qualities. 

2021 Toyota 4Runner on display with new lunar paint color
2021 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro| Toyota

Is the 2021 Toyota 4Runner’s Lunar Inspiration Enough?

The 4Runner has family-friendly elements too, but it’s on-road manners make it less attractive. We’d say that the 4Runner is the clear winner when it comes to off-road capabilities and long-term reliability. So if these are your top priorities, go with the 4Runner. The Ascent does many things well, but there are some complaints that you should consider before you buy it.