|6,000||Max Towing (lbs)||5,000|
|9-speed automatic||Transmission (std)||CVT|
Midsize three-row SUVs are rapidly becoming the replacement for minivans of the last millennium, and now that modern suspension systems provide comfortable ride quality, your family can enjoy long trips without being jostled by every bump in the road. If you’re in the market for a great SUV that can move a lot of people without taking up half the block for parking duty, comparing the 2022 Nissan Pathfinder vs 2022 Subaru Ascent may reveal which SUV will be a better fit for you and your crew.
Each SUV comes in numerous trim levels to offer buyers options for improved features and conveniences. For 2022, the Pathfinder offers the S, SL, SV, and Platinum trims, while the Ascent gives the choice of Base, Premium, Onyx Edition, Limited, and Touring trims. Standard features such as tri-zone climate control, proximity entry with push-button ignition, and seating for eight are common between the two vehicles. Expect comforts like outrageous numbers of cup holders, reclining rear seats, and powered windows and door locks across the trims for both SUVs as well, though Nissan and Subaru make their marks in different ways. Nissan gives the driver comforts with lumbar control at the entry-level, and upper trims have available driver seat memory, auto-dimming rearview mirror, and rain-sensing wipers.
For the Ascent, drivers don’t get lumbar support until the Limited trim, at which point they do gain memory functions, though the auto-dimming mirror is available in lesser trims. Rain-sensing wipers are not an option for the Ascent. Other key features to discover in upper trims come in the form of heated seats for the front and second rows, ventilation for front seats, and a powered liftgate for both SUVs. While there are a number of common elements, there are several differences worth discovering in the comparison, starting with capability from the four-wheel and all-wheel drive systems. It’s also worth noting that even with full-time four-wheel drive and a bigger engine, the 2022 Nissan Pathfinder still gets the same fuel efficiency as the 2022 Ascent.
When it comes to daily driving, you need a vehicle that does more than just serve as transportation; it matters whether or not the driving experience is enjoyable. The 2022 Pathfinder and 2022 Ascent have different powertrains and transmissions, and that directly affects the experience for the driver. With the Pathfinder, Nissan provides an engine that can handle the weight of hauling up to eight people and their stuff with its 3.5-liter V6, and the nine-speed automatic transmission makes easy work of carrying the SUV through traffic and over hills. Having 284 hp means enough power to tow up to 6,000 pounds, which is plenty for a small camper or boat, and four-wheel drive is available across the trims. With towing capability, you also get a tow mode, downhill descent control, and trailer sway control.
Where the 2022 Ascent falls short in comparison to the 2022 Pathfinder is with power. Having only a meager 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and CVT could be defined as Subaru’s Achilles’ heel; the engine’s power falters in terms of acceleration and verve for handling passing or going uphill. Fill the Ascent with people, hook up a trailer of 5,000 pounds for the max towing capability, and toss in a bunch of luggage, and the Ascent’s engine and unfortunate CVT do not fare well. Though ride quality isn’t stiff like other Subaru models, you can expect mild body roll on turns that you don’t find in the 2022 Pathfinder. Even though all-wheel drive is standard, the lack of spirit in the acceleration and performance is enough reason to consider other options.
Four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive? That’s the question everyone buying an SUV should be asking. Though Subaru has made a name for itself with its excellent standard all-wheel drive system, there are drawbacks to all-wheel drive in comparison to four-wheel drive. In the case of the 2022 Pathfinder, Nissan gives this SUV full-time four-wheel drive that can be controlled through seven different settings for driving conditions. The 2022 Ascent has full-time all-wheel drive, and it offers similar capability to handle adverse conditions, though one big difference is that four-wheel drive has better traction overall when you need to handle severe conditions like mud or deep snow.
Anyone buying a three-row SUV is generally interested in having space and flexible options for how that space gets used on a daily basis. You want enough room for traveling with a lot of passengers when you need it, but you also want space for moving large items or a lot of cargo when necessary. In terms of overall cargo volume, the 2022 Ascent may have a few extra cubic feet when the seats are all folded down, but most people don’t use their family car for large cargo on a regular basis. Where the space really counts is in the rear compartment, and the 2022 Pathfinder has 16.6 cubic feet of room for groceries and sports gear behind the third row of seats.
Add to the cargo space in the Pathfinder with below-floor configurable storage that can easily be washed out (compared to the Ascent with its fixed under-floor storage that is much narrower), and the 2022 Pathfinder will provide much better storage solutions, including bins and storage in the front row. Seats in the two SUVs provide plenty of comfort for passengers in the first two rows, though both vehicles have fairly small quarters for the third row, which is best used for kids. In addition, both SUVs have room for either seven or eight, depending on how buyers choose to configure the interior, with options for removable center seats or storage in the second row.
One other difference that favors the Pathfinder is in the headroom and seat height, particularly in the third row. Adults who might be banished to the farthest reaches of the passenger realm will find the Pathfinder has slightly more headroom at 37.8 inches compared to the Ascent at only 36.3 inches. Combine the shorter height with much lower seats in the Ascent, and adults may feel like they’re sitting at the kid’s table in a cave with their knees jackknifed uncomfortably high and the ceiling curving down overhead.
It may not be every parent’s dream to have technology keep their kids busy on long drives, but it’s nice to have the option if you want it. Children rarely enjoy being strapped into a seat for hours on end, and having lots of tech options for entertainment can be a plus for making long road trips and boring errand runs a little more bearable. Standard technology like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth, SiriusXM, and hands-free phone use are all part of what you can expect in both the 2022 Pathfinder and 2022 Ascent. Features diverge in small ways, like a larger 8-inch infotainment screen in the Pathfinder compared to the standard 6.5-inch screen in the Ascent and the availability of several tech features in upper trims.
When you’re traveling with kids, you want to have as few distractions as possible. Each of these SUVs has connected services that help with navigation and managing travel routes around slow traffic, but Nissan gives buyers of the 2022 Pathfinder three-year access to NissanConnect with remote services and emergency assistance as standard. Sound systems are basic in lower trims with six speakers for both SUVs, but premium systems like Bose for the Pathfinder and Harmon Kardon for the Ascent are available in upper trims. Technology extends into upper trims with conveniences like WiFi capability and more charging ports, but only the 2022 Pathfinder has a head-up display, plus wireless Apple CarPlay is available.
Safety tech for both Nissan and Subaru is extensive, and buyers of both brands will find numerous driver-assist features as standard equipment. For the 2022 Pathfinder, stand-out features like blind-spot warning, rear automatic braking, and driver alertness warning are a few of the automated features that number at a dozen for the entry-level trim. Additional features like a 360-degree camera system, traffic sign recognition, and advanced blind-spot and lane departure systems are available. For the 2022 Ascent, standard features like lane-keep assist, adaptive headlights, and a rear-seat reminder stand out from the suite of tech. However, options like rear automatic braking and blind-spot detection are not available until upper trims, and the available camera views are limited to 180 degrees.