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2021 Subaru Ascent vs. 2021 Dodge Durango: Which Is Better?


The 2021 Subaru Ascent and the 2021 Dodge Durango are mid-sized, three-row SUVs with ample space. Which is better?

Quick Facts

  • The Subaru Ascent is the largest vehicle Subaru offers.
  • The Dodge Durango comes in a variety of engine options, including a 710-hp SRT Hellcat version.

2021 Subaru Ascent

2021 Subaru AscentBase Price: $33,345 / Read our 2021 Subaru Ascent Review

What we like: Great outward visibility; standard AWD; lots of driver aids included; IIHS Top Safety Pick+

What we would change: Re-program the accident-avoidance tech to be less annoying; smooth out the throttle response

Overview: The Subaru Ascent features many of the brand’s traditional elements, including standard AWD, boxer engines, good visibility, and strong value, in a larger form. Compared to the Outback, the Ascent is 5.5 inches longer in wheelbase and overall, allowing space for a standard third-row seat. Passenger room in all three rows is good, and luggage space is, too, although the 17.6 cubic feet aft of the third row is merely average. Big windows provide a good view for the driver and keep passengers from feeling claustrophobic. The sole engine is a turbocharged 2.4-liter boxer four that provides gutsy acceleration and good fuel economy. But it’s paired with a CVT, and accelerator response can be non-linear. The AWD system includes X-Mode with hill-descent control, which combines with an impressive 8.7 inches of ground clearance to let the Ascent wander far off-pavement.

What’s new for 2021: For 2021, Subaru adds steering-responsive LED headlights with automatic high-beams to all trims. A standard rear-seat reminder function is also new.

Features and technology: The 2021 Subaru Ascent is offered in base, Premium, Limited, and Touring trim levels. All models include forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, and adaptive cruise control with lane centering. Mind you, that’s a pretty solid list, but the constant alarms might make some buyers crazy. The base car also includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, four USB ports, roof rails, and a bench second-row seat. The Premium adds blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. It also upgrades the infotainment system from a 6.5-inch touchscreen to an 8-inch unit. You can opt for second-row captain’s chairs. Further options include a panoramic sunroof, a power liftgate, and navigation. The Limited’s niceties include leather, a heated steering wheel, heating for the front and rear seats, and a memory function for the power driver’s seat. The Touring exclusives include a rear camera mirror and a front-view camera, plus unique exterior trim.

What does the future hold: The Ascent is only in its third model year, but we could see Subaru adding the extra-large 11.6-inch portrait-oriented touchscreen from the Legacy/Outback at some point. See 2021 Subaru Ascent models for sale near you

2021 Dodge Durango

2021 Dodge DurangoBase Price: $33,260 / Read our 2021 Dodge Durango Review

What we like: A wide range of engines focused mainly at the sportier end of the range, including a 710-hp SRT Hellcat, 475-hp SRT 392; 8,700-pound towing capacity; new, larger 10.1-inch touchscreen.

What we would change: Make the safety tech available throughout the line up; work on fuel efficiency

Overview: The Dodge Durango is unusual among mid-size SUVs for its RWD-based chassis and its available high-performance V8 engines, capped this year by the new SRT Hellcat. Tow ratings are as high as 8700 pounds, on a par with full-size SUVs. The Hellcat’s 710-hp supercharged V8 boasts more power than you’ll find in European high-performance SUVs. Still, there’s also the entertaining 475-hp SRT 392, and even the R/T with its 375-hp 5.7-liter Hemi V8 is a blast to drive, although all the V8s are rather thirsty. If you’re looking for family transportation, the base 3.6-liter V6 is sufficient. All engines are paired with an 8-speed automatic. AWD is standard on the SRTs and optional otherwise. In the base trim, you’ll pay extra for the two-person third-row seat that’s standard elsewhere, and captain’s chairs or a bench can occupy the middle row.

What’s new for 2021: For 2021, Dodge stuffs its 710-hp supercharged Hemi V8 under the hood of its family-sized SUV to create the 180-mph Durango SRT Hellcat. The model also features upgraded brakes and chassis components, including an adaptive suspension. All Durangos get new styling, dash, and center console. Top trims get a Uconnect 5 infotainment system with a faster processor, a larger, 10.1-inch touchscreen, wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa. Max towing capacity moves up from 8,600 to 8,700 pounds.

Features and technology: The 2021 Dodge Durango is offered in seven different variants; SXT, GT, R/T, Citadel, SRT 392, and an SRT Hellcat. The SXT and GT are V6 only and have the smaller 8.4-inch touchscreen with the older Uconnect 4 operating system, although it is user-friendly and includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The R/T is the gateway to the sporty Durangos with its 5.7-liter V8 and firmer suspension. At this point in the range, you get the 10.1-inch Uconnect 5 infotainment, navigation, leather, heated seats in the first two rows, and a power liftgate. The 5.7-liter V8 is optional on the otherwise luxed-up Citadel. It gets fancier leather and ventilated front seats, but, unfortunately, the Citadel is the only model that comes standard with the Durango’s bundle of driver assists (forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, and adaptive cruise control). The SRT 392 jumps to another performance level, with its 6.4-liter V8, adaptive dampers, uniquely tuned AWD system, and Brembo brakes. The SRT Hellcat builds on that foundation with its mind-blowing supercharged 6.2-liter V8.

What does the future hold: Dodge has said the Durango SRT Hellcat is a single-year-only model, so by 2022, it will be gone. The Durango itself is a bit old, and a redesign could arrive as soon as next year. See 2021 Dodge Durango models for sale near you

Ascent vs. Durango: Strengths comparison

Subaru Ascent Benefits: Tons of safety technology, standard AWD.

Dodge Durango Benefits: Outstanding high-performance variants, available two-speed transfer case, impressive towing capability.

Ascent vs. Durango: Which is better?

If you need a more usable third-row seat and serious towing capacity, the Durango offers both. If you are looking for a more fuel-efficient vehicle to haul the family around town, the Ascent is slightly less thirsty. See 2021 Subaru Ascent models for sale or See 2021 Dodge Durango models for sale

Popular Powertrains 2021 Subaru Ascent 2021 Dodge Durango
Engine 2.4-liter turbo flat-4 3.6-liter V6
Horsepower 260 hp @ 5,600 rpm 293 hp  at 6,400 rpm
Torque 277 lb-ft @ 2,000 rpm 260 lb-ft at 4,000 rpm
Transmission Continuously variable 8-spd automatic
Fuel Economy 23 mpg (21 city/27 highway) 21 mpg (19 city/26 highway)
Also Available AWD; 5.7L V8; 6.4L V8; 6.2L supercharged V8
Specs
Warranty 3 years/36,000 miles 3 years/36,000 miles
Powertrain warranty 5 years/60,000 miles 5 years/60,000 miles
NHTSA Overall Safety 5 stars 4 stars
Max Seating Capacity 8 7
Wheelbase 113.8 inches 119.8 inches
Overall Length 196.8 inches 200.8 inches
Width 76.0 inches 75.8 inches
Height 71.6 inches 70.1 inches
Turning Diameter 38.0 feet 41.0 feet
Headroom, Front 41.3 inches 39.9 inches
Headroom, 2nd row 40.0 inches 39.8 inches
Headroom, 3rd row 36.3 inches 37.8 inches
Legroom, Front 42.2 inches 40.3 inches
Legroom, 2nd row 38.6 inches 38.6 inches
Legroom, 3rd row 31.7 inches 33.5 inches
Shoulder Room, Front 61.1 inches 58.5 inches
Shoulder Room, 2nd row 60.3 inches 57.7 inches
Shoulder Room, 3rd row 57.2 inches 50.4 inches
EPA Passenger Volume 153.5 cubic feet 141.4 cubic feet
EPA Cargo Volume 86.5 cubic feet 85.1 cubic feet

Abigail Bassett
Abigail Bassett is a freelance journalist based in L.A. and she's covered automotive topics for a variety of well-known outlets including Fortune, Forbes, CNN and Motor Trend. She's also a television and video host and regularly covers breaking news, social justice, technology, health and wellness, and science in addition to her car coverage. When she's not working on her next project she's... Read More about Abigail Bassett

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