2020 Subaru Ascent vs VW Atlas 3-Row SUV Comparison in Shingle Springs, CA

The Subaru Ascent is the biggest vehicle Subaru has ever made. A three-row SUV that's designed to take you and your family wherever adventure beckons, it has the safety, capability, and longevity that Subaru is known for. We think it's the best choice, but it's certainly not the only one. The Volkswagen Atlas is also a popular midsize SUV, but how does it compare to the Subaru Ascent? On this page, we'll take a look at both vehicles and pit them against each other in a head-to-head comparison. Which one will emerge victorious as the best choice for your family? Find out below!

Subaru Ascent second and third rows

2020 Subaru Ascent vs 2020 VW Atlas: Design

While both of these SUVs have three rows of seating, the 2020 Subaru Ascent has the greater passenger capacity of the two. It comes standard with a three-seat third row that creates enough space for up to eight passengers, though you can upgrade to second-row captain's chairs for a capacity of seven. The Volkswagen Atlas, on the other hand, can only seat up to seven people. This extra capacity is just one of the ways that the Subaru Ascent is more comfortable. Upgrades like heated second-row seats are available on lower trim levels in the Subaru Ascent than the VW Atlas. What's more, the 2020 Subaru Ascent comes standard with tri-zone automatic climate control, with second-row climate controls available as an upgrade. The entry-level VW Atlas, by comparison, has two-zone manual climate control. Three-zone automatic climate control is an available upgrade.


Subaru Ascent touchscreen

2020 Subaru Ascent vs 2020 VW Atlas: Technology

At first glance, the Subaru Ascent and the Volkswagen Atlas have similar technology. They both have a standard six-speaker audio system, a standard 6.5-inch touchscreen, and an available 8-inch touchscreen. But when you take a closer look, you'll see that Subaru has the advantage again. The 2020 Subaru Ascent is equipped with a STARLINK® Multimedia Plus system, which includes cloud-based applications like Yelp®, iHeartRadio®, and Magellan® navigation. The Volkswagen Atlas lacks this. When it comes to audio clarity and fidelity, we admit that the 12-speaker Fender system that's available as an upgrade in the VW Atlas is impressive. However, it can't quite match the available Harman Kardon 14-speaker system in the Subaru Ascent.


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Subaru Ascent driving down a road

2020 Subaru Ascent vs 2020 VW Atlas: Performance

The 2020 Volkswagen Atlas offers two engine choices that are strangely similar in power, while the 2020 Subaru Ascent sticks to one solid engine. The engine in the Subaru Ascent is a BOXER®, which means that its flat design provides a lower center of gravity and exceptional balance. It also generates 260 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque, compared to the 235 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque that you'll find in the entry-level VW Atlas. The upgraded engine in the Atlas does get a bit more horsepower than the Subaru Ascent, but its 266 pound-feet of torque still can't match the Subaru. Despite its greater power, the Subaru Ascent also has better gas mileage than the VW Atlas! Choose the 2020 Subaru Ascent and you'll get up to 27 miles per gallon; the VW Atlas maxes out at 24 miles per gallon.

When it comes to off-road exploration, the Subaru Ascent is much more capable than the Volkswagen Atlas. To start, it comes standard with a powerful full-time all-wheel drive that makes it capable of traversing tricky terrain. The Volkswagen Atlas is a front-wheel drive SUV, with AWD being an available upgrade only. In addition, the Subaru Ascent has 8.7 inches of ground clearance and available features like Hill Descent Control. The 2020 Volkswagen Atlas has just 8 inches of ground clearance and lacks the available off-road features.


Subaru Ascent driving down a rainy street

2020 Subaru Ascent vs 2020 VW Atlas: Safety

The dedication Subaru shows to your safety is clear here: the 2020 Subaru Ascent earned the 2020 Top Safety Pick award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, while the Volkswagen Atlas received no IIHS awards. In addition, the Subaru has several features that the Atlas lacks. The standard all-wheel drive does more than just make the Subaru Ascent capable of off-roading: it also makes it safer on slick surfaces. In addition, LED Steering Responsive Headlights are available on the Subaru Ascent. These lights track in the direction of your turn to provide better visibility at night, and they're nowhere to be found on the Volkswagen Atlas.


Blind Spot Detection light on a Subaru Ascent side mirror

2020 Subaru Ascent vs 2020 VW Atlas: Driver Assistance Technology

To their credit, both the Subaru Ascent and the Volkswagen Atlas come with standard driver assistance technology like pre-collision braking. However, the Subaru Ascent also comes standard with Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keep Assist, and Lane Departure and Sway Warning. These features make highway driving much easier and safer, and they're available upgrades only in the Volkswagen Atlas.

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2020 Subaru Ascent vs 2020 VW Atlas: Value

The 2020 Subaru Ascent does have a starting MSRP that's higher than that of the Volkswagen Atlas. However, the Subaru offers you so much more for that price, giving you better value for your money. Take the 2020 Subaru Ascent for a test drive to experience it for yourself.

2020 Subaru Ascent2020 Volkswagen Atlas
$31,995Starting MSRP*$30,545
StandardAll-Wheel DriveAvailable Upgrade
27 Highway / 21 CityStandard Fuel Economy (MPG)24 Highway / 20 City
260Standard Horsepower235
8.7 InchesGround Clearance8 Inches
277 lb-ftStandard Torque258 lb-ft
8 OccupantsMax Seating Capacity7 Occupants
StandardLED Brake LightsAvailable Upgrade
StandardAdaptive Cruise ControlAvailable Upgrade
StandardReclining Rear SeatsNot Available

*Manufacturer's suggested retail price does not include destination and delivery charges, tax, title and registration fees. Destination and delivery includes handling and inland freight fees and may vary in some states. Prices, specifications, options, features and models subject to change without notice.