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2004 EX with DVD, 400,000 miles and counting.

2003 16
Just wanted to jump on and provide a quick update regarding my 2004 EX with DVD. I made a long post a 300,000 mile review back in July of 2019 and just wanted to share my thoughts on van at 400,000 miles and how it compares in my opinion to three 2022 vehicles.

First, this van has been extremely reliable and I wouldn't hesitate taking it from Washington State to the east cost again. The advice on this forum has been an invaluable, from providing ideas for custom mods, to diagnostics to tip and tricks for performing routine maintenance. I honestly don't think the journey would have been as fun or easy without this place. Since the above mentioned post I have performed the following repairs:
(1) Rebuilt transmission (1st time)
(2) Rebuilt both heads when I replaced the rear head gasket (1st time)
(3) Radiator and radiator fan replaced (1st time)
(4) All new KYB struts and springs all the way around (2nd time since new)
(5) Front wheel bearings (2nd time since new) and ball joints (1st time)


We recently started looking at replacement vehicles for the van as we have gotten one child driving and our about to start teaching the second one with the plan to give them the van when they turn 16. My ideal vehicle is one; that will be reliable, is comfortable on those long trips, can hold 5 people with gear on occasion, is safe and is something rugged/capable enough that I can go off the beaten path in. We looked at a 2022 Subaru Ascent, 2022 Honda Passport and a 2022 Toyota 4runner. After conducting research online, visiting forums and watching youtube videos I had decided on the either the 4runner or the passport and I really wanted to like to the Passport due to it being a little more on road focus with the latest tech compared to the 4runner. However the 9speed transmission and the start and stop was really horrible, and My wife and I both thought the vans power train was smoother then the Passports, and neither of us liked the front seats, so it was out of the running pretty quickly.

Next on a whim we decided to drive Subaru Ascent Limited and boy was I surprised and impressed. Eyesight worked extremely well but all those flashing lights will end up setting off someones epilepsy. Every time it found or lost a car or lane marking to track, lights would go off and alerts would display on the dash and I found it very distracting, though I am sure I would get used to it. The powertrain was the smoothest and if felt like it had the most power even though the CVT is only mated to a 2.4L turbo. The ride was nice and compliant and the interior in that thing is huge and luxuries. The front seats were comfortable, though not as comfortable as the van or the 4runner. They had just sold a Touring trim, which has slightly different seats, due to ventilated front seats, so we only sat in it (with permission of the new owner). In that limited amount of time i would say the front seats in the touring are more comfortable than those found in the 4runners but we are waiting for a touring model to come in that we can drive before I can truly compare them. Lot's of tech and safety features and like all Subarus does well in crash test results. (2023 will have a 360 degree camera, panorama moonroof, and essentially tablet that everything is controlled from)

Next in stark contrast to the Subaru we drove a 4runner in the TRD Off Road Premium ritm with KDSS. Though the age of this vehicle is clearly showing the seats were more comfortable then the other two vehicles and the powertrain was very smooth. It doesn't have dedicated air to the second row or even automatic climate control but I do like all the physical buttons, knobs and switches. My kids joked that it looked like an airplane or space ship cockpit. The 4runner also scored well in crash test results with only one score falling below good (small frontal offset). It doesn't have all the latest safety features such as lane keep assist but there is a lot less to go wrong. I liked the cabin but it will take some getting use to and the 2 teens and their younger sibling aren't excited about the prospect of having to sit next to each other in the second row if this is what we end up getting.

We did put a refundable deposit down on the 4runner, as they are 7-18 months out, and will wait for the 2023 Subaru Ascent to hit the lots before making a final decision since a new Ascent only takes 3 months to get.

Ratings for Power Train (Best to worse)
Smoothness: Ascent, 4runner, Ody, Passport
Power: Ody, Ascent, 4runner, Passport (likely due to the 9speed)

Ride, Comfort and connivence:
Front Seats: Ody, 4runner, Ascent, Passport
Second Row Seats (ranked by kids): Passport, Ascent 4runner, Ody
Second Row Seats (ranked by parents: Ascent, Ody, Passport, 4runner
Ride Quality: Ody, Ascent, 4runner, Passport
Handling: Passport,Ascent, Ody, 4runner
Interior Features: Ascent, Ody, 4runner, Passport
Infotainment: Ascent, Passport, 4runner, Ody

Safety
Active: Ascent, Passport, 4runner, Ody
Passive: Ascent, Passport, 4runner, Ody

Overall Ranking: Ascent/4runner (depends on if I put more emphasis on traveling with the kids or exploring more off road and reliability), ody, passport.

What I learned from test driving these vehicles is how well and how much thought Honda put into these vans. At 18 years old with 400K miles it still rides and handles great (If I replaced more of the front and rear suspension I'm sure it would handle even better) and is still extremely comfortable and versatile. The van has more passenger and cargo space, than any of the new ones I looked at, and the ease of entrance and exit combined with the interior layout jut can't be beat. The 3.5L in the van seemed to bo provide just a little bit more get up and go both from a stand still and from 40-75 mph.

At the end of the day I don't think the Subaru will make it to 300K miles, not without needing considerably more repairs at any rate. 4runners in general are capable of hitting 300/400K miles though that would come at the expense of gas mileage and some on road comfort.

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Whats with the fancy headlights and that rod on your roof? Your van looks great!
 
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Whats with the fancy headlights and that rod on your roof? Your van looks great!
The clue is in his sig.
"Weboost Drive Reach with OTR antenna and cell phone booster. Morimoto D2's 5.0 55W HID headlights."
 
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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
The cell phone booster has given me a maximum additional range of 15 miles but it’s usually closer to 2-5 miles. It does give me access to 3g and 4g for far longer then I would without it. I have it wired in so I can turn it on and off from the drivers seat and the antenna is mounted so I can rotate it up and down.

The headlights have been great. I drive 40 miles through elk country for work, with 20 miles always in the dark in the mornings and the whole trip is in the dark during the winter. This time of year we have near daily elk strikes and the rest of the year we don’t go more than a couple of weeks without one. The lights have saved my bacon as they really light up the night and have illuminated the elk on more than one occasiaon with enough time to avoid a collision. They throw a lot further in front and to the sides compared to the factory setup.

I just wish I could find a factory hood deflector to replace my damaged one.
 
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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I would not touch Subaru with 10 foot pole. Boxer engine being the main reason, transmission being next. What is good for a a rally car (like WRX) is not necessarily good for a daily.
I have spent a significant amount of time on the ascent forum researching the car and it seems that the tranny problem that affected some of the early production units have been resolved (a combination of a bad pressure switch/inadequate pressure switch and programing). The other issues that seemed pretty common are electrical in nature, ie issues with infotainment system, and other random issues, (door locks, starting, etc) but all seemed to be mostly confined to the 2019 or early 2020 production dates so it seems Subaru did a good job of addressing those issues.

I have also spent a lot of time on the 4runner forum and the largest complaints are centered around gas mileage, lack of technology, the lack of power and some weird issue with the front bumper popping out of place. More technology equals more problems in my book but I could be wrong. Based on what I would want to do to the 4runner, lift kit, roof rack, skid plates, larger tires, etc I will probably be getting 14-15 mpg vs 20-25 in the Subaru. The van averages about 19.5 mpg so the 4runner will be a downgrade in that department. All three seem to get around 10-12 mpg while towing so no difference there.

I am not a huge fan of those overly large infotainment systems that integrate every dash control through them in general and I have heard most start having issues, such as locking up and or loosing bluetooth connectivity. The 4runner has had the same issue with their infotainment system as well but I can just replace the unit with a aftermarket radio while I wont be able to do that with the Subaru. The vans stereo and dvd player are still woking after 18 years and I haven't had any electrical issues with it so far.

The other issue I have with the Subaru is its inability to use a weight distribution hitch, or sway control, as the frame isn't designed to handle it. Even my van's frame can handle weight distribution with sway control (I personally use a Anderson weight distribution hitch). Like the Toyota it has a 5000Lb weight limit and a 500lb hitch rating. Subaru's solution is to use the vehicles stability control system to provide trailer stability control. In my opinion it's always best to prevent trailer sway before it starts instead of trying to control it once it does. Some individuals on the Ascent forum tow heavier trailers then the Lance 1575S we want to get and have mostly good things to say about the experience. Some of the individuals have towed up the same passes I have with the ody such as Teton Pass and if they are to be believed did extremely well. I just don't like that the only option for leveling the car is to use stiffer springs or the fact that the turbo will be spooled up the whole time.

On the flip side the general consensus on the 4runner forum is that it can be done but you should limit your expectations. Most of that criticism is centered around a lack of power and soft springs in the rear. The only two options for the power problem are to re-gear the rear end (which I will probably do) or a supercharger which is out of the question for me. I will probably get a 2in lift which will have stiffer springs as well as adding a airlift airbag to the rear to help with rear end sag. Plus I can use my Anderson weight distribution hitch with it. At least one member tows a 1575 and has had no issues in fact they say it tows well (I assume because its significantly under the tow rating of the vehicle).

The van has been one of the best towing vehicles (in its class) I have ever owned, especially with the Anderson hitch. Granted we tow a 2500lb lifted tent trailer or a 4x8 utility trailer so the drag is considerably less than that of the Lance we want to get but it is very smooth, stable and has plenty of power for the job.
 
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I have spent a significant amount of time on the ascent forum researching the car and it seems that the tranny problem that affected some of the early production units have been resolved (a combination of a bad pressure switch/inadequate pressure switch and programing). The other issues that seemed pretty common are electrical in nature, ie issues with infotainment system, and other random issues, (door locks, starting, etc) but all seemed to be mostly confined to the 2019 or early 2020 production dates so it seems Subaru did a good job of addressing those issues.

I have also spent a lot of time on the 4runner forum and the largest complaints are centered around gas mileage, lack of technology, the lack of power and some weird issue with the front bumper popping out of place. More technology equals more problems in my book but I could be wrong. Based on what I would want to do to the 4runner, lift kit, roof rack, skid plates, larger tires, etc I will probably be getting 14-15 mpg vs 20-25 in the Subaru. The van averages about 19.5 mpg so the 4runner will be a downgrade in that department. All three seem to get around 10-12 mpg while towing so no difference there.

I am not a huge fan of those overly large infotainment systems that integrate every dash control through them in general and I have heard most start having issues, such as locking up and or
Obviously you seem to be very thorough with your research and know how to take care of a vehicle if you managed to get your Ody to 400K.
I base my opinion about Subaru based on my owing one (well very old model, so does not apply here, but everybody says that since '04 Subies are in decline in terms of quality and "vision" in general. They grew too fast) and being on these same forums for years.
If were to choose between 4Runner and Ascent I would take 4Runner for Toyota quality, better off-road capability, better towing which you seem to be looking for. Whatever you lose on gas you recoup in lower maintenance costs.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Obviously you seem to be a very thorough with your research and know how to take care of a vehicle if you managed to get your Ody to 400K.
I base my opinion about Subaru based on my owing one (well very old model, so does not apply here, but everybody says that since '04 Subies are in decline in terms of quality and "vision" in general. They grew too fast) and being on these same forums for years.
If were to choose between 4Runner and Ascent I would take 4Runner for Toyota quality, better off-road capability, better towing which you seem to be looking for. Whatever you lose on gas you recoup in lower maintenance costs.
I think the decline in automobile reliability can be said about all brands, perhaps with the exception of Kia and Mazda. I know the 2.4L in the Subaru has had some oil dilution issues, though again they seem to have fixed the issue, and they aren't burning oil like the 2010-2018 Subarus did, including my wife's 2015 forester. To be fair nearly all brands including Honda and Toyota have had issues with either burning oil or oil dilution at some point in the time. The 4runner doesn't seem to suffer from either of those issues.

With that said the most practical vehicle is the the Subaru. The Subaru also has the nicest interior as its very luxuries and has the best powertrain of the two. The 4runner will likely be the most reliable and the most fun to drive. If I only had two kids still at home, it would be a no brainer, and I wouldn't even consider the Ascent ,but having a third row with 3 kids is appealing.
 
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Seek out other car makers other than Subaru. Tons of engine issues. They way u love your Ody, not gonna happen with the Subaru. Toyota if you want another Van..it's likely going to be the final countdown before waving goodbye for ICE vehicles. Get it while u still can.
 

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Just wanted to jump on and provide a quick update regarding my 2004 EX with DVD. I made a long post a 300,000 mile review back in July of 2019 and just wanted to share my thoughts on van at 400,000 miles and how it compares in my opinion to three 2022 vehicles.

First, this van has been extremely reliable and I wouldn't hesitate taking it from Washington State to the east cost again. The advice on this forum has been an invaluable, from providing ideas for custom mods, to diagnostics to tip and tricks for performing routine maintenance. I honestly don't think the journey would have been as fun or easy without this place. Since the above mentioned post I have performed the following repairs:
(1) Rebuilt transmission (1st time)
(2) Rebuilt both heads when I replaced the rear head gasket (1st time)
(3) Radiator and radiator fan replaced (1st time)
(4) All new KYB struts and springs all the way around (2nd time since new)
(5) Front wheel bearings (2nd time since new) and ball joints (1st time)


We recently started looking at replacement vehicles for the van as we have gotten one child driving and our about to start teaching the second one with the plan to give them the van when they turn 16. My ideal vehicle is one; that will be reliable, is comfortable on those long trips, can hold 5 people with gear on occasion, is safe and is something rugged/capable enough that I can go off the beaten path in. We looked at a 2022 Subaru Ascent, 2022 Honda Passport and a 2022 Toyota 4runner. After conducting research online, visiting forums and watching youtube videos I had decided on the either the 4runner or the passport and I really wanted to like to the Passport due to it being a little more on road focus with the latest tech compared to the 4runner. However the 9speed transmission and the start and stop was really horrible, and My wife and I both thought the vans power train was smoother then the Passports, and neither of us liked the front seats, so it was out of the running pretty quickly.

Next on a whim we decided to drive Subaru Ascent Limited and boy was I surprised and impressed. Eyesight worked extremely well but all those flashing lights will end up setting off someones epilepsy. Every time it found or lost a car or lane marking to track, lights would go off and alerts would display on the dash and I found it very distracting, though I am sure I would get used to it. The powertrain was the smoothest and if felt like it had the most power even though the CVT is only mated to a 2.4L turbo. The ride was nice and compliant and the interior in that thing is huge and luxuries. The front seats were comfortable, though not as comfortable as the van or the 4runner. They had just sold a Touring trim, which has slightly different seats, due to ventilated front seats, so we only sat in it (with permission of the new owner). In that limited amount of time i would say the front seats in the touring are more comfortable than those found in the 4runners but we are waiting for a touring model to come in that we can drive before I can truly compare them. Lot's of tech and safety features and like all Subarus does well in crash test results. (2023 will have a 360 degree camera, panorama moonroof, and essentially tablet that everything is controlled from)

Next in stark contrast to the Subaru we drove a 4runner in the TRD Off Road Premium ritm with KDSS. Though the age of this vehicle is clearly showing the seats were more comfortable then the other two vehicles and the powertrain was very smooth. It doesn't have dedicated air to the second row or even automatic climate control but I do like all the physical buttons, knobs and switches. My kids joked that it looked like an airplane or space ship cockpit. The 4runner also scored well in crash test results with only one score falling below good (small frontal offset). It doesn't have all the latest safety features such as lane keep assist but there is a lot less to go wrong. I liked the cabin but it will take some getting use to and the 2 teens and their younger sibling aren't excited about the prospect of having to sit next to each other in the second row if this is what we end up getting.

We did put a refundable deposit down on the 4runner, as they are 7-18 months out, and will wait for the 2023 Subaru Ascent to hit the lots before making a final decision since a new Ascent only takes 3 months to get.

Ratings for Power Train (Best to worse)
Smoothness: Ascent, 4runner, Ody, Passport
Power: Ody, Ascent, 4runner, Passport (likely due to the 9speed)

Ride, Comfort and connivence:
Front Seats: Ody, 4runner, Ascent, Passport
Second Row Seats (ranked by kids): Passport, Ascent 4runner, Ody
Second Row Seats (ranked by parents: Ascent, Ody, Passport, 4runner
Ride Quality: Ody, Ascent, 4runner, Passport
Handling: Passport,Ascent, Ody, 4runner
Interior Features: Ascent, Ody, 4runner, Passport
Infotainment: Ascent, Passport, 4runner, Ody

Safety
Active: Ascent, Passport, 4runner, Ody
Passive: Ascent, Passport, 4runner, Ody

Overall Ranking: Ascent/4runner (depends on if I put more emphasis on traveling with the kids or exploring more off road and reliability), ody, passport.

What I learned from test driving these vehicles is how well and how much thought Honda put into these vans. At 18 years old with 400K miles it still rides and handles great (If I replaced more of the front and rear suspension I'm sure it would handle even better) and is still extremely comfortable and versatile. The van has more passenger and cargo space, than any of the new ones I looked at, and the ease of entrance and exit combined with the interior layout jut can't be beat. The 3.5L in the van seemed to bo provide just a little bit more get up and go both from a stand still and from 40-75 mph.

At the end of the day I don't think the Subaru will make it to 300K miles, not without needing considerably more repairs at any rate. 4runners in general are capable of hitting 300/400K miles though that would come at the expense of gas mileage and some on road comfort.

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Looks great. You have..SAVED a lot of money over the years. I bought my wife a New Honda Odyssey in 1999. We still have it. It only has 56,000 miles on it. It has been super. We would use MY company car to go places and this to drive around town and on a few trips. I paid ~$25k for this van. I did have to put a new motor type thing so my passenger side door would shut. Total with Labor $640 @ Billy Craft Honda-Lynchburg, VA. Thanks your update.
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Seek out other car makers other than Subaru. Tons of engine issues. They way u love your Ody, not gonna happen with the Subaru. Toyota if you want another Van..it's likely going to be the final countdown before waving goodbye for ICE vehicles. Get it while u still can.
What's with all the hate on Subaru? I have a '16 Crosstrek and a '21 Outback XT Touring and have had no major issues. The XT Touring drives like a dream - we too considered the Ascent, and for road trips wish we had it, but the '21 version didn't have electronic seat controls for the passenger, and that was important to my wife. And once we drove the XT Touring it was game over - just too much fun driving. Kids are of driving age so they don't ride with us that often anymore.

We tested the '21 Passport but weren't impressed.

I got a '04 Odyssey still on the road too, 40K miles behind you at 360K miles. Runs like a dream, but openers on both rear doors no longer operational. They open fine, I'm just too cheap to fix them, I'm not a DIYer and too much labor messing with those areas
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
What's with all the hate on Subaru? I have a '16 Crosstrek and a '21 Outback XT Touring and have had no major issues. The XT Touring drives like a dream - we too considered the Ascent, and for road trips wish we had it, but the '21 version didn't have electronic seat controls for the passenger, and that was important to my wife. And once we drove the XT Touring it was game over - just too much fun driving. Kids are of driving age so they don't ride with us that often anymore.

We tested the '21 Passport but weren't impressed.

I got a '04 Odyssey still on the road too, 40K miles behind you at 360K miles. Runs like a dream, but openers on both rear doors no longer operational. They open fine, I'm just too cheap to fix them, I'm not a DIYer and too much labor messing with those areas
The wife's 2015 forester burns a little oil and needs the clock spring replaced for the common non operational horn issue but otherwise we really like the car. I am sure like you, if we get the 4runner, that we will wish we had the ascent on family trips but the instances where all 5 of us are in the car at the same time is becoming less and less frequent. Don't get me wrong, the Ascent would be the perfect and logical choice for us, better road manners, better cabin, more space, safer (passive and active), better power train and better MPG. The 4runner will be more reliable, better off road, is only slightly behind the Ascent in road manners, passive safety, and power train but the Ascent is way ahead in active safety, MPG, and passenger space and overall interior comfort and features (the 4runner front seats were more comfortable). We are waiting for the 2023 Ascents to show up at dealers before we make our final decision.
 

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400k gives me hope as we are at 317k with our 2004. No engine or transmission work yet but front engine oil leak- maybe front main seal. Will have that replaced when timing belt is replaced. Not a primary car now but SO useful for hauling large items and college moves. We have a 2017 Legacy and a 2019 Outback - both trouble free at about 55K and 45K respectively.
 

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The wife's 2015 forester burns a little oil and needs the clock spring replaced for the common non operational horn issue but otherwise we really like the car. I am sure like you, if we get the 4runner, that we will wish we had the ascent on family trips but the instances where all 5 of us are in the car at the same time is becoming less and less frequent. Don't get me wrong, the Ascent would be the perfect and logical choice for us, better road manners, better cabin, more space, safer (passive and active), better power train and better MPG. The 4runner will be more reliable, better off road, is only slightly behind the Ascent in road manners, passive safety, and power train but the Ascent is way ahead in active safety, MPG, and passenger space and overall interior comfort and features (the 4runner front seats were more comfortable). We are waiting for the 2023 Ascents to show up at dealers before we make our final decision.
I remember back in 2019 when the Ascents first came out (before I bought my Odyssey) - I was thinking about buying a 3rd car and wanted something with a 3rd row, and was leaning more towards used than new anyways, but Subaru sent me a $65 gift card to go test drive a car so I went to try the Ascent and was pretty impressed. 8 seats, spacious, super safe. Great on paper, and drove well. I am generally a fan of Subaru - I think they are tremendous value for the money as their base models tend to be cheaper than base models from other brands, and their unbeatable safety record. But I had no faith whatsoever in the reliability of the CVT in such a large car (I would be willing to buy a Civic or Legacy or CR-V with a CVT, but CVT belts are generally weaker than traditional gears and I think the weight of the Ascent is too much for a CVT). Time will tell, I guess... Subaru's CVT track record isn't great - but I guess time will tell if the newer ones are any good.

But the Ascent's engine is a 2.4L direct injected turbo. I don't see how it's not going to suffer from carbon buildup down the road either. Not to mention a turbo replacement eventually, along with oil burning (not a hit on Subaru, but the design of boxer engines makes them more likely to burn oil in general, and Subarus DO have a history of burning oil) AND potential oil dilution from direction injection. I agree with you that I can't foresee the Ascent going 300,000 trouble free miles. I really like the car, but there are too many potential problems with its design for me to buy one.

Are the 4Runners no longer available with the optional 3rd row? Given the options you presented, I'd choose the 4Runner also. I do have a question - why not consider the Highlander, which is more or less the direct competitor to the Ascent? I think the 4Runner doesn't come with Toyota Safety Sense, but the Highlander will top the 4Runner in active and passive safety features and the unibody is generally safer in a crash than body on frame anyways (more energy absorption). Plus, you'll have the 3rd row with the Highlander and better gas mileage than the 4Runner. The 4Runner is the better car for towing, though.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I remember back in 2019 when the Ascents first came out (before I bought my Odyssey) - I was thinking about buying a 3rd car and wanted something with a 3rd row, and was leaning more towards used than new anyways, but Subaru sent me a $65 gift card to go test drive a car so I went to try the Ascent and was pretty impressed. 8 seats, spacious, super safe. Great on paper, and drove well. I am generally a fan of Subaru - I think they are tremendous value for the money as their base models tend to be cheaper than base models from other brands, and their unbeatable safety record. But I had no faith whatsoever in the reliability of the CVT in such a large car (I would be willing to buy a Civic or Legacy or CR-V with a CVT, but CVT belts are generally weaker than traditional gears and I think the weight of the Ascent is too much for a CVT). Time will tell, I guess... Subaru's CVT track record isn't great - but I guess time will tell if the newer ones are any good.

But the Ascent's engine is a 2.4L direct injected turbo. I don't see how it's not going to suffer from carbon buildup down the road either. Not to mention a turbo replacement eventually, along with oil burning (not a hit on Subaru, but the design of boxer engines makes them more likely to burn oil in general, and Subarus DO have a history of burning oil) AND potential oil dilution from direction injection. I agree with you that I can't foresee the Ascent going 300,000 trouble free miles. I really like the car, but there are too many potential problems with its design for me to buy one.

Are the 4Runners no longer available with the optional 3rd row? Given the options you presented, I'd choose the 4Runner also. I do have a question - why not consider the Highlander, which is more or less the direct competitor to the Ascent? I think the 4Runner doesn't come with Toyota Safety Sense, but the Highlander will top the 4Runner in active and passive safety features and the unibody is generally safer in a crash than body on frame anyways (more energy absorption). Plus, you'll have the 3rd row with the Highlander and better gas mileage than the 4Runner. The 4Runner is the better car for towing, though.
The 4Runner’s still have trim levels that come with a third row just not in the trim levels I would want. As for the highlander, I just don’t like the design of it. If gas prices keep going up though the Subaru will probably be what we end up with. I’ll just have to do more frequent oil changes and get inductions services done to keep it clean.
 
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