Subaru’s desire to go big or go home led to the development of its first three-row SUV
The Ascent is the largest Subaru to date. The public got its first look at the midsize Ascent at the 2017 Los Angeles auto show: a true three-row SUV to keep Subie loyalists from having to leave the brand when they outgrew their Forester or Outback. We were quite anxious to get our hands on one for the MotorTrend Garage, and halfway into our year with a 2019 Ascent Limited in Cinnamon Brown Pearl, we’ve come to appreciate a number of aspects of this newcomer.
One Good Global Platform Goes a Long Way
The Ascent rides on the same new global platform that underpins most of Subaru’s lineup, including the Legacy and Crosstrek. Engineers knew early on that a larger SUV was part of the product plan, so they created the architecture accordingly.
A New Engine for the Brand
The Ascent is the first vehicle to get Subaru’s new 2.4-liter, direct-injected, turbocharged flat-four engine. The Boxer engine makes 260 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque and is paired with a CVT that mimics eight gear shifts. This engine will also go into the next-gen Subaru Outback. Our Ascent Limited did the quarter mile in 15.2 seconds, beating a Volkswagen Atlas and (previous-gen) Toyota Highlander with V-6s under their hoods.
Four-Wheel Independent Suspension
From the outset, we appreciated the low center of gravity and four-wheel independent suspension that makes the vehicle feel more planted than lumbering. But our long-termer has developed a crunching sound as weight shifts to the front upon braking (it sounds like it’s over the right strut). We took it to the dealer, who assures us everything is working properly and said the sound is an offshoot of a shifting load in a larger vehicle. Still, it’s disconcerting; we’ll continue to monitor it.
Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive Comes Standard
Based in Michigan, we appreciate that Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system is standard and that the Ascent also has torque vectoring and X-Mode to reduce wheel slip. Also appreciated: 8.7 inches of ground clearance. We didn’t get our usual dose of big snow storms this winter to put the Ascent to a true test, but the crossover performed well in the inclement weather that Mother Nature did throw our way.
Ready to Launch That Boat
The rear-vision camera helps with backing up and will be handy when we trailer our fishing boat to the launch. We made sure our Subie came with a $499 USD trailer hitch that will be put to good use in the months ahead. The Ascent is rated to tow 5,000 pounds (2,268 kg).
Seats Up to Eight
The Ascent is an eight-passenger vehicle when the second row is a bench seat. Our cream and black interior is set up for seven with two captain’s chairs in the second row; grab handles atop the inside shoulders of the chairs aid the journey to the back row. The third row is best used for cargo—three adults wouldn’t be comfortable there, though the ability to recline helps substantially. If you regularly transport seven, consider the second-row bench so only two people need to squeeze into the back row, which offers vastly less hip and shoulder room.
EyeSight Driver Assist
Subaru’s EyeSight Driver Assist system is being rolled out across the lineup. It uses dual cameras and brings the vehicle to an emergency stop from any speed. It also provides lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control with lane keep assist to steer you back on track, reverse automatic braking, and blind-spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert. With all those nannies comes a lot of beeping alerts. One of the first things we did was turn the sound off so we wouldn’t go mad as the vehicle’s eyes locked on and off nearby cars and other obstacles it detects. We love that the Ascent is looking out for us, but incessant beeps ruin our zen.
Most Expensive Subie You Can Buy
In addition to being the largest Subaru to date, the Ascent is also the most expensive vehicle in the lineup. But that doesn’t mean it’s overpriced compared with the competition. The $32,970 USD base price slots below the 2020 Ford Explorer (which will start at $33,860 USD), takes on the $32,495 USD Honda Pilot, and might be less than the new Toyota Highlander, which is expected to start about $33,000 USD. A 2019 Mazda CX-9 starts at $33,325 USD; a base-model Volkswagen Atlas is $31,890 USD.
Our long-termer is a Limited trim, which has a base price of $39,970 USD. We added a few goodies including a package that upgraded the stereo, added a moonroof and retractable sunshade, Starlink navigation, and a cargo area cover that cleverly stows in a space under the load floor. In the end, it stickered for $43,551 USD. But a two-year maintenance plan covers all normal maintenance services at 6,000-mile (9,656-km) intervals, so our first oil change, tire rotation, checkup, and even a patched tire after a screw lodged in it, have accrued no additional cost. The dealer also tossed in a $20 USD detailing.