Car Reviews SUV of the Year

Subaru Ascent: 2019 Motor Trend SUV of the Year Contender

XL-ence in the Pleiades

XL-ence in the Pleiades

WE LIKE Intuitive two-screen infotainment, sliding second row

WE DON’T LIKE Mishmash of interior materials and colors, giant front overhang

The brand that has satisfied America’s crossover fetish in sizes S, M, and L is taking a second swing at the tricky XL three-row segment.

Following the peculiar-looking and odd-sized B9 Tribeca, the 2019 Ascent fixes its predecessor’s problems by growing about 8 percent on the outside and 21 percent inside and donning a regulation Subaru uniform.

Christian Seabaugh praised the 2.4-liter turbo flat-four for making this “the first new Subaru CUV since the Outback 3.6R that can get out of its own way.” Miguel Cortina fretted that filling all eight seat belts and the 17.8-cubic-foot luggage area might overburden the engine.

Scott Evans also questioned the overly aggressive CVT tuning: “I get trying to be sporty, but does anyone want a CVT banging off hard fake shifts?” The X-Mode AWD system handled our off-road course’s ascents and descents with relative ease, though Mark Rechtin managed to get it stuck temporarily with his “Look out, a deer!” panic-stop test on our silt hill, which approximates powdery snow. The Ascent’s ride-biased handling drew mixed reviews, with Rechtin and Evans describing it as “sloppy” and “soft and ponderous” and my own notebook declaring it “big and slightly under-tired—a hippo in ballerina shoes.”

With 19 cupholders, six USB ports, stowage cubbies aplenty, 5,000-pound (2,268-kg) towing capability, and standard EyeSight driver-assist technology (which kept beeping to recommend guest judge Gordon Dickie take a coffee break), it scores high in safety and performance of intended function. This will surely lure the Subaru faithful in droves, but lower ratings on design advancement and engineering excellence might inspire comparison shoppers to seek other options.

2019 Subaru Ascent Touring
Base Price/As tested $45,670/$45,670
Power (SAE net) 260 hp @ 5,600 rpm
Torque (SAE net) 277 lb-ft @ 2,000 rpm
Accel, 0-60 mph 7.5 sec
Quarter-mile 16.0 sec @ 88.6 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 125 ft
Lateral Acceleration 0.79 g (avg)
MT Figure Eight 27.4 sec @ 0.63 g (avg)
EPA City/Hwy/Comb 20/26/22 mpg
Vehicle Layout
Front-engine, AWD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV
Engine/Transmission 2.4L turbo DOHC 16-valve flat-4/Cont variable auto
Curb Weight (F/R Dist) 4,575 lb (55/45%)
Wheelbase 113.8 in
Length x Width x Height 196.8 x 76.0 x 71.6 in
Energy Cons, CITY/HWY 169/130 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 Emissions, Comb 0.87 lb/mile