2019 Subaru Ascent Review
The all-new Subaru Ascent is finally here and the brand thinks it has really cracked the code when it comes to three-row goodness.
The Japanese automaker has loaded this crossover full of tech and features that are designed to make life easier for families on the go, but nothing is more important than the fact that it has 19 cupholders. Apparently, that’s how you design a car from scratch for North America.
Of course it would have a ton of cupholders, after all, it is the biggest Subaru ever built. But it isn’t entirely unfamiliar as it uses a stretched out version of Subaru’s global platform that underpins the Impreza, Crosstrek, and upcoming Forester.
So Much Space
Fortunately, it holds so much more than just cupholders, with a total of 86.5 cubic feet of storage (2,449 liters) when all rear seats are folded down. Behind just the second row is 47.5 (1,345 liters), while there are just 17.8 cubic feet (504 liters) behind that third row. It is worth pointing out that all of that cargo space is easily accessible, with a large, wide trunk opening and even hidden compartments that can store the cargo cover when it isn’t in use. It’s like the mansion in Clue: full of secrets and surprises!
|Engine:||Turbocharged 2.4L boxer four-cylinder|
|Output:||260 hp, 277 lb-ft of torque|
|US Fuel Economy (MPG):||21 city, 27 highway|
|CAN Fuel Economy (lL100 km):||11.6 city, 9 highway|
|Towing Capacity:||5,000 lbs.|
|Cargo Space (cubic-feet):||17.8 to 86.5|
|Cargo Space (L):||504 to 2,449|
|Starting Price (USD):||$32,970|
|Starting Price (CAD):||$35,995|
|Fully loaded Price (USD):||$45,670|
|Fully Loaded Price:||$49,995|
The interior is also spacious for passengers and handy as well. While the third row isn’t the most accommodating for adults, kids will have more than enough space. And there’s also a secondary HVAC blower back there to keep things comfortable.
Adding to the versatility of the Ascent, it comes standard with a second-row bench seat or two captain chairs. The bucket seats are comfy and spacious and kids can use the grab handles to steady themselves like they’re in the international space station!
Adding to that otherworldly feel is an interior that can feel surprisingly premium. Subaru really stepped up its game in higher trim models that arrive with upscale leather appointments and even luxurious feeling wood trim in fully loaded models. Lower trim models feature textured accents that look cool but feel a bit rough.
But opt for one of those higher-end models and you get so many treats, including rear sunshades and the brand’s first ventilated seats. The driver’s seat can also have a thigh extension for additional support.
Subaru also brings along the best version of its infotainment system, Starlink, which is quick and features Android Auto and Apple CarPlay support. There are other important tech features in here too like a front-facing camera, as well as a rearview mirror display, in case anything is obstructing the rear window. This display is hard to get used to with a fairly narrow view of the area behind the vehicle, making it more of an occasional use feature, instead of something you’d have on all the time.
Subaru shows off its smart design outside the vehicle, and while I wouldn’t call the Ascent’s exterior styling a stand out in the class, it does have some nifty features. For example, there are two steps by the wide opening rear doors that make reaching the roof rack easier and there are dedicated areas to loop and strap down your roof-mounted cargo.
On the Road
The Ascent shows that it’s well suited for family life, at least in terms of its interior, but the powertrain and handling are up to the task as well.
Under the hood is a new turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder boxer engine that makes 260 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque. Its the only engine option available, which helps simplify things for buyers and it’s pretty good. It packs a good amount of torque and power, which is enough to allow for nice highway speed passes. It’s enough to make you forget about the six-cylinder options in other three-row crossovers, but not the turbocharged sixes found in the Ford Explorer or Flex or the V8 in the Dodge Durango (although those are very thirsty engines).
In typical Subaru fashion, it’s paired with a continuously variable transmission and all-wheel-drive system and both do a solid job of staying out of the way. The CVT seems tuned to give a smooth feeling of acceleration off the line from a stop, but while in motion, provides a good kick down to get to passing speed quickly.
For those who end up taking the Ascent off-road, there is a special X Mode with Hill descent control that will help drivers deal with trickier road conditions. This crossover is surprisingly capable off-road and is very accessible on road. If you’re looking for a sportier edge or more engaging drive, I’d encourage you to look elsewhere, but at least the Ascent has a manual mode and paddle shifters.
Instead, expect this powertrain to deliver the fuel mileage and range. It earns up to a combined 23 mpg (9 L/100 km highway, 11.6 L/100 km in the city), as models riding on 18 inch wheels get better fuel economy than those riding on 20s (Subarus first time offering a car with that size) but the tank is plentiful, delivering a range of over 500 miles (800 km). It’s not exactly the class leader in terms of fuel economy, but it’s close, and considering that the vehicle doesn’t use premium fuel, it’s not a bad option if you’re concerned about your fuel budget. Naturally, those mpg figures will drop when the Ascent is used for towing, especially as you creep towards the vehicles 5,000 lb limit. To help with drivers hauling stuff, there’s a handy tow stability assistance system.
In the past though, Subarus could feel a bit hollow and tinny, but they were at least fun to drive and capable. The new models are far more solid feeling and provide a good sense of confidence on the road. I really like the suspension setup in the Ascent, as it’s comfortable and not stiff at all. It’s a perfect fit for families as it won’t be too jiggly to spill any drinks in the 19 cupholders, and it won’t be floaty enough to cause any car sickness. I should have just quoted goldilocks when describing the suspension, but I wish more attention was paid to the steering, which feels really artificial and lifeless. Any kind of feedback would be much appreciated.
The Safety BEEP
Subaru boasts a solid track record with the IIHS in terms of safety ratings you can expect the Ascent to continue that trend, as it uses a similar architecture as other vehicles that have earned top marks in crash tests. But instead of speculating about its future rating, we can at least appreciate all the active safety systems offered on the Ascent. It has lane departure warning and assistance, rear automatic braking, forward collision warning, blind spot monitoring, and steering responsive LED headlights. Much of this is possible thanks to the brand’s EyeSight safety system, and unlike the Outback, the camera array doesn’t interfere with forward visibility. One small complaint I have is that the lane departure warning system is a bit sensitive, and beeps often, even when it feels like you haven’t committed any egregious errors.
Buying an Ascent will set you back at least $32,970 ($35,995 in Canada) in its base form, but fully loaded it’ll easily ring up at $45,670 ($49,995 in Canada).
The Verdict: 2019 Subaru Ascent Review
A few people might remember the old Subaru Tribeca, which was the brand’s previous attempt at a three-row vehicle. It was ugly, expensive and limiting in terms of interior space. Subaru certainly hasn’t forgotten about that vehicle and the new Ascent is everything that the Tribeca wasn’t. It’s affordable, extremely spacious and full of smart design that seems tailor-made for a family on the go.
Discuss this story on our Subaru Ascent Forum
- Smooth new powertrain
- Tons of space
- Smart design inside and out
- Rear mirror display
- Sensitive lane keep system
- Lifeless steering
Sami has an unquenchable thirst for car knowledge and has been at AutoGuide for the past six years. He has a degree in journalism and media studies from the University of Guelph-Humber in Toronto and has won multiple journalism awards from the Automotive Journalist Association of Canada. Sami is also on the jury for the World Car Awards.
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