Road Test Shows It Tows, Has Three Rows, Doesn’t Cost a Lot of Dough
Remember the three-row Subaru Tribeca SUV? That’s OK if you don’t, few people do. Introduced in 2006, the Tribeca ended production after the 2014 model year due to its polarizing appearance, its ill-fated launch at the dawn of the recession, and slow sales. Its absence created a gap in the company’s product lineup that forced Subaru owners to look elsewhere when their families outgrew smaller vehicles like the Subaru Outback and Forester. Now, Subaru has filled that gap with the 2019 Subaru Ascent.
The all-new midsize crossover SUV will seat up to eight. It comes standard with all-wheel drive, a host of advanced safety and driver assistance features, and a new four-cylinder engine. It gives Subaru customers a way to stay loyal to the automaker as their families and needs grow. And with a base price of $31,995, it won’t break the bank.
If you are a current Subaru owner who has a growing family, or someone that would consider a midsize Subaru SUV, here are seven things to know about the 2019 Subaru Ascent.
Looks Pretty Much Like A Big Subaru Outback
From the outside, the 2019 Ascent is instantly recognizable as a Subaru, looking like a larger version of the Subaru Outback. The nose is taller and larger and Subaru’s signature hexagonal grille is flanked by complex headlights with LED accents. LED headlights that respond to steering inputs and light the way around corners are available. More pronounced fenders wrap around standard 18-inch alloy wheels on lower trims and 20-inch alloys on top trims.
In profile the Ascent borrows much of its looks from the smaller Outback. The design is both a little assertive and a little space-and-functionality focused. Overall, the Ascent carries a look that’s rakish and swept back, yet simultaneously SUV-like blunt.
All-New Four-Cylinder Engine
As the largest vehicle in the Subaru lineup, it makes sense the 2019 Subaru Ascent would get an all-new engine. Seven- and eight-passenger SUVs have long been associated with six or eight-cylinder engines. The surprise is the 2019 Ascent has an all-new four-cylinder engine under the hood.
Subaru and Porsche are the only automakers that have faithfully stood by the horizontally opposed boxer engine configuration. The 2.4-liter boxer engine has direct-injection and is turbocharged, delivering 260 horsepower and 277 pounds-feet (lb.-ft.,) of torque. That’s about 20-30 horsepower less than the V-6 engines of its competitors, but it’s about 10-20 more lb.-ft. of torque than those same competitors. And it’s the torque that helps with towing and passing maneuvers.
The boxer engine pairs with a revised version of Subaru’s continuously variable transmission (CVT), which features eight pre-set ratios to simulate gears. Those “gears” are selectable from steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles. The engine, gearbox and all-wheel drive system come standard across the Ascent lineup.
Despite the Ascent having a turbo engine under the hood, it is not necessary to fill it with premium gasoline to get optimal performance. Just pump regular gas. That will deliver 27 miles per gallon city/27 highway/23 combined, about par for this class unless you opt for the Toyota Highlander Hybrid.
It’s Roomy, Seats Seven or Eight Passengers
Active families need to be ready for everything from football practice to carpooling The base Ascent comes with an eight-passenger-only configuration, and the top-tier Touring trim has standard middle row captain’s chairs (seating seven total). But the Premium and Limited trims offer both bench seats and captain’s chairs for the same price.
The 2019 Subaru Ascent’s rear doors open 75 degrees, which makes it easier to access the second and third row. When you are seated in back you won’t go thirsty, there are no fewer than 19 cupholders around.
Fold the second and third rows down for a wide, flat cargo floor to transport all kinds of stuff, from small furniture to camping gear. There’s an impressive 47.5 cubic feet of storage space behind the second row and a cavernous 86.5 cubic feet with the second and third rows folded down.
Attention Infotainment and Safety Geeks
Subaru has outfitted the all-new Ascent with the latest infotainment and connectivity technology that you will find in the class. Every Ascent comes with at least a 6.5-inch touch-screen infotainment system; upper-trim models have an available or standard 8.0-touch screen.
In case you need to go online while on the road, the 2019 Subaru Ascent offers onboard 4G LTE Wi-Fi, but that’s just the tip of the connectivity iceberg. The $2,950 Seven-Passenger Technology Package option adds Subaru’s Starlink infotainment system with an 8.0-inch screen, navigation by TomTom, SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. A wide variety of Starlink cloud applications includes streaming audio, news, parking info and connected search.
You can never have enough USB ports. (Pay attention other automakers.) Ascent starts with four USB ports, but upper trims get as many as eight.
Subaru was one of the first automakers to offer a full complement of driver assists in mainstream vehicles via its Eye Sight system. Standard on every model is: forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, active lane control, and adaptive cruise control. Premium and higher trim levels add blind-spot monitors, rear automatic emergency braking and a 180-degree forward-facing camera that shows where the nose of the Ascent is when you are maneuvering in close quarters. Standard on the top Touring trim is a rearview mirror that uses a camera to show what’s behind the SUV without being blocked by passengers or cargo like a traditional rearview mirror.
Infants and Toddlers Welcome
The Ascent’s rear doors open wide to help parents fit small children in rear- and front-facing car seats—especially useful with full hands. A rear-facing car seat can fit in the second row with a full-grown adult sitting ahead of it, and two front-facing seats can fit on the same side in the second and third rows. Or, three front-facing seats can fit in the second row.
Have Trailer Will Travel
The base 2019 Subaru Ascent model comes standard with a lot, but is limited to just 2,000 pounds of towing capacity. Upper trim levels can tow up to 5,000 pounds with trailer stability assist. If you always wanted a small boat or a trailer for all-terrain vehicles or motorcycles, the 2019 Ascent will take you where you want to go confidently and safely.
Yeah, Take the 2019 Ascent Off-Road
With standard all-wheel drive and an off-road drive mode Subaru calls X-Mode, the Ascent can power through rutted trails and beginner two-tracks without much fuss. The Ascent boasts the same ground clearance as the Subaru Outback and Jeep Grand Cherokee—8.7 inches—both of which have earned their off-road credentials.
When activated, X-Mode optimizes electronic control of the engine, transmission, AWD system, brakes and vehicle dynamics. Hill descent control helps drivers maintain control on all but the slipperiest downhill grades.
The 2019 Subaru Ascent’s most significant competition will come from the three-row midsize crossover SUV class which includes the Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, Nissan Pathfinder and Toyota Highlander, among others. The base Ascent starts at nearly $32,000 with the top Touring trim starting at roughly $45,000, right in line with its competition.
While the 2019 Subaru Ascent doesn’t stand out in any particular area, it strikes a solid balance in terms of comfort, capability and value. With standard all-wheel drive and high ground clearance, this is a sport-utility for buyers in regions where harsh winters are commonplace and with families who’re looking to stray from the beaten path now and again. That’s a lot of buyers.
Related Stories You Might Enjoy—the Other Midsize 3-Row Competition
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Road Test: 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee
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