2019 Subaru Ascent First Test: Three-Row Winner


Overall, the test team had positive things to say about both Ascents. Road test editor Chris Walton called the engine a “surprisingly able motor for a large SUV” and praised the brakes”http://www.motortrend.com/”short [stopping] distances and good fade resistance.” Testing director Kim Reynolds noted that “given its height etc., it’s fairly sporty” even though it’s “understeery on turn-in.” Interestingly, there were also no complaints about the CVT. Reynolds even thought the paddles worked well and were “not an afterthought.”

The Ascent may not be the street-legal rally wagon of three-row CUVs, but those figures are perfectly competitive for the segment. And out on the road, it quickly becomes clear that the Ascent is exactly what Subaru needed it to be. Take the design, for instance. It doesn’t break any new ground, but you won’t mistake it for anything other than a Subaru. That wasn’t the case with the Ascent’s oddly styled predecessor, the B9 Tribeca.

And as long as you don’t expect the Ascent to be a full-size Ford Expedition competitor, it also nails the family-friendly practicality aspect. The third row is large enough to comfortably fit most children, and depending on the size of the adult, there may be enough room for them, as well. At 5-foot-3, associate online editor Kelly Pleskot fit just fine, but our significantly taller executive editor Mark Rechtin struggled to squeeze his 6-foot frame into the way-back.



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“The third-row seat is really for small children only,” Rechtin wrote. “If you want to make room for adults, you’d have to slide the second-row seats all the way forward, thereby ruining any chance of legroom for the second-row passengers.” At least the second-row seats do slide, giving families more options than they’d have otherwise.

On the road and around town, ride quality was impressive, and the seats were seriously comfortable. On the drive back from a weekend road trip to San Diego in the Ascent Premium, that comfort and refinement were much appreciated. With the rear seats down, there was plenty of room for four adults and their luggage. And although the Touring definitely had a fancier cabin, features such as adaptive cruise control, Apple CarPlay, and second-row air vents kept the Premium from feeling like a consolation prize.

The Ascent isn’t perfect, though. As Rechtin pointed out, the vehicle’s “short first gear and quick throttle tip-in gives a sense of quick off-the-line acceleration, but it’s actually just jerky and snappy and will do nothing but annoy your passengers. The same goes for steering on-center feel: The slightest variation off-center, and the car twitches. You have to be really smooth with both your right foot and your hands in order not to throw your passengers around.” After a few weeks, owners will probably learn to work around those issues, but they’re still frustrating flaws in an otherwise well-rounded crossover.

All things considered, it’s clear that Subaru has a winner on its hands. With a base price just under $33,000 including destination and a long list of standard features, the Ascent will likely tempt potential Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, and Toyota Highlander buyers. Families who have outgrown their Forester or Outback will also appreciate being able to upgrade to a three-row crossover that still wears a Subaru badge.

Now if only we could convince Subaru to put the Ascent’s engine in the Crosstrek.



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2019 Subaru Ascent Premium Touring
BASE PRICE $35,170 $45,670
PRICE AS TESTED $39,430 $45,670
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, AWD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV Front-engine, AWD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV
ENGINE 2.4L/260-hp/277-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve flat-4 2.4L/260-hp/277-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve flat-4
TRANSMISSION Cont variable auto Cont variable auto
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 4,486 lb (55/45%) 4,594 lb (54/46%)
WHEELBASE 113.8 in 113.8 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 196.8 x 76.0 x 71.6 in 196.8 x 76.0 x 71.6 in
0-60 MPH 6.9 sec 7.3 sec
QUARTER MILE 15.5 sec @ 90.9 mph 15.8 sec @ 89.2 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 119 ft 118 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.81 g (avg) 0.80 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 27.1 sec @ 0.63 g (avg) 27.4 sec @ 0.63 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 21/27/23 mpg 20/26/22 mpg
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 160/125 kW-hrs/100 miles 169/130 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.83 lb/mile 0.87 lb/mile
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.83 lb/mile 0.87 lb/mile

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