What is it: The new Subaru Ascent, debuting at last fall’s LA Auto Show looking exactly like a slightly bigger Forester, is Subaru’s first three-row crossover since the Tribeca left us in 2014. It’s also the company’s first new model since the 2011 Crosstrek. Like all Subarus except the BRZ, the Ascent has all-wheel drive as standard equipment. According to the company, it can tow up to 5,000 pounds, so figure a small boat or pop-up camper.
Key Competitors: Ford Explorer, Toyota Highlander, Chevrolet Traverse
Base Price: $35,170 As-Tested Price: $39,430
Full Review: 2019 Subaru Ascent first drive
Highlights: The Ascent, Subaru’s biggest and heaviest vehicle ever, started rolling out of Subaru’s Lafayette, Indiana, plant on May 8, joining the Outback, Legacy and Impreza. Subaru’s latest comes in four trim levels: base, premium, limited and touring. For power they all use a new, turbocharged 2.4-liter, 260-hp flat-four and all have a continuously variable automatic transmission and hill-descent control.
Our Opinion: Everyone wants to buy a midsize SUV/crossover these days. Subaru’s weird-looking Tribeca never really caught on and has been gone for a while, leaving a gap in the company’s lineup (I find it a bit odd Subaru allowed it to go on so long, considering how customer-focused the company is). So owners and potential owners were forced to look elsewhere when their families outgrew a Crosstrek and/or Forester. That’s not a problem anymore — the new Ascent seats seven or eight, depending on whether you get second-row buckets or a bench.
I just spent a week and a few hundred miles in the new Ascent Premium. As midsize crossovers go, it is perfectly adequate. It does nothing remarkably well, nothing to set it apart from the 3,905,439,058,349 other crossovers out there. Nor is it really lacking in any area. It has a nice big interior with 19 cup holders (!), tons of cubbies and four USB ports. This particular car’s options include a panoramic moonroof and navigation system.
The car rides on Subaru’s rock-solid global modular platform, designed to underpin all Subarus until at least 2025 and able to accommodate gasoline drivetrains, hybrids, plug-in hybrids and EVs. And, despite "just" four-cylinder power, the Ascent manages to get out of its own way quite well, considering it weighs somewhere around 4,500 pounds. The flat-four sounds smoother than some other Subaru engines I recall, surprising me a bit.
As did the transmission: It’s actually not bad, not nearly as drony and rubber band-like as many CVTs. There are even paddles to play with. If potential buyers care, and I doubt they will, the steering is light with little feel while the ride/handling mix feels good, never crashing over potholes but not getting all wallow-ish in corners. Basically all as expected.
So no, there isn’t a whole lot of excitement here, no Subaru quirkiness. It’s all middle of the road, competent, no more, no less. That’s typical in this class, though. The Ascent offers a nice mix of comfort and utility with standard all-wheel drive in a smooth, relaxed crossover.
Just like all of ’em.
On Sale: Now
Base Price: $35,170
Powertrain: 2.4-liter turbocharged H4, CVT, all-wheel drive
Output: 260 hp @ 5,600 rpm, 277 lb-ft @ 2,000-4,800 rpm
Curb Weight: 4,477 lb
Fuel Economy: 20/26/22 mpg(EPA City/Hwy/Combined)
Pros: Roomy, good ride/handling mix
Cons: Nothing really separates it from the pack