Subaru Ascent is a new three-row crossover with much to
recommend it, but the devil can be in the details
2019 Subaru Ascent
Premium: price, $36,630 as tested. ($34,195 for the trim level.
$1,460 for Reverse Automatic Braking, keyless entry and start, and
power rear gate.)
Motor Trend calls it “Three-row winner.”
“Take in the view.”
Reality: A step up in
many ways, but some caveats.
Everything. The Ascent offers three rows of Subaru for the growing
American family needing to spread out.
Up to speed: The
Ascent really offers some oomph, and 0-60 happens in 7.3 seconds,
according to Motor Trend. The 2.4-liter turbo creates 260 horsepower
but feels like more. And the horizontally opposed engine setup
sounds cool doing it.
the Ascent uses a gearless CVT to transfer engine power to the
wheels, Subaru offers a manual mode with seven steps for drivers to
enjoy. The paddle shifters — the only way to shift — work fairly
Automatic mode works
On the road: For so
long, Subarus have gone down in my notes as having competent, if not
fun, handing. Perhaps the people at Subaru weren’t happy with
this, but they should have been.
Because now handling
in the Ascent — as well as in the new-for-2018 Crosstrek — feels
wifty and uncertain. The Ascent is fine on the highways, but take a
country lane with a few hilly curves and it becomes more challenging
to stay in lane.
Much to be alarmed
about: The jagged handling is bad enough, but the Ascent comes with
a lane-departure warning that chimed whenever I would drift a bit
while traveling above 40 mph. Try as I might, I never did figure out
how to shut it off. (I later learned there’s a button near the
rearview mirror.) This is a pain in construction zones, when easing
left or right to avoid an obstacle, or whenever the sensor feels
like being an obnoxious nanny.
The EyeSight program
does offer some nifty features, though, including lights that tell
you when you’ve drifted to one side or another, or to slow down,
or when the cruise is spotting a car ahead.
On the downside,
cruise control won’t work when there’s no radar, for instance
because of gummed-up sensors. Bummer.
And little things
like landscape plants activate the sensors. Reverse Automatic
Braking slammed the brakes on so hard in my driveway that even my
wife was startled. (And, of course, I got that look. “Oh, sure,
blame the car.”)
Friends and stuff:
Subaru is pretty unaccustomed to three rows, but it has scored one
big success: Legroom in the compact three-row Ascent is actually
fairly generous. At 5 feet 10 inches, I can sit comfortably in all
three rows, at least leg-wise. And there’s even room for eight,
depending on the configuration.
Headroom in the third
row, though, is among the worst I’ve tested, as my head presses
flat against the ceiling without trying. And that third row is
really close to the rear hatch glass.
And standard cloth
seats make cleanup pretty challenging, not what you’d expect from
In back, 17.8 cubic
feet is available for luggage and 86.5 behind the first row.
Play some tunes: For
so long, my stereo reviews have been pretty positive, to the point
where I worried I was starting to lose my touch — or my hearing.
Unfortunately for the
Ascent, this old kid is still alright. The sound from this stereo
unit is acceptable when I’m listening to any old song, but I want
my favorites to be played just so. Maybe it works great for the rap
set, but those of us still stuck on jangly guitars are still paying
And changing the
controls? Oy. Bass, treble, and midrange controls involve
touchscreen sliders, so Ascent drivers better really appreciate the
sound while the vehicle is in motion. Changing them on the highway
can be hazardous to your health. Fortunately, dials control volume
Standard trip computers are among the most useful inventions to come
along in the past 10 years or so. But Subaru plunks down its old LCD
trip computer at the top of this all-new SUV’s dashboard.
What’s worse, the
miles remaining figure changes only in 10-mile increments, and these
are ludicrously unrealistic. I filled the Ascent tank, had 310 miles
remaining, then had 320 miles a mile later, then dropped to 260
miles after a 25-mile drive. And I was driving as I’d driven the
previous 250 miles, so it wasn’t due to unfamiliarity with my
typical consumption. On another occasion, I started with 190 miles,
and dropped to 80 miles after an 80-mile round trip.
Fuel economy: I
averaged about 21 mpg in the usual round of testing.
Where it’s built:
How it’s built:
Consumer Reports predicts its reliability to be a four out of five.