Subaru hasn’t offered an SUV since 2014 when the much-maligned (and kind of ugly) Tribeca B9 went away. Instead of rushing to market with something new, or just giving the old one a facelift, they decided to start with a clean sheet and design a completely new vehicle. Based off the most recent Impreza platform, they finally released the Ascent SUV. So have they cured the ills that plagued the older Tribeca? Let’s find out.
First and foremost, we should talk about the design. The Tribeca was well known for its looks, and not in a good way. The odd shaped headlights and grill didn’t really fit with Subaru’s design language and seemed like an attempt to be different that missed the mark. They tried to facelift it, but that didn’t work either. The Ascent, however, not only carries forward strong Subaru design language, but it’s also just a great looking SUV.
The large Subaru grille and aggressive fender flares give the Ascent a purposeful look. It has a refined profile and is such an improvement over the last Subaru SUV that we’re a little more excited about it than we probably should be. There’s nothing really earth-shattering about it, it just looks good. Inside, that trend continues with some nice material choices.
Nice leathers, contrasting stitching, aluminum trim all look nicer than previous Subarus have had. They took their time developing this vehicle, knowing how important the market is. Technology is not the Ascent’s strongest suit, and even though there are good connectivity features (Android Auto, Apple CarPlay), the interface and menu design are a bit laggy and dated looking. The safety features are lacking especially given the price point. Lane warning instead of assist, a clunky ‘heads up display’ which is just yellow lights on the dash are a bit behind the competition. If your mobile device (or even laptop) is running low, you’re in luck in the Ascent. There are charging ports, including 12V, USB and 110V outlets.
Powering the SUV is a turbocharged 2.4-liter boxer (opposed) four cylinder with 260hp, but importantly 277 lb-ft of torque. Even though this is a big three-row SUV, it’s actually pretty quick. The CVT transmission has been calibrated well, and it works in steps instead of constantly varying the ratio. That means if ‘feels’ a little more like a standard transmission, but with an infinite number of selectable ratios for the computer to choose.
A great panoramic roof lets in lots of light, which makes the interior feel like a nice place to be. And with lots of space on the inside, lots of people can enjoy it. Ingress and egress from the third row is quite easy, although we felt the cargo area was a bit limited. That’s a trade off many would take, as passengers will be comfortable, and if you need to haul cargo, you can fold the seats down. Since the overall size is quite reasonable for a three-row SUV, it’s a good trade off.
Fuel mileage is rated well, although we missed the 20mpg city rating, a 26mph highway and 22mph combined rating is good for a big vehicle like this. And it’s got the highest tow rating of any Subaru that came before it. It is rated to tow 5000lb, and has a nice anti-sway feature as well.
Overall, the Ascent represents quite a leap for Subaru in this class. Taking some time off in the marketplace was a great move, and they made the most of it. A handsome exterior, luxurious interior, and great driving dynamics make this an SUV to consider for sure. But it does come at a cost, $45k in the case of our test vehicle. That’s a big number for a Subaru, and it makes some of the tech foibles a little harder to overlook. In any case, this is a vehicle worth test-driving if you’re in the market for a three-row SUV, and with winter upon us in Chicago, that Subaru all-wheel drive will come in handy.
Special thanks to Subaru of America for providing the 2019 Subaru Ascent for review.