There’s never been a Subaru with three rows of seating until now. The Ascent is a brand new model for 2019 and the largest Subaru ever. It boasts a cavernous interior, lots of standard safety equipment and Subaru’s all-wheel-drive system.
The Ascent can seat seven or eight passengers. It comes standard with a bench seat in the second row if you need room for eight. Premium and above trim levels offer captain’s chairs in the second row with seating for seven passengers.
Despite being Subar’s first-ever three-row crossover, it still looks like a Subaru. Part of that familiarity is because of the standard roof racks that make the Ascent look rather like a large Outback.
The Ascent is available in base, Premium, Limited and Touring trims with starting prices ranging from $31,995 to $44,695. The Ascent has 8.7 inches of ground clearance and can tow up to 5,000 pounds—the most of any Subaru in history. Most Subaru owners like the idea of going off the beaten path, and the Ascent is up to the task.
It’s built in Subaru’s Indiana plant along with the Outback, Legacy and Impreza models.
The Ascent is powered by a new turbocharged 2.4-liter BOXER engine that makes 260 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque, paired with a new version of Subaru’s high-torque Lineartronic continuously variable transmission with eight-speed manual mode function and steering wheel paddle shifters. Of course, since the Ascent is a Subaru, it comes standard with the brand’s Symmetrical all-wheel-drive system.
The Ascent is easy to drive and handles like a smaller vehicle; in fact, I’d forget that I was behind the wheel of a large, three-row crossover. It’s not particularly sporty but there’s plenty of power for normal driving situations, including accelerating on the highway and passing at freeway speeds, even when loaded with passengers, gear and the family dog. You’ll notice little turbo lag when accelerating from a stop. The ride is smooth even on rough roads and there’s not much body lean when cornering.
Standard on all models is Auto Vehicle Hold which keeps the vehicle stationary when stopped so that you don’t have to keep your foot on the brake.
Fuel efficiency is decent for a midsize SUV. EPA mileage estimates for my tester are 20 mpg city and 26 mpg highway with a combined rating of 22. I got 21 mpg during my week with a mix of city and highway driving.
The interior is pleasant, but as is the case with most Subarus, it’s not as plush as many rivals. Still, materials are nice and appropriate for active families and kids who spill and have muddy shoes. Passengers enjoy lots of room in the first two rows. As you’d expect, the third row is tight and best suited for kids or small adults.
Standard features include tri-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth, six-speaker audio system, satellite radio, HD Radio, and Subaru’s Starlink infotainment system with a 6.5-inch touch screen and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Available features include a panoramic moonroof, 14-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, a Wi-Fi hot spot, and an upgraded Starlink infotainment system with an eight-inch touch screen and navigation.
The Starlink multimedia system is user-friendly with controls that are easy to see and reach. Redundant buttons and knobs mean you don’t have to always use the touchscreen.
Subaru says the Ascent is perfect for growing families, and it does indeed have tons of space for passengers and cargo. Subaru notes that the rear doors open 75 degrees for improved access to the third row. Want to keep the kids busy with their electronics? There are four or eight USB charging ports throughout the cabin, depending on trim level, as well as a 120-volt outlet in the center console. In-vehicle Wi-Fi connectivity is available via 4G high-speed LTE communications. And don’t worry if the kids are thirsty—there are 19 standard cup and bottle holders.
Keeping an eye on the kiddos is easy as well. For the first time in a Subaru, a convex cabin-view mirror is standard—it allows the driver and front passenger to view passengers in the second and third row.
Numerous safety features are standard including Subaru’s EyeSight Driver Assist Technology that includes Automatic Pre-Collision Braking, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure and Sway Warning, Pre-Collision Throttle Management, and new EyeSight Assist Monitor which provides a heads-up display of the EyeSight system warnings as well as system status information on the windshield of the vehicle.
Available safety technology includes Blind Spot Detection with Lane Change Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Reverse Automatic Braking, which apply the vehicle’s brakes if an obstacle is detected while reversing.
The Ascent has 86.5 cubic feet of cargo space with the second and third rows folded down. Both rows of seating are 60/40 split flat-folding to provide up to nine unique seating configurations so there are plenty of options when you’re hauling passengers and cargo. There are 47.5 cubes with the third row folded, and 17.8 cubes with all rows of seating in place. A power liftgate with adjustable height is available. Plus there are standard roof rails for carrying extra stuff including bicycles and kayaks.
Lots of room for passengers and cargo
Loaded with standard safety features and driver assistance tech
User-friendly infotainment system
Android Auto and Apple Carplay are standard
Starting prices are higher than many competitors
Interior not as plush as many rivals
My tester starts at $38,995. The Option Package is $2,950 and adds the Starlink multimedia navigation system with eight-inch touchscreen and navigation, CD player, Harman Kardon premium audio system with 14 speakers, cargo area cover and panoramic power moonroof. Destination fee is $975 bringing the grand total to $42,920.
Finally there’s a Subaru with three rows of seating. The Ascent is a solid offering among midsize SUVs. Of course, it’ll appeal to Subaru fans and large families who want a good all-around vehicle for daily driving that can also handle bad weather and is ready for outdoor activities.