When shopping in this segment especially around the price range you can get an Ascent for, most potential buyers prioritize other keys areas and leave driveability for last. Fortunately you won't have to make any sacrifices with the Ascent but at the same time, shouldn't expect anything too far beyond reasonable. Torque and power coming from the turbocharged 2.4-liter flat-four powerplant, mated to a CVT transmission results in a responsive setup when overtaking, passing, merging, and even hauling loads. Thanks to the new SGP global platform, more typical Subaru driving characteristics are revealed in tight turns and twisty roads. If an agile ad capable 8-seater is what you want, look no further.
The Ascent’s new turbocharged 2.4-liter flat-four engine with 260 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque is another example of Subaru’s effort to maintain its quintessential traits while eliminating some of its characteristic weaknesses that could have turned off new converts.
- CarAndDriver.comThe Ascent’s continuously variable automatic transmission, a new unit meant for high-torque applications, pairs well with this engine. It’s one of the few CVTs we’ve sampled that somewhat convincingly executes simulated shifts as you accelerate, mitigating the droning sensation that can exaggerate the boxer engines’ lack of refinement in other Subies. The gearbox also complements the engine’s torque curve nicely, effectively keeping the turbo on the boil and making the Ascent feel responsive and powerful when passing or merging. As is typical of most automatic-transmission Subarus, the Ascent has a jumpy throttle tip-in that can make it difficult to drive smoothly around town, but turbo lag is minimal.
The result is better handling and stability, reduced noise and vibration, and improved safety in the event of a collision. This was our first time driving the production-ready Ascent, and we immediately felt the work that went into this vehicle. Although you notice road imperfections and bumps, the chassis tackles these obstacles in a controlled manner. Handling is better than you would expect from most three-row crossovers of comparable size. Although the steering feel is light, the Ascent responds appropriately to even subtle movements of the steering wheel. It’s not a chore to make three-point turns, as it can be in many larger vehicles.
- MotorTrend.comIt delivers a decent 260 hp, but Subaru says it really focused on torque, which at 277 lb-ft, is higher than most key competitors including the Highlander and Pilot. On demand, the Ascent provides enough motivation for merging onto the highway or passing other vehicles, although it’s no speed chaser.
- TheDrive.comStill, the fact that this eight-person, 4,500-pound crossover felt planted enough to even consider pitching it into those turns like it weighed half a ton less speaks to the strength of its chassis and the center of gravity, which sits comparatively low in spite of the Ascent's tallest-in-class height (when the standard roof rack is included in the calculations)
The cabin takes on a similar approach, targeting key needs that buyers have for an accommodating experience, further making the Ascent a strong product at its starting MSRP. The result is an affordable and capable SUV for most buyers with little compromise, even as a base model. Digging into the details it gets even better; optional 2nd row captain chairs or three-seater bench, easy adjusting and configuration of 2nd row seats for increased leg room or easier 3rd row seats. However if you're after comfort, Car and Driver recommends the Volkswagen Atlas with its two-seater third row seats.
- CarAndDriver.comNonetheless, excellent packaging gives the Ascent one of the most accommodating cabins in its segment. The second row, available with either a three-place bench or a pair of captain’s chairs, is both capacious and flexible. The seats slide fore and aft on a long track, allowing you to position them to be pulled snug against the backs of the front seats—nice for those who want to be within easy reach of tots in car seats—or pushed way back for max legroom. The middle seats also fold and slide quickly out of the way at the pull of a lever to ease entry into the third row. The wayback seat is mostly adequate even for two adults, unlike those in many rivals, but it’s hurt by a somewhat low bottom cushion and by Subaru’s decision to fit three seating positions back there. Yes, it’s nice to be able to fit eight in a pinch, but we’d still give the nod to the Volkswagen Atlas’s two-place third row for overall comfort.
There are plenty of thoughtful details inside that impress. Models with the captain’s chairs have cool grab handles on those seats that are said to be inspired by those on Japan’s bullet trains; they can also serve double duty as bag hooks. The underfloor storage compartment in the cargo area behind the third row is clever in that its lid can be Velcroed to the back of the third-row seat to hold it open, and the compartment can accommodate the removable cargo shade when it’s not in use so it doesn’t take up room in your garage.
- MotorTrend.comThe Ascent may be late to the party, but at least it brought a great gift. Many of the qualities and features that we admire on other Subarus—including superior visibility, interior space, and the EyeSight safety system—prove particularly beneficial on this family-oriented model. From our initial impression, this young entry feels capable of living up to the steep competition.
One downside to the Ascent is its design. While not ugly inside or out, its hard to deny how fast it aged since release. Fortunately it checks out in most other areas helping to sustain a healthy range of sales, although still behind Honda and Toyota. For Subaru fans its design can be seen as a good trait, since it shares a lot with current products, the Outback being one of them. Hopefully a mid-production cycle refresh brings in more modern design cues.
- MotorTrend.comYou could argue the Ascent looks a little dated already, with its button-happy center console, large shifter mechanism, and generic dashboard layout. But Subaru put the focus on functionality, even when it comes to the wide and comfortable seats. The Premium model we tested came standard with stain-resistant cloth upholstery. The new Volkswagen Atlas may offer as many as 17 cupholders, but Subaru is creaming the competition with 19 standard cupholders, five of which are located in the third row. Oh, and buyers can opt for up to eight USB ports, although the base model comes with just four.
- TheCarConnection.comAlthough the Ascent is new for Subaru, its styling is instantly recognizable. It borrows much of its outward looks from the Subaru Outback, including its wagon proportions and window kink closer to the rear roof pillar. The nose of the Ascent is decidedly bigger and taller, with a larger and more upright grille opening than the Outback. The trapezoidal grille is flanked by hawkish headlights, and LED headlights on top trims.
During a time we're seeing a lot of hybrids come to market, the Ascent is absent. Instead we get a fuel efficient four cylinder engine that produces a maximum of 21/27 mpg according to the EPA. Compared to rival products its nearly on par. As part of a long term strategy with revisions elsewhere throughout the Ascent, we hope to see a hybrid powertrain.
- MotorTrend.comSubaru’s decision to use a four-cylinder engine pays off when it comes to fuel economy. According to EPA ratings, it maxes out at 21/27 mpg (11.2/8.7 L/100km) city/highway, or 20/26 on more heavily contented models. In comparison, the V-6-equipped 2018 Honda Pilot gets up to 19/26 when paired with all-wheel drive as is standard on the Ascent. The 2018 Toyota Highlander AWD with the V-6 tops out at 20/27.
- TheCarConnection.comThe 2019 Subaru Ascent earns respectable ratings for a three-row family hauler, but it lacks a hybrid powertrain—at least for now.
By the EPA’s calculators, the 2019 Ascent is rated at 21 mpg city, 27 highway, 23 combined for most versions. That’s good enough for a 4 out of 10 on our fuel economy scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Tonier Ascent Limited and Touring trims are rated at 20/26/22 mpg because they have larger 20-inch wheels than base models.
In our experience, that EPA rating reflects real life.
In 140 miles of mixed driving around Oregon’s forests and beaches we managed 22.6 mpg combined by our calculators in an Ascent Limited tester. Although our mixed driving didn’t include stop-and-go traffic, much of our drives were at varied speeds, in and around Portland.
We’re confident drivers can expect similar mileage.
Much like the Volkswagen Atlas that resonates well with buyers, the Ascent is very similar. Both products aren't ground breaking but are simple solutions to basic consumer needs, and they do it well. Factoring in every angle from pricing to trims and packages, if you need a utilitarian family hauler with little compromise then the Ascent is for you. Overall its a well rounded product that should stand the test of time.
- TheDrive.comAnd while those of us who grew up with cheap-o Subies of days of yore like the rusty Justy might blanch at the pricetags, the Ascent's range of MSRPs—ranging from a base price of $32,970 to $45,670 for the throw-everything-on-there-damnit Touring—seem poised to strike right at the heart of the midsized SUV market, where vehicles like the Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, and Ford Explorer have frolicked for years. Equipped with the Convenience package that adds a power hatch, reverse automatic braking, keyless push-button start, and an auto-dimming rear view mirror, the mid-level Ascent Premium—which seems likely to be the most popular version—costs $36,630, almost exactly in line with the average new car price in America circa spring 2018. Considering this crossover checks almost all the boxes the average U.S. new car buyer presumably has on their want list and throws in some handy unexpected delights for flavor, that seems pretty smart—indeed, almost as though Subaru planned it that way. Hey, you don't set new sales records every month for more than six years straight by being stupid.
- CarAndDriver.comAll of this adds up to a well-rounded package that finally gives Subaru a no-apologies entry in this segment. We wouldn’t call it superlative in any single measure—it’s neither the most fun to drive, the most spacious, nor the most luxurious mainstream three-row SUV you can buy—but the Ascent hits nearly all of its targets and is priced competitively. Based on the company’s growing ability to convince buyers that they both want and need a Subaru, we think the Ascent will be an easy sell.