Baddek, NS. Not succumbing to the utility of a 3-row midsize crossover vehicle has become a very real issue for me. I’m well on my way to becoming a statistic with baby #2 in the oven, as they say, and getting around with the crew and all the gear will quickly become something of a headache in one of our compact wagons. I could, or should, be satisfied with a Subaru Forester, Honda CR-V or Mazda CX-5 but even they will require compromises on what comes with us to the zoo, to grandma and grandpa’s house or on our inevitable weekend camping trips.
The desire for space and utility beyond actual needs seems to be a uniquely North American thing – I certainly am guilty of this. Even so, it has driven many manufacturers to develop larger vehicles to meet all these wants, be they realistic or otherwise. Every major carmaker now offers a large midsize 3-row vehicle and Subaru, who is no stranger to the crossover game, might have one of the best in the segment on their hands.
No more H6, now more refinement
Subaru introduced a flat-6 cylinder engine just shy of 20 years ago and it’s on its way out. Once the new generation Legacy and Outback arrive on the market, it’ll be good and gone. And this is excellent news as its power and fuel economy were disappointing by most modern standards. It is replaced by an all-new turbocharged horizontally-opposed 2.4-litre flat-4 cylinder boxer engine. Output is rated at 260-horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 277 lb.-ft. of torque from 2,000 to 4,800 rpm. The standard transmission is a CVT that’s been reinforced for the application and the available 5,000-lb towing capacity.
This 2.4T will solve all powertrain complaints from Subaru owners and fans alike around the world. It is torque rich and responds with a fair amount of immediacy. The CVT has 8 pre-selected or programmed gears designed to make the best of the boxer engine’s generous low-end power. With fuel economy in mind and to help things along, it is best not to crush the throttle pedal against the firewall to get the most out of the available power. In typical driving situations, achieving 10L/100km is very possible.
The 2019 Subaru Ascent is one of the quietest most refined crossovers available today under $75k. Subaru’s invested lots of time, money and efforts in controlling NVH at every conceivable level. Sound-deadening material lines the engine bay and likely every nook and cranny that we can’t see. The rear door windows are some of the thickest ever fitted to a Subaru product for rear passenger comfort.
Beyond the noise, or the absence thereof, Subaru’s tuned the chassis in such a way that ride comfort remains a priority even on the worst of roads. My drive partner and I opted to visit the Cabot Trail – they don’t call it a trail for nothing. Parts of it are in disrepair, and being repaired, while other portions are brand new. The Ascent absolutely handled all road surfaces with a level of plushness unusual for this type of vehicle.
By plushness, I am not referring to a floaty ride – the Ascent’s suspension’s travel is generous and very well controlled. We also ventured off the beaten path where its 220mm of ground clearance were put to the test. We found out first hand that this big Subaru is just as capable as all the others in the lineup.
Subaru styling and function
Not only can the Ascent cover all types of roads like the other Subarus but one glance in its direction will identify it as one of the pack. Be it from the front or the side, physical reminders of the Outback and Forester are evident, and welcomed.
Visual cues that identify one trim from another are 18” or 20” wheels, chrome accents and LED headlights. The most notable variations on the inside are leather covered seats available from the Limited on, $500 optional captain chairs (standard on Premier) for the Touring and Limited while everything else is nearly identical.
The main attraction with the 2019 Subaru Ascent is it cabin – few if any are more family-friendly than this one. With the 3rd row in place, 500 litres of trunk volume can easily swallow some hockey equipment or camping gear. There’s a diminutive storage compartment below the floor for smaller items and the tonneau cover. Knowing the 3rd row is an always acceptable backup plan, when stowed, more than 1,300 litres are accessible.
The large hatch opening is only millimeters wider than the floor’s total width which means broader items can easily slide in. Gaining access to the third row is a one-handed and literal two step deal. The 2nd row bench is wide and comfortable for three. Subaru’s included numerous storage spots in the doors in the form of cupholders that double as phone and tablet slots, which are brilliant. Two USB ports are standard in the 2nd row making sure that all will be powered up and happy, or is that quiet?
If the near promise of keeping the kids occupied while on trips wasn’t enough, mom and dad are treated to standard heated comfortable seats, the driver’s being power operated, and loads of personal space. Here too, storage abounds for phones, wallets, sunglasses and more. At $35,995 the base Convenience Ascent features the one and only powertrain to go along with Subaru’s award-winning EyeSight driver assist system, a 6.5” infotainment system with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, STARLINK, Bluetooth and more.
The Touring is your value leader thanks to the upgraded interior trim, and it retails for $40,995. It also gains an 8” display, proximity key with push-button start, power hatch and panoramic sunroof. The alternative to the Touring is the leather-clad Limited for $46,495. It also throws in a Harman Kardon 14-speaker audio system, heated steering wheel, power passenger seat, navigation and an extra 6.3” display at the top of the dashboard. In my opinion, this is the ultimate version. There’s also a top line Premier at $49,995 which serves only to offer a luxury alternative to luxury SUV buyers.
Subaru’s created the Ascent principally to retain its customers that have outgrown the Outback and Forester. If you’ve reached your current vehicle’s limits, even if it isn’t a Subaru, I’d strongly urge you to consider the Ascent. It is far more modern and good to drive than the Nissan Pathfinder, or Ford Explorer, to name but these two. The Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, Volkswagen Atlas and Mazda CX-9 are viable alternatives.