It’s hard to believe that it has taken this long for Subaru to recommit to the 3-row crossover market. After all it’s been 5 years since the uninspired Tribeca exited the scene. But then they’ve always done things in their own time. With sales numbers continuing to climb, there clearly was no urgency. Still, the arrival of the 2019 Subaru Ascent is overdue.
To us, the biggest difference between the Subaru Ascent and the Tribeca is that this one seems a genuine attempt to compete head-on in the growing 3-row crossover market.
Truly built for American families this time around, there’s generous room for 7 or 8 passengers. For those of you keeping score at home, the Ascent packs up to 8 USB ports and 19 cupholders.
You’d think that would call for a six cylinder engine like the Tribeca. But, no, the Ascent makes do with a new 2.4-liter turbo-4. Yet Subaru still claims it will tow 5,000-lbs.Considering that it mates to a CVT, we’re a little skeptical; though its 260-horsepower and 277 lb-ft. of torque feels up to the task.
Being a Subaru crossover means all-wheel drive is standard, and there’s a decent 8.7-inches of ground clearance to boot. Despite sporting the same Subaru Global Platform as the compact Impreza, the Ascent’s stretched 113.8-inch wheelbase keeps it plenty stable on the highway, yet also quite nimble. In many ways it drives much like a bigger Outback. There is a solid presence, with very little roll and no top-heaviness. Steering is super-light, but feedback is seriously lacking.
Ascent is the largest Subaru ever; and while the exterior is more midsize, it borders on full-size room inside. Both passenger and cargo volume are greater than segment leaders Honda Pilot and Ford Explorer, falling just short of the Volkswagen Atlas.
Whether you choose the 7 or 8-passenger arrangement, the expansive space is highly configurable. Even the 3rd row is acceptable for adults, though the seat bottoms are very low to the floor. For the driver, seats are typical for Subaru, a bit hard, but adequately comfortable. It’s a fairly quiet space as well, save for some aggressive engine noise that seeps in when you bury the throttle.
EyeSight Driver Assist Technology is standard on all Ascents, which includes Automatic Pre-Collision Braking. But features like Blind Spot Detection and Lane Change Assist require an upgrade.
Outside, you’ll see a little Outback familiarity in the rear of the Ascent, but the rest of the body is just blend-in generic crossover, as Subaru surely wanted to avoid repeating any Tribeca styling controversies.
For our complete test of the 2019 Subaru Ascent, be sure to catch MotorWeek episode #3808, that begins airing on October 26, 2018. For a complete listing of the public television stations that broadcast MotorWeek, go to motorweek.org and click the “About The Show” tab at the top. New episodes of MotorWeek premiere on Tuesday evenings on the Velocity cable network.
The 2019 Subaru Ascent does not stick out from the rest of the 3-row crossover crowd. But, early sales numbers show that suits Subaru buyers just fine. They just wanted a lot more of what they bought a Subaru for, and now they’ve got it wrapped in a still familiar package.