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2019 Subaru Ascent, Living Large - Review By Larry Nutson

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

2019 Subaru Ascent
Living Large

By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

Subaru has been on a roll here in the U.S. With nine consecutive years of sales growth, they needed to continue to grow their brand lineup to satisfy present owners and also to continue to bring new buyers to the brand.

The all-new 2019 Ascent is the largest Subaru ever. Ascent is a three-row SUV with a choice of seating for seven or eight. It’s powered by a 260-hp engine and can tow up to 5,000 lbs. and comes standard with Subaru’s Symmetrical all-wheel drive.

Subaru’s Car Line Planning Manager Peter Tenn presented the all-new Ascent to Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA) members in July. Tenn said the Ascent is satisfying consumer demand as the need for a three-row SUV is on the rise. Described as “family-sized, versatile and capable,” the Ascent has a bold, edgy and strong presence with sweeping lines. Tenn said comfort, styling, reliability, quality, space and safety are the main reasons for purchase in this segment, and he’s confident the Ascent delivers in each of these categories.

Ascent is built at Subaru’s production plant in Lafayette Indiana and comes in base, Premium, Limited and Touring trims. Prices start at $31,995 and top out at $44,695. Eight-passenger seating is available on base, Premium and Limited trims. Seven-passenger seating comes in Premium, Limited and Touring trims.

Ascent rides on a 113.8 inch wheelbase and is 196.8 inches long. To get an idea of size, think VW Atlas or Honda Pilot.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

I had a week’s time with the top-of-the-line Ascent Touring finished in a very luxurious looking Crystal Black Mica. Satin silver side mirrors with integrated turn signals, chrome door handles, chrome front under guard and rear bumper protector added to the classy look. Opening the driver’s door revealed Java Brown leather seats and upholstery, a leather steering wheel and woodgrain-pattern matte finish accent trim. The second row had two captains chairs, making overall seating for seven. My first impression was quite good.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Other features on the Touring included panoramic moonroof, power liftgate, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel and a camera-based smart rear-view Mirror plus a 180-degree front-view camera.

By the numbers the Ascent has a 10-way power driver’s seat, 4-way power front passenger seat, 19 bottle or cup holders, 8-inch navigation screen, 14-speakers, 120-volt power outlet, 8 USB ports, 18- or 20-inch wheels, and a 19.3 gal fuel tank.

On the outside the Ascent uses Subaru’s “Dynamic x Solid” design philosophy and looks very much like a Subaru—-just a bit larger than we are used to.

Powering the Ascent is a new turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. I was at first skeptical by the engine size, but the 277 lb-ft of torque does indeed get the job done. There’s good low-end acceleration. For the most part my driving was just with me on board on the relatively flat roads around Chicago. I did a few highway runs and merging and passing seemed okay.

I did wonder how performance would be when fully loaded or in hilly terrain. Stepping deep into the throttle calling for more performance brings out a noticeable engine drone that’s a bit unrefined and detracted from the luxury impression I got when first viewing my Ascent test vehicle. I’m not a big fan of CVT-continuously variable automatic transmissions for this reason.

The Touring model equipped with 20-inch wheels has EPA test-cycle fuel economy ratings of 22 mpg combined with 20 city mpg and 26 highway mpg. Lower trims equipped with 18-inch wheels have EPA ratings one mpg higher in both city and highway.

I thought the Ascent had good overall ride quality as well as low NVH. I didn’t detect any excessive wind or tire noise and the low-profile 50-series tires weren’t too harsh on pock-marked city streets. A few quick highway off-ramps demonstrated good composure with good steering feedback and a nicely compliant suspension tuning.

For the more active Subaru buyer the Ascent has 8.7 inches of ground clearance for all models, which is more than many SUVs. That said, ingress and egress is still very comfortable with a low step-in height for both front and rear passenger entry.

For hauling stuff, there’s 17.8 cu.ft. of space behind the third row. This grows to 47.5 cu.ft. with the 3rd row seats folded, and then to 86.5 cu.ft. with the 2nd row down. It’s my experience that most 3-row SUV owners leave the 3rd row folded most of the time, except for those school car-pool days.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Subaru's EyeSight safety and driver assistance system comes on every Ascent. EyeSight includes forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control. Blind spot warning, lane change assist and rear cross-traffic alert are equipped on all but the base trim.

The Ascent was named a 2018 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) TOP SAFETY PICK+ (when equipped with available Steering Responsive Headlights) and achieved the highest possible rating of “Superior” for front crash prevention from IIHS with standard EyeSight.

More information, specifications and details on the 2019 Subaru Ascent can be found at The 2019 Ascent is in dealers now.

Overall I thought the new Ascent offered good value with lots of desirable equipment. It’s a solidly designed and engineered SUV and came across as an affordable choice in the mid-size SUV segment.

As we wrap up this review Subaru of America, Inc. reported 57,044 vehicle sales for September 2018, a 3.5 percent increase over September 2017. The company also reported year-to-date sales of 503,418 vehicles, a 5.1 percent gain over the same period in 2017. The Ascent is selling with 5,859 units delivered in September.

September marked the 55th consecutive month of 40,000+ vehicle sales for the company.

© 2018 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy

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