2019 Subaru Ascent: Subie Takes Another Shot at the Big Time

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey

Subaru went heavy on the family values motif as it rolled out the 2019 Subaru Ascent three-row crossover at the 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show.

The company used models portraying a happy family to show off the Ascent, only with a twist – this fictional family, called the Barkleys, is of the canine variety. Sure, there were actors portraying a happy human family, too, but Subaru was using only dog puns in its presentation.

Personally, I’m hoping the dog and human show cuteness wasn’t meant to distract from a model with potential shortcomings, but there’s no way to know that until we drive it. No doubt the brand remembers the failure of the B9 Tribeca (maybe it should’ve been called K9?) and is working overtime to push its next foray into the three-row crossover arena.

Certainly, the styling is less, um, adventurous than that of the Tribeca (which I never thought was really all that bad looking, but I digress). Of course, the Ascent is positioned as a volume vehicle, so it’s not shocking that its looks lean towards the generic.

Not to mention that the plain-but-handsome formula already works for the brand’s other crossovers/tall wagons. Not everything has to be sexy, man.

We already know the seven- or eight-seat Ascent will be built in Indiana, and it should shock no one that it arrives with standard all-wheel drive and a turbocharged boxer four-cylinder. This is Subaru, after all – the company is as known for those two things as much as Los Angeles is known for good fast-food burgers and crappy drivers.

The turbocharged mill displaces 2.4-liters and makes 260 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque. It’s also intercooled. Subaru claims up to 5,000 pounds of towing capacity, with a system to assist with trailer stability. The Ascent also brings 18-inch wheels and a familiar 8.7 inches of ground clearance.

As per usual with Subaru, the transmission is a continuously-variable automatic (CVT), but it does have an eight-speed manual mode.

The 113.8-inch wheelbase helps make the Ascent the biggest Subie to ever ply the roads, with the company claiming 153.5 cubic feet of passenger volume. In fact, the model’s wheelbase is longer than that of many midsize rivals, including the Honda Pilot, Ford Explorer, Toyota Highlander, and Hyundai Santa Fe. Only the Volkswagen Atlas and Nissan Pathfinder sport more distance between the axles.

Available comfort and convenience features include Starlink infotainment, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, eight USB ports for maximum phone usage (and family member avoidance), tri-zone climate control, 19 (!) cupholders, in-car 4G LTE Wi-Fi, first- and second-row heated seats, cooled front seats, heated steering wheel, navigation, Pandora, Bluetooth, and satellite radio.

When it comes to safety and driver-assist features, expect the usual suspects. Among those niceties are adaptive cruise control, lane departure and sway warning, automatic pre-collision braking, blind-spot detection, lane-change assist, and rear-cross traffic alert. A front-view camera system is available.

Evaluating the features, which are spread across base, Premium, Limited, and Touring trims, it appears Subaru has a fairly standard content mix for the class – nothing stands out, nor does anything notable seem to be missing. Subaru says pricing will start in the mid-$30K range when the vehicle goes on sale early next summer.

Looking at the Ascent up close, I saw hints of the Nissan Rogue/Pathfinder in the side profile and perhaps a little Toyota Highlander up front. I also saw what appears to be a much better-looking infotainment system and an interior that’s class competitive, if not particularly remarkable.

What matters more is what Subaru execs are seeing, and that’s likely dollar signs. Subaru has long required a three-row crossover to compete with the bigger boys; now it has one that at least checks all the right boxes – on paper, anyway.

[Images: © 2017 Tim Healey/The Truth About Cars, Subaru]

Tim Healey
Tim Healey

Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at Web2Carz.com. He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for About.com, CarFax, Vehix.com, High Gear Media, Torque News, FutureCar.com, Cars.com, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as AutoGuide.com, Off-Road.com, and HybridCars.com. He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.

More by Tim Healey

Join the conversation
2 of 88 comments
  • Jfk-usaf Jfk-usaf on Nov 30, 2017

    No interest in a 7 passenger SUV with less than 300hp. I know that Subaru is not alone here. The CX9 has only 250 with premium gas and the Atlas is under 300 with it's 6 as well. This is part of the reason that neither of them reside in my driveway at this point. The other reasons are CX9 too small, Atlas has a really boring interior (from a company that really excels at interiors... go figure). The highway drivability really suffers with inadequate power (regardless of what Mazda says about HP at higher speeds) What is wrong with the V or straight 6? If its a space issue then make it bigger..?!. Its not an MPG issue because we all know that the technology is there to get good MPGs out of 6 cylinder engines. CVTs are another issue. No interest. I know that they sell in some models but, again, no interest. Terrible driving experience. I'm having flashbacks of Altima rental cars that I have been stuck with in the past.... just.. No!

  • Ryan Ryan on Dec 02, 2017

    Well, when it is time to replace my current daily driver - the Ascent will get an honest look. As a longtime Toyota/Honda/Subaru/Mazda owner the Ascent will likely be the only CUV I’ll consider. The 4Runner fits my needs and I’ve always enjoyed their off road poise, so the Ascent will have to really win me over. I know the 4Runner and Ascent are apples and pears but Subaru’s excellent 8.7 inches of G.C. has always been enough for my “soft roading” habits.

  • Lou_BC "In 2007, 85% of Americans drove themselves to work and 6% rode with someone else. But by 2018, while the 6% of Americans who carpool has remained constant, there has been a decrease in the percentage of those who drive themselves to work, edging down to 77%." .................. If people can't recharge at home, it would be logical to set up charging infrastructure at workplace parking lots. That would cover 77% of the population. An 8 hour workday should be adequate to keep an EV charged.
  • Jeff Dirty Harry with the blue Ford Custom 500.   "I know what you're thinking, punk. You're thinking "Did he fire six shots or only five?" Now to tell you the truth, I've forgotten myself in all this excitement. But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and will blow your head clean off, you've gotta ask yourself a question: "Do I feel lucky?" Well, do ya, punk?"
  • Picard234 You mean you built a time machine....out of a DeLorean!?
  • Lou_BC Too much money.
  • Lou_BC "The Cannonball Run" "The Gumball Rally""Corvette Summer""Duel""Gone in 60 Seconds"