2019 Subaru Ascent Premier

Subaru’s (sales) ascent is continues to rise with the new Ascent

Words by: Adam Allen

You just like saying the word ‘Ascent’.

It does have a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? Subaru chose a fitting name for its new three row SUV- it conjures up images of rugged families and their outdoor adventure gear making short work of remote trails. Regardless of whether you buy into the marketing shmaltz this new model is a big deal for Subaru, largely because it fills a very urgent gap in their lineup. If the last seven years of steady growth aren’t enough evidence of the brand’s success in Canada, a groundswell of buyers both loyal and new will no doubt be interested in Subaru’s new family hauler.

The Premier model seen here is no doubt the swankiest.

And how! Our tester is the highest rung on the Ascent trim ladder, and those who opt for Premier models will surely be intent on spoiling themselves. They will be treated to a lengthy list of standard equipment, highlights of which include comfortable captains chairs for the middle row and quality materials and woodgrain accents and cooled front seats. This is on top of obligatory 6.3”infotanment touch screen with navigation, LED headlights and Subaru’s full suite of safety technology dubbed EyeSight. For those who favor earth tones in their décor choices, our tester will make ‘em swoon with Cinnamon Brown Pearl paint with soft leather seating surfaces to match. What most impressed us about the Ascent’s interior was the space. Every perch feels like you could spend hours on the road with minimal fatigue, although taller adults will want to avoid the third row on long journeys. We also thoroughly enjoyed the Harmon Kardon stereo which does an exemplary job of making the notoriously terrible sound quality of satellite radio sound rather nice.

Do we have the makings of a WRX for 7 people in the making?

The Ascent is packed full of desirable traits but sporting pretensions are not among them. Those who wish to have the closest approximation to a canyon carver will be better served by Mazda’s CX-9 but in this segment where everything is as large as possible, nothing is going to be a backroad dance partner bound by the unyielding laws of physics. It’s interesting then, that the Ascent’s traction and stability control cannot be full deactivated yet still allowed us to coax the back end out to borderline lurid slip angles during a winter storm that dropped a significant amount of snow. Those thinking that Subaru’s Asymmetrical AWD is losing its edge of providing world class grip are mistaken- only juvenile hooligans like us would attempt such shenanigans, and therefore pretty much anyone who buys one will be deeply impressed by its tenacious traction. Sending power to all four contact patches is a completely new engine from the brand, displacing a largish 2.4 litres and churning out a healthy 260 horsepower and  277 pounds feet of torque. It still serenades its warbly boxer soundtrack but its much smoother than some of their other flat four engines as it goes about its business. As you find in most Subaru products, it’s mated to a CVT transmission that works well under most conditions, but sometimes slurs the engine’s power or drops to near idle speed while the Ascent counterintuitively keeps building speed. After driving Kia’s Forte recently and its much touted CVT unit, we know that the possibility of making these gearboxes palatable exists, and we hope Subaru will continue to refine their transmissions. After we turned in the keys to our Ascent at the conclusion of our road test, two things really stood out to us. One is the ride quality. Simply put, the Ascent offers a sumptuously buttery ride no matter the shoddy tarmac you find yourself on but without any nautical body motions; everything feels nicely tamped down and even wearing 20” wheels as did our tester, you will not encounter a situation that causes the SUV to lose its composure in any way. Lastly, we seldom find truth in advertising across the vastness of the automotive industry, but Subaru’s tagline of “Confidence in Motion” is not merely lip service. As we mentioned, our Ascent was driven through the nastiest winter conditions and only once did it ever scramble for traction while traversing side streets littered with seriously deep drifts. We simply engaged X-Mode and the Ascent continued on its way without any protest or flashing of the traction control light on the dashboard. Provided a good set of winter tires is fitted, we feel confident in saying that you should never find yourself stuck or unable to negotiate pretty much any road you find yourself on even in the nastiest throes of a Canadian winter.

What might go wrong?

This is a congratulatory first effort into the segment from Subaru, but areas do exist that could use improvement. We’d start off by taking some of the edge off the throttle pedal- it takes more practice than it should to perform smooth starts when setting off from rest. We’d also like Subie’s drivetrain engineers to endow the CVT transmission with a little more finesse. Our last gripe leaves us feeling slightly conflicted and is leveled at Subaru’s EyeSight suite of safety technology. On one hand, we applaud Subaru for taking safety so seriously and we suspect that many of buyers will agree by way of signing on the dotted line. Their intentions are undeniably good, but we wish they could dial back the hyper diligence of some of the systems, particularly the adaptive cruise control. We silenced it after a few minutes of enduring ingratiating beeping, seeming to do so when it picked up a car in front and then right after that car would change lanes.

Should I buy a Subaru Ascent?

If you count yourself amongst the prodigious legion of Subaru loyalists (or if you hail from Maine, Vermont or Colorado) and a three row SUV is in your sights, the answer likely becomes ‘I have already bought a Subaru Ascent.’ If you have never owned a Subaru, or of you are newish parents taking their first steps into the segment and have refused to even entertain a minivan will surely be pleased by the AWD pedigree, ample use of safety technologies and a comfortable and spacious interior with tons of cupholders and connectivity solutions enough to take one for a test drive. We think that the Subaru Ascent has the chops to keep the good times rolling, all the way up the sales charts.

2019 Subaru Ascent Premier– Specifications

  • Price as tested: $51,720
  • Body Type: 4-door, 6 passenger SUV
  • Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
  • Transmission: Continuously Variable automatic
  • Engine:  2.4 litre horizontally opposed and turbocharged four cylinder, DOHC, 16 valves
  • Horsepower:  260 @ 5,600 rpm
  • Torque (lbs-ft.): 277 @ 2,000 rpm
  • Curb weight: 2,081 kg (4,588 lbs)
  • Observed Fuel Consumption: 11.8L/100km (20 mpg)