The all-new 2019 Ascent is the biggest thing to ever hit a Subaru dealership, and it will arrive this summer for just $35,995 plus freight and fees.
Configured for seven or eight occupants, the North American-exclusive model will immediately go up against the hottest mid-size crossover SUV sellers on the Canadian market, its full list of competitors (from best-selling to least during the first three months of 2018) including the Ford Explorer, Toyota Highlander, Kia Sorento, Volkswagen Atlas, Dodge Durango, Nissan Pathfinder, Honda Pilot, Hyundai Santa Fe XL, Chevrolet Traverse, Dodge Journey, GMC Acadia, Mazda CX-9, and Ford Flex. Of course, the Outback will continue growing Subaru’s stake in the five-passenger mid-size crossover SUV segment, its Q1 deliveries already slightly improved over last year’s results.
Subaru has taken a very different approach with the new Ascent when compared to its previous attempt at pulling in mid-size SUV buyers. The Tribeca (2005–2014), while nicely finished and very competent from a performance standpoint, suffered from controversial styling and rather cramped rear quarters, whereas the Ascent pulls its design from the Japanese brand’s very successful current Forester and Outback playbook, albeit with a bolder, larger grille and longer, taller profile, while it’s anything but short on size.
The Ascent measures 4,998 millimetres (196.8 inches) front to back with a 2,890-mm (113.8-inch) wheelbase, while it stands 1,819 mm (71.6 inches) tall including its standard roof rails. Additionally, the big Subaru’s width spans 2,176 mm (85.6 inches) with its side mirrors extracted, and its track measures 1,635 mm (64.4 inches) up front and 1,630 mm (64.2 inches) at the rear.
To put this into perspective, the new Ascent is 48 mm (1.9 inches) shorter than the best-selling Explorer, albeit with a 24-mm (0.9-inch) longer wheelbase, while some might also be surprised to find out that the new Subaru is 42 mm (1.6 inches) taller than the sizeable Ford. The only Explorer measurements to exceed the Ascent relate to width, which show the blue-oval SUV a considerable 119 mm (4.7 inches) wider with 66 / 71 mm (2.6 / 2.8 inches) more front / rear track respectively. This said the Explorer is one of the mid-size segment’s largest SUVs.
Comparing the new Ascent to other top-sellers shows that it’s longer, wider and taller than the Highlander and Sorento, longer and taller than the Pilot and Santa Fe XL, wider and taller than the Pathfinder, merely wider than the Durango, and only taller than the Atlas.
Of more importance to most mid-size SUV shoppers will be passenger volume and cargo space, which measure 4,347 litres (153.5 cubic feet) for the former and 2,449 litres (86.5 cubic feet) for the latter in the Ascent, when both rear rows are laid flat. These figures compare well against key rivals, with Ascent passenger volume even exceeding the massive Explorer’s and its standard eight-occupant seating configuration a rarity in the class, while the big Subaru’s maximum cargo capacity is amongst the segment’s most accommodating too. Rear passenger access should be easy as well, thanks to rear doors that open to 75 degrees.
Being a Subaru SUV the Ascent includes standard all-wheel drive, which proponents will argue is one of the most capable systems available. The engineering behind Subaru’s full-time Symmetrical AWD starts with its overall chassis layout, which ideally distributes weight thanks in part to the even balance and low profile of the longitudinally mounted, horizontally opposed flat “boxer” engine. When combined with the full-time nature of Subaru’s AWD system, plus more torque being applied to the wheels with the most grip, which not only enhances traction but improves control, the Ascent should be plenty capable no matter the road or trail surface, while its standard X-mode off-road system, complete with hill descent control, joins a generous 220 millimetres (8.66 inches) of ground clearance for a confidence-inspiring lift over obstacles, snow banks and more.
Power comes from a new turbocharged 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine, which is once again a horizontally opposed design. The powerplant makes a robust 260 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque, the latter maximized between 2,000 and 4,800 rpm, all of which should answer why Subaru chose not to utilize the 3.6-litre H-6 used in top-line Outback trims. In fact, the new four-cylinder produces 4 more horsepower and 30 additional lb-ft of torque than the six, so we should probably expect this new four to replace the upgraded engine in that Outback and soon find it in other Subaru models as well.
Of course, the new 2.4-litre four should be more efficient than the larger displacement H-6 too, but not because of its transmission. Both make use of Subaru’s High-torque Lineartronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission), considered to be one of the more efficient types of transmissions available and ideal for mid-size crossover SUV applications thanks to smooth, linear power delivery.
Subaru will also add a standard set of steering wheel paddle shifters to improve driver engagement, along with an eight-speed Manual Mode featuring sportier driving characteristics and standard Active Torque Vectoring, first introduced on the WRX and WRX STI performance models, so expect the Ascent to be enjoyable to drive despite its large mid-size dimensions.
Additionally, the Ascent promises car-like ride and handling due to the use of the new Subaru Global Platform (SGP), which combines rigid yet lightweight unibody construction with a fully independent MacPherson strut front and double-wishbone rear suspension system, enhanced further by a stabilizer bar mounted directly to the body at the rear and electric rack and pinion steering up front. Lastly, 18- or 20-inch alloy wheels get added depending on trim.
On that note, the 2019 Ascent can be had in Convenience, Touring, Limited and Premier trims, with standard Convenience features not already mentioned including auto on/off headlights, three-zone automatic climate control, 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone connectivity, a rearview camera, satellite radio, heated front seats, an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, second-row USB ports, a total of 19 cup and bottle holders, and more.
All 2019 Ascent trims include standard Subaru EyeSight driver assist technologies as well, which include adaptive cruise control with lead vehicle start assist, pre-collision braking, pre-collision brake assist, pre-collision throttle management, lane departure warning, lane sway warning, and lane keeping assist, while all the expected active and passive safety features come standard as well.
For $40,995 in eight-passenger trim or $41,495 with second-row captain’s chairs, which reduces the total seat count to seven, Ascent Touring trim adds the Subaru Rear/Side Vehicle Detection (SRVD) system, which includes blind spot detection, lane change assist, and rear cross traffic alert, as well as proximity keyless access, pushbutton ignition, auto-dimming mirrors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, larger 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment, premium cloth upholstery, a panoramic sunroof, second-row climate controls, a rear cargo cover, a powered tailgate, a transmission oil cooler, pre-wiring for a trailer hitch, and an increased towing capacity of 2,270 kg (5,000 lbs).
Limited trim, available for $46,495 in the eight-passenger layout and $46,995 in the seven-passenger configuration, adds the larger 20-inch alloys, steering-responsive LED headlights with high beam assist, a heatable steering wheel, and a 6.3-inch colour multifunction display that shows the time, temperature and dynamic features such as an inclinometer, while a navigation system with detailed mapping is included within the infotainment display, and additional Limited features include a 14-speaker Harmon/Kardon audio system, a four-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, leather upholstery, heated second-row outboard seats, integrated rear door sunshades, third-row USB ports, and more.
Top-line Premier trim, which comes fully equipped at $49,995, even including standard captain’s chairs, adds an upgraded front grille, rain-sensing wipers, a front-view camera, a Smart Rearview Mirror with an integrated rear-view camera, brown perforated leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, ambient interior lighting, a 120-volt power outlet on the rear centre console, etcetera (see detailed 2019 Subaru Ascent pricing and more at CarCostCanada.com).
“It’s no secret that SUVs are extremely popular these days, but we wanted to offer more than just another option — we wanted to offer a class-leading vehicle that delivers what Canadian customers are looking for,” said Yasushi Enami, chairman, president and CEO of Subaru Canada, Inc. (SCI). “We believe the 2019 Ascent delivers that and more, and we’re very excited to bring this North American-exclusive model to market.”
The 2019 Subaru Ascent, produced in North America at Subaru of Indiana Automotive, Inc., will arrive at your local Subaru dealer this summer.