We’ve got something mega in our garage this week, or at least the all-new 2019 Ascent is big for Subaru.
Having arrived here over the summer, the North American-exclusive, three-row, mid-size crossover SUV is configured for eight occupants in standard trim and seven with optional second-row captain’s chairs, the latter setup being how Subaru’s communications team outfitted our tester.
In case you weren’t aware, Subaru has been down the mid-size crossover SUV road before, and I’m not talking about the Outback that not only continues to outsell all tall wagon competitors, but is the best-selling of its kind in history. The model I’m referring to was the 2005 to 2014 Tribeca, which was nicely finished and very competent from a performance standpoint, yet suffered from frontal styling that wasn’t accepted by the masses and a third row that was cramped at best, whereas the new Ascent pulls design cues from Subaru’s highly successful current Forester and Outback, albeit with a larger grille and a 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, it spans 2,176 mm (85.6 inches) wide with its side mirrors extracted, while 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 mid-size three-row SUV category’s best-selling Ford Explorer, albeit with a 24-mm (0.9-inch) longer wheelbase, while some might also be surprised to find out the new Subaru is 42 mm (1.6 inches) taller than the big blue-oval utility. The only Explorer measurements to exceed the Ascent relate to width, which show Ford’s 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 Toyota Highlander and Kia Sorento, longer and taller than the Honda Pilot and Hyundai Santa Fe XL, wider and taller than the Nissan Pathfinder, merely wider than the Dodge Durango, and only taller than the Volkswagen Atlas.
By the way, that was only a partial list of the Ascent’s three-row mid-size crossover SUV challengers, the full list (from best-selling to least during the first three quarters of 2018) including the Explorer, Sorento, Highlander, Atlas, Pilot, Durango, Pathfinder, Chevrolet Traverse, Santa Fe XL, Dodge Journey, GMC Acadia, Mazda CX-9, and Ford Flex.
Of more importance than mere outward size is passenger volume and cargo space, which for the Ascent measure 4,347 litres (153.5 cubic feet) for the former and 2,449 litres (86.5 cu ft) for the latter when both rear rows are laid flat. That cargo number is just for the most basic of Ascent trims, by the way, which also measures 1,345 litres (47.5 cu ft) behind the 60/40-split second row and 504 litres (17.8 cu ft) behind the 60/40-split third row, while all other trims are half a litre less commodious at just 2,435 litres (86.0 cu ft) of gear behind the first row, 1,331 litres (47.0 cu ft) behind the second row, and 498 litres (17.6 cu ft) behind the third row.
These figures compare well against key rivals, with Ascent passenger volume even exceeding the 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. Also important, rear passenger access is made easier due to rear doors that open to 75 degrees.
Being a Subaru SUV the Ascent includes standard full-time Symmetrical AWD, which has proven to be one of the more capable available. Its initial advantage starts with more evenly balanced weight distribution thanks to a longitudinally-mounted engine and transmission, its competitors chassis architectures derived from FWD models housing transversely-mounted motors, while Subaru’s horizontally-opposed flat “boxer” engine allows for a lower centre of gravity.
Furthermore, Symmetrical AWD applies more torque to the wheels with the most grip, which is not only designed to enhance traction when taking off but to improve overall control at speed, so in theory the Ascent should be plenty capable no matter the road or trail surface it’s traveling over, while its standard X-mode off-road system, complete with hill descent control, and its generous 220 millimetres (8.66 inches) of ground clearance for overcoming obstacles, snow banks, etcetera, should make easy work of the rough stuff. We’ll let you know just how capable the Ascent is in our upcoming road test review, and of course give you a full report on its on-pavement driving dynamics too.
Power comes from a new turbocharged 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine, which as noted is once again a horizontally opposed design. It makes a healthy 260 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque, the latter maximized between 2,000 and 4,800 rpm. Subaru will likely use this engine as a replacement for its aging 3.6-litre H-6 in top-line Outback trims too, being that the new four-cylinder produces 4 more horsepower and 30 additional lb-ft of torque than the six.
Of course, at 11.6 L/100km city and 9.0 highway for the new 2.4-litre four when used for in the Ascent, compared to 12.0 and 8.7 respectively for the larger displacement H-6 in the Outback, the smaller engine would be much more efficient in the Outback as well. Of note, both four and six cylinder engines use variations 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.
With the Ascent, Subaru adds 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 us to report something positive about its driving dynamics when we deliver our full review.
Likewise, expect some insight on the Japanese brand’s car-like ride and handling claim that comes from the Ascent’s 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. This all rolls on 18-inch silver five-spoke alloys on 245/60 all-seasons with the Ascent’s two lower trims and 20-inch machine-finished high-gloss split-spoke rims on 245/50 rubber for the two upper trims, my tester benefiting from the latter.
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 halogen headlights, LED daytime running lights, roof rails, a 4.2-inch colour TFT multi-information display, three-zone automatic climate control, 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone connectivity, a rearview camera, six-speaker audio, satellite radio, three-way 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 for just $35,995 plus freight and fees.
All 2019 Ascent trims also include standard Subaru EyeSight driver assist technologies that 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 that includes blind spot detection, lane change assist, rear cross-traffic alert and reverse automatic braking, as well as unique machine-finished five-spoke 18-inch alloys, body-colour side mirrors with integrated LED turn signals and approach lighting, LED fog lamps, a sportier rear bumper cap with integrated tailpipe cutouts, proximity keyless access, pushbutton ignition, front door courtesy lights, chrome inner door handles, a Homelink garage door opener, a windshield wiper de-icer, auto-dimming rearview and side mirrors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, larger 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment, premium cloth upholstery, a powered panoramic sunroof, magazine pockets on the front seatbacks, second-row climate controls, third-row reading lights, a rear cargo cover, a powered liftgate, a transmission oil cooler, trailer stability control, and pre-wiring for a trailer hitch that increases towing capacity to 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 mentioned earlier, plus steering-responsive full low/high beam LED headlights with automatic high beam assist, black and ivory soft-touch interior surfaces, a heatable steering wheel, an upgraded gauge cluster with chrome bezels and light blue needles (in place of red), and a 6.3-inch colour multifunction display atop the dash 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, as is SiriusXM Traffic, whereas additional Limited features include a 14-speaker 792-watt Harman/Kardon audio system, a 10-way power-adjustable driver seat upgraded to include powered lumbar support and cushion length adjustment, driver’s seat and side-mirror memory, a four-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, leather upholstery, two-way heatable 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 high-gloss black grille insert, satin-finish side mirror caps, chrome exterior door handles, rain-sensing wipers, ambient interior lighting, a front-view camera, a Smart Rearview Mirror with an integrated rear-view camera, woodgrain inlays, brown perforated leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, a 120-volt power outlet on the rear centre console, and more.
All 2019 Subaru Ascent pricing was sourced from CarCostCanada, where you can also find detailed pricing on trims, packages and standalone options for every other new model sold in Canada, plus otherwise hard to get rebate information and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands.
Our review will specifically focus on the Ascent Premier model we’re testing this week, and of course be more biased and experiential, covering our personal views on styling, interior fit, finish and materials quality, its features and how well they work, the SUV’s overall livability compared to others it competes against, how it drives on and off the road, plus more. So make sure to come back for our no holds barred 2019 Subaru Ascent Premier road test review…