Does anyone remember the Subaru B9 Tribeca? Well Subaru probably doesn’t want you to, since it’s now introduced the 2019 Subaru Ascent, a much better equipped, less weird looking three-row crossover that’s aimed squarely at the Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander and Ford Explorer.
Unlike the slow selling B9 Tribeca, the Ascent doesn’t try to stand out with its quirky styling and instead it features an overall boxy look that’s more conservative and somewhat masculine. If you like the look of the Forester or Outback, the Ascent won’t disappoint. At the front its large square grille looks similar to the Forester, while the body’s chiseled lines gives it more of a rugged SUV look than other larger crossovers, like the Nissan Pathfinder and Honda Pilot.
For buyers that have outgrown the Forester, the 2019 Subaru Ascent comes standard with three rows of seats and can fit up to eight passengers. The Ascent can be equipped with either a full second row seat or more comfortable captain’s chairs. While the Ascent does feature a third row seat, it’s not nearly as big as you’d get with something like a Suburban. The third row seat is cramped for anyone close to six feet tall. The second row seats do slide forward to provide more room for the third row seat, but then that means that the second row passengers have to sacrifice a bit of legroom. So basically, just like most three-row crossovers, the third row is best left for the kids.
The Ascent’s interior doesn’t set any new standards in the class, but that’s not a bad thing, everything is laid out where it should be with a design that isn’t boring, but it’s also not really memorable. Everything is placed where it should be and the great visibility out makes it easy to navigate the large Ascent. Three zone climate control should help keep everyone comfortable and if that doesn’t help, there are a whopping 19 cupholders to hold all the kids drinks, snacks and any other goodies they bring along for the ride.
The front seats are where it’s at if you like ventilated seats, since they can be heated or cooled, while the second row captain’s chairs can also be equipped with a heating function. There are also eight USB ports throughout the cabin to keep all your devices charged. The Ascent comes standard with a 6.5-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, but an 8-inch touchscreen is a good upgrade. There’s also an optional 14-speaker Harman Kardon audio system and to keep everyone connected, the Ascent is available with 4G LTE Wi-Fi.
On paper the Ascent looks like it has everything to make buyers forget about that B9 Tribeca, but what is it like to drive? The Ascent comes standard with a new 2.4L flat-four turbocharged engine with 260 horsepower and 277 lb-ft. of torque. It may have a few less ponies than the Pilot or Highlander, but the engine also has more torque. The four-cylinder is mated to a CVT and all-wheel drive is standard.
Around town the Ascent’s four-cylinder engine has a surprisingly good amount of grunt that gets the large SUV up to speed with ease. The driving experience isn’t particularly sporty, but the engine has enough low end torque to keep you moving down the road. CVTs are generally hated by the automotive press, but the Ascent’s CVT is actually pretty good. It keeps the annoying whine that plagues most CVTs to a minimum and there’s also steering wheel mounted paddle shifters that let you manually “shift” through eight predetermined ratios. The Ascent’s steering is light, but not too bad and its brake feel is pretty good. Throw it into a curve and body roll is also kept to a minimum.
If a little light off-roading is your thing, the Ascent does have an X-Mode that splits the torque more evenly between the front and rear, it also adjusts the throttle so you don’t get stuck in the sand. The Ascent can also tow up to 5,000 pounds, which is more than any other Subaru.
To keep everyone safe the 2019 Ascent comes standard with the EyeSight suite of driver assistance features that includes adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning and lane keep assist. There’s also a unique Lead Vehicle Start Alert system that lets you know that the car in front of you has moved on, just in case you’re distracted by the loud kids in the back. Lane-change assist, rear cross-traffic alert and blind-spot detection are optional.
The 2019 Subaru Ascent solves two needs for the brand. First it gives diehard Subaru fans a new option as their families grow and second it gives Subaru a rival to the growing number of three row crossovers. The Ascent is more dialed into what buyers in this segment need and want than that old B9 Tribeca. The 2019 Ascent is spacious and comfortable with the latest tech features to satisfy families. Thanks to its 5,000 towing rating and unique X-mode the 2019 Ascent could also appeal to empty nesters or buyers that want more space and capability than the Subaru Forester. Either way, the 2019 Subaru Ascent is a finally a great three row crossover from the brand that brings us fun cars, like the WRX.
The 2019 Subaru Ascent is available in base, Premium, Limited and Touring trim levels, with the pricing starting at $32,970.