Texarkana, TX 89° Sun H 93° L 74° Mon H 90° L 71° Tue H 84° L 62° Weather Sponsored By:

Subaru Ascent

Subaru Ascent

Built to become a member of the family

February 10th, 2019 by Bill Owney in Opinion Columns

The 2019 Subaru Ascent Touring is seen at left, and the 2019 Ascent Limited is at right. (Photo courtesy of Subaru)

In the competitive and crowded market of three-row family haulers, the Toyota Highlander has long stood out as class valedictorian. Move over, Highlander, there's a new kid in town. With the Ascent, Subaru presents the largest vehicle it has ever built, complete with all the DNA one associates with America's eighth most popular brand: great engine, all-wheel-drive, comfort, reliability, and unparalleled safety—even in the base model.

Starting at $31,995, the Ascent makes standard Subaru's Symmetrical All-Wheel-drive and EyeSight driver assist technology, which includes a full range of life-saving features, such as automatic pre-collision braking, adaptive cruise control, lane departure and sway warning, pre-collision throttle management and a heads-up display of system warnings. Also standard are four USB ports, three-zone automatic climate control, automatic power door locks and power side mirrors, and 19, yes 19, cupholders.

No climbing up the model tree and clicking option boxes and adding $7,00 to $10,000 to get the good stuff for your family at Subaru. Kudos.

On the other hand, we think, The Premium, $34,195-$39,430, offers some attractive features, such as blind-spot monitoring and rear back brakes (kept us from hitting a pole) is a nice step up. Limited and Touring models, $38,995-$45,670, offer niceties such as more supportive, leather seating. All trim lines are price competitive for the niche.

If you are looking for a vehicle to carry your family to school, to soccer practices, and on lengthy vacations, you should not buy the Subaru Ascent simply because it offers modern safety gear at a reasonable price. Rather, you should buy it because it is a quiet, comfortable, flexible vehicle in which to create family memories for years to come.

By years, we mean decades. Subarus have a well-earned reputation for being bulletproof, and multiple rating services, including Kelley Blue Book and Consumer Reports, predict long and uneventful lives for the latest entry.


It starts up front

A Subaru trademark is the BOXER engine, so named because the cylinders face one another horizontally, and the Pistons go at one another like a pair of boxers. This has multiple advantages.

One is that the engine is simply better balanced. There is less vibration, though having valve trains at opposite sides of the engine tends to be a bit more noisy, according to some critics. Frankly, we love the sound of a wound-out Subie.

The GPS screen and controls to the radio and heating and air conditioning of the 2019 Ascent Limited. (Photo courtesy of Subaru)

The GPS screen and controls to the radio...

The design allows superior oil and coolant flow; the most important advantage, however, is that the engine lays lower in the cradle, which lowers the center of gravity and improves handling.

Subaru has been reengineering its BOXER engines the last few years and its latest motor is an all new turbocharged 260-horsepower, 2.4-liter engine is the best yet. It is strong, smooth, and clearly outperforms the base engine found in the Highlander.

On paper, running with a four-banger in a market dominated by V-6s seems a disadvantage, but it is not. The Ascent has more torque than the legendary Honda 3.5L V-6 engine found in the Pilot. Torque translates to exceptional smoothness on take-off and acceleration. Properly equipped, as Ascent can tow up to 5,000 pounds.

Like most Subarus, the Ascent is sporty at the low-end. It is quick off the line and 0 to 60 comes in less than eight seconds, which is above average and wholly irrelevant to the needs of the average family. Also like most boxer engines, this one has an engaging exhaust note, a pleasant baritone at mid-speed and a masculine tenor in the upper reaches.

The engine is paired to a high-torque CVT that nicely mimics an eight-speed transmission while keeping the engine optimized in its torque curve. That means that throttle response is excellent throughout the range while the Ascent delivers above average fuel economy: 21 city/26 highway/22 combined. In 200 miles of combined driving, the Touring model averaged 22.8 mpg. That's good for the class.



Like most Subaru models, the Ascent comes with X-Mode which incorporates hill descent control and allows the vehicle to take roads less traveled, muddier, and more daring than most family SUVs.

Climbing a road with low traction, the system uses lower gear ratios to generate extra power at the wheels that have the most grip. The transmission control unit also provides 25 percent more all-wheel-drive clutch pressure to control rotational differences between the front and rear wheels.

The Ascent isn't a hard-core off-road machine, but with 8.7 inches of ground clearance it will go where many an SUV dare not tread.


The second and third rows of seats in the 2019 Ascent Limited can fold down to create more room. (Photo courtesy of Subaru)

The second and third rows of seats in...

Pleasant ride and drive

Around town and out on the highway, the Ascent is well mannered. No sports car, it still feels well planted and steering is light and responsive, a feature that drivers will appreciate both on long trips and in crowded parking lots.

The suspension is tuned for comfort. Though some critics gig the Ascent's body lean, the vehicle handles well within normal parameters while delivering a ride that is as comfortable as some large luxury sedans.

On top of that, Subaru did a superb job damping noise, vibration and harshness, resulting in a cabin that is pleasantly comfortable in all seating positions.

This pleasantness is enhanced by a roomy, comfortable cabin. Fit and finish are among the most refined in the midsized SUV segment, with a superb combination of soft materials, textures and stitching. Doors are large, so access is easy. Like every other competitor in this niche, the Ascent has a third-row that is better suited to children than adults.

With seats folded flat, the Ascent offers the largest cargo holder in the segment.


A winner

Because of strong crash-test performance and advanced safety features, the Ascent earned a Top Safety Pick Plus from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the highest possible rating.

The Ascent has proven to be a hit with consumers. Since its introduction six months ago, Subaru has sold more than 40,000 Ascents, allowing the brand to grow its market share to 4.0 percent, just ahead of Hyundai and behind Jeep. Ford continues to hold the largest U.S. market share with nearly 14 percent.

Bottom line: My only knock on the Ascent is that Subaru doesn't offer an electric version. Buy this car. Failing that, steal one.

Getting Started/Comments Policy

Getting started

  1. 1. If you frequently comment on news websites then you may already have a Disqus account. If so, click the "Login" button at the top right of the comment widget and choose whether you'd rather log in with Facebook, Twitter, Google, or a Disqus account.
  2. 2. If you've forgotten your password, Disqus will email you a link that will allow you to create a new one. Easy!
  3. 3. If you're not a member yet, Disqus will go ahead and register you. It's seamless and takes about 10 seconds.
  4. 4. To register, either go through the login process or just click in the box that says "join the discussion," type your comment, and either choose a social media platform to log you in or create a Disqus account with your email address.
  5. 5. If you use Twitter, Facebook or Google to log in, you will need to stay logged into that platform in order to comment. If you create a Disqus account instead, you'll need to remember your Disqus password. Either way, you can change your display name if you'd rather not show off your real name.
  6. 6. Don't be a huge jerk or do anything illegal, and you'll be fine.

Texarkana Gazette Comments Policy

The Texarkana Gazette web sites include interactive areas in which users can express opinions and share ideas and information. We cannot and do not monitor all of the material submitted to the website. Additionally, we do not control, and are not responsible for, content submitted by users. By using the web sites, you may be exposed to content that you may find offensive, indecent, inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise objectionable. You agree that you must evaluate, and bear all risks associated with, the use of the Gazette web sites and any content on the Gazette web sites, including, but not limited to, whether you should rely on such content. Notwithstanding the foregoing, you acknowledge that we shall have the right (but not the obligation) to review any content that you have submitted to the Gazette, and to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content that we determine, in our sole discretion, (a) does not comply with the terms and conditions of this agreement; (b) might violate any law, infringe upon the rights of third parties, or subject us to liability for any reason; or (c) might adversely affect our public image, reputation or goodwill. Moreover, we reserve the right to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content at any time, for the reasons set forth above, for any other reason, or for no reason. If you believe that any content on any of the Gazette web sites infringes upon any copyrights that you own, please contact us pursuant to the procedures outlined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (Title 17 U.S.C. § 512) at the following address:

Copyright Agent
The Texarkana Gazette
15 Pine Street
Texarkana, TX 75501
Phone: 903-794-3311
Email: webeditor@texarkanagazette.com