With the new three-row Ascent, Subaru loses some shagginess but wins with a tough-luxe hauler for families who need versatility.
Since the demise of the Tribeca in 2014, the Subaru faithful who reproduced enough to need a three-row SUV had to leave the brand’s warm, earthy embrace for the likes of the Toyota Highlander or the Honda Pilot. No longer: The Ascent seats seven (eight in a pinch) in a bigger silhouette that mimics our favorite soft-roader, the Outback. The rear doors open wider than those in most SUVs, revealing an interior that’s spacious (up to 86.5 cubic feet of cargo space with second- and third-row seats down) and packed with whine-reducing amenities like up to eight USB ports.
Though the Ascent is a bigger beast than the Outback, you don’t feel it behind the wheel. From a stop, touch the throttle and you still get a similar eagerness. But thanks to an all-new 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and continuously variable transmission, there’s more midrange power to follow up that initial spurt of torque.
On steep, wet, and winding roads in Texas Hill Country, our tester proved sure-footed and composed. The Ascent’s 8.7 inches of ground clearance carried us over some rutty gravel approaches without an issue—like a Subaru should.
Safety & Tech
Other carmakers may be more successful at hyping their safety tech, but Subaru’s EyeSight package continues to quietly impress. Its suite of driver assists—including pre-collision braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping, and more—are offered standard on the Ascent. (Get this option if you are shopping any of the brand’s other models.) One of its most helpful features: A beeping alerts you immediately when a car stopped in front of you starts moving, nudging you to put the iPhone down. For safety’s sake, toss that device into one of the 19 cupholders spread about the cabin.