Skip to main content

2019 Subaru Ascent First Drive Video: Does It Rise to the Occasion?

The Subaru Outback has a cult following — and I’m a fan, too. But like many parents, I can’t fit my kids’ three car seats in its backseat. Enter the 2019 Subaru Ascent, Subaru’s new three-row SUV. (Subaru hasn’t had a three-row SUV in its lineup since the 2014 Tribeca.) The Ascent is Subaru’s biggest SUV — but size isn’t just what families care about; they care about features, too. I got the chance to drive the Ascent on the Oregon coast to see if it delivers.

Related: Subaru Announces Price, Gas Mileage for 2019 Ascent

Power comes from a new turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. That might sound like a small engine for a vehicle this big, but for the most part, it’s not: Low-end power is strong and there’s no turbo lag. Where it starts to feel underpowered is on the highway during passing and merging maneuvers or during hill climbs. You feel and hear it struggle.

The sole transmission is a continuously variable automatic. Its drone is loud and unrefined, and it takes a while to spool up power. A V-6 and any other transmission are unavailable.

In terms of road manners, the Ascent feels predictably like a three-row SUV. It’s composed in corners but doesn’t feel agile, and its ride quality is good. Bumps are well-damped, and it’s comfortable to drive overall, but a touch loud in terms of road and wind noise.

Shop the 2019 Subaru Ascent near you

2019 Subaru Ascent Limited 8-Passenger
50,885 mi.
2019 Subaru Ascent Premium 8-Passenger
17,058 mi.

All-wheel drive is standard, and it’s a capable system. I drove it on sand, gravel and dirt, and it handled it all of those surfaces well — aided by the X-Mode’s hill descent control, which automatically moderates throttle on descents, a very helpful system.

Watch the video above for more of my review of the 2019 Subaru Ascent, including interior fit and finish, cabin comfort, tech features and more.’s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don’t accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.

Photo of Jennifer Geiger
News Editor Jennifer Geiger joined the automotive industry in 2003, much to the delight of her Corvette-obsessed dad. Jennifer is an expert reviewer, certified car-seat technician and mom of three. She wears a lot of hats — many of them while driving a minivan. Email Jennifer Geiger

Featured stories

202406 inductive road charging scaled jpg
mazda cx 70 phev 2025 01 exterior front angle white scaled jpg
acura mdx 2025 01 cg exterior front angle jpg