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.

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.

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