By Cars.com EditorsMay 18, 2018
About the video
We recently got to drive the 2019 Subaru Ascent on the Oregon coast to see if it delivers both in ride quality and in practicality.
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 back seat. Enter the Subaru Ascent, Subaru's new three row SUV.
Subaru hasn't had a three row SUV in its lineup since the 2014 Tribeca. Subaru's Ascent is the biggest Subaru 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. 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 emerging maneuvers or hill climbs, you feel inherent struggle. The sole transmission is a continuously variable automatic and its drone is loud and unrefined and it takes awhile to school up power. A V6 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 overall it's comfortable to drive but it 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 well. Aided by the X modes hill descent control which automatically moderates throttle on descents, very helpful system. Outside the Ascent looks like a plumped up version of the Outback, inside it's more Subaru all over the cabin. You've got this very straightforward, clean looking setup which you see in a lot of Subarus. I don't love this material but in higher grade trim levels, it's a little bit classier, a little bit nicer. I really do like this multimedia system however. A 6.5-inch screen is standard which is large enough and an eight-inch screen is optional. It's an upgraded version of Subaru's usual multimedia system and it's got tuning and volume knobs which are really handy. And overall it's very easy to use. Apple CarPlay is standard, Android Auto is standard. A wireless hotspot capability is optional. Another new option is a camera based rear view mirror system. So if your car is loaded, you can't see behind you using the mirror, you flip a switch, it becomes a camera based system and you have clear visibility which can be a handy feature. Another new option is ventilated seats, another feature comfort that's available just this year. The Ascent has seating for seven or eight passengers depending on trim level. This model seats eight on a bench seat. Subaru says there's room enough for three car seats across the backseat which we aren't able to test but it feels very roomy. It also has two sets of latch anchors and an additional third latch anchor for a little bit of car seat flexibility when installing the seats. Another family friendly feature that I like are these cloth seats, they're stain and liquid resistant. If you spill anything on them the liquid will just beat up and not soak into the fabric. So you won't have a stain and you won't have a smell which is less mess. Another feature that I really like are there's 19 cup holders in this cabin standard which seems like a lot. You don't have to put drinks in all of them but you can use them as personal storage cubbies coming in handy when you have a lot of kids. Lastly, there's also a conversation mirror. So the front seat occupants can kind of check what's going on in the backseat which is another handy family-friendly feature. What's missing back here is a rear entertainment system. Subaru does not offer one on the Ascent but it does offer something called the entertainment anywhere package which is a pair of I-pads and some headphones. So basically it's it kind of functions as a personal entertainment system for whoever is in the back using the iPads. Getting back to the third row is actually pretty easy. Thanks to this button on the side of the chair. And the step in is pretty manageable too. So kids should have no problem getting back here by themselves. Once back here, room is pretty average for a three row SUV. The seats are kind of hard, it's not the most comfortable seat in the house but it's pretty comparable to others in the segment. One thing that I do like is this window, a lot of third rows can feel kind of dark and cave-like and this really opens up visibility and makes it feel a little airier. Another thing are these cup holders, there's tons of them. And then in higher trim levels, you also get USB ports back here. Lastly, there's also a set of lower latch anchors back here and three top tether anchors. So if you wanna install a car seat back here you can, it makes the Ascent more family-friendly. In back, there's 17.8 cubic feet of space which is a little less than the Volkswagen Atlas but a little more than the Honda Pilot. And the third row goes down for more space. There's also a little bit of under floor storage space here for smaller items. The Ascent may not be the quietest or the most refined vehicle but it's good where it counts. It's practical, capable and it has enough goodies to keep families precious cargo, safe and happy.
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