By Peter Perrotta
With it’s second foray into the three row SUV segment, Subaru, this time, has come up smelling like roses.
In the Japanese auto maker’s first attempt – with the B9 Tribeca from 2006 to 2014 – it didn’t really hit a home run.
But British educator William Edward Hickson – who popularized the proverb “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again” – offered up the inspiration for the folks at Subaru to take another crack at it.
So last year Subaru offered up the Subaru Ascent, a mid size, three row SUV that can seat seven or eight passengers. And, thus far this new addition to the line-up has been getting some impressive reviews.
I recently spent one week testing the 2020 Subaru Ascent Limited model and, like most auto critics, came away quite impressed.
This second attempt success brings to mind the famous words of self-improvement author, Dale Carnegie, who said: “Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying…”
Says J.D. Powers of the Ascent: “Half a decade later, Subaru’s second attempt is more compelling. The up to eight-passenger Ascent offers more interior room, the latest safety and technology features, and less controversial styling. The result? Subaru nearly sold more Ascents in its first year than it did Tribecas over almost a decade.”
Consumer Reports gave the Ascent an impressive overall rating of 82 (out of 100) and an even more impressive road test score of 93. “The Ascent’s plush ride is extraordinary in how it mops up bumps, and yet remains steady and controlled,” says CR.
My impressions were that the Ascent is a solid three-row, mid-sized SUV that does have an impressively smooth ride with silky steering, but it you are looking for that rugged Subaru trademark look and feel, this model is a bit different than what you might expect.
Subaru has made its mark, over the years, with the rugged, utilitarian styled Crosstrek, Forester and Outback models – all four wheel drive, off road capable crossovers that have proved their mettle with the hiking and rock climbing crowds.
This Ascent is more luxurious, offering up a nice pallet of creature comforts inside, while still maintaining its four wheel drive and off roading capabilities. Moreover, the overall drive of this Ascent is quite different than what you would expect from a Subaru.
First off, it’s the largest Subaru ever. But, more succinctly, it drives more like a slick luxury SUV – sporting a soft suspension and easy steering – than the stick-to-the road typical Subaru.
However, with its off-road capable X-Mode system, this Subaru Ascent can still get down and dirty with the best of them.
The Ascent Limited I tested for one week featured a 2.4 liter direct overhead cam engine, with a 16 valve direct injection, turbo charged boxer engine.
This engine produces 260 horsepower at 5,600 rpm, accompanied by a broad torque range that peaks at 277 pound feet over a 2,000 to 4,800 rpm enine speed range.
Moreover, all Ascents are paired with a high-torque lineartronic CVT, 8 speed transmission. This automatic transmission also has an 8 speed manual mode function with steering wheel paddle shifters as well as X-Mode ( for off roading) and Hill Descent Control.
Personally, I found this engine and transmission combination to be quite adequate, but not overly impressive – meaning its not going to blow you away with its passing capabilities on the interstate but offers good, solid performance in everyday driving situations.
The Ascent is offered in four trim levels: base, Premium, Limited and Touring.
The Limited model I tested carries a base price of $39,345. Added to the tester was a $2,950 option 23 package that included: a Harmon Kardon with Quantum Logic Surround Sound System with 14 speakers; a panoramic power moonroof with retractable sun shades; a Subaru Starlink 8 inch multimedia navigation system and a stowable cargo area cover.
When you add the $1,010 for destination and delivery charges, the total MSRP sticker price for this tester came in at $43,305.
Needless to say, this Ascent Limited model comes chock full of standard equipment that make it an impressive package for the price range that it is situated in.
The EPA overall fuel ratings for the Ascent are 22 miles per gallon overall – 26 on the highway and 20 in city driving. The average annual estimate fuel cost for this vehicle is $1,850 as it figures to use about 4.5 gallons gas per every 100 miles driven.
The Ascent has not been crash test rated yet in the government’s five star crash test rating system.
The Ascent comes with a three-year, 36,000 mile basic bumper-to-bumper warranty, with a five year, 60,000 mile powertrain warranty. It also gets a five year unlimited mileage warranty against rust perforation and a three-year, 36,000 mile 24/7 roadside assistance program.
I found the Subaru Starlink infotainment system – controlling the climate, radio, media inputs and navigation – to be very easy to adapt to. This is one of the best infotainment systems currently available.
And, as usual, Subaru’s symmetrical all wheel drive system is a winner – and trademark – for this brand.
On the lighter side, the folks at Subaru are keen on pointing out that the three-row Ascent, features 19 cup and bottle holders. For the record, I will take their word for it. I didn’t set about trying to see where Subaru managed to squeeze room for all these cup holders in.
Overall, if you are considering a three-row, mid-sized SUV in this category, you would be remiss not to give this Ascent some serious consideration.
Peter Perrotta’s On The Road column appears weekly. Comments and questions are welcomed. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.