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Just Right: 2019 Subaru Ascent Limited Test Drive

For Subaru, it doesn’t get any bigger than the Ascent. Literally. With a wheelbase length of 113.8 inches and three rows of seating for up to eight people, it’s the largest vehicle Subaru has ever built.

The Ascent is the right vehicle at the right time. Subaru retired its three-row predecessor, the Tribeca, several years ago. That left Subaru loyalists and those new to the brand with a wealth of smaller options, but forced them to turn to other brands for a three-row SUV.

The Ascent fills that hole at the top of Subaru’s model range. It’s built on a reinforced and extended version of the high-strength-steel Subaru Global Platform that’s designed to provide outstanding durability, rigidity, and vibration resistance. Under the hood, there’s an all-new turbocharged 2.4-liter Boxer engine connected to a new version of Subaru’s Lineartronic continuously variable transmission. The spacious interior offers seven- and eight-seat configurations. It’s full of useful infotainment features, including a Wi-Fi hotspot (a first for Subaru), and offers room for up to 19 cups and bottles.

Four trim levels are available: base, Premium, Limited, and Touring. Subaru sent us a generously equipped Limited model to test for a week. Its size was impressive, but we found plenty more to like about it than that.

2019 Subaru Ascent Limited Exterior

Subaru did a great job of keeping its “Dynamic x Solid” design DNA alive in the Ascent. One look at it makes it clear that the Outback has a big brother. Subaru’s signature hexagonal grille is front and center. That sits between steering-responsive LED headlights with a C-shape designed to evoke the shape of the pistons in the Ascent’s horizontally opposed Boxer engine.

In profile, the Ascent looks both graceful and rugged. The fenders flare out, forming the beginning and end of a soft, broken wave that flows across the sides of the Ascent’s body. Black cladding shields the Ascent’s lower extremities from stone chips drivers may encounter on trails and arches over its 20-inch wheels.

A thick chrome strip reaches from taillight to taillight, highlighting the power rear hatch. Two bright chrome exhaust finishers poke out of the protective black plastic that covers the rear bumper.

As attractive as the Ascent looks perfectly clean, we’re confident it’ll look even better after you have an outdoor adventure in it. After all, mud masks are considered a beauty treatment.

2019 Subaru Ascent Limited Interior

We were thoroughly impressed by our Ascent tester’s combination of interior features and generous dimensions.

The Limited trim level makes getting in and going easy with keyless entry and push-button start. The first and second rows of the black and white leather-lined cabin are heated. The second and third rows are split 60/40 and recline to make long trips more comfortable. Adaptive cruise control makes traveling down the highway a little easier and a little less stressful.

Riding in the middle row felt like flying in first class because we had plenty of legroom and could lean our seats back to relax. The rearmost row offered an adequate amount of legroom for this 5’10” writer, but adult passengers who have to ride in the very back should be mindful of how they position themselves to maximize their comfort in the limited space. No matter what size you are, the Ascent Limited’s three-zone climate control (the second row has its own controls) and three rows of ceiling vents will keep you at the perfect temperature.

If you need to carry cargo instead of people, the Ascent is ready to help. When both rear rows of seats are up, the rear cargo hold can carry nearly 18 cubic feet of luggage and gear. Folding the third row down increases that figure to approximately 47 cubic feet. With both rear rows of seats folded flat, the Ascent can haul roughly 86 cubic feet of stuff.

Our test vehicle was equipped with the optional 8-Passenger Technology Package, which added a 14-speaker Harman Kardon Quantum Surround Sound audio system, a panoramic sunroof, a retractable cargo cover, and Subaru’s STARLINK multimedia system with navigation and an eight-inch touchscreen. That gave us access to functions such as Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth audio, SiriusXM satellite radio, Pandora, and Aha.

2019 Subaru Ascent Limited Performance

The Ascent’s 2.4-liter Boxer four-cylinder engine proves just how much of a difference a turbo can make. We didn’t expect the Ascent to get up to highway speeds as quickly as it did. The Ascent used its Lineartronic continuously variable transmission and symmetrical all-wheel drive to apply the engine’s 260 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque to the road. Launches were authoritative and acceleration was satisfyingly urgent. According to the EPA, that hardware combo is capable of getting 20 mpg in the city, 26 mpg on the highway, and 22 mpg combined with 87 octane.**

If the road ahead happened to be rough and unpaved, the Ascent’s 8.7 inches of ground clearance and X-Mode with Hill Descent Control could’ve handled it. In the event we had to tow something, the Ascent would’ve been able to pull 5,000 pounds.

2019 Subaru Ascent Limited Safety

Aside from the usual multitude of airbags and Subaru’s signature Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, the Ascent Limited is equipped with a variety of standard safety features. Those include Vehicle Dynamics Control (Traction Control and Trailer Sway Assist), Reverse Automatic Braking, Blind-Spot Detection with Lane Change Assist and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, automatic high beams, a high-resolution back-up camera, and a tire pressure monitoring system. The EyeSight Driver Assist Technology bundle contains Adaptive Cruise Control, Pre-collision Braking, Lane Departure and Sway Warning, and Lane Keep Assist.

2019 Subaru Ascent Limited Overall

The Ascent is a big deal to Subaru in more ways than one. It’s not just the largest vehicle it makes, it’s also the right size for an important segment in the SUV market. If you’re looking for a three-row SUV with plenty of power, numerous infotainment features, and advanced safety technologies, go to an AutoNation Subaru dealership and test-drive the 2019 Ascent. Prices start at $31,995.* Our Ascent Limited press loaner had a sticker price of $42,920.

*MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.

**Based on EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.

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