2019 Subaru Ascent first drive: my other family crossover is a canoe

May 21, 2018

Contrary to common understanding, Subaru did not create the tall-wagon-crossover-hatchback vehicle. Subaru just created six different reasons to buy the same one.

Want a wagon? How about an Outback.

Want a mid-size crossover? How about an Outback.

Want an off-roader? You get the idea.

DON'T MISS: Read our full review of the 2019 Subaru Ascent

Few have mass-produced genre-bending weirdness like Subaru historically has. Those that have are usually called “Pacific Northwest.”

But the Outback lacked any sort of accommodation for when its owners’ canoes needed to fit more than five. Grow up too much, and you might grow out of the Outback.

2019 Subaru Ascent first drive

2019 Subaru Ascent first drive

Enlarge Photo

It fit that our first turns behind the wheel of the new, three-row 2019 Subaru Ascent outside Portland, Oregon, the Woodstock for bearded woodworkers that joust on mountain bikes on days off.

It’s also the virtual home of Subaru, which earned its place on the state flag when a comic book editor rigged one to run on chili paste and patchouli. I’m kidding. Probably.

MUST READ: 2019 Subaru Ascent undercuts competition with $32,970 base price

It’s thanks to the extensive sound-deadening and a cushy ride even atop 20-inch wheels that we can ponder Oregon’s peculiarities in the Subaru Ascent.

There are configurable roof rails and second-row captain’s chairs. A wi-fi hotspot (data subscription required) and six USB ports in all three rows complement 19 cupholders and 153.5 cubic feet of interior space.

Although the Ascent follows closely behind the tradition of Subaru’s weirdness, it’s the automaker’s most mainstream offering to date.

It’s better for it.

2019 Subaru Ascent first drive

2019 Subaru Ascent first drive

Enlarge Photo
2019 Subaru Ascent first drive

2019 Subaru Ascent first drive

Enlarge Photo
2019 Subaru Ascent first drive

2019 Subaru Ascent first drive

Enlarge Photo

You know it already

In many ways, the 2019 Subaru Ascent is instantly familiar. Its tall ride height, standard all-wheel drive, and modest style are cast in the same dye as the Outback and Forester. (And we probably mean tie-dye.) That’s no surprise.

Although the Ascent has an engine to call its very own (for now), the automaker’s three-row crossover rides atop the same skeleton that the other Subarus have—or will very soon—adopt too.  

2019 Subaru Ascent first drive

2019 Subaru Ascent first drive

Enlarge Photo

The Ascent measures 196.8 inches from nose to toes, and it sports three rows of seating that can fit up to eight adults—or more likely—a hodgepodge of parents, children, and gear.

Outside and in, the Ascent looks like an Outback rocking a dad bod. Its sympathy weight was gained for North Americans (the only place the Ascent will be sold) although it doesn’t feel much bigger behind the wheel than the stilted wagon. It does feel very wide, though.

The Ascent’s eager throttle—a Subaru hallmark—feels familiar too.

The eager 2.4-liter turbo-4 that makes 260 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque produced most of its thrust early and down low in rev range, almost annoyingly too much. The Ascent runs up to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds—a number that somewhat belies its eagerness at slow speeds. In mid-range acceleration, say passing from 65 to 85 mph, the Ascent feels nearly as confident. It’s acceptable for its class, even impressive, despite being down two cylinders to staid competitors.

2019 Subaru Ascent

2019 Subaru Ascent

Enlarge Photo

Credit goes to the refined, standard continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) that Subaru seems to have mastered. The transmission doesn’t feel like it filters much of the power to all four wheels when called upon. Mash it, and the CVT simulates an 8-speed automatic convincingly enough for Memorex—even with jerkiness.

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