Review update: The 2019 Subaru Ascent crossover SUV is an Outback for the next generation

March 6, 2019

The 2019 Subaru Ascent arrived to fix Subaru's problem: when owners outgrew their Outbacks and Foresters, there was nothing for them in the Subaru showroom. The long-overdue Ascent is a large three-row crossover SUV that gets the basics right, even though it's late to the party. The Honda Pilot was reworked for 2019, and Volkswagen beat Subaru to the family arena by nearly two years with its Atlas.

With a TCC Rating of 6.8 out of 10, the 2019 Ascent scores for its smart, family-friendly interior, standard active safety tech, and good infotainment system. Where it misses are its touchy throttle, narrow seats, and third-row legroom.

I spent a long week with the 2019 Subaru Ascent putting it to the test with a family road trip in the real world to see if it stands out in this crowded field.

2019 Subaru Ascent

2019 Subaru Ascent

Hit: Headlights that shine brightly. The Ascent Touring I tested featured LED head and talilights, which in itself isn't especially notable. The headlights' ability to light up the darkness like a flash grenade is. While the Honda Pilot's LED headlights scatter, the Ascent's focused beam pattern is precise, with a clean cutoff, super-bright white light, and they articulate to help see around corners. The IIHS agrees. They gave the available LED headlights their top "Good" rating. Unfortunately, the standard halogen lights on Ascent base and Premium trims rated "Poor."

2019 Subaru Ascent

2019 Subaru Ascent

Miss: It's chunky. I don't mean it looks like a really bloated Outback before Benadryl kicks in during an allergic reaction. No, it's heavy. At 4,603 pounds as tested, the Ascent Touring weighs 284 pounds more than a comparable 2019 Honda Pilot Elite, which has more power to motivate it down the road. That weight isn't a big deal around town thanks to the punchy turbo-4 that's well-matched to the continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), but there isn't a bottomless well of power to pull from for highway passing maneuvers at speed.

2019 Subaru Ascent

2019 Subaru Ascent

Hit: Space for all the things. With all three rows of seats up, the Ascent boasts 17.8 cubic feet of cargo room, which expands to 47.5 cubes with the third row folded. That bests the 16.5 cubic feet of space behind the third row in the Pilot, and the 47 cubes behind the Pilot's second row. It's about more than just cargo space for families, though. The Ascent has 19 cupholders, large cubbies in each door, and there's even a cubby in the dashboard in front of the front passenger seat that's perfect for holding Hot Wheels. Ask my son how he knows.

2019 Subaru Ascent

2019 Subaru Ascent

Miss: Nervous nelly. All Ascents are powered by a 2.4-liter turbo-4 with 260 horsepower sent to all four wheels via a CVT. The turbo-4 is responsive with little turbo lag off the line. The CVT is responsive, but the throttle is too touchy. It takes some attention to pull away from a stop smoothly, and that goes double if anyone strapped into the Ascent's three rows is susceptible to motion sickness.

2019 Subaru Ascent

2019 Subaru Ascent

Hit: Slick infotainment pairs a screen with buttons. The Ascent Touring features an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system (base Ascents have a 6.5-inch touchscreen) with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. The interface has large virtual buttons, responds quickly to inputs, and has a glossy look with a polished feel to it. More importantly it had redundant hard buttons for main system functions such as audio input and climate control that corresponded with the large touchscreen. A lot of automakers—looking at you, Mazda—could learn from this setup.

2019 Subaru Ascent

2019 Subaru Ascent

Miss: It can gobble goldfish. Vehicles become a family's second home during the day. That means more often than not snack time ends up taking place in the car. The Ascent's second-row seat sits on rails that allow it to slide fore and aft to increase second-row leg or cargo room, but those rail design is quite exposed, and susceptible to getting crackers and crumbs in them. Worse is the way the carpet in the second-row seat meets the door sill step pad, as it can easily allow snacks to slip through the crack never to be seen again. The resulting fishing trip to retrieve those orange baked snacks was painful and unsuccessful.

At $45,670 as tested, my 2019 Subaru Ascent had an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, all-wheel drive, LED lights all around, second row captain's chairs, Harman Kardon audio, brown leather upholstery, automatic emergency braking, and keyless ignition.

The 2019 Subaru Ascent is near the top of the three-row family hauler class with a smart design, easy-to-use features, advanced safety tech, and space for all the family's adventures. While it's late to the party, it hits the mark that Subaru needed and is exactly what buyers need when they outgrow the Outback.

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2019 Subaru Ascent Touring

Base Price: $32,970

Price as tested: $45,670

EPA fuel economy: 20/26/22

The hits: Smart, family-friendly interior, standard active safety tech, great headlights, slick infotainment setup

The misses: Nervous throttle, it's heavy, front seats could be a little wider

2019
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2019
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