Fellow gearheads, I’m afraid we’re just going to have to face facts: Sooner or later, every car maker on the planet is going to offer a three row SUV/crossover/thingo for sale. In this case here, Subaru – maker of some of the world’s great rally cars – recently debuted their Ascent SUV at the Los Angeles Auto Show.
When Life Hands You Lemons
I think (and this is just a working hypothesis at this point, so bear with me) automakers, over time, realized nobody in America bought station wagons any more. So they got us to buy minivans, until those things became the very symbol of automotive sclerosis, then they figured out how to sell us SUVs (largely based on our fears of being able to handle stuff combined with wanting to look cool), and then they somehow were able to morph SUVs into these now-ubiquitous crossover-thingos that are little more than over-inflated station wagons. It’s the circle of automotive life, er, marketing.
So of course automakers far and wide are going to make and sell these things as fast as they can. I mean, if your dad owned a lemon grove and it was a hot day and you saw all the other kids selling lemonade, what would you do, not make money?
So, naturally, Subaru wants to make money. And, from a certain point of view, they’ve already been doing this for a while. They’re married to All-Wheel Drive the same way Audi is. They’ve made quite good and functional AWD station wagons for a while now. For a brief period of time they even made an SUV, this weirdly styled thing called a Tribeca (what it had to do with lower Manhattan is beyond me). And their Crosstrek, to me, hits a sweet spot between off-road capability and city livability. Which is all background to saying hello to the new, soon to be hitting the streets, 2019 Subaru Ascent.
Subaru calls the Ascent the “family-focused SUV” which is a stunningly obvious declaration. The Ascent, like most its brethren, is designed to haul lots of people and a bunch of their stuff. The Ascent, with a 113.8-inch wheelbase, is obviously the largest Subaru has ever built. Everything about it seems focused on getting people and things down the road.
It has a whopping 153.5 cubic feet of passenger volume to accommodate a seven- or eight- passenger configuration. The rear doors open out 75 degrees so you can cram even the bigger kids into the third row. It has eight USB charging ports sprinkled throughout the cabin and a 120-volt power outlet for the rear, so you and the entire fam can bop down the road without having to interact with one another, praise Maxwell.
You want more America? Of course you do. How about 19 standard cup and bottle holders? Nineteen baby! How about not one, not two, but three standard automatic climate control zones to ensure all passengers stay comfortable and, most importantly, quiet. No more incessant whining all the way to Wally World and back about it being too cold. How about lights? You want interior lighting? Step right up. Second row reading lights? Check! They’re standard. Third row reading lights? Yup! Standard on Premium, Limited, and Touring trim levels. Ambient and footwell lighting? Of course!
The front chairs are right out of a La-Z-Boy showroom with power adjustments, lumbar support, and a length adjustment function for the driver’s seat cushion. Front and second row seats can be heated as part of the All-Weather Package for Premium models. Certain trims even get you a heated steering wheel while the Touring models offer ventilated front seats.
Power & Performance
Now, let’s talk about the week link in the chain: The Ascent is propelled down the road by an all-new turbocharged, 260 horsepower Boxer engine mated to a Lineartronic CVT transmission. Look, Subie engines are great. Pretty much everyone seems to agree on that. But you can only squeeze so much grunt out of that small of an engine and haul so many heavy loads – you know stuff like an SUV full of fat Americans towing a tent trailer.
I would hope that Subaru is working on newer, bigger, more powerful engines to drop into the Ascent. And while they’re at it, if that same big block plant could also drop right into an STi wagon of some sort, that’d be great. Thanks.
And I wasn’t kidding about towing a tent trailer. The 2019 Ascent has a maximum towing capacity of 5,000 lbs., which is impressive. Subaru also says the 2019 Ascent can go 500 miles on a tank of gas. Of course the Ascent is packed with tech goodies like standard EyeSight Driver Assist Technology and other safety features, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and 4G LTE Wi-Fi.
Pricing & Availability
The new U.S.-built (in Lafayette, Indiana!) Ascent will be offered in four trim levels: Base, Premium, Limited, and Touring. The Subaru Ascent (nice name, by the way) will be in dealers by early summer 2018. No word on price, but I predict it will be more than you first expected, but still not very high in comparison to the competition, because Subaru.
Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He means well, even if he has a bias toward lighter, agile cars rather than big engine muscle cars or family sedans.