Longtime Subaru fans must be amazed by the recent improvements to the company's vehicles. For years they appealed primarily to those who preferred function over form. Such owners were so satisfied by the economy, reliabilty and standard Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive of the company's cars and SUVs, they were willing to overlook their lack of styling, outdated production standards, and noisy "Boxer" flat-four engines.
In a word, Subaru's were genuinely quirky, not merely designed to look different, like the Kia Soul, a conventional small car with a distinctive look and clever ad campaign.
But now, after an intentional campaign by Subaru corporate officials to make make their vehicles more mainstream, the company's new cars and SUVs are almost attractive, relatively refined and fairly quiet — and still come standard with AWD. The sole exception is the rear-wheel-drive BRZ sports car, which, because it is co-produced with Toyota, could be dismissed at not really a Subaru.
But now Subaru has completely broken with the last of its cult image by producing the most American of all vehicles, a large, three-row crossover SUV called the Ascent. It is just about as conventional as any family-hauler on the market. Aside from its current corporate styling, only a few things mark it as a Subaru. They include a turbocharged version of the 2.4-liter Boxer engine and standard Symmetrical AWD, a plus in the rainy Pacific Northwest.
Other than that, 2019 Subaru Ascent performs its duties about like any other contemporary seven or eight passenger SUV. That means it's has a good amount of interior room, rides well even over rough pavement, and handles better than something this big should. The maximum towing capacity of 5,000 pounds is also impressive.
Special mention should be made of the High-Torque Lineartronic Continuously Variable Transmission that is tuned to take full advantage of the engines 277 foot-pounds of torque. It practically jumps off the line with only a little gas, and helps make quick work of freeway passes. It is also much quieter than earlier CVTs, a relief on long trips.
Also worth noting is the standard Eyesight Driver Assist Technology, which is one of the most advanced safety systems available in any vehicle. It has made Subaru a leader in the field and now comes with EyeSight Assist Monitor, which provides a heads-up disply of warnings and system status information on the windshield.
Our test Ascent was a Limited version, which came with Blind Sport Detection with Lane Change Assist and Rear Cross Traffic Alert, all of which is helpful in such a large vehicle.
Other options, including an excellent Harmon Kardon Premium Audio System, push the price our test Ascent Limit to $42,920, which used to be a lot for a Subaru. But it's not that much for a fully loaded three row SUV, and the base price of just $32,970 is even more attractive.
Yes, the 2019 Ascent is most unlikely vehicle Subaru has ever sold, but will more than meet then needs of company fans with large families, or anyone in the market for a well-made three-row SUV who appreciates the benefits of standard AWD.
2019 Subaru Ascent Limited
Base price: $32,970
Price as tested: $42,920
Type: Midsize crossover SUV
Engine: Turbocharged 2.4-liter Boxer 4 (260 hp, 277 lbs-ft)
Transmission: Continuosly Variable
EPA estimated mileage: 20/26
Overall length: 196.8 inches
Base curb weight: 4,450 pounds
Final assembly: Lafayette, Indiana
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