Emma Jayne Williams

Subaru introduces its biggest SUV ever: the 2019 Ascent, with room for up to 8

Subaru’s newest addition is the 2019 Ascent, a flexible, three-row SUV capable of hauling up to eight passengers, and featuring lots of new safety, driver assist, and in-vehicle technologies.

The Ascent is also the largest Subaru ever. Ascent’s new extended version of Subaru’s Global Platform features stiffened joints for better stability, agility, ride comfort, and suppression of noise, vibration, and harshness. Soundproofing measures include an acoustic windshield and front door glass.

Built in Indiana, the Ascent offers four trims: Base ($31,995), Premium ($34,195), Limited ($38,995), and Touring ($44,695).

The base Ascent has lots of sought-after features such as EyeSight Driver Assist Technology, smartphone connectivity, 19-cup/bottle holders, engine immobilizer, three-zone climate control, roof rails, and more. Each trim builds on the previous, with the first two offering cloth seating and the last two including leather seating.

All models are powered by an all-new 260-horsepower, 2.4-liter turbocharged Boxer four-cylinder engine, paired with a new version of Subaru’s high-torque Lineartronic CVT with Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, an eight-speed manual mode with steering wheel paddle shifters, and X-Mode with Hill Descent Control.

Estimated fuel economy for base Ascent and Premium trims with standard equipment is 21 mpg city/27 highway/23 combined. Limited and Touring trims, with 20-inch wheels should get 20 city/26 highway/22 combined. I drove a Limited and averaged 21.4 mpg driving about 50/50 city and highway.

X-Mode gives the driver the ability to focus on maneuvering the vehicle on low-friction surfaces, while allowing the Ascent to control the Vehicle Dynamics Control System, keeping the vehicle in a lower gear than is available to the driver. Operational below 18 mph, X-Mode also helps reduce wheel slip on steep inclines and rough roads.

Steering angle, driving wheel status, operation of the VDCS, and other relevant information is shown on the Multifunction Display. Hill Descent Control, operational up to 12 mph, maintains starting speed down a steep incline, an extra level of control and confidence.

My Ascent was Magnetite Gray Metallic (medium) with Slate Black perforated-leather seating. Ascent Limited is available in eight exterior colors, which also include: Abyss Blue Pearl (gray/blue), Crystal Black Silica, Cinnamon Brown Pearl, Crimson Red Pearl (medium), Ice Silver Metallic, Tungsten Metallic (gray/beige), and Crystal White Pearl. Interiors are Warm Ivory or Slate Black, depending on the exterior choice.

Special features of my Ascent were standard 20-inch dark gray aluminum-alloy wheels with machine-finished face on five “V” spokes, dressed with all-season tires, and charcoal lower body cladding with chrome accents on the doors.

The chrome-trimmed grille had three horizontal split bars, while faux vents at the outer bumper had a single chrome bar and LED fog lights. Steering responsive, wiper-linked LED headlights with High Beam Assist and daytime running lights sat under the deeply creased vertical hood lip.

Chrome trimmed the side windows and the power liftgate from side to side, extending into the taillights. The large prominent taillights wrapped around the rear panel to a crease above the wheel well.

Roof rails had cross bars ($201) for attaching lots of accessories. Chrome exhaust tips peeked through notches in the lower bumper, with a solid cover over the trailer hitch and wiring ($499). The ball mount was stored under the cargo floor, along with a towing hook, cargo cover, temporary spare tire, and tire tools.

Ascent’s powertrain allows up to 5,000 pounds towing capacity, the most of any Subaru ever. Trailer Stability Assist uses sensors to monitor trailer sway and can brake individual wheels to help stabilize the vehicle and trailer.

The cargo cover was part of a Seven-Passenger Technology Package ($2,950) along with second-row captain’s chairs, Harman Kardon Premium Audio System with 792-watt-equivilent GreenEdge amplifier and 14 speakers, a panoramic moon roof, and Starlink 8.0 Multimedia Navigation with smartphone integration (Pandora, Aha, etc.), Bluetooth hands-free, voice-controlled phone/text/audio, cloud apps (Yelp, iHeartRadio, etc.), SiriusXM all Access Radio, Traffic, and Travel Link, AM/FM/HD/CD, and voice control for navigation powered by TomTom.

One-line destination entry was exceptionally easy, with up to three route choices offered. Canceling the guidance was easy, but I didn’t find a volume control for voice guidance – a pet peeve of mine.

Starlink Connected Services included remote engine start from a cellphone, concierge services, anti-theft vehicle immobilizer with flashing lights, young-driver protection such as geofencing/speed alert/curfew, and firmware updates over the air. Starlink Safety Plus, free for the first year, included automatic collision notification, SOS emergency assistance, enhanced roadside assistance, maintenance notifications, monthly vehicle health report, and diagnostic alerts.

Ascent’s rear doors open 75 degrees for easy access to the second-row captain’s chairs and the 60/40 split flat-folding third row. Cargo capacity behind the rear seat is 17.8 cubic feet. With the third row folded, cargo space increases to 47.5 cubic feet. Folding the second row provides 86.5 cubic feet of hauling capability.

My Ascent had ivory leather accent trim on the dash (with a small shelf across the passenger side) and doors, a manually adjustable driver’s seat thigh cushion, a heated steering wheel, tri-zone climate with air vents for all three rows and second-row climate controls, heated front and second-row seats, second-row manual sunshades, auto-up/down front windows with anti-pinch protection, and dual USB ports for all rows, for a total of six.

In-car 4G LTE Wi-Fi provided a range of entertainment options for passengers using smart devices.

Lots of safety technology was standard on my Ascent. Reverse Automatic Braking applied the brakes if an obstacle was detected while reversing; Brake Assist applied pressure to help braking effectiveness in emergency braking; and the Brake Override System was designed to cut engine power in the event the brake and accelerator were pressed at the same time.

EyeSight Driver Assist Technology was made up of Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Sway Assist, Lane Departure Warning, Pre-Collision Braking, and Pre-Collision Throttle Management, which beeps, flashes, and reduces engine output to avoid frontal collisions.

Blind Spot Detection with Lane Change Assist and Rear Cross Traffic Alert is also standard.

Lead Vehicle Start Alert senses traffic has started moving from a stop and prompts the driver to act by buzzing and flashing – sort of a tech version of an impatient driver. An EyeSight Assist Monitor provided a heads-up display of system warnings and data on the windshield.

Subaru vehicles with EyeSight earn the highest possible ratings for front crash prevention from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

In addition to frontal air bags, Ascent has side-curtain air bags, and seat-mounted front side air bags, driver’s knee air bag, whiplash-protection front seats with adjustable head restraints, and rear child-safety locks.

Ascent has PIN-code vehicle access, which allows the driver to disable the key, leave it in the vehicle, then enter a code into the liftgate button to lock (and unlock) the vehicle. This allows the driver to secure the vehicle and key while swimming, hiking, climbing, etc.

My Ascent was spacious and very comfortable, with flexible seating and cargo options. The ride was refined and quiet, and handling was car-like. A ground clearance of 8.7-inches was great for some minor off-road fun, while the step-in height was low enough for passengers with short legs.

With options totaling $3,650 and destination charges of $975, my Subaru Ascent Limited delivered for $43,620.

The automotive columns of Emma Jayne Williams have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 2007. Contact her at emmajayne1948@gmail.com.