SUVs

2019 Subaru Ascent joins Roadshow's long-term test fleet

It's time to get all family-friendly up in here.

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

These days, a three-row crossover is all but required for a mass-market manufacturer. Subaru used to have one in the Tribeca, but that car was thankfully put out to pasture years ago. Now, we have the new Ascent, and we're about to put it through its paces for an entire year.

I am proud to present the latest member of Roadshow's long-term fleet, the 2019 Subaru Ascent. Over the course of the next year, we'll fill and empty this sucker ad nauseam as we pile on the miles and see whether Subaru's latest three-row acts like all the other Subarus we've come to appreciate.

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A quick rundown

As opposed to using the 3.6-liter H6 found in the Outback and Legacy, the Ascent rocks a 2.4-liter turbocharged H4, good for 260 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque. That motive force makes its way to all four wheels (natch) through a continuously variable transmission with eight simulated gear ratios. No matter the trim, this is the engine you get. In all but the base trim, it's good for towing up to 5,000 pounds (the base is rated at 2,000).

All Subaru Ascents also come with EyeSight, Subaru's suite of active and passive driver aids that includes adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist.

While the Ascent starts at $31,995, we opted for the second-highest trim, Limited (one step below Touring), which bumps the price up to $38,995. This trim offers leather upholstery, large 20-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, power front seats, heated second-row seats, a heated steering wheel and keyless access.

In addition to that kit, we added the $2,950 options package that includes embedded navigation on its 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, in addition to a panoramic moonroof and a Harman Kardon sound system with 14 speakers (six speakers come stock). The window sticker also includes $132 for all-season rubber floor mats. That brought our price to a lofty-but-not-ridiculous $43,052 after including $975 for destination.

Lower trims are rated at 21 miles per gallon city and 27 mpg highway, but the extra stuff in the Limited and Touring trims drops those figures to 20 and 26, respectively.

The first 2,500 miles

We received our long-term Subaru Ascent in Detroit this fall, where it landed in the capable hands of editor Jake Holmes. He put the first 500 miles on the car over the course of approximately two weeks, filling up twice along the way.

Our Limited tester comes with heated, leather seats, and a $2,950 option pack gets us embedded navigation on the 8-inch touchscreen, as well as a premium audio system and huge sunroof.

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

Then it landed in my hands. The first thing I did was embark on a road trip from Detroit to Kohler, Wisconsin, to drive the new Toyota Prius. The Ascent performed admirably on its first long trip, handling a five-hour drive to Chicago with ease. The suspension soaks up bumps commendably, even with larger 20-inch alloy wheels, and it soars comfortably over smooth pavement.

My complaints are minimal thus far, but I do have a couple. First, the CVT is too obsessed with dropping revs quickly for fuel economy's sake. This has the awkward side effect under slow acceleration of responding to a steady accelerator input with rising and falling revs. Then, when you realize you're accelerating more slowly than intended, a quick stab of the gas is met with a lurch forward. The throttle tip-in is entirely too touchy in general, causing the Ascent to practically leap forward from every light and stop sign, which gets annoying.

Its fuel economy isn't exactly promising at the moment. The onboard computer has yet to raise its average fuel economy above 20.0 mpg -- I'm currently sitting somewhere around 19.3, and nearly 75 percent of the Ascent's 2,054-mile odometer reading has come from the highway. I'm seeing fuel economy near the EPA estimate of 26 highway only around 55 to 60 miles per hour -- interstates with higher speed limits bring a serious fuel-economy penalty.

The Ascent absolutely eats up miles on road trips. This is a great long-distance cruiser.

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

We have plenty more time with our long-term 2019 Ascent ahead, and hopefully it'll settle into a groove that includes some better fuel economy. But that's the beauty of having the Ascent for an entire year as opposed to a week -- we can see how it should perform for the families who actually buy one. Keep your eyes peeled to Roadshow as we pack on even more miles before we hand the car off to our esteemed editor-in-chief Tim Stevens in upstate New York. 

Meet Roadshow's other long-term test cars: