SUVs

2019 Subaru Ascent long-term update: Getting comfortable with our hauler

Our large adult Subaru is integrating itself into the family, and it's proving to be comfortable and capable road-trip machine.

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

Welcome to another update of what it's like to live with our 2019 Subaru Ascent Limited. After Andrew Krok welcomed it to the family at the tail end of 2018 and took it cruising down to Chicago, I drove the thing 10 hours from Detroit, Michigan to my home up the wilds of New York State. I didn't really have much in the way of expectations prior to bringing the Ascent home, but suffice to say it's fitting in the family well. 

Another month on, we've now covered just under 4,500 miles in the Ascent. While I managed to meet the 26 miles-per-gallon figure on my initial, extended highway jaunt, I'm nowhere near that now. With mostly day-to-day driving in the country and city, I'm seeing an average of 19 mpg, just one tick below the EPA's official 20 mpg city rating.

That's not bad considering this is a big rig, Subaru's biggest car ever. Since the last update I spent a little time getting comfortable in that third row, or trying to anyway, and it should come as no surprise that I didn't find it a very welcoming space. My six-foot frame meant significant slouching was required to not make a literal impression in the headliner. Shorter adults and more youthful souls should have little problem, however. 

The second row is far more comfortable. There, thanks in part to the panoramic glass roof, I have no shortage of headroom. We opted for the pair of captains chairs here instead of the bench seat, which make access to that third row a lot easier. However, I'm not convinced it's the optimal configuration for my use. Our two dogs aren't happy trying to perch on those two seats, and so instead we put them in the way back, with the third row folded down.

The Ascent is a good dog hauler, as our most recent Roadshow on CBSN episode demonstrated, but the rear cargo area is a bit tall for my pups, both of whom are of larger breeds and advanced years. Even with a ramp they're struggling to climb in the hatch, so they have to come in via the side door and find their way around those two chairs in the middle row. 

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When it comes to driving the Ascent, I'm still getting used to that abrupt throttle tip-in, which makes the big SUV leap off the line too aggressively for our collective tastes. I'm am, however, absolutely in love with the remote start. Via the MySubaru app, I can trigger the car to start immediately, or program a short delay if I like. The process takes too many taps, and I'm frustrated that you can't remotely enable the steering wheel heater, but it is such a comfort to start the car warming in the airport parking lot even before my flight has finished taxiing that I often choose to take the Ascent rather than some other, ostensibly more luxurious car. 

Remote starting and other advanced features of Subaru's Starlink Security Plus package (including remote unlocking, remote collision notification and roadside assistance) will cost you $149 per year, or about $15 monthly if you just want it for the winter. Expensive? Yes, very expensive, but living somewhere cold I'd be sorely tempted to cough that up. That said, some of the advanced connectivity features of the car were a little less welcome. I got an email telling me the washer fluid was low, for example. That flashing warning in the dashboard was annoying enough. I didn't need it hitting my inbox, too. 

Still, my complaints about the Ascent are few, perhaps the biggest being that I keep losing the thing in parking lots. Our choice of color, cinnamon brown pearl, is surely a contributing factor, but this is easily one of the most visually anonymous cars on the road today. As a fan of some of Subaru's more aggressive cars of the past I think that's a bit of a shame, but given how poorly the Tribeca was received, Subaru's last big-boy SUV, I can appreciate the need for design discretion.

Next time, I'll give you some final impressions on how the Ascent fared in winter driving, plus how well its EyeSight driver assistance system is doing at keeping me safe.

This is easily one of the most visually anonymous cars on the road today.

Nick Miotke/Roadshow