Our fearless editor-in-chief Tim Stevens gave our long-term 2019 Subaru Ascent the nickname Large Adult Subaru, and it's perhaps the truest name that could be given to this vehicle. As a three-row SUV, it's definitely large -- larger than any other Subie by a long shot. Given its layout, it's perfect for adult activities involving kids, pets or whatever little time for hobbies exists between those two.
Over the past year, we've taken this thing all over Hell's half acre (the idiom, not the actual location), and we walked away with a newfound appreciation for a car that has already taken Subaru dealership lots by storm. Here's how our year went, and what we learned.
Being an adult means doing a whole bunch of stuff for not only yourself but everyone around you. For this long-termer's three primary drivers -- Tim Stevens, myself and video producer Nick Miotke -- that meant lots of time spent hauling people, younger people and dogs of all ages.
When it came to Ascent proved worth its weight in gold. Our Limited trim came with individual captain's chairs, giving my two dogs the personal space they so strongly desired on road trips. My smaller dog can get carsick without adequate ventilation, so having three-zone automatic climate control meant the dogs could get colder air blasting over them, which prevented me from having to de-vom yet another long-termer. In the event they wanted to snuggle up, the third-row bench was always available., this
OK, the third-row bench wasn't always available, because part of adulting means hauling a bunch of junk around. Thankfully, the Ascent's seat-folding process was about as straightforward as it could be. Sure, the visible pull straps weren't exactly an expensive looking touch, but having those straps in plain view meant folding rows took a handful of seconds at the most. And, unlike previous motorized long-termer seats, there are fewer parts to eventually repair. With an electronic liftgate and suitably low load floor, filling the Ascent to the brim was easy. My only concern there came from the hard-plastic trim in the third row, which seemed prone to scratching.
The 2.4-liter flat-four in the Ascent produces 260 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque, more than enough to get down the highway with appreciable hustle. The throttle was actually too touchy; without really easing into it, it wasn't hard to send groceries rolling around when leaving a stoplight. The standard continuously variable transmission did a fine job, changing gear ratios without getting in the way -- probably the highest praise one can levy at a CVT. The ride quality wasn't my favorite, feeling perhaps a little more stiffly sprung than I would like, but with smaller wheels on less-expensive trims, that problem shouldn't be as apparent.
Our fuel economy was kind of all over the place. Tim Stevens had the lightest foot of the bunch, depleting a few Ascent tanks with economy north of 25 mpg, a solid boost over the EPA-estimated value of 22 mpg combined. Nick and I were not as lucky, having earned figures between 20 and 22 mpg. Some of that can be attributed to its use as a video production mule, where it sat stationary with the engine idling for long stretches of time. But, if you make a concerted effort to be efficient, the powertrain will reward you. Over 15,828 total miles, we averaged 22.3 mpg.
The Ascent's in-car tech was sort of a mixed bag, too. While Starlink has greatly improved over time, the inclusion of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto meant that most of our time was spent utilizing smartphone mirroring and all the excellent apps that come with 'em (e.g. Google Maps, Waze, Spotify).
We loved EyeSight, the automaker's suite of active and passive safety systems, which only required a clear windshield to work, saving us from the frustration of having to de-ice a low-slung radar sensor before setting off. The lane-keep assist was a little overbearing at times, so I mostly drove with it turned off, but the adaptive cruise control helped reduce the tedium of long highway slogs.
Nick also used the Ascent for familial purposes, taking his son to sporting events, school and the like. He praised the child-seat latches in the Ascent for their ease of access and use. He was also quite impressed that, in addition to the two latching points on the second-row captain's chairs, there were an additional two in the third row.
You'll also be pleased to learn, I'm sure, that a person wearing a rather "extra" wedding dress can and will fit in the front seat of the Ascent. It's not entirely comfortable, but it works, with enough space to buckle the seatbelt.
The means of production
While our long-term Ascent performed admirably as a highway warrior, its primary purpose in Detroit was video production. Shooting those lovely videos you watch on Roadshow -- you are watching our videos, right? -- requires a small army of videographers carrying a large army's worth of equipment. Thankfully, lowering the third row gave us all the space we needed to play Tetris with soft- and hard-shelled bags full of lenses, lights, microphones and probably a kitchen sink.
But the Ascent wasn't just a passive member of the team -- it was actually an integral component in video production. Using a complicated series of clamps, suction cups and one massive gimbal, we were able to film car-to-car shots. The Ascent's extensive use of flat surfaces in its design made this part a breeze.
This long-termer even saw a bit of time on a race track.on the west side of Michigan, and while we had some initial concerns about its potential, the Ascent was able to keep up and helped us create some excellent clips of the Nismo at speed. The stiff springs might not be the most comfortable on the highway, but they gave us the confidence we needed to pick up the pace on the track.
Dents and dings
Driving year-round in the upper half of the United States should qualify someone for a master's degree in driving -- and vehicle repair. While we were lucky to avoid any sort of serious fender-bender situations, the long-term Ascent didn't make it through the year completely unscathed.
The first issue came by way of the windshield, which developed a small crack after contact with an errant rock on the highway. A glass company was called, and for about $100, we had it all patched up. Then, a couple of months later, it happened again, and it was subsequently patched again. We were lucky that a full replacement wasn't required because EyeSight would require recalibration in that event.
The only other problem with the Ascent came, again, from the ground. At some point, one of the tires developed a small leak. Including both parts and labor, it was a $200 remedy at my local Subaru dealer. The Limited's honkin' wheels mean larger and more expensive tires, so buyers of lower trims should be able to dip out of the dealer with smaller holes in their wallets.
New-car maintenance in 2019 is laughably simple, at least it was for the Ascent. Over the course of our time with the car, we required just a single dealer trip for maintenance, and the combined oil change and tire rotation was free as part of the car's baked-in service plan. Tim also changed the oil once on his own,; having a top-mounted oil filter made things a lot less complicated.
Down to brass tacks
Over the past year, our long-term 2019 Subaru Ascent took a lickin' and kept on tickin'. Despite not being particularly easy on it, we saw decent fuel economy and a vehicle that never had a maintenance issue attributed to anything beyond basic bad luck. Thus, our time with the car should hopefully give potential buyers the peace of mind that if the Ascent can handle Roadshow, it can handle whatever the general population wants to throw at it.