|Positives: Black Onyx trim urbanizes the model, peppy engine and good steering, solid space for a family of six, standard Captain's Chairs for the Onyx are excellent.|
|Negatives: Jumpy off the line, bulky and awkward center stack, third row is tight on headroom, over-colored infotainment screen.|
|Bottom Line: The Ascent is a smart move for Subaru, and sales reflect that. The Onyx Edition is a great trim level because it adds both style and functional substance. It's still hard for us to get excited about it when models like the Mazda CX-9 both look and drive far better.|
We came away surprised by the Ascent's driving capabilities. It's easily the best driving Subaru this side of the BRZ sports car, and that's saying something. For a crossover that can hold up to 8 occupants, it's quite nimble.
Ride Quality: Though the ride is comfortable, it does err on the side of firm.
Acceleration: The turbocharged boxer four is responsive, almost too responsive to the point of being jerky off the line, but it does pull hard and displays an eagernes not found in other Subies. The CVT actually feels like it has gears, which takes some doing. It's stepped so it doesn't feel numbing.
Braking: The brakes are strong and progressive.
Steering: Though the steering lacks feedback, it's precise and has good effort. It doesn't have the vagueness of the Crosstrek we drove earlier in the year, and thing is way bigger.
Handling: There's some noticeable body roll, but it's pretty manageable.
We're not the biggest fans of Subie's in-car technology, and the ergonomic issues need some work, as well. Overall, the interior systems work decently, but it feels rushed in terms of functionality and layout.
Infotainment System: The STARLINK system has way too many colors, despite the fact that the 8-inch screen is vivid and fairly responsive. The colors take precedence over the icons, and it takes longer to decipher as a result.
Controls: Oddities like the volume toggle in the middle of steering wheel control buttons, as well as the need to hold down a button to see the rear climate control screen and make the necessary adjustments just don't seem well thought out.
While we would never accuse the Ascent of being attractive, it does carry forward the Subaru aesthetic and slots in nicely above the Outback and the Forester. It's very recognizable as a Subie, and the Onyx trim details sub out chrome for black trim. The Onyx Edition is the best-looking trim level in our opinion.
Front: The boxy and tall front end has some presence, but it lacks imagination. The squared off maw is more aggressive than other Subarus.
Rear: The thick bumper and lower fascia give the Ascent a bit too much visual height. We don't like the big chrome strip that joins the intricate taillights.
Profile: Overall, the view from the side is good, but the front hood and long front overhang adds a bit of misproportion.
Cabin: The leather and premium materials give it a rich look and feel, but the center stack is crowded, and the door panels look too complex.
Subaru did a very good job of making the Ascent comfortable. Though it's not as big inside as the VW Atlas, there's enough space for seven average-sized adults. Taller folks should stay out of the third row.
Front Seats: The front seats have good support and decent bolstering. The leather quality is very good, too.
Rear Seats: Our tester had some great standard captains chairs, and they slide fore and aft for maximum adjustability. Six footers can sit behind themselves in the second row, but third row headroom prevents the same way in back.
NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): At higher speeds, you can hear the boxer engine working. For most driving conditions, however, noise levels are fine. There are no squeaks or rattles to speak of.
Visibility: The rear view is compromised by thick pillars, but the front and sides have largely untrammeled views.
Climate: The climate system works well, and the heated/ventilated front seats operate easily and quickly.
The Ascent was recently crash tested and nailed them with top marks. Combined with excellent EyeSight safety tech, it's a package that's hard to beat..
IIHS Rating: The Ascent attained the Top Safety Pick+ rating, and it earned the top score in every category, including accident avoidance technology, LATCH ease of use, and headlights.
NHTSA Rating: The Ascent earned five stars from the federal governnment.
Standard Tech: The Ascent comes packed with EyeSight Driver Assist Technology, EyeSight Assist Monitor, Adaptive Cruise Control with Lane Keep Assist, Blind Spot Detection with Lane Change Assist and Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Reverse Automatic Braking, and Steering Responsive Headlights.
Optional Tech: None.
Though it's not meant to be huge like the VW Atlas, the Ascent still does a rather good job of hauling both people and stuff.
Storage Space: Though there is a big armrest, other than the cupholders there's only a slot in the center stack that's too shallow for anything besides a wallet, which will fly out when you hit the gas hard enough.
Cargo Room: There's 17.8 cubic feet behind the third row, which is a little tight, but fold down all the seats, and a big 86.5 cubic feet is available. That might be less than the VW Atlas, but it's larger than the Dodge Durango and the Audi Q7.
We didn't hammer the Ascent this time, and we drove it mostly on the highway so our numbers were decent. The engine is responsive, but we would've like to see a traditional geared automatic transmission instead of a CVT, but we get why Subaru did it.
Observed: 24.2 mpg
Distance Driven: 84 miles
The 14-speaker system sounds fantastic, and we really enjoyed listening to it. Good base, good clarity, and no distortion means this standard system on the Touring is a great value.