The Subaru Ascent full-size SUV is the largest vehicle Subaru makes and is the Japanese automaker’s flagship, upgraded in 2021 with no major changes for 2022, except the addition of a new black-themed Onyx trim that Subaru hopes will boost Ascent sales.
Ascent faces fierce competition against similar sized vehicles, but its major competition may be Subaru’s most popular vehicle, the less expensive mid-size Outback SUV.
However, Subaru is known for quality and claims 96% of Subaru vehicles sold in the last ten years are on the road today and Kelly Blue Book rates the 2021 Ascent as having the lowest 5-year cost to own amongst three-row SUVs.
Ascent 2021 has four trims – Base, Premium, Limited (our test-drive) and Touring – and for 2022 the Onyx is a new black-themed exterior and interior trim with water-repellent seats but otherwise a duplicate of the 2021. All Ascent 2021-2022 models have top crash safety ratings.
We had only one $2,950 option that included an 8-inch Starlink multimedia infotainment dashboard screen with safety, comfort and security features plus excellent voice recognition and navigation.
The Ascent has strong driver aids with adaptive cruise control plus lane assist and lane departure alert, now part of Subaru’s highly touted cutting-edge EyeSight® Driver Assist Technology with articulated LED highlights and rear seat buckle up reminders.
We enjoyed Subaru’s sophisticated symmetrical all-wheel drive that kicks in automatically when needed and X-MODE® with hill-descent control for mild off-roading. Ground clearance is 8.7 inches.
Behind the wheel, the ride was composed with the front strut and double wishbone rear independent suspension system absorbing bumps and rough pavement well. Handling was average for a 2-1/2-ton vehicle with some lean in tight turns.
Acceleration was adequate with manual paddles aiding highway passing spurts.
Our seven-passenger Ascent had second-row captains’ chairs (a bench seat adds a passenger) and was upscale with leather-trimmed upholstery, padded door surfaces and top technology using Siri, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a Wi-Fi hotspot plus links to several apps.
Access to the first two rows is excellent, a little more effort to reach less roomy rear seats. Cupholders number 19 and cargo space is excellent with the third row stowed and second row folded. Software updates are over-the-air.
Visors extend, towing muscle is 5,000 lbs. and there is a spare compact tire.
Subaru builds the Ascent at its plant in Lafayette, Indiana, along with the Impreza, Legacy and Outback.
At a Glance
LIKES: Top safety features, ergonomic/posh cabin, power, ride, Subaru reputation
DISLIKES: Jerky stop/start, minor noise, tight third row, some lean in turns
BOTTOM LINE: Ascent in tough competitive market niche with many safety pluses
Fact File: Subaru Ascent Limited/MCE
2.4-liter, 4 cylinders, DOHC, turbo-charged, BOXER
260 hp at 5,600 rpm
277 lbs.-ft. at 2,000-4,800
Continuous variable Lineatronic®, manual paddles
20 mpg city/26 mpg highway
19.3-gallon tank, regular
0-60 in 7 seconds
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Tom Crosby has written more than 1,000 automotive reviews and is a retired Vice President of Communications for AAA Carolinas. He has seen dramatic changes in the automotive industry over the past 25 years and ponders the advent of self-driving vehicles, electric-only vehicles, sophisticated in-car telematics, and the financial challenges facing automotive manufacturers in an increasingly congested worldwide market.