Tested: 2023 Subaru Ascent Premier

Subaru (aka Fuji Heavy Industries) became known for its small, lightweight and extremely agile cars.

 

Subaru has a fanatic following among rally enthusiasts

Sophisticated all-wheel-drive systems, turbocharged and horizontally opposed engines, developed for world rally competition, made their way to production, resulting in a fanatic following among enthusiasts.

A larger Legacy sedan spawned a wagon sibling. Jacked up on a taller suspension and clad in plastic panels, the Legacy became the Outback, the company’s best-seller and a logical alternative to utility vehicles.

The same treatment was applied to the Impreza, which became the Crosstrek – another resounding sales success, especially in Canada.

 

Moving into the lucrative three-row crossover market has been less effective for Subaru (remember the B9 Tribeca?)

The B9 Tribeca, introduced in 2005, never caught on. Dismal sales led to its demise after the 2014 model year.

Undeterred, Subaru set its sights on producing a three-row crossover that could compete in this growing segment, so critical in America.

A concept was shown at the 2017 New York and Los Angeles Auto Shows. Production of the 2019 Ascent began in 2018 at the company’s new plant in Lafayette, Indiana alongside the Impreza, Legacy and Outback.

 

2023 Subaru Ascent
Photo: Lisa Calvi

 

 

 

The Ascent – the largest Subaru ever – an immediate hit

The new flagship was more successful from the outset than the Tribeca. Hailed as a functional, easy-to-live-with three row crossover, the largest Subaru ever built gained immediate acceptance, especially with loyal Subaru customers. Those Subaru traits – all-wheel-drive, turbocharged power, and supple suspension shine in this vehicle.

The Ascent has received a mid-cycle makeover for the 2023 model year. In addition to a new grill, front bumper, LED head and taillights, it gains a new generation of safety and technical features.

 

2023 Subaru Ascent
Photo: Garry Sowerby

 

Inside the mid-cycle refresh of the Subaru Ascent

Inside there is a redesigned dash with a larger vertically oriented 30-cm infotainment screen.

There are several thoughtful family-oriented touches, like a small cubby to the left of the steering wheel, a tray running the full length of the dash, and 19 cupholders(!), most of which capable of holding large, insulated bottles.

 

2023 Subaru Ascent
Photo: Lisa Calvi

 

Depending on the trim, the Ascent can carry either seven or eight passengers. Front seat occupants of long limb will appreciate the adjustable leg support extension.

Second-row occupants don’t get short shrift. Rear doors open almost 90 degrees for easy access. The heated captain’s chairs in the tester were covered in supple leather. There are two USB ports, and your own HVAC controls.

The third row is best left to small people and/or short trips. With it in position, cargo space is pretty tight for such a large vehicle.

Large windows and a low windowsill provide good visibility.

 

Top IIHS Safety Pick rating for the Ascent

Subaru is proud of its reputation for safety – rightfully so. The Ascent’s has been awarded a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety under the new stricter 2023 standards. It gets top marks in the ability to avoid a crash and protect occupants in the event one occurs.

The new adaptive LED headlights contribute to the high ratings.

The 2023 Ascent is equipped with the latest generation of the award-winning EyeSight suite of active safety features. In addition to updated software, the system now has a new camera with a wider field of view. Features include adaptive cruise control, automatic lane center, those great headlights, automatic emergency braking, rear cross traffic alert and blind-spot monitoring. Upper trim levels, such as the tester, also get a surround-view camera.

 

The Ascent is no WRX when it comes to tackling the twisties.

Its height, and weight combined with that supple suspension, result in more lean than the smaller sports sedan. But this is a very small price to pay for the ability to soak up road imperfections with such aplomb. Nobody buys a three-row crossover with the intent of bombing down secondary roads or entering rallies.

 

2023 Subaru Ascent
Photo: Garry Sowerby

 

The turbocharged, 2.4-litre boxer engine produces 277 lb-ft of torque at only 2,000 rpm, resulting in a gutsy feel from the outset.

This is a large and relatively heavy (2,100 kg) vehicle. But you are not aware of that when pulling away from rest.

The continuously variable automatic transmission is programmed with eight simulated ratios, allowing it to feel and sound like a conventional automatic. Obviously winter and other slippery conditions are of no concern thanks to the proven all-wheel-drive system.

Fuel economy, while not stellar, is competitive in the mid-size three-row segment.

The Ascent’s smooth ride, all-weather ability, spacious interior and outstanding safety features make a compelling case for consideration for those shopping for a mid-size three-row crossover.

 

FACTS & FIGURES – 2023 Subaru Ascent Premier

 

PRICE

Base: $53,995

As tested: $55,990 including freight

 

SAFETY

Advanced Eye-Sight driver assist technology (Adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, lane centering assist, lane keep assist and sway warning, pre-collision warning), rear/side vehicle detection, reverse automatic braking, power heated and folding mirrors, windshield wiper de-icer,  LED steering-responsive headlights with automatic high beams, hill descent control and start assist, trailer stability control

 

INFOTAINMENT

30-cm display with navigation, 14-speakers Harmon Kardon audio system with sub-woofer, satellite radio, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality

 

STANDARD EQUIPMENT

Three-zone automatic climate control, heated & power-folding mirrors, cruise control, 12-way power driver’s seat with memory, four-way power passenger seat, napa leather seating, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, tilt & telescope steering wheel, 20-in alloy wheels, power liftgate with memory, auto-dimming mirror with Homelink, rear window sunshades, front view camera, surround view monitor, 120-volt outlet

 

MECHANICAL

Turbocharged and intercooled 2.4 litre horizontally-opposed four-cylinder, 260 horsepower, 277 lb.-ft. of torque, regular fuel, Continuously Variable automatic Transmission, all-wheel-drive, NRCan rating (litres/100km city/highway): 12.3/9.4

 

DIMENSIONS

Length, 4,998 mm; width, 1,930 mm; wheelbase, 2,890 mm; weight, 2,082 kg.

 

COMPETITION

Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, Hyundai Palisade, Kia Telluride, Mazda CX-90

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