I felt the need to get higher than sea level in our tester, the 2023 Subaru Ascent. With a model name like that from a brand like Subaru, it made sense. Instead of a Rocky Mountain high, I’ll content myself with ascending three of the highest points in the Halifax area.
I set out on a weekday afternoon, feeling the guilty pleasure of escaping the office to drive around on my ‘mission’, be a tourist in my own town and absorb the finer points of life in Subaru’s largest vehicle, the refreshed 2023 Ascent.
I can’t talk about Subaru’s three-row SUV without mentioning the brand’s first foray into this segment, the B9 Tribeca. That vehicle, produced from 2005 until its lacklustre finish in 2014, was a three-row vehicle that didn’t quite hit the mark.
Although I liked the styling, most critics claimed this was one area where Subaru erred with the Tribeca. It didn’t look like a Subaru. Today, with its mid-cycle redesign, including a new front fascia and larger grille, the handsome Ascent bears the family resemblance that will appeal to loyal Outback and Forester buyers looking to upsize.
And upsize it is. The Ascent offers cavernous carrying capacity with the second and third rows folded down. For passengers, the third row is not too cramped and leg room is sufficient. If I’m not in the driver’s seat, though, the second row, with its premium adjustable Captain’s Chairs, is higher on my list of favourite places to be.
On my higher-than-sea-level mission, my first destination was Geizer Hill. Until I did the research on the highest points in the area, I had no idea about this hidden gem of a walking trail in the midst of the urban hubbub. The summit is one of Halifax’s high points, but the trail is for walking only, so the Ascent would have to move on.
The journey to the next stop featured a little rip on a four-lane highway and one of my favourite types of roadways, the merge lane, a legitimate reason to push the pedal.
I think the Ascent was excited, too, for the opportunity to show off Subaru’s pretty powerful 2.4-litre four-cylinder direct injection turbocharged BOXER engine. With 260 horsepower and a very decent torque rating of 277 foot-pounds, merging onto the highway is a snap.
Halifax is bordered on the east by Hammonds Plains, Kearney Lake and Timberlea and a surprising urban wilderness. Blue Mountain is at the centre, next to an area called The Promised Land (to be explored in the future). At 150 metres above sea level, the top of Blue Mountain is the highest elevation in the Halifax Regional Municipality.
A parcel of land almost the size of the Halifax Peninsula that includes forests, lakes, granite plateaus, barrens, wetlands, lakes, and streams, has been protected under the Wilderness Areas Protection Act. Trails are unmarked but well-used by hikers, canoers and mountain bikers. The hope is that a trail system will eventually be developed.
When that happens, the Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes Wilderness Area will claim the title of largest urban park in North America. Right in our own backyard!
Of course, the Ascent and I both knew we wouldn’t be driving to the top of Blue Mountain but we sure had fun trying to access the trailhead. The SUV has great road stability, it’s a Subaru after all, with symmetrical full-time All-Wheel drive, solid braking and driving dynamics.
On my high-point outing, I certainly wasn’t demonstrating my nerdy side in driving manners.
The 2023 Subaru Ascent has added a bucket-load of new tech and safety features. Stay tuned for a full review of the 2023 Subaru Ascent from Richard Russell.
I definitely elevated my mood driving up (and down) the steep streets of the city, looking for up-high views.
The Ascent and I ended our high-points mission at Citadel Hill. The expansive view over my home city made me proud of its natural beauty. With the ocean at its doorstep and the Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes Wilderness Preserve as its BIG backyard, Halifax Regional Municipality is a beautiful place to live.
And the Ascent helped me get to ‘the top’ of it in style!