Road Test: 2024 Subaru Ascent

The Ascent was Subaru’s first swing at the rapidly growing three-row SUV market and it was the largest vehicle ever sold by the brand when it arrived for the 2019 model year. By Japanese standards it’s so big they don’t even offer it for sale in their home market. It was designed mainly for markets like the U.S and Canada that have an insatiable appetite for full-size vehicles.

2024 Subaru Ascent

With fierce competitors like the Honda Pilot, Kia Telluride, and Hyundai Palisade to name but a few, the Ascent had an uphill climb to try and secure its place in the market. It’s a good thing that Subaru has a devoted fan base that appreciates the eccentricities that make a Subaru a Subaru. It also helps that the Ascent is a good SUV that nails the fundamentals of space, comfort, and versatility that are required in this segment.

Exterior: At first glance the Ascent is unmistakably a Subaru with its typically quirky styling and it’s not as big as something like the Chevy Traverse but that’s not exactly a bad thing. There were some updates to the styling, mainly a new grille and front-end styling and updated tech for the 2023 model year including the 11.6-inch portrait-oriented infotainment screen becoming standard across all the trims.

2024 Subaru Ascent

Like most others three rows, big and boxy works best and the Ascent fits this to a tee. There are no changes for 2024 and the Ascent like most other Subarus is a love it or leave it affair when it comes to the design.

Interior: Dominating the dash is the large 11.6-inch infotainment screen that houses most of the major controls including the climate controls and although we prefer more buttons the Ascent’s screen is large and easy to use while driving. It also gets wireless Android Auto and Apple car play and the Limited and Premier trims add a built-in navigation system with What3words functionality.

2024 Subaru Ascent

Front row occupants get comfortable seats that hold up well on longer drives and excellent ergonomics mean all the major controls are intuitive and easy to reach. Everything is also screwed together really well and in general the materials range from soft-touch to harder plastics as you look lower down but that’s par for the course in this category.

Third-row occupants will find more space than in something like an Acura MDX but less than what you get in a Telluride, although cupholders and USB ports mean that younger children would be quite comfortable and also well accommodated. It’s worth noting that while the Subaru lacks some of the fancier tech like a digital gauge cluster and a head-up display, neither are deal breakers. What’s more important is the driver safety and assistance tech and Subaru’s Eyesight system now uses a more advanced wide-angle mono camera that improves detection of pedestrians, cyclists, and other cars and includes automatic emergency steering, lane centering assist, and reverse automatic braking.

2024 Subaru Ascent

The Ascent is available in either a 7-or 8-passenger configuration depending on whether the middle row is specified with captain’s chairs.

Powertrain: Even Subaru sport sedans like the WRX are no stranger to rough roads and in fact seem to thrive when the pavement ends. The Ascent is no different and has Subaru’s trademark long-travel suspension taken to new heights, literally. All Ascents come with a full-time all-wheel drive system and Subaru’s X-mode that includes snow/dirt or deep snow/mud settings and standard hill descent control that will make short work of a snowy commute or cottage trail.

2024 Subaru Ascent

The 2.5-litre boxer 4-cylinder is aided by a turbocharger to produce 260 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque, placing the Ascent right in the meat of its competition when it comes to power. It’s an energetic mill with more than adequate power for merging on the highway and passing slower cars and it’s also relatively efficient registering in the low 11L/100 km range in mixed city and highway driving.

Drive: When Subaru first came out with the Forester compact crossover, it was labelled as the SUV that handled like a car. It was one of the first popular crossovers that came at a time when the public was still largely interested in sedans. The Forester offered the space and capability of a utility vehicle, but it really did drive like a small car and the largest Ascent seems to keep that tradition going.

Like all Subarus, the controls and steering all require a light touch but offer good feedback in return. This big three-row SUV almost feels light and nimble in the corners with precise steering and confident handling. The best part is the ride quality which remains comfortable no matter the road surface. For such a big vehicle the Ascent drives smaller than it looks and that’s high praise indeed.

Conclusion: With a multitude of options, deciding on a three-row SUV can be a dauting task but it doesn’t have to be. The Ascent might be a bit on the simpler side when it comes to tech, but it makes up for it with a rewarding drive, excellent safety tech, and a robust all-wheel drive system. It might not be the most spacious option here, but the Ascent remains an excellent choice for shoppers that are in the market for a three-row family vehicle.

2024 Subaru Ascent Limited
Price as tested: $54,574.00
Freight/PDI: $2,295.00
Configuration: Front engine/All-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 2.5-litre single-turbo boxer 4-cylinder/CVT
Power/torque: 260 horsepower/ 277 lb-ft of torque
Fuel (capacity): Regular (73 L)
Combined fuel economy ratings (L/100 km): 11.0 L/100 km
Observed fuel economy (L/100 km): 11.4 L/100 km
Warranties: 3-years/60,000 km (basic)
Competitors: Chevrolet Traverse, Honda Pilot, Hyundai Palisade, Kia Telluride, Mazda CX-90
Website: Subaru Canada

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