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Three-row SUV perfect for adventurous families


The 2019 Subaru Ascent is powered by a turbocharged, 2.5-litre, horizontally-opposed, four-cylinder engine capable of up to 260 horsepower and 277 lb.-ft. of torque. (Subaru)
The 2019 Subaru Ascent is powered by a turbocharged, 2.5-litre, horizontally-opposed, four-cylinder engine capable of up to 260 horsepower and 277 lb.-ft. of torque. (Subaru) - The Chronicle Herald

I recall the day in 2005 when Subaru introduced the Tribeca.

After flying into New York, we were taken to a restaurant in lower Manhattan. Known as Tribeca, the neighbourhood was in the early stages of a transformation from commercial to trendy.

Artists, actors, models and young entrepreneurs were transforming the commercial buildings into apartments they called flats. Bistros and restaurants were cropping up like new grass in the spring.

Subaru chose the site to introduce the largest vehicle it had produced to date — the B9 Tribeca. The symbolism was front and centre. This was a new vehicle developed to appeal to a new set of consumers and their growing families.

The following day we drove the new Subaru off the crowded island and on a variety of roads upstate. The 2005 Tribeca was the biggest and most expensive vehicle in the Subaru lineup. The seven-passenger Tribeca I drove that day rolled off Subaru’s Indiana assembly line, stickered at $52,495. It had a 3.0-litre flat six engine producing 250 horsepower and 219 lb.-ft. of torque.

Last week I drove the new three-row 2019 Subaru Ascent, the largest vehicle in the Subaru camp. It stickered at $46,995. The big ute had a 2.5-litre flat four under hood that produces 260 horsepower and 277 lb.-ft. of torque. It had rolled off that same Indiana assembly line. It had a raft of features and safety equipment that had not been envisioned when the Tribeca came to market.

The Ascent is a large vehicle with a massive cabin. Three-row seating is standard with a choice of buckets or bench in the middle. That second row might be its best feature, especially if you regularly carry more than one passenger, or have little ones in child seats.

The second-row seats slide fore/aft through a long range. In the rear-most position it readily accommodates full-size teens or grownups with plenty of head and legroom; that room also allows children to be seated in their carriers without being pushed up tight against the front seat back.

The seats can also be pushed forward for easier access to the little ones from up front, or to the third seat. Getting to the rearmost seat is also aided by wide rear-door openings. But you will have to be limber or small to become comfortable back there. There must have been some tall people with big children on the interior design team because the seats up front in business class are also worthy of praise. An adjustable cushion can be pulled out for those long of limb.

If the second row is equipped with captain’s chairs, like the tester, you could slide a pair of skis or other objects up to seven feet long between them. The third row folds completely flat and the second row folds almost flat to create a cargo cavern.

Power, and plenty of it, comes from a turbocharged, horizontally-opposed, four-cylinder engine that runs on regular fuel. The development team did an excellent job of masking the sound associated with this design. Between the engine and AWD system is a continuously variable transmission. Subaru engineers have done a good job of mimicking a conventional automatic transmission in everyday use. But they could not hide the unpleasant moan under sustained wide-open throttle use.

Fuel economy is OK for such a large vehicle. I averaged about 14.5 litres/100 km in the city and about 10 for a week of mixed, city and highway, driving in cold winter weather.

The Ascent comes with Subaru’s excellent all-wheel-drive system, including X-mode for additional grip in mud or snow. Thanks to that, the Ascent provides a stress-free environment whether in town or on the highway. The ride is supple and the interior all but silent.

The Ascent comes in four trim levels – Convenience, $35,995; Touring, $40,995; Limited, $46,495 and Premier, $46,495. The Captain’s chairs are a $500 option in the Touring and Limited models. All include three-zone automatic climate control, power driver’s seat, heated front seats and a suite of safety features. The Limited, with Captain’s chairs, trim tester also boasted a 20-cm touch screen display with navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, power glass sunroof, 20-inch alloy wheels, leather seats and a 792-watt, 14-speaker Harmon Kardon audio system.

The camera-based EyeSight system brings pre-collision brake assist, adaptive cruise control, lane departure and sway warning, lead vehicle start alert, rear/side vehicle detection system, blind spot detection, lane change assist, rear cross traffic alert and reverse automatic braking.

A couple of nice touches include the ability to use voice activation to input a destination into the nav system instead of having to laboriously enter it one line at a time. The eye-sight system sounds a beep when the vehicle ahead starts to move in heavy traffic.

The competitively-priced Subaru Ascent has a spacious and luxurious interior. Combined with proven all-season prowess, it instantly becomes a worthy entry in the three-row utility vehicle class.

The specs

Model:

2019 Subaru Ascent Limited (with captain’s chairs)

Engine:

turbocharged, 2.5-litre, horizontally-opposed, four-cylinder, 260 horsepower, 277 lb.-ft. of torque, regular fuel

Transmission:

continually variable automatic

NRCan rating (litres/100km city/highway):

11.6 / 9.0

Length:

4,998 mm

Width:

2,187 mm

Wheelbase:

2,890 mm

Weight:

2,073 kg

Price:

$46,995 base, $48,795 as tested, including freight

Competition:

Chevrolet Traverse, Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot and Passport, Kia Sorento, Mazda CX-9, Toyota Highlander and Volkswagen Atlas

Options on test vehicle:

none

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