You’ve read our rave reviews of the Subaru Outback. And our equally positive test of the Subaru Forester. You get all fizzy over the Subie driving experience. Heck, you even love their commercials with the dogs. (We love those too). Except you need more room. Like 3 rows of seats room. What to do?
Well, you could drive some other brand and be the person in the SUV with the long face, or you can go for Subaru Ascent with three rows of Subaru goodness. But is a 3-row Sube still a Sube? Let’s find out.
Big, but definitely Subaru
The first thing the faithful might ask, “does it look like a Subaru?” Well, yes, yes it does. Looking like a supersized Forester makes for a handsome vehicle that fits in the family line and is stylish on the road.
Subaru givens include the familiar Trapezoidal grille with LED headlights flanking and giving an angry look. Our tester was the new for ’22 Onyx Edition, and that includes any of the blingy chrome being replaced with a decidedly tough-looking black. It also makes the Subaru badge on the grille really pop.
The profile is very Forester-like, with nice, rounded fenders, black plastic overfenders, and lower trim that creates a unified look. We especially liked the rugged-and-ready appearance of the black-finish 20-inch alloy wheels.
The rear shows your only bing of bling – a chrome finisher that spans the width of the rear hatch, that flows into the LED taillights. The Subaru and Ascent badging are blacked out however, for a stealthy look, while the lower fascia and dual round exhaust pipes look ready for adventure.
Inside is again familiar to Subie fans, only bigger. Since this is the brand’s only 3-row SUV, we’ll talk about seating first. Whether you carry 7 or 8 depends on model – our tester had the 2nd row captain’s chairs, so we maxxed out at 7. While this is the biggest Subie, it’s still not a huge SUV, so that third row is best for kids.
We liked the stretch-out comfort of the 2nd row captain’s chairs, and they have a nice sliding feature that tilts and scoots forward, giving easy access to the back row. Like the 3rd row, they also fold easily to give a large cabin area. The Onyx also features a standard power rear tailgate for easy loading.
The front buckets are comfy and supportive, although we were a little surprised to find they didn’t have an adjustable lumbar support.
Also, while our previous 2020 tester was covered in a rich Java Brown leather, on the 2022 Onyx trim, the seats are wrapped in Subaru StarTex® water-repellant material for durability and easy clean up. Actually, that makes sense – Subaru buyers are an enthusiastic lot who love adventure. Durable and easy cleaning would be our choice.
Ok, there may be no moo-cow seats inside, but you don’t feel let down. The materials are top-notch with a nice fat heated leather steering wheel, stylish silver carbon fiber patterned accent trim and a tall seating position that gives a commanding view. Subies always have a common-sense design with easy to operate switchgear that’s laid out in a friendly manner.
Large, round gauges are easy to read, with a handy driver information center between the tach and speedo. The info-tainment center is a nicely-sized 8-inch screen – no Tesla-like display we had in our recent ‘22 Outback! But plenty big and readable.
You do get all the essentials, including Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Wi-Fi hotspot. Our tester had optional navigation, but we stuck with our WAZE app, which looked great on the screen.
One improvement we noticed over our previous tester; the rearview monitor is now projected on the info-tainment display. Previous models projected the rearview on the smaller driver’s info display that sits in a little hood on top of the dash.
Subaru sensibility means you have volume and tuning knobs, too. Yay! Brightening up our tester’s interior was an optional panoramic moonroof – hey if you’re going to the mountains, the woods or the desert, might as well enjoy everything there is to see.
Drives like a Subie, too
Part of the reason that makes owners are so faithful to this brand is the unique driving experience the model serves up. So, the manufacturer was careful to make sure you know you’re in a Subaru.
It’s not a Subie without a boxer (horizontally opposed) engine under the hood, and Ascent features a powerhouse. The 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder pumps out 260 horsepower and 277 lb.-ft of torque at just 2,000 rpm.
That low-end power gives quick response off the line, with a familiar Subaru engine note. The CVT transmission in the Ascent is one of the best we’ve driven, which is to say, it feels like a traditional automatic. You can even put it in manual mode and shift through simulated gears via steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
Most Ascent buyers probably aren’t planning on racing around like that, but many might want to bring their toys with them. The good news is you’ve got an ample 5,000 lb. towing capacity and standard Trailer Stability Assist for easy and confident towing. The Ascent is efficient too, with a 20 city/26 highway MPG EPA rating.
Another way they make it feel like a Subaru is the quick and confident handling. We found the steering a bit light and surprisingly responsive, but you get used to it quickly. It’s also not a Subaru without Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive – BRZ excluded – and with Active Torque Vectoring, giving excellent traction, the handling makes the big SUV feel surprisingly agile. And despite having massive 20-inch wheels, the ride is supple, quiet, and comfortable too.
Confidence comes along for the ride with Subaru’s EyeSight® Driver Assist Technology featuring Advanced Adaptive Cruise Control with Lane Centering, and on our tester, Blind-Spot Detection with Lane Change Assist and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert – a real life saver when backing out of crowded shopping malls.
Big Subaru Big Price?
Not really. You can get into an Ascent for $32,795. For an 8-passenger vehicle with all that Subie goodness, a bit of a bargain. The nice thing about the Onyx Edition like our tester, Subaru built in on the mid-level Premium trim, so you can have something a little special without breaking the bank.
The Onyx Edition starts at $37,995, and our tester added the lone optional package that includes Panoramic Moonroof, Starlink Multimedia Navigation and a retractable cargo area cover for $2,200. Adding in $1,125 for Destination, and we rang the bell at $41,320.
The big competitor in this class is the Kia Telluride, it’s a larger vehicle, but comparably equipped, you’re looking at $49,170, which is a lot more money. Closer in size is the Toyota Highlander, but at over $50,000 comparably equipped, it’s an even larger financial commitment. And neither will give you that Subaru-ness that we love so much.
Room for 7 or 8, with that unique look and feel, the 2022 Ascent shows Subaru goodness comes in a size that’s sure to fit your needs!
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.