Subaru has a formula they follow. Base their vehicles off of an engine design – a horizontally opposed platform that lowers the center of gravity. Offer a standard all-wheel drive system to spread balance along the lower part of the vehicle. Put it on a new global platform that can be adjusted based on vehicle size. Rinse and repeat.
Some companies have done this. Subaru accomplished this with ease. When you stick to a formula and its works, why do anything else?
The mid-size, three-row Ascent is the largest vehicle built on this basic premise. It was a segment that did not yield success in the previous iteration – the Tribeca. However, Subaru learned its lesson and stuck to what worked across the lineup this time.
To do so, Subaru had to create a design that gives their loyal customers something familiar. Familiar shapes, grille textures, a larger glasshouse – everything that speaks to the good attributes of a Subaru. Familiarity does help customers moving into a larger vehicle to get comfortable with it.
Then we get into the details. The doors open much wider to allow for access into the third-row seats. There is a distinct and quite upscale rear end treatment with a large liftgate for greater cargo access. Details, but notable for Subaru customers to latch onto.
This tester has something special added to it. For 2022, Subaru added an Onyx Edition to the Ascent lineup. Similar to the treatment they gave to the Outback, this new trim level adds blacked-out treatments to the grille and other accents throughout the exterior, along with a set of 20-inch black finished alloy wheels. It makes the Ascent pop out a bit more than usual, which is really a good thing.
So, when are we going to see a Wilderness edition of the Ascent?
Ahem…let’s get back to the review, shall we?
Inside the Ascent were more touches to the Onyx Edition, including a carbon fiber-like plastic trim throughout the cabin, along with two-tone gray/black StarTex leather-like upholstery. The rest are just what you expect in an Ascent, including an analog instrument cluster with a digital information center, and another information screen on top of the center stack.
The controls on this Subaru are tactile and logical to use. The shifter may seem short for some drivers, but it has a very assuring feel when you use it.
This Ascent has an 8.0-inch touchscreen STARLINK infotainment system. It offers smartphone integration with 4G LTE Wi-Fi connectivity. Sound was emitted through six standard speakers with some nice tones throughout the cabin.
As for the front seats, I would love a bit more bolstering and overall support behind the wheel. The Onyx Edition comes in a seven seat configuration with second-row Captain’s Chairs instead of a bench seat.
Cargo space starts with a nice space behind the third row. Fold those seats down to open up a 47.0 cubic feet space behind the second-row seats. With the rearmost rows of seats down, you have a generous 86.0 cubic feet space for a big shopping trip.
The only engine available on the Ascent is a 260-horsepower turbocharged 2.4-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine. With 277 pound-feet of torque connected to a continuously variable transmission and Subaru’s Symmetrical all-wheel drive system, this drievline does a very good job in pulling. Acceleration is smooth with none of the CVT drama. It holds it won on the highway, too.
As for fuel economy, the Ascent returned an average of 22.4 MPG.
The Ascent also returned a smooth ride overall. Very solid all around, with a lot of rougher surface absorption. Handling was quite decent, with some minimal lean and roll exhibited through evasive maneuvers. Cornering was quite good, but keep it within limits to maintain a nice ride for everyone.
As for the steering, I wished it was balanced. I felt some indifference between making tighter turns – it does, but with some vagueness – and on-center confidence. Maybe some recalibration made for driver confidence would work. Then again, I’m being a bit nitpicking here. As for the brakes, they exhibited good pedal feel and decent response. Stops in normal and panic situations were pretty good.
It is worth noting how good Subaru’s EyeSight driver assistance system is. It does a great job scanning the road from its dual camera/sensors letting the systems work well in keeping you safe. There are a lot of driver assistance systems out there, but Subaru created one of the best in the business.
As for the cost of this new 2022 Subaru Ascent Onyx Edition, the sticker reads a figure of $41,320. For a special upper-middle trim level, it’s about right. Pricing for the entire Ascent line starts at $32,295 with five trim levels to choose from.
Let me go back to an earlier statement: The Subaru Ascent is the vehicle for loyal owners to step up into from their Outbacks and Foresters. Not just for the third row of seats, but for the extra space you get and the standard turbocharged engine that is equipped. It is heavier, but it does the job just fine.
What I was hoping to glean from the Ascent is whether this vehicle is worthy of a customer coming from another brand. It can be, if Subaru does a few things to make it more enticing for conquest customers. Such as installing the larger screen seen on the Outback. How about a fully digital screen now seen on the BRZ? How about a Wilderness edition – I know, I already said that…
These upgrades can make a huge difference for a vehicle to become more desirable outside of the loyal customer base.
However, the Ascent is a model that fits the Subaru lineup well. Loyal customers aside, it has the potential to elevate itself as this segment continues to attract familes during this pandemic.
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle is provided by Subaru of America
All photos by Randy Stern