2024 Subaru Ascent / Photo by Steve Rossi

Car Review: 2024 Subaru Ascent Above The Law Of Average

EAST HADDAM, CT – Like the brand’s other models, Subaru’s Ascent has something in common beyond the cluster of stars badge on the grille. They’re all built on a common underbody, a “global” platform that’s further adaptable to tomorrow’s electrification needs. The company claims the single design concept improves comfort, safety and over-the-road dynamic behavior.

But what it also does is reduce manufacturing complexity, allows for the use of common components, and minimizes the demand on engineering resources. 

And while that strategy might be good for the company coffers, does such a lack of model specificity really benefit the consumer? 

No doubt, it’s of little consequence for the average buyer, though it certainly must make Subarus a bit easier to service and find parts for. But when it comes to drivers who might be a little more demanding, such rationale is somewhat of a compromise.

The Ascent occupies the highest rung on the Subaru product ladder and has enabled the Japanese automaker to expeditiously scale the three-row utility segment with seating for up to eight. Other than its exterior dimensions, everything beneath this family friend’s skin is quite familiar. 

The Ascent was recently restyled and while its Subaru DNA remains quite clear, its front end is now more prominent. In addition to a bolder grille, the LED headlights and lower bumper are sleeker and more aerodynamic, while the rear C-shaped tail lamps are more distinctive.

The interior has likewise been tweaked. The usual Subaru control systems have been updated and embellished, with an 11.6-inch tablet style central information display that relies on touchscreen control.

The 2024 Ascent comes standard with the latest version of EyeSight Driver Assist Technology. The enhanced system operates more smoothly and in a greater range of conditions. A wider field of view, updated control software, and the addition of an electric brake booster is included.

Models equipped with Blind-Spot Detection with Lane Change Assist and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert include Automatic Emergency Steering, a safety feature that works in conjunction with the EyeSight Pre-Collision Braking to help the vehicle avoid a collision when traveling at speeds slower than 50 mph.

Pricing starts at $34,195 for the base model and includes such standard features as steering-responsive LED headlights with high beam assist; rear seat reminder; front tri-zone and rear automatic climate control; automatic power door locks; power windows and power side mirrors; security system with engine immobilizer; rear vision camera; charge ports in the front and rear center consoles; raised roof rails; 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels in silver finish and 19 cupholders.

There are also Ascent Premium ($36,995), Onyx ($41,795), Limited ($42,095) and Touring ($48,695) editions available. Such widespread model proliferation has become the norm at Subaru these days.

Equipped with a standard 2.4-liter turbocharged boxer engine, the Ascent produces 260 horsepower and 277 lb.-ft. of torque. It’s paired with a high-torque Lineartronic® CVT (continuously variable transmission) featuring an 8-speed manual mode function. Steering wheel paddle shifters give the driver added control. 

The powertrain allows up to 5,000 pounds of towing capacity, the most of any Subaru in history. All trim levels come standard with Subaru symmetrical all-wheel drive and X-MODE with hill descent control for enhanced all-weather and trail-driving capability.

As is typical for Subaru four-cylinder, horizontally opposed engines, the Ascent is somewhat gnarly on acceleration, but the company continues to reduce such unfortunate noise intrusion. Subaru engine auto start/stop systems are notoriously irritating as well.

Finally, because the “global” platform has been stretched to its limit, the brakes on my Limited tended to growl on heavy deceleration. Which comes as no surprise since the Ascent weighs almost 1,000 lbs. more (4,505 vs. 3,537) than a smaller, two-row Forester utility.

Dynamically, the big Subaru proved to be responsive, compliant and confidence-inspiring down the road. Obviously, it’s no sports car. 

The Ascent has been recognized as a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) for the sixth consecutive year. It also earned top marks with a 5-Star Overall Vehicle Score from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and been rated with the lowest 5-year Cost-to-Own in its class by Kelley Blue Book. 

That can be called expanding above the law of average. 

(All photos courtesy of Subaru unless otherwise noted.)

About Steven Rossi

Steve Rossi is an automotive engineer-turned-marketing communicator. With some 25 years in the industry, including three tours of duty in Detroit, he serves as senior columnist for "Antique Automobile" magazine. His work has also appeared in "Collectible Automobile" and "The New York Times." He holds 21 international speed and world automotive endurance records.

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