The all-new 2019 Subaru Ascent adds a three-row SUV to the mix

The all-new 2019 Subaru Ascent. —Subaru

The all-new 2019 Subaru Ascent is the largest Subaru ever with three rows of seating and room for up to eight passengers. It fills a hole in the brand’s lineup, making it possible for growing families to stay with Subaru rather than looking elsewhere when it’s time to haul the kids and their friends around town.

Plenty of three-row options are out there, but Subaru is taking a very Subaru attitude toward the Ascent. This might be an all-new vehicle, but it’s still a Subie at heart with rugged looks in keeping with the rest of the lineup and the capability and practicality that are the hallmarks of the brand.

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Power comes from a 2.4-liter Boxer engine with 260 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque paired to a continuously variable automatic transmission. There’s standard all-wheel drive and X-Mode with hill-descent control for venturing past the pavement.

Although the Ascent isn’t a small vehicle, the engine easily powers it into highway traffic and up steep inclines. A spirited drive through twisting mountain roads proved the Ascent something of a showoff. Instead of feeling like a heavy three-row SUV, it was light and agile, taking corners more like a crossover. It also has a quiet CVT that doesn’t intrude into the cabin.

Our test drive featured an off-road course with sand, loose gravel, and steep hills. The combination of all-wheel drive and X-Mode made this an easy task. In addition to the ever-present all-wheel drive, the press of a button activates X-Mode with hill-descent control. This lets you take your foot off the pedals as the Ascent does the work of managing speed and braking so you can focus on steering.

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As well as being the biggest Subaru ever, the Ascent boasts the highest tow rating of any Subaru at 5,000 pounds. Even a novice won’t find the proposition of towing intimidating, thanks to standard trailer-stability assist. This helps to keep the vehicle controlled by tracking trailer and vehicle movement and braking individual wheels as needed to maintain stability.

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The interior has room for eight passengers with a 60/40 split-folding second-row bench seat or room for seven with optional second-row captain’s chairs. The door openings are wide, and the seats slide forward enough to make getting in and out of the third row less cumbersome for adults. Two can sit comfortably in the third row with plenty of room for heads and knees, but three is a stretch. Anything but a short trip won’t be pleasant for three adults in the third row.

Seating in the first and second rows is spacious and comfortable, though. The Ascent isn’t exactly plush, but it’s far from spartan. Materials are high-quality and appealing, making them perfectly suited to an active lifestyle with mud, dirt, and kids. You can enjoy the Ascent without worrying about ruining an overly done interior.

That spacious cabin also provides lots of room for cargo. There’s up to 17.8 cubic feet behind the third row, 47.5 cubic feet behind the second row, and 86.5 cubic feet behind the third row. A wide liftgate opening gives more flexibility for loading large, bulky items, and a low load floor makes heavy items less of a chore. One last bit of cargo flexibility comes from the standard roof rack.

Also standard is EyeSight driver assistance technology with automatic pre-collision braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure and sway warning, pre-collision throttle management, and a new heads-up windshield display that shows the status of the system and any warnings. Blind-spot detection with lane-change assist and rear cross-traffic alert are available as options.

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There are four available trims starting with the base model at $31,995 and topping out with the Touring at $44.695. Expect to see the all-new three-row 2019 Subaru Ascent in dealerships early this summer.