This week, I’ve been behind the wheel of the largest Subaru ever made, the 3-row 2021 Ascent, that debuted and we reviewed in 2018, as a 2019 model. My tester is the Limited, which is next to the top-of-the-line Touring model.
Although much bigger than the Outback, the Ascent has a lot of the same styling cues, such as the bold front grill and the roof rails. Ascent rides on 20” wheels, has dual exhaust, and an attractive strip of chrome between the front and rear wheels at the bottom of the SUV.
Under the hood, you have a 2.4-liter turbocharged Boxer engine, putting out 260-horses and 277-pound feet of torque. It is hooked to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that you can simulate shifts from the paddles on the steering wheel, but it’s doubtful you’ll use them. Although I am not a huge fan of CVTs in general, Subaru has it down. The first CVT I ever drove was in a new Subaru, back in 1985.
Before driving the Ascent, I was concerned it would be sluggish, but that is simply not the case. In fact, it has a 5000-pound towing capacity and More than adequate acceleration.
As with all Subaru SUVs, the Ascent comes with the famous Subaru Symmetrical all-wheel drive system, one of the best on the road. This system quickly pushes power to all the wheels that have traction.
My tester is the Limited trim, and from there you can go down to the base or Premium, or up to the Touring package.
Inside the Ascent, you find a nicely appointed and well-laid-out interior. The stitched seats are very comfortable and if you look up, you’ll see a huge panoramic moonroof. I wouldn’t call it a luxurious interior, but it is near luxury.
Instrumentation is easy to read with a hooded visor to block the sun, and a color, configurable driver information center. The Ascent has a busy, heated steering wheel with a lot of controls for the cruise control, sound system, and your phone.
Moving to the center console are two of the 19-cup holders in the Ascent, the gear shifter, and buttons for X-mode and automatic vehicle hold, so you can take your foot off the brake when stopped. X-mode is Subaru’s off-road control system with hill descent.
In the middle of the center stack is an 8-inch high-definition touchscreen. From there you operate your Bluetooth, navigation, My Subaru for making service appointments, apps, settings, and Subaru Starlink, which is similar to GM’s OnStar.
You also get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, aha, Pandora, voice activation, Sirius and HD radio, CD player, Travel Link, and Wi-Fi connectivity. This has the optional 14-speaker Harman Kardon sound system.
Everything is simple to operate, and is responsive and quick. Up high on the dash is a secondary readout that gives you a lot of information so you don’t have to look down.
Going to the back of the Ascent, the center row features captain chairs with armrests that flip forward for easy access, or you can go between the seats to the third row. Second row occupants get their own climate controls, two power ports, and USBs.
Third row seat room is surprisingly good and would suffice for two adults who are not too tall, and it would be perfect for kids, even older ones.
Cargo area was a HUGE surprise. There is 17.6 cubic feet behind the 3rd row seat and there is a nice storage area for the cargo cover to tuck it out of the way. Fold all seats down and you have an amazing 86 cubic feet of cargo.
Standard Features and Options
Standard features include rear camera, push button start, power tailgate, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, steering responsive LED headlights, and the EyeSight Safety System. New for 2021 is a rear seat reminder warning so you won’t forget something OR somebody.
I talk about EyeSight on the air all the time. This spectacular system has two cameras mounted high on the windshield that monitor traffic, optimizes cruise control, and warns you when you’re outside your lane. The Pre-Collision Braking feature can apply full braking force, bringing you to a complete stop in emergency situations.
Total options cost $2950 and include: the Starlink navigation system, the 14-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, and the panoramic moonroof.
Ride and Drive
Ascent handles great, is quiet inside, and with EyeSight, you and your family can be assured you are going to be as safe as possible. Ascent is EPA rated at 20 City and 26 highway and is actually doing a little better. Total MSRP is $43,595, an exceptional value based on the competition.
For me, an upgraded engine that offered more power would be exceptional, but when you look at the price versus other 3-row all-wheel loaded SUVs, this price and the safety features should make you put the Ascent on your shopping list for sure.
2021 Subaru Ascent Limited
- What I liked most: The value, features, and Eyesight safety system.
- What I would change: An optional, larger engine.
- MSRP: Base price $39,595, as equipped $43,595
- Fuel Economy:Rated at 20 city/26 highway/22 combined.
- Official Color: Abyss Blue Pearl.
- Odometer reading when tested: 2,800 miles.
- Weight: 4608 pounds.
- Spare Tire: Temporary compact mounted under the bumper.
- Length-Width-Height: 196.8” long/76” wide/72” high.
- Fuel Tank Capacity: 19.3 gallons with the filler on the passenger side.
- Towing Capacity: 5000 pounds.
- 2021 Ascent in a few words:Really safe SUV that packs a ton of value.
- Warranty: 3-year/36,000 mile bumper-to-bumper, 5-year/60,000 miles on the powertrain.
- Final Assembly Location: Lafayette, Indiana.
- Manufacturers website: www.SUBARU.com