Pros: Standard all-wheel drive; above-average ground clearance; useful roof rails; simple controls; great visibility
Cons: Plain interior; disconnected driving experience; helicopter parent safety tech; garish front styling
The three-row crossover SUV segment has seen a recent influx of style and near-luxury accommodations that has left the 2024 Subaru Ascent looking like a rugged, no-nonsense hiking boot amidst an aisle of colorful, fashionable trail running shoes. Oh sure, Subaru tried to spruce up the Ascent last year with a new front end, but the garish new grille just made it ugly instead of forgettable. Meanwhile, the interior saw a worthwhile tech update, but remains pretty plain inside when compared to a Kia Telluride, Hyundai Palisade, Honda Pilot … well, almost everything else.
Like a rugged, no-nonsense hiking boot, though, the Ascent offers abundant practicality, versatility and value. It squeezes a ton of interior space out of a smaller-than-average exterior footprint, it gets good fuel economy, and its turbocharged engine makes it a good choice for those at higher elevations. It also has more ground clearance than average, standard all-wheel-drive and adventure-friendly features like standard raised roof rails. All of the above are typical for Subaru, which really speaks to who the Ascent is for: Subaru loyalists who have outgrown their Foresters or Outbacks. The Ascent even drives like a big Outback, which isn’t always a good thing, but at least it’ll be familiar. At the same time, even if we’d sooner recommend a competitor to non-Subaru loyalists, there’s no reason they couldn’t become just as enamored with those same Subaru traits, especially if you have a knack for taking outdoorsy adventures.
Interior & Technology | Passenger & Cargo Space | Performance & Fuel Economy
What it’s like to drive | Pricing & Trim Levels | Crash Ratings & Safety Features
What’s new for 2024?
After significant updates last year, the Ascent is unchanged for 2024.
From the driver’s seat, the Ascent’s packaging displays Subaru’s pragmatic philosophy to car design. All the gauges are easy to see and read at a glance, knobs and buttons are easy to locate — both those of the software-based touchscreen infotainment system and the physical ones on the steering wheel and center stack. There aren’t as many clever cubbies as in a Hyundai Palisade or Honda Pilot, but there are a grand total of 19 cupholders spread throughout the cabin. Anticipate frequent bathrooms stops.
In terms of design, we can’t say the interior is that attractive, especially when compared to the Palisade, Pilot, Telluride, Highlander, Pathfinder … So yeah, almost everything. The jumbo portrait-style tech interface added last hardly improves things, but at least it’s all in keeping with Subaru’s no-nonsense vibe. Even that touchscreen’s graphics are on the sensible side, with big, easily identified and pressed virtual buttons. It’s not fancy, but it works well – which could probably be an unofficial Subaru slogan. Materials quality is agreeably average, and although it doesn’t quite achieve the premium vibe of all those rivals, the pops of color and dash-covering pleather are appreciated touches.
All of that said, should you be ascending to the Ascent from something else in the Subaru lineup, you’re going to feel absolutely at home. This is especially true now that the Ascent shares the Outback’s tech interface – there’s no chance you’ll feel shortchanged by Subaru’s biggest and priciest model not having access to the latest-and-greatest features.
For those already in the Subaru family, the Ascent represents a clear step up from the brand’s other crossovers. It is 5.5 inches longer than an Outback, 3 inches wider and 5.2 inches taller. It’s a whopping 14.7 inches longer than a Forester, 4.5 inches narrower and 3.5 inches shorter in height. It also has an extra row of seats. Compared to other three-row crossovers, however, its dimensions are average apart from being taller than most. This is partly because of its class-leading 8.7 inches of ground clearance, but also just because of its tall, boxy greenhouse.
A 6-foot passenger will have plenty of room in the second row, which is adjustable for legroom and seatback angle. On upper trim levels, buyers can choose between a pair of captain’s chairs or a three-passenger bench. We’ve found that they’re basically equal in terms of comfort. Third-row passengers are treated better in the Ascent than in several competitors (Toyota Highlander, Mazda CX-90 and Ford Explorer in particular), but is ultimately average. That means if the middle-seat occupants are willing to slide their seats forward a bit, there’s adequate legroom for a 6-footer in the way back to sit comfortably for a fair bit of time. For kids, this means even more comfort and space.