On The Road

Cargo-carrying excellence

Gary Anderson/Special to the Town Crier
The 2019 Subaru Ascent Limited is a full-size SUV featuring three rows of seats. The second and third rows fold down, providing ample cargo space for hauling large items.

With some regret and much anticipation, we have decided to join the tide of Californians moving to Oregon to enjoy their elder years.

We’re moving to a place that is more interested in the latest production of a Will Shakespeare play than the latest piece of new technology from Silicon Valley. We’re moving to Ashland this month.

As part of our transition, a few weeks ago we drove up to meet with our new doctor, make banking arrangements and check the work on our remodeling project. Because the Subaru seems to be the vehicle of choice in Oregon, we arranged to review the brand-new 2019 Subaru Ascent, its made-in-Indiana entry in the three-row full-size SUV category. We were most impressed with its excellent cargo capacity as we hauled up a load of personal effects we won’t need for a while.

With the second-row captains’ chairs and third-row seats folded, we were able to stow 16 standard packing boxes and storage containers, illustrating how big 88 cubic feet of cargo capacity really is. We had to leave 10 inches of space to be able to see out the rear using the rear-view mirror, but if our vehicle had been equipped with the optional rear camera, we could have loaded even more. Once we had unloaded the boxes into our storage space, we went to the office supply store to buy a desk. Even in its 4-foot-by-6-foot box, the disassembled desk stowed easily with the seats folded.

Top-of-the-line features

Overall, we were extremely pleased with Subaru’s new entry into the three-row crossover market. Our test vehicle was the top-line Limited model, priced at $42,920. It comes with $2,950 of navigation, information and Harmon Kardon audio options as well as a panoramic moonroof. The standard equipment list checked all of our must-have safety capabilities, including the EyeSight Assist lane-keeping and active cruise control systems.

On a more fundamental level, the Ascent is equipped with a 2.4-liter Subaru horizontally opposed engine producing 260 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque through a continuously variable transmission (CVT) with all-wheel drive. The powertrain and chassis have a quite adequate trailer-towing capacity of 5,000 pounds, suitable for small camping trailers or outdoor vehicles. That’s the perfect companion capability to the excellent cargo capacity for a small family that enjoys outdoor activities winter and summer.

Our experience during the week included loading our cargo, a day’s drive from Los Altos to Ashland, unloading, errand running – including hauling an unassembled desk back to our new condo – and then doing some sightseeing around southern Oregon, followed by a day’s drive back. One of the days included some rain and wet pavement. In all respects, we were pleased with the performance of the new Ascent.

It was easy to drop the third-row seats into the floor, then fold the second-row captains’ chairs to form a flat floor that could be easily loaded and unloaded. With the vehicle fully loaded, the ride was comfortable and handling was very predictable. As with other new cars we’ve driven recently, the ability to activate lane-keeping assist and cruise control made us feel much more in control, especially on the curves up over the passes in Northern California near Mount Shasta, as well as making the six hours of driving each way much more relaxing.

Good reviews

Fuel consumption was right where the specifications promised. On the highway, we recorded approximately 20 mpg with the vehicle fully loaded and 24 mpg with just two passengers aboard, and 21.5 mpg over the entire 900 miles we drove during the week.

Although having a CVT transmission in an all-wheel drive SUV is a new experience for us, it seemed to be just fine on the highway, and it didn’t exhibit any problems in handling traffic or wet pavement. We didn’t have any reason to test its ability to handle challenging terrain or road surfaces, but it gets good reviews there as well.

The StarLink multimedia system, one of the options with which our Ascent was equipped, was easy to synchronize to our iPhones with Apple Play. We easily made some business calls during the trip, listened to our stored podcasts and music, and supplemented the onboard navigation system, as we were more familiar with navigating using our cellphone system than using the vehicle’s nav capabilities.

One of the fun sidelights of making a trip to Oregon in a brand-new Subaru model is how often people came over to look at our vehicle. Subarus, in an informal tabulation, seem to be the most popular brand in the state and everyone wanted to see the newest model in its lineup.

Although that group can be accused of some bias, they all agreed that Subaru’s stylists had done an excellent job of designing an attractive exterior and handsome interior.

While the Subaru is late to the three-row niche in the crossover market, and that’s a rather competitive segment, the new Ascent can more than hold its own with the established participants in this market category.

Longtime Los Altos residents Gary and Genie Anderson are co-owners of Enthusiast Publications LLC, which edits several car club magazines and contributes articles and columns to automotive magazines and online services.

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