2020 Subaru Ascent

2020 Subaru Ascent Review: To Greater Heights

Larger than life and the biggest ever produced by Subaru, the Ascent is the Japanese brand's flagship SUV, boasting three rows, seating up to eight, and equipped with all-wheel-drive from the get-go. But it's more than just a behemoth in size and seat-count; it's an SUV that has been purpose-built to conquer the midsize market in the United States, jam-packed with more tech and safety features than you can shake an IIHS award at. Every Ascent is powered by a 2.4-liter turbocharged boxer four-cylinder, with a healthy 260 horsepower channeled via a CVT automatic gearbox to ensure competitive fuel economy. But the three-row SUV fray is a tough one, with competitors ranging from the Honda Pilot and Mazda CX-9 to newer entrants like the Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade - arguably the Ascent's toughest challenge.

2020 Subaru Ascent Changes: 🚙What’s the difference vs 2019 Ascent?

Still in the early years of its life after being freshly introduced for 2019, Subaru hasn't needed to reinvent the Ascent, and instead gives it a few minor updates to see it safely into 2020. All Ascent trims are now equipped with a rear-seat reminder system that displays a message on the instrument panel and plays an audible tone when items (or pets and children) are left in the rear seats unattended. A vehicle lock button is now included with the optional power-operated rear liftgate, and every model as of the Premium trim now features one-touch cabin lighting controls. Lastly, the top-tier Touring trim is standard with power-folding exterior mirrors with integrated turn signals.

Pros and Cons

  • Refined ride and handling balance
  • Big cabin with loads of versatility
  • Expansive cargo area
  • Oh-so-many standard features
  • Intuitive infotainment system
  • Overly sensitive accelerator pedal
  • The engine is occasionally noisy
  • Relatively cramped third-row seats

Best Deals on Ascent

2020 Subaru Ascent Trims

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
Base
2.4-liter Turbo Flat 4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
All-Wheel Drive
$31,995
Premium
2.4-liter Turbo Flat 4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
All-Wheel Drive
$34,395
Limited
2.4-liter Turbo Flat 4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
All-Wheel Drive
$39,345
Touring
2.4-liter Turbo Flat 4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
All-Wheel Drive
$45,045

Ascent Exterior

Subaru is a company that has hardly ever been considered a champion of automotive design; less so when it comes to its amorphous SUVs that do little to etch themselves into the memories of potential buyers. But while it might not be striking, the Ascent's simplicity means it isn't offensive in the slightest. Rugged black body cladding and raised roof rails are shared traits across the lineup, while the base, Premium, and Limited models all get body-color door handles - replaced by chrome items on the Touring with matching wing mirrors. Projector beam headlights feature on the base pair of trims, upgraded to steering-responsive LED headlights and LED foglights on the upper pair. A power panoramic sunroof is standard on the Touring, but can be equipped on lesser trims for a fee. Wheel sizes range from 18 inches on base and Premium models to 20-inch designs on the Limited and Touring.

2020 Subaru Ascent Front Angle View Subaru
2020 Subaru Ascent Rear Angle View Subaru
2020 Subaru Ascent Side View Subaru
See All 2020 Subaru Ascent Exterior Photos

Dimensions

You don't competently house three rows and eight seats in a midsize package without a sizable footprint, and the Ascent is proof of this as the brand's largest ever passenger vehicle. An overall body length of 196.8 inches has the Ascent span only 0.3 inches longer than the Honda Pilot, however, its 113.8-inch wheelbase has an advantageous 2.8 inches on the Pilot. A running ground clearance of 8.7 inches positions the Ascent 1.5 inches higher off the ground than the Pilot, its overall height of 71.6 inches means it stands a full one inch taller. The Ascent measures a segment-typical 76 inches wide. With a standard-fit AWD system onboard, the Ascent is heavier than the average vehicle in its class. Curb weights range from 4,430 lbs to 4,603 lbs, the latter of which is around 300 pounds heavier than the heaviest Pilot.

  • Length 196.8 in
  • Wheelbase 113.8 in
  • Height 71.6 in
  • Max Width 76.0 in
  • Front Width 64.4 in
  • Rear Width 64.2 in

Exterior Colors

The Ascent can be had in up to eight exterior colors depending on the trim, though all are no-cost options. Available across the board are Crystal Black Silica, Magnetite Gray Metallic, and Crystal White Pearl. Also available for the base, Premium, and Limited is Ice Silver Metallic, the latter two trims get exclusive availability to Tungsten Metallic, while those two trims and the Touring can also be optioned in either Abyss Blue Pearl, Cinnamon Brown Pearl, and Crimson Red Pearl. While the Crystal White Pearl highlights the Ascent's features from a contrast perspective, the Cinnamon Brown Pearl isn't going to pick up as much dirt on dusty roads and it doesn't look half bad either, although Abyss Blue Pearl is the pick of the lot.

  • Crystal Black Silica
  • Ice Silver Metallic
  • Magnetite Gray Metallic
  • Crystal White Pearl
  • Abyss Blue Pearl
  • Crimson Red Pearl
  • Cinnamon Brown Pearl
  • Tungsten Metallic

Ascent Performance

As a family-centric three-row SUV, the Subaru Ascent has been wholly designed to deliver a comfortable and capable ride above all else. Its powertrain, which comprises a 2.4-liter turbo flat-four engine, CVT automatic gearbox, and permanent all-wheel-drive system, delivers robust yet smooth acceleration throughout its rev range while remaining competitively frugal as well. Sporty straight-line performance is no priority or prerequisite factor in this class, and at full throttle, the Ascent will accelerate from 0-60 mph in a run-of-the-mill seven seconds or so, no faster or slower than the Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, or even the Mazda CX-9. Subaru punts the Ascent as a versatile vehicle that delivers a car-like driving experience along with the SUV capability its classification requires. While the base Ascent trim is rated for a maximum towing capacity of only 2,000 lbs, all the rest are rated for a maximum towing capacity of 5,000 lbs, which is more on par with the class. The Ascent's standard all-wheel-drive system sets it apart from other SUVs in the class, which typically come equipped in a front-wheel-drive guise with AWD at an additional cost.

2020 Subaru Ascent Front View Driving Subaru
2020 Subaru Ascent Rear View Driving Subaru
2020 Subaru Ascent Side View Driving Subaru

Engine and Transmission

With peak outputs of 260 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque at hand, the Ascent's relatively low-displacement 2.4-liter turbo flat-four is perfectly competent at its task of moving the midsize three-row SUV. The twin-scroll turbocharger, direct injection, and variable valve timing optimize power delivery and fuel efficiency too, the latter further supplemented by the Ascent's efficiency-minded CVT automatic gearbox.

With these constituents, the Ascent has no problem keeping up with other cars when pulling away from a standstill. Gaining speed to merge onto highways is easily accomplished, and initiating high-speed overtakes are effortless. Steady cruising is where the Ascent feels most refined though as the powertrain can feel and sound abrupt and noisy when heavy doses of throttle are applied. Throttle responses are impressive, however, and not even the CVT can dull the turbocharged torque that gets the sizable SUV on the move at a decent rate.

Engaging the X-Mode simply improves stability and traction control of the AWD system while also activating the hill descent control feature.

  • Engine
    2.4-liter Turbo Flat 4 Gas
  • Transmission
    Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
  • Drivetrain
    AWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

The Subaru Ascent rides with a poised and refined ride quality that's not exactly missing from the segment but is considered a basic requirement. However while rivals do favor smooth tarmac, the Ascent is far more capable at filtering out lumps and bumps on broken tarmac and gravel roads, absorbing sharp jabs with alacrity. The composure also gives it the sense of being smaller than dimensions make it out to be, making it wieldy and easy to pilot. Despite this, it's not an SUV geared towards driving enthusiasts, lacking the engagement and chuckability of the Mazda CX-9 and Honda Pilot.

It is easy to maneuver, though, with light steering making it easy to navigate school drop-offs, while the firm, progressive brakes are easy to modulate and do a more than sufficient job of bringing the Ascent to a halt.

In the event you take the Ascent off-road, the surefootedness of permanent all-wheel-drive and ample ground clearance inspire confidence, and while there's no dual-range transfer case to enable rock crawling, the X-Mode setting on the CVT transmission tightens up the ratios to maximise low-down torque and activates hill descent control to give the Ascent impressive ability against the rest of the crossover clan.

Ascent Gas Mileage

While rivals typically use V6 engines of a higher displacement, the Ascent is one of the few crossovers that makes use of a smaller, turbocharged four-cylinder, enabling rival-matching power but with the ability to be frugal, too. Paired with the efficiency-minded CVT transmission, the combination is able to offset the traditional thirst associated with all-wheel-drive, providing EPA-estimated consumption figures of 21/27/23 mpg in its lower trims, losing a single point on all figures when equipped with the larger wheels. Compared to AWD rivals, the Ascent is bang on the money with identical figures achieved by the Mazda CX-9 and Toyota Highlander, and a full 19.3-gallon fuel tank will ensure a range of around 443 miles on the base trims.

  • Fuel Tank Capacity
    19.3 Gallons
  • Fuel Economy
    City/Hwy: 21/27 mpg
* 2020 Subaru Ascent 2.4T 8-Passenger

Ascent Interior

Space is king when it comes to three-row SUVs in this segment, and while the Ascent is certainly smaller than a Kia Telluride or Volkswagen Atlas, it's by no means cramped. What it is is highly versatile, cleanly laid out, and boasting key attributes that lure many buyers away from minivans in favor of crossovers; namely a high seating position and commanding view of the road. It does have its flaws, however, such as an infotainment system that falls behind those found in rival SUVs and third-row seats that perhaps aren't as generous as the class-leaders. There's also not as much internal storage space, which, when you're hauling up to eight people around could be problematic as there's nowhere for them to keep their stuff.

2020 Subaru Ascent Driver Seat Subaru
2020 Subaru Ascent Front Seats Subaru
2020 Subaru Ascent Infotainment System Subaru
See All 2020 Subaru Ascent Interior Photos

Seating and Interior Space

A total of seven or eight passengers will fit into the Ascent, with the second-row of seating coming with either a 60/40 split-folding bench or with two individual captain's chairs, the latter of which is standard in the Touring trim. Though the cabin of the Ascent is commodious, the third-row seats are a little more cramped than in competitors with only 31.7 inches of legroom for the rearmost passengers. Reserving the third-row seats for children should be no issue though, as they are treated well, with high-set seating positions, storage points, speakers, and even a couple of USB charging ports, and even easy ingress to make sure they won't moan too much. Despite its 8.7-inch ground clearance, which is greater than many SUVs in the class, the Ascent still offers easy ingress and egress by virtue of its low step-in height for front and rear passengers.

  • Seating capacity
    8-seater
  • Front Leg Room 42.2 in
  • Front Head Room 41.3 in
  • Rear Leg Room 38.6 in
  • Rear Head Room 40.0 in

Interior Colors and Materials

With four trims on offer, the Ascent caters to various needs with various choices of material. The base model gets regular cloth in slate black while trim inserts on the dash and doors are finished in Ivory carbon fiber. The Premium upgrades to stain resistant fabric upholstery in either Slate Black or Warm Ivory, while leather becomes standard from the Limited onwards, accompanied by Ivory leather trim on the dash and doors. At the top of the lineup, the Touring gains exclusive access to Java Brown Leather and woodgrain-patterned cabin accents.

Ascent Trunk and Cargo Space

A lot of the Ascents' body length is allotted to the cargo area, where an expansive 17.8 cubic feet are presented behind the third-row seats, that's enough cargo room for about seven medium-sized luggage bags, with various velcro ties helping to keep everything in place. Folding down the 60/40 split third-row seats expand cargo room to 47.5 cubes, which with the 60/40 split second-row seats folded down expands to 86.5 cubes. The power-operated liftgate on higher-tier trims is convenient but what the Ascent lacks is a power-folding third-row bench which many of its competitors feature as standard.

As for in-cabin storage, the front door pockets are expansive and capable of holding large bottles, there are two large cupholders in the center console, a small-item storage cubby, and a cavernous armrest cubby with a small item storage tray, while on the passenger's side is a sizeable glovebox. The rear door pockets are expansive and capable of holding large bottles as well, there's a large cupholder in the upper section of each door too, and there's a seatback map pocket behind each front seat. Third-row occupants are given three cupholders and a small-item cubby on either side of the bench.

2020 Subaru Ascent Glove Box Subaru
2020 Subaru Ascent Trunk Space Subaru
2020 Subaru Ascent Maximum Cargo Space Subaru

Ascent Infotainment and Features

Features

Features are plentiful in the $31,000+ SUV, with keyless entry, a tilt-and-telescoping steering column, six-way manually-adjustable driver's seat, tri-zone automatic climate control, a high-res rearview camera, and even Subaru's EyeSight Driver Assist Technology which includes adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, lane keep assist, and lane departure and sway warning, all coming standard in the base trim. Upgrading to the Premium trim sees the addition of a leather-wrapped steering wheel, an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat, heated front seats, and blind spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert and lane change assist. In the Limited trim, there's keyless access with push-button start, a heated steering wheel, power rear liftgate, ten-way power-adjustable driver's seat, four-way power-adjustable passenger's seat, heated rear seats, high beam assist, and reverse automatic braking. Second-row captains chairs are standard in the Touring, along with ventilated front seats, a power tilt-and-slide panoramic moonroof, and a 180-degree front-view monitor.

Infotainment

Many players in this segment try to wow with massive touchscreens visible from three cars back, and yet in the base model Ascent all you'll find is a 6.5-inch touchscreen. Fortunately, it does boast Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration as well as Pandora, Aha, SiriusXM satellite radio, HD Radio, and Bluetooth connectivity. The system is paired with a standard six-speaker sound system which is carried over to the Premium trim despite this model upgrading to an eight-inch screen. Standard on the top-ranking Touring model, the Ascent gets added navigation, while the speaker count climbs to 14 with the inclusion of a Harman Kardon Quantum Surround Sound system with 792 watts of audio punch. While all the required functionality is still present, the system isn't the greatest, with subpar graphics and awkward interfaces that are less intuitive to use than rival systems.

Ascent Problems and Reliability

While the first model year of the Ascent faced four recalls, at this stage the 2020 model is recall-free, which bodes well as a sign that the 'new model teething problems' have been resolved effectively. However, J.D. Power still rates the 2020 Ascent with a Quality and Reliability rating of 74 out of 100. For added peace of mind, Subaru also covers the Ascent with a three-year/36,000-mile limited warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Warranty

  • Basic:
    3 Years \ 36,000 Miles
  • Drivetrain:
    5 Years \ 60,000 Miles
  • Corrosion:
    5 Years \ Unlimited Miles
  • Roadside Assistance:
    3 Years \ 36,000 Miles

Ascent Safety

Subaru was an early adopter of the latest safety standards, engineering all its cars to be as safe as possible in recently added tests like the IIHS' small front overlap. The foresight has paid dividends as the Ascent walks away with a Top Safety Pick award for 2020 and a full five out of five stars overall from the NHTSA.

US NHTSA crash test result

  • Overall Rating
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
  • Side Crash Rating
  • Rollover Rating

Key Safety Features

Subaru ensures high levels of safety in the Ascent, even at the base level. A consignment of six standard airbags (dual front, front side, side curtain) isn't really impressive, but every trim comes standard with Subaru's EyeSight driver-assist technology which comprises adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, lane keep assist, and lane departure and sway warning, complementing the standard-fit high-res rearview camera. All but the base model also feature Subaru's STARLINK Safety and Security equipment group. A blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert and lane change assist comes in as of the Premium trim, with reverse automatic braking coming standard in the Limited and Touring.

Verdict: 🏁Is the 2020 Subaru Ascent a good SUV?

In the last few years, this segment has grown to be one of the most competitive on U.S. soil, so it's no longer enough to be good when you're in the company of greatness. The Ascent is definitely a good car, with versatile seating for up to eight, exemplary safety standards, and impressive gas mileage estimates. But it's also not the most spacious, with some rivals offering more cargo volume and more third-row space, and the infotainment suite feels tremendously dated and difficult to use. There are benefits the Subaru possesses, though, and while it's not engaging to drive, it is nimble and is more than capable of handling rougher terrain where some rivals are true-to-type soft-roaders. There's really nothing the Ascent does terribly, but we need to remember that in this segment you could be buying a Kia Telluride or Hyundai Palisade, and against those, the Ascent is utterly forgettable.

🚘What's the Price of the 2020 Subaru Ascent?

Pricing for the 2020 Subaru Ascent is on par with that of its competitors, with the base Ascent's price remaining the same as last year. The base Ascent is priced with an MSRP of $31,995 before tax, registration, and licensing, and is exclusive of Subaru's destination and delivery charge of $1,010. The Premium asks a price of $34,395 while the Limited starts at $39,345. At the top of the trim ladder is the Touring with a sticker price of $45,045.

2020 Subaru Ascent Models

There are four trims that make up the 2020 Ascent lineup: the base Ascent, Premium, Limited, and Touring. A 2.4-liter turbo-four engine, CVT automatic gearbox, and all-wheel drivetrain propel every trim.

The base model Ascent sets the tone with 18-inch alloy wheels and halogen projector headlights. Inside, cloth upholstery, manually adjustable front seats, tri-zone climate control, and a 6.5-inch touchscreen boasting AM/FM/Bluetooth and Android Auto/Apple CarPlay functionality are standard, along with six speakers, a rearview camera, and the Subaru EyeSight driver assistance suite.

The Premium is much the same, but gets an eight-way power driver's seat, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, extra USB ports, 4G Wi-Fi capability, and an upgraded eight-inch touchscreen. Safety is bolstered by blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and lane change assist.

Larger 20-inch alloy wheels prop up the Limited trim which features LED headlights with high beam assist. Feature upgrades include keyless access with push-button start, a heated steering wheel, power rear liftgate, ten-way power-adjustable driver's seat, four-way power-adjustable passenger's seat, heated rear seats, leather seating appointments, and reverse automatic braking.

In the Touring trim, second-row captain's chairs are standard, as are ventilated front seats, a power tilt/slide panoramic moonroof, and a 180-degree front-view monitor. A premium 14-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system is exclusive to the Touring, along with navigation.

See All 2020 Subaru Ascent Trims and Specs

Additional Packages

Despite a fair spread of features across four trims, various packages enable the Ascent to be upgraded. While the base model is pretty much a take-it-or-leave it option, the Premium model gets access to two main packages. Buyers can choose from either seven or eight seats, with a further option to choose either a Convenience Package or a Sporty Package. The former costs $1,460 and adds a power tailgate, keyless access, and auto-dimming rearview mirror, and reverse auto braking, while the latter package adds $4,260 to the bill for the inclusion of those features in addition to a panoramic sunroof, 20-inch wheels, and the upgraded infotainment suite with navigation. For the Limited, a $2,950 Technology Package includes a Harman Kardon sound system, navigation, and a panoramic sunroof. On both these trims, choosing between seven and eight seats is a no-cost option.

🚗What Subaru Ascent Model Should I Buy?

While it might be tempting to choose a high-level trim, we'd instead advise you to look lower and pick a Premium-spec Ascent. Not only does it get all the necessary features, but by adding the Sporty Package you get amenities such as a panoramic sunroof and navigation system as well as keyless entry and an auto-dimming rearview mirror for nearly the same price as the Limited, which doesn't boast much of this as standard. The only key item you miss out on is leather upholstery, but at less than $40k, it's a great value for money deal.

2020 Subaru Ascent Comparisons

Honda Pilot Honda
Toyota Highlander CarBuzz
CompetitorHorsepowerMPGPrice (MSRP)
Subaru Ascent260 hp21/27 mpg$32,295
Honda Pilot 280 hp20/27 mpg$32,250
Toyota Highlander 295 hp21/29 mpg$34,600

2020 Subaru Ascent vs Honda Pilot

For years, the three-row benchmark has been the Honda Pilot, and for good reason. It makes use of a 280-hp V6 engine which may have more power than the Ascent, but without turbos it's a little down on torque. Both are similarly matched from a performance standpoint, achieving the same 23 mpg combined, although the Pilot only manages this in FWD form. Equipped with AWD overall economy drops by 1 mpg. Both are also capable of towing up to 5,000 lbs when properly equipped. The Pilot's more fun to drive, though, and feels a little more tied down, while the traditional automatic gearbox options are also more refined than the Subaru's CVT. Both offer similar amounts of passenger room with equally-cramped rear seats, and both are almost identically specced when it comes to cargo capacities, too. The differences really are too close to call here, and we urge you to cross-shop both before making a final decision.

See Honda Pilot Review

2020 Subaru Ascent vs Toyota Highlander

It will cost buyers around $3,000 more to purchase the Toyota Highlander as opposed to the Subaru Ascent, and it just may be worth it. The Highlander's V6 engine is not only a robust piece of machinery with outputs of 295 hp and 263 lb-ft but is also polished enough to deliver superior fuel-efficiency over long distances, with gas mileage figures of 21/29/24 mpg in its FWD trim, matching the Ascent in AWD form. The Ascent takes the lead for passenger room and practicality, with the Highlander's third row being more cramped than the Ascent's and it only offers 16 cubes in the cargo hold. Moving up the trim ladder of the Highlander does get expensive, but those who don't mind spending the extra clams are rewarded with premium upgrades including a 12.3-inch touchscreen. The Toyota is equally as rugged and offers similar performance, but feels like a more premium product overall. If you care more for space than luxury, the Ascent is a fine pick, but as an all-round package the Highlander is a little more appealing.

See Toyota Highlander Review

Subaru Ascent Popular Comparisons

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2020 Subaru Ascent Video Reviews

Check out some informative Subaru Ascent video reviews below.

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Photos
$31,995 - $45,045
Price Range (MSRP)
Subaru Ascent