2020 Subaru Ascent

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2020 Subaru Ascent Review: To Greater Heights

by Aiden Eksteen

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.

Read in this review:

8.1
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2020 Subaru Ascent Changes: What’s The Difference vs The 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 2020 Subaru Ascent

2020 Subaru Ascent Trims

See trim levels and configurations:

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
Base
2.4L Turbo Flat 4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
All-Wheel Drive
$31,995
Premium
2.4L Turbo Flat 4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
All-Wheel Drive
$34,395
Limited
2.4L Turbo Flat 4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
All-Wheel Drive
$39,345
Touring
2.4L Turbo Flat 4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
All-Wheel Drive
$45,045
See All 2020 Subaru Ascent Trims and Specs

2020 Ascent Exterior

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

  • 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
  • Curb Weight 4,430.0 lbs

Exterior Colors

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

2020 Ascent Performance

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

Engine and Transmission

  • Engine
    2.4L 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.

2020 Ascent Interior

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

  • 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

2020 Ascent Trunk and Cargo Space

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

2020 Ascent Safety and Reliability

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

US NHTSA Crash Test Result

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

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.

2020 Subaru Ascent Comparisons

Honda Pilot Honda
Toyota Highlander CarBuzz
CompetitorHorsepowerMPGPrice (MSRP)
Subaru Ascent260 hp20/26 mpg$33,895
Honda Pilot 280 hp20/27 mpg$38,080
Toyota Highlander 265 hp22/29 mpg$36,420

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

2020 Subaru Ascent Popular Comparisons

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