Subaru hit a homer when they introduced the all-new three-row Ascent last year. For 2020, the didn’t change much, but added a rear-seat reminder alert and power-folding side mirrors. Both convenience (and potential safety) items that only add to the already great Ascent.

Quick Specs & Info

2020 Subaru Ascent Class: Midsized 3-row crossover
Base Model As Tested:
Powertrain 2.4L turbo4, CVT Powertrain 2.4L turbo4, CVT
Base MSRP $31,995 MSRP as tested ~$45,000

Overview

The Subaru Ascent entered the three-row crossover market last year and is now competing in a very contentious segment full of excellent choices. The Subaru sets itself apart with standard all-wheel drive, a huge array of standard safety features, and a strong showing in both ergonomics and drive-ability. There’s seating for 7 or 8 and 23 mpg to boot. All with Subaru’s legendary all-wheel drive.

There are some downers to the 2020 Ascent as well. It’s pretty loud on the highway, making conversation difficult, and the engine can struggle at higher freeway speeds. The third row is for kids only, only more so with a tight setup meant for occasional, not everyday use.

As a Subaru for those needing more space than their Forester might provide, however, there’s no complaint in the well-done Ascent.

Trim Packages

The Ascent comes in four trim levels, including the base model. Standard equipment includes AWD, the CVT, and Subaru’s EyeSight driver-assist and safety suite. Three-zone climate control, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a 2,000-pound tow rating are also standard.

  • Premium – This upgrades the base model with better interior materials, a bigger infotainment screen, 4G WiFi capability, a 7-seat option with center captain’s chairs, and a better 5,000-pound tow rating. Several options from the Limited and Touring models are available as upgrades in the Premium model.
  • Limited – Adds 20-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry/start, a power liftgate, and interior materials options. The Harman Kardon stereo is also offered as an upgrade option in the Limited.
  • Touring – Fully loaded with everything Subaru offers in the Ascent, the Touring only comes in the 7-passenger configuration.

Exterior and Interior Design

Key to the 2020 Subaru Ascent’s look is its melding of the design forms used in the Forester and the upper-crust motif of the Outback. Shaped in a way similar to its Forester sibling, the Ascent adds some of the refinement found in the Outback. Especially in its interior, which includes the better materials choices and equipment placement from the Outback and Legacy models.

It’s easy to like the 2020 Ascent, which looks both contemporary and standout in the three-row sphere.

Driving the 2020 Subaru Ascent

There’s a lot to like about the Ascent, which handles in a way similar to the Outback. The Outback is refined and comfortable, foregoing the usual Subaru penchant for “get out and do stuff” as its core appeal. Instead, the Ascent opts for a more comfortable, daily-use feel that is good for the long haul road trip as well. That’s a step away from many smaller Subaru models like the Impreza and Crosstrek.

Our chief complaint against the Ascent is in road noise, which is substantial when on the highway. Equipped with all-season radials and the Touring package, our Ascent tester was noisy at best and downright intrusive at times.

The 2020 Ascent is otherwise very pleasant and easy to get along with. Comfort is high and usefulness with family in tow is even higher. Subaru put concerted thought into the Ascent’s interior as an everyday vehicle and it really paid off. In an arena full of excellent family machines, the Ascent manages to remain more than competitive for its ergonomics.

Competition

Key competition against the 2020 Subaru Ascent include the also-new Volkswagen Atlas, the Chevrolet Traverse, the Toyota Highlander, and the Nissan Pathfinder. Against these, the Ascent does well with a great interior experience and signature Subaru looks.

Strong Points

  • Huge list of standard features.
  • Real all-weather cred with a high stance and great AWD as standard.
  • Quality interior in both design and materials choices.

Weaknesses

  • Loud on the highway with both road and engine noise.
  • Engine struggles at speed, especially on the highway and when any hill or wind resistance is added.

Conclusions

The 2020 Subaru Ascent lands squarely into the arena and stands strong against competitors in the three-row market. This is a very well-done crossover that manages to keep the spirit of Subaru intact while pandering to the comfort expectations of the finicky three-row buyer.

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An automotive enthusiast for most of his adult life, Aaron has worked in and around the industry in many ways. He is an accredited member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press (RMAP), the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA), and freelances as a writer and journalist around the Web and in print. You can find his portfolio at AaronOnAutos.com.

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