2020 Subaru Ascent

Performance


#11 out of 23 in Midsize SUVs

MSRP
$31,995
U.S. News Best Price Program

2020 Subaru Ascent Performance Review

Scorecard

Performance: 7.3

The 2020 Subaru Ascent is a sizable midsize SUV that drives like a smaller vehicle. The handling is balanced, its ride is smooth, the steering is responsive, and a peppy engine helps the Ascent get good gas mileage. Every trim level comes with all-wheel drive, which provides great grip on slick roads.

  • "Quick acceleration and responsive passing power are hallmarks of the new boxer engine, and it emits a pleasing grumble and vibration, characteristics that I genuinely enjoy." -- New York Daily News (2019)
  • "Regardless of where it sits on the power spectrum, I found the boxer engine to have excellent acceleration, with plenty of midrange torque to perform lane changes and power out of turns." -- CNET (2019)
  • "The Ascent's engine produces an unmistakable boxer rumble, but it's isolated well enough to keep excess vibrations at bay and prevent the racket from becoming bothersome. The Ascent's continuously variable automatic transmission, a new unit meant for high-torque applications, pairs well with this engine. It's one of the few CVTs we've sampled that somewhat convincingly executes simulated shifts as you accelerate, mitigating the droning sensation that can exaggerate the boxer engines' lack of refinement in other Subies. The gearbox also complements the engine's torque curve nicely, effectively keeping the turbo on the boil and making the Ascent feel responsive and powerful when passing or merging." -- Car and Driver (2019)

Acceleration and Power

Conquering a tall mountain pass or overtaking a slower vehicle is no problem in the Ascent, even though its engine is smaller than what typically powers a vehicle this size. Its turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine comes with a continuously variable automatic transmission. This 260-horsepower setup is mostly responsive. If it doesn't react quickly enough to your urging, you can simulate gear shifts using the paddle shifters on the steering wheel.

This powertrain is energetic and economical. The Ascent gets 21 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway, which is above average for the class. Its fuel economy is particularly impressive as most of the midsize SUVs it's measured against come standard with front-wheel drive while the Subaru comes only with all-wheel drive.

  • "The 2020 Subaru Ascent's turbocharged 4-cylinder engine offers plenty of power -- 260 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque, which is in line with comparable midsize SUVs. The Subaru had an easy time getting up to speed and showed no signs of running out of steam on grades or twisty roads. You'll have plenty of power for freeway passing maneuvers and getting on the highway, and this engine serves as a good compromise of power, capability and fuel economy." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The new 2.4-liter turbo is all the engine the big SUV needs, with aggressive throttle tip-in and a wide torque band that nicely covers the midrange. There is no turbo lag in a straight line, though there's some minor stumble coming out of tight corners. Try the CVT's paddle shifters … and you'll be pleasantly surprised by crisp, torque converter-like upshifts and downshifts, though the CVT upshifts itself as you approach redline." -- Automobile Magazine (2019)
  • "Although the Ascent isn't a small vehicle, the engine easily powers it into highway traffic and up steep inclines. A spirited drive through twisting mountain roads proved the Ascent something of a showoff." -- Boston Globe (2019)

Handling and Braking

The Ascent is stable and composed with the driving dynamics of a smaller SUV. Its balanced suspension system absorbs bumps in the road while keeping body roll to a minimum, resulting in a comfortable ride. This is an ideal SUV for light off-road adventuring or for driving in regions that endure menacing storms. The Ascent comes standard with all-wheel drive and hill descent control, and it has 8.7 inches of ground clearance.

  • "Handling is sure-footed, benefiting from both standard AWD and a 'torque-vectoring' system that uses the brakes to improve corner ability. The … numb-on-center steering does somewhat negate these handling talents – the Ascent never feels as engaging as a Mazda CX-9, for instance. Ride comfort is excellent, as even the optional 20-in wheels on our test car didn't result in tiresome impacts over rough pavement." -- Autotrader
  • "The new Ascent also shows signs of sportiness, with its handling, steering and braking. On twisty roads, the handling and quick steering response make this 3-row SUV feel agile, like a smaller vehicle. Braking is also quite good, responsive without being touchy, and there's no mushy pedal feel." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Our test drive featured an off-road course with sand, loose gravel, and steep hills. The combination of all-wheel drive and X-Mode made this an easy task. In addition to the ever-present all-wheel drive, the press of a button activates X-Mode with hill-descent control. This lets you take your foot off the pedals as the Ascent does the work of managing speed and braking so you can focus on steering." -- Boston Globe (2019)
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2020 Subaru Ascent

MSRP: $31,995 - $45,045

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