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Auto review: '22 Subaru Ascent ready for dirt roads and a thirsty family

Barry Spyker, Tribune News Service on

Published in Business News

Subaru's largest SUV has a daring new look for 2022. The Onyx edition offers a cool aesthetic, with blacked-out grille and darkened 20-inch wheels. Inside, washable synthetic leather seats are quickly ready for the next adventure.

Still, most folks shopping the three-row midsize are more focused on Subaru's signature feature, standard all-wheel-drive, and the family seating of up to eight. They'll find plenty of cargo space, cubbies and 19 cup/bottle holders. Yeah, that's 2.37 holders per thirsty occupant, so bring a back-up bottle.

The Ascent, like the rest of the Subaru lineup, can take the family on light off-road adventures with help from its ground clearance of 8.7 inches, traction management system and hill descent control. It can handle dirt roads full of puddle dips and jutting rocks, and this Subie can drag along a boat or a couple of ATVs with a tow-rating of up to 5,000 pounds.

For those who prefer asphalt, it's equally adept on pavement. Steering is responsive and it has a tight 38-foot turning circle. Its four-wheel independent suspension system is tuned for comfort. Parking sensors front and rear help guide it into tight spaces at the mall.

The Ascent, which debuted as a 2019 model, looks a lot like Subaru's Outback: same grille and simple headlight design but on a taller front. By today's design standards, Subaru would be among the last to the dance floor.

The Ascent gets the same powertrain this year, a 2.4-liter turbocharged engine paired with a CVT (continuously variable transmission) that is smooth but somewhat noisy. Paddle shifters on the steering wheel enable the driver to get fake eight-speed performance from the otherwise gearless transmission.

 

But even paddle shifters don't deliver a truly energetic ride. The direct-injected engine brings 260 horses with 277 pound-feet of torque, and it takes 7 seconds to reach 60 mph. There is some lean on corners, though Subaru's active torque vectoring enhances grip and stability.

On the highway it is stable and confident with ample passing power. The ride is comfortable for the long hauls but more could be done to isolate the cabin from wind and road noise. But that's a good excuse to turn up the premium Harman Kardon Surround audio system with 14 speakers.

The EPA says to expect an uninspiring 20 mpg around town, 26 highway, and 22 mpg when mixing it up.

Ascent's cabin is roomy and comfortable with family-friendly materials that are easy to clean. Top trims like the Limited get heated leather seats, with 10-way power on the driver's seat and 4-way for the passenger.

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