The 2020 Subaru Ascent Convenience represents the base configuration of this model line. It has a twist-key ignition. It has analogue gauges to relay engine revs and speed, fuel level, and temperature. The seats aren’t clad in leather, it doesn’t have a panoramic glass top and it unlocks when the appropriate button is depressed on the key.
The rear lift gate closes manually, the turn signals aren’t integrated into the side view mirrors and the windshield wipers need you to turn them on when it rains. There are no chromed exhaust tips out back, the infotainment screen is utilitarian, and the six speaker sound system doesn’t provide symphony hall sound quality.
Much of the interior cladding makes a somewhat disappointing and plasticky ‘snick snick’ sound when I flick it with my finger. If you’re in the throes of researching which eight-seater will be right for you, you’ll know that flicking door panels is by no means a standardized automotive benchmark test. But I do it in every car and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one.
The seats in this Subaru provide a declining level of comfort from front to back. The driver and passenger seats will never be mistaken as plush, but they’re fine for short haul trips. I’m not a tall fellow, but do find the driver’s seat could use a lengthier seat cushion for increased support behind my knees. The middle row seating offers plenty of legroom but is very firm, and the third row, while perhaps suitable for quick trips is not a place in which I’d like to spend any significant time.
Under the hood is Subaru’s 2.4-litre, 260 horsepower, turbocharged boxer engine that introduces grunt to asphalt (or snow, gravel, mud) through a continuously variable transmission. The Ascent is mounted atop Subaru’s vaunted and purpose-built full-time all-wheel-drive system, the components of which are evenly split by the centreline of the vehicle to evenly distribute weight between both sides.
The boxer engine that generates power for each of the four wheels does so in an acceptably quick fashion but the Ascent won’t win many races off the line, even when unladen. The boxer’s horizontally opposed cylinders are quiet and efficient, running on 87 octane fuel and consuming just 10.5 L/100km of it in equally mixed city and highway driving. This engine helps the Ascent maintain a relatively low centre of gravity, is well suited to the drivetrain, and is provided under the hood of all this car’s more well appointed siblings, including the fully loaded Premier variant.
The Ascent rides over uneven surfaces without fuss, making comfortable work of otherwise jarring railway crossings and potholed parking lots. Nonetheless, I do wish for more feedback through both the steering wheel and the seat of my pants. The car provides me only a vague notion as to what the 18-inch wheels and all season tires are getting up to somewhere beneath me and I would happily sacrifice some of the soft ride quality to have a greater connection with the road.
As the weather has been consistently clear of late, driving the Ascent in the inclement conditions for which it is well suited is not possible. However, on loose gravel surfaces, the car consistently does a good job of power distribution between all four wheels when driven in a spirited way.
Exploring the outer limits of the Subaru’s handling would require me to push the car a little and I’m not willing to do this on a public road. [Ed: We’ve seen Peter hustle some fast cars on the racetrack and appreciate his restraint.] Suffice to say that I’d be confident helming this car on a snow day.
The Ascent is impressive on the merits of a quiet, efficient engine and a well established and reliable all-wheel drive system. I’d like more feedback from the car while in the driver’s seat and increased comfort as a passenger when I’m in the back.
2020 Subaru Ascent Convenience
Base Price: $36,695
As Tested: $36,695
Drivetrain: 2.4-litre 4-cylinder, 260 horsepower, continuously variable transmission.
Performance: 10.4 litres per 100 km in mixed city and highway driving.
VVUZZ Recommended: A solid all-weather ride that is slightly short on all ’round comfort.
Images courtesy of the author.