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DRIVEN: 2020 Subaru Ascent Premium (AWD 2.4 turbo)

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Posted (edited)

DRIVEN: 2020 Subaru Ascent Premium (AWD 2.4 turbo)

HIGHS:

-Finally, what the market was looking for, a worthwhile Subaru entry into the 3 row crossover segment.  And packaging, size wise, styling, just about perfect for Subaru

-2.4 engine can snarl, nice go juice, and the CVT is actually fairly responsive.  Moves out well, or at least feels like it does.  Makes the Ascent feel sporty actually.

-As mentioned above, packaging is just about perfect for Subaru.  It might be considered a tweener, but it does not feel hulking or girthy...and it still will be garagable for many of those folks that would shop import brands.  Cabin width not as wide as a Traverse, noticeably so...but conversely feels like a nice size upgrade from an Outback.  Maybe if you try to have three in the second row its a concern but otherwise should be ok.  Plenty of comfort remains and the third row is decent sized for leg room.  This may be the sweet spot size of a 3 row for many customers.

-Cloth seats were attractive and did feel nice at the bottom.

-Simple clean dash layout, noticeably signature Subaru.  Some interesting trim.  

-Open and airy feel inside the cabin, and likewise visibility out.  In particular in front it doesn't feel significantly larger in front then a Forester or Outback.

-Carlike ride and handling.  At least in line with the sort of current expectations of a Subaru / Toyota / Honda type of customer.  And reasonably quiet inside.

-Nothing particularly egregious, and entirely in line with Subaru and Japanese car in general brand character.  If you are a Subaru fan, this is your manna, this should EXCITE you.

LOWS:

...all that said (above)

-A few times I caught the CVT with its pants down and it went into slow response / rubber bandy mode.

-Dash, to me, did feel plain and basic (and that also is entirely in character for a Subaru).  I will go on record saying that a Traverse is nicer inside and much more interesting. 

-Steering felt light and numb enough that I can't say it was anything besides decent.  All while being a huge upgrade in steering compared to other Subarus I have driven the last few years.  It is very much improved compared to those.  And the suspension was composed enough in the Ascent that it didn't bounce and bob and weave like I had when i drove a Forester before.

-I didn't dissect the cargo area greatly but I do think maybe it is down a little bit in terms of usable dimensions compared to say, a Traverse or Atlas....probably as useful or more useful than an Acadia.

-At the end of the day, apart from the kind of lively powertrain, the whole rest of the vehicle is MILQUETOAST.  Which, if you are a Subaru fan, should EXCITE you.  I mean, I think a Santa Fe may be more appealing emotionally.  I was expecting something to feed the soul here, there is nothing.  How they made it still feel lifeless while still miraculously making this vastly improved over other Subarus, must have required special skill.

SUMMARY:

At the end of the day, a perfectly innocuous but highly useful device that absolutely fulfills the Subaru brand character while at the same time borders on being something equal to the NPC version of an automobile.  And some will absolutely love that.  While superbly capable, I think I VASTLY prefer my GM's or even the VW Atlas.  Seek those out instead if you want ANY personality in your 3 row family hauler.

 

 

 

 

Edited by regfootball
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Great review, especially of the overall feel and dynamics, 2.4T included.

We continue to be impressed at the feel and feedback everyone thinks of with the 2.4T, and look forward to it in my upcoming 2020 Outback on order. The Ascent is "not a bus" like a Traverse, etc. can sometimes feel. This is a heavier, larger, etc. vehicle than any other on the global platform, so it goes down the road with a different refinement than something like a Forester.

Very rarely does anyone who's not familiar, even notice a Subaru is a CVT, with the stepped programming. You usually do, if higher RPM or cruising, and ask for more power, when it doesn't "step" as much so to say. Good & fair write up👍

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Posted (edited)

Thanks, I was recognizing that it is a decent ride but I honestly can’t sign up for any Subaru. They are just too repellant —-for me— others results may vary  👍

It would be interesting to see GM split the wheelbase difference of the Traverse and Acadia and in a more space efficient platform. I think around a 116.0 wheelbase and see if they can get almost all the leg and shoulder and hip room of the Traverse in something about 4 inches less wheelbase and 8 inches less length. 

Edited by regfootball

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1 hour ago, regfootball said:

It would be interesting to see GM split the wheelbase difference of the Traverse and Acadia and in a more space efficient platform. I think around a 116.0 wheelbase and see if they can get almost all the leg and shoulder and hip room of the Traverse in something about 4 inches less wheelbase and 8 inches less length. 

Splitting the difference is 8" - that's less than half the diameter of the vehicle's rim, yet you're advocating for a whole new vehicle development program.

It's 'Gap Madness'.

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Posted (edited)

Nice review.

I think one main thing Ascent has over many other three row crossovers is very good AWD system (unlike most other FWD based systems) and slightly higher ground clearance.  Folks in Northeast and Pacific Northwest appreciate that due to their climate.

I think it is basically similar in function to Mazda, I read somewhere what I think is an accurate description that CX-9 is a three row crossover for Miata owner with family (slightly less pracical but fun to drive and stylish), Ascent is for a Subaru loyalist that now needs something bigger than Forrester or Outback.

Edited by ykX
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11 hours ago, regfootball said:

Thanks, I was recognizing that it is a decent ride but I honestly can’t sign up for any Subaru. They are just too repellant —-for me— others results may vary  👍

It would be interesting to see GM split the wheelbase difference of the Traverse and Acadia and in a more space efficient platform. I think around a 116.0 wheelbase and see if they can get almost all the leg and shoulder and hip room of the Traverse in something about 4 inches less wheelbase and 8 inches less length. 

 

10 hours ago, balthazar said:

Splitting the difference is 8" - that's less than half the diameter of the vehicle's rim, yet you're advocating for a whole new vehicle development program.

It's 'Gap Madness'.

And yet, it is coming. There is supposed to be a vehicle in the works between the Envision and Enclave. 

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I think that Buick Envoy, won't it likely to be on the Blazer platform and the 112.5 wheelbase?

GMA posted a story about the Chinese baby Enclave the other day.  I don't think that will come to the US.  But the Envoy may be on that same platform.

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Just now, regfootball said:

I think that Buick Envoy, won't it likely to be on the Blazer platform and the 112.5 wheelbase?

GMA posted a story about the Chinese baby Enclave the other day.  I don't think that will come to the US.  But the Envoy may be on that same platform.

They're playing with wheelbases and overhangs. Just like the XT6 is on the Acadia wheelbase but with a longer rear overhang, they could do a Buick one the same way.  Heck, they could even build one the same length as the blazer and add that to the lineup too. 

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39 minutes ago, Drew Dowdell said:

And yet, it is coming. There is supposed to be a vehicle in the works between the Envision and Enclave. 

Whats your op on such a move in a supposed upcoming serious contraction in the industry (sales-wise)? 

Sales contraction, if major and prolonged, should logically mean a model contraction. Even if there’s no sales contraction, the industry is over-volumed with models.

If it were me, without question Id vote to plow the billion into the next gen Buick SUVs rather than another thin slice variant of the existing. Theres no way markwt research is empirically demonstrating a unmet need for a tweener 8-in different than whats out.

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16 minutes ago, balthazar said:

Whats your op on such a move in a supposed upcoming serious contraction in the industry (sales-wise)? 

Sales contraction, if major and prolonged, should logically mean a model contraction. Even if there’s no sales contraction, the industry is over-volumed with models.

If it were me, without question Id vote to plow the billion into the next gen Buick SUVs rather than another thin slice variant of the existing. Theres no way markwt research is empirically demonstrating a unmet need for a tweener 8-in different than whats out.

For Buick specifically, there is room between Envision and Enclave. The Envision is tight inside, feels smaller than the Equinox and Terrain by a good bit.  The Enclave is, of course, cavernous.

That said, I think the contraction will mostly hit cars rather than SUVs. Expect to see the Regal canceled. 

In the event of a recession, Buick could be in the right spot for people who can't justify the cost of an Audi lease anymore.

Buick is going to end up the brand of an SUV for every purse or pocket.  2 Encores (small and smaller), Envision, Envoy??, Enclave, and somewhere in there Enspire.

What GM is doing with these SUVs is smart from a business perspective. If they make the Envoy the same shell as the XT6 but with Buick exterior panels and interior, they'll save a ton on development costs and still be able to market a lower price 

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Hopefully an appealing second gen Envision arrives before another model.

 

 

 

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Contraction has been hitting cars for the better part of a decade already (volume-wise). But if the Envision is tight for its segment, dont intro a completely different SUV and leave the Envision deficient; fix the Envision!

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Posted (edited)

The envision and equinox and terrain all are equally sized by my butt cheeks. 

Buick badly needs an entry between the envision and enclave. It’s the only way Buick can carry on as a legit brand aside gmc.  

The XT6 on that small wheel base is terribly awkward  modern platforms are meant to be more flexible than what GM is doing  the error GM made was not the large 120 wheelbase of the enclave it’s that the Acadia wheelbase wasn’t around that 114-116 range  if they were going to use it as a third row chassis  

 

Edited by regfootball

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17 hours ago, regfootball said:

The envision and equinox and terrain all are equally sized by my butt cheeks.

Envision and Equinox are the same up front, but tighter in back and in cargo. 

With seats up:
Envision - 26.9 cubic feet of cargo space
Equinox - 29.9 cubic feet of cargo

 

Seats down:
Envision - 57.3 cubic feet
Equinox - 63.9 cubic feet

 

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14 hours ago, Drew Dowdell said:

Envision and Equinox are the same up front, but tighter in back and in cargo. 

With seats up:
Envision - 26.9 cubic feet of cargo space
Equinox - 29.9 cubic feet of cargo

 

Seats down:
Envision - 57.3 cubic feet
Equinox - 63.9 cubic feet

 

You know I had forgotten.  The Blazer and Equinox cargo numbers are almost identical also. The Blazers game is v6 and wider cabin vs 4 cyl only Equinox with a bit less width.  When the new style Equinox came out I remember it being criticized for pie in the sky msrp but now equinox sticker prices are insanely less $$$ than the blazers out there and the blazers only have a bit more real space.  

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