2024 Subaru Ascent Review and Test Drive

Subaru's recently updated three-row SUV has compelling style, tech, and safety features.

2024 Subaru Ascent in Autumn Green Metallic paintTim Stevens


The Subaru Ascent has offered drivers three-row practicality and all-weather functionality since its introduction of the 2019 model year. It's reasonably frugal for such a large machine, and it even shows some semblance of driving character. That's a rarity, in my experience, for a three-row SUV.

2024 Subaru Ascent in Autumn Green Metallic paintTim Stevens

Subaru's biggest rig received a light refresh for the 2023 model year, bringing its nose and tail into the modern styling era and adding some safety, infotainment, and convenience tech. In addition, a new Onyx Edition Limited trim joined the lineup, combining a blacked-out look with more features.

The 2024 Subaru Ascent exterior is largely the same as last year. The Touring trim level tops a six-version lineup, with Base, Premium, Onyx Edition, Limited, and Onyx Edition Limited variants below it. The Premium and Limited are available in either seven- or eight-seat configurations, while other trim levels have a set number of seats.

2024 Subaru Ascent front seat interiorTim Stevens

Prices for an eight-passenger Ascent in Base trim start in the mid-$30,000s and go up to around $50,000 for a fully loaded Ascent Touring model. My test vehicle, one of the aforementioned fully loaded Ascent Touring models, had a manufacturer's suggested retail price of $49,931, including a $141 option for all-weather floor mats and a $1,295 destination charge to ship this SUV from its assembly plant in Lafayette, Indiana, to the dealer.

2024 Subaru Ascent in Autumn Green Metallic paintTim Stevens

2024 Subaru Ascent's Styling Looks Sharp and Clean

From afar, you might not immediately recognize that anything's changed with the Ascent recently, as its big, three-row shape looks mostly the same as it did the day of its introduction. But if you investigate more closely, you might appreciate the restyled bits.

The vehicle's nose now has a chrome bar across the grille, and there's a pair of chromed inlets lower down in the front fascia that give the vehicle a little more presence. Though these are not radical changes, where the old Ascent resembled an overstuffed Forester from afar, the latest one has a look all its own while still fitting in with the Subaru family.

2024 Subaru Ascent dashboardTim Stevens

The more significant differences from last year are on the inside. Older versions of the Ascent made do with a maximum 8.0-inch touchscreen display or, on lower trims, a paltry 6.5-inch unit. That was disappointing when compared with the smaller Subaru Outback's 11.6-inch display, available since 2020. Thankfully, Subaru has seen fit to graft a similar unit onto the Ascent's dashboard, where it looks perfectly at home.

Subaru's latest Starlink software runs inside that display, which has consumed many of the physical controls that formerly dotted the dashboard. While there are still physical buttons for adjusting the temperature and activating the defrosters, plus a stereo volume knob, just about everything else is now found within the touchscreen.

2024 Subaru Ascent infotainment screenTim Stevens

The result is a somewhat cluttered appearance. Climate controls run along the bottom of the display, making way for rows of dedicated icons above for sections such as media, navigation, and settings. Everything is arrayed logically, and the system's performance is good, but it's busy visually.

Suppose you want to avoid dealing with that. In that case, the integrated voice assistant can handle all sorts of commands, from toggling the various seat heaters to more nuanced requests, such as finding the closest coffee shop or hospital. Responses come in short order. Finally, pair an Android or iPhone device, which takes just a few taps, and you can use the wireless Android Auto or Apple CarPlay connections, either of which takes over the middle portion of the display.

2024 Subaru Ascent back seat with tan interiorTim Stevens

Otherwise, the interior is essentially the same as before, which isn't a bad thing. In my opinion, the Ascent was never a luxury machine, and the layout inside is logically designed for families, including available niceties such as a whopping 19 cupholders and seat heaters even in the second row. The front seats are ventilated, too.

2024 Subaru Ascent third-row back seatTim Stevens

Adults will likely still struggle to fit in the third row. Nevertheless, it's a tolerable ride for short distances, and getting into the very back is easy thanks to middle seats that quickly move out of the way. The Touring I drove had a seven-seat layout that included a pair of comfortable captain's chairs in the second row. However, a bench seat is available on Base, Premium, and Limited trims, bumping seating capacity up to eight. Maximum cargo capacity measures 72.8 cubic-feet with both rows of seats folded flat.

Last year, Subaru began offering Cabin Connect, which uses the back speakers and the front microphone to allow the driver to speak directly to the passengers. It saves on shouting during the morning school run, a task at which the Ascent still excels.

2024 Subaru Ascent in Autumn Green Metallic paintTim Stevens

The 2024 Ascent Offers an Excellent Drive for a Big Suv

The Ascent delivers a surprisingly engaging drive for such a big rig. It doesn't offer the engagement of Subaru's smaller SUVs, but it has some character. That, in my experience, is hard to find in a three-row SUV. The 20-inch wheels wrapped in all-season tires provide good grip in the dry and competent handling in the snowy and icy conditions that were most common during my time with the vehicle.

The Ascent's standard all-wheel-drive system is also skilled in limited-grip situations. Subaru's X-Mode system is standard on all Ascents, as is hill-descent control. Although the Ascent is not a rugged off-roader, with 8.7 inches of ground clearance, it'll probably do just fine on well-groomed trails and poorly graded driveways.

Power comes from a turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 260 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque. Though saddled with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) that delivers little in the way of driver engagement, the Ascent accelerates smoothly and strongly without the rubber-band feeling of many CVTs.

According to the EPA, depending on which trim and drivetrain you choose, the 2024 Subaru Ascent returns between 19/25/21 mpg in city/highway/combined driving and 20/26/22 mpg. In my mixed testing in winter conditions in upstate New York, I averaged just 15.2 mpg. In more favorable conditions, I expect an improvement over that number.

2024 Subaru Ascent EyeSight camera in windshieldTim Stevens

EyeSight Updates Make for a Safer Ascent

Subaru EyeSight refers to the Ascent's collection of safety features, and it received a few notable updates in 2023. The most significant change was a new automatic emergency-steering system with any Ascent equipped with active blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert systems. At speeds of up to 50 mph, the Ascent should slow down when it detects an imminent collision and try to steer around it.

All models also include automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection. During my testing, I didn't have cause to test these systems. However, the adaptive cruise control and lane-centering assist worked well, spotting other cars with plenty of distance to make smooth adjustments and keeping the SUV centered in its lane.

2024 Subaru Ascent in Autumn Green Metallic paintTim Stevens

Subaru's Three-Row Ascent Still Works Well

Given that the Ascent has spent more than five years on the market, you might think it's time for Subaru to give it a reboot. Not quite, as last year's refresh allowed the humble Ascent a new lease on life. While Subaru's midsize three-row SUV faces numerous rivals, it still provides good performance, great practicality, and excellent value for those needing more seating than is available in any of the brand's other SUVs.

Overall, the 2024 Subaru Ascent looks sharp and offers more tech and safety features than ever while remaining the same big, practical package many have come to know and love.

Subaru provided the vehicle for this 2024 Ascent review.

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Tim Stevens
Tim Stevens is a veteran editor, analyst, and expert in the tech and automotive industries. He helmed a major website's automotive coverage for nine years and acted as its content chief. Prior to that, Tim served as the editorial lead at a tech-oriented site and even led a previous life as an enterprise software architect.