(text & photos by Ricardo Rodriguez-Long)
Subaru continues building dependable cars. Around five hundred thousand people a year purchase one of their models that despite not reaching the number one spot of the different segments of the car industry it is really hard to find any fault with them.
A very focused marketing strategy and knowledge of their primary buyer, has created a strong loyalty that keeps on growing year after year. Since the 70's they have maintained the AWD concept as well as their boxer engine layout (horizontally opposed cylinders on a flat plane) as their specialty. At that time the marketing slogan was "inexpensive, and build to stay that way".
I had the opportunity to drive the latest Ascent, which is a good medium size SUV and all-around town car for the typical family of four or larger. It is priced about the same as a Chevy Traverse, another good family SUV class. But being a touch bigger than most in the class the Subaru ride and handling are a bit better and with more interior space. Staying with their slogan, the interior and exterior have not changed much since it was introduced. If it is not broken, why fix it, right?
The Ascent that I drove was powered by a turbocharged 2.4Liter motor that puts out 260 HP. This is 30% more power than the one I drove in previous years and it definitely changes its character. This car uses a CVT transmission (single gear) that is smooth in operation. The AWD gives it a solid grip on all surfaces. The solid build and reliability of the brand have been proven through the years.
In just fifty years this company has created an image that companies double in age, and in different industries could not. You have Jeep, Porsche 911, and Subaru. The company has made a subconscious connection that clicks with pet lovers, common sense individuals, and nature trails seekers. People that are not looking for luxury, but the ability to go anywhere on short notice. One of the highest customer loyalty in the auto world. And that cannot happen without a good product.
The Ascent also incorporates a lot of safety and driver assistance features. The NHTSA gives it its highest ratings on overall crash safety. On the road, I was pleased with its behavior and good visibility. The car incorporates all the latest tech including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The touch screen is one of the few things that I would improve, as on the base model at 6.5 inches it feels old with not an intuitive system. There is a third seat row which is handy for small children. Depending on the configuration you could carry 7 or 8 people. It can also tow up to 5000 Lbs, so you take a lot of toys with you when traveling. There are four trims that add some premium materials but the added cost of $10,000 I could not justify. It is good to know that upgrades are available if you want them. At around $33,000 for the base model, the Ascent is definitely a good option if you want something different from medium SUV's in the market.