INDIANAPOLIS — Subaru introduced a very competent and capable three-row crossover in the Ascent, but it was not especially exciting or unique — more of a step-up vehicle for Subaru enthusiasts.
Sure, it comes with standard all-wheel-drive and 8.7” of ground clearance for topping snow or handling light trails to a weekend cabin, but it lacked the attitude necessary to entice sporty families. It was a wholly competent family wagon that lacked gravitas.
That changes with the 2022 Subaru Ascent Onyx — the three-row crossover for cool families.
Sinister Subaru styling
From across the street, the Ascent looks like a larger Outback or Crosstrek, meaning handsome strong forms, but nothing especially memorable. Giving the Onyx edition sinister looks are a blacked out grille, roof rails, rear spoiler and badges. Black 20” alloy wheels steamroll highways with attitude. Wait until night to notice LED fog lights and LED steering responsive headlamps.
Passengers greet an interior playing Subaru’s greatest hits but with the volume cranked. Simple materials feel well-made, and controls are intuitive, but Onyx editions get Subaru’s two-tone gray StarTex water-repellant upholstery, swaths of simulated carbon fiber across the dash and doors, and black headliner to hide scuffs. Standard second row captain’s chairs slide to provide additional third-row legroom. A panoramic sunroof, tri-zone automatic climate control, heated seats and heated steering wheel add luxuries. I didn’t count them, but Subaru claims 19 cup/bottle holders throughout the cabin.
I personally own a 2022 Subaru Outback that I like very much, but the tablet-style infotainment system is slow to boot up and doesn’t always appreciate my commands. The simpler system on the Ascent is much quicker, accompanied with proper knobs for volume/tuning, but still provides touch access to navigation, audio, and phone — made convenient with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth and voice activated navigation by TomTom. Given Ascent’s mission to carry families, safety is important. It’s enhanced with adaptive cruise, lane centering, front/rear auto braking, lane keep assist and rear seat child reminder.
Swift turbo power
The Ascent does not lack power, harboring the same 2.4-liter turbocharged flat-four engine found in the WRX-challenging Subaru Outback Wilderness. The Ascent is considerably larger than the Outback but still runs 0-60 mph in under seconds with 260 horsepower and 277 lb.-ft of torque — routed through a continuously variable automatic transmission. Subaru’s X-MODE system configures the powertrain for varying road conditions and includes hill descent control to creep down steep inclines with feet off pedals. Fuel economy is rated 20/26-MPG city/highway, but not when towing the maximum 5,000 lbs.
There was little wrong with the Ascent that a little more attitude couldn’t fix. Just because dads and moms need space for the squad doesn’t mean they want to give up style. The 2022 Ascent Onyx is as practical as any Subaru before but looks a lot more sinister doing it. Ascents start at just $32,295, rising to $37,995 for a base Onyx or $41,320 as-tested. Competitors include the Chevy Traverse, Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, Nissan Pathfinder, Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Telluride.
Casey Williams is former auto correspondent for WFYI and the Indianapolis Star, plus a contributor to the Chicago Tribune’s Sunday Auto Page. He has reviewed vehicles and covered the auto industry for over 25 years. He lives with his family in Broad Ripple. Email him at AutoCasey@aol.com; check his reviews on YouTube at AutoCasey.
2022 Subaru Ascent Onyx
2022 Subaru Ascent Onyx
7-passengers, AWD Crossover
Powertrain: 2.4-L T4, CVT
Output: 260hp/277 lb.-ft.
Suspension f/r: Ind/Ind
Wheels f/r: 20”/20”
Brakes f/r: disc/disc
Towing: 5,000 lbs.
Must-have features: Space, style
Fuel economy: 20/26-MPG city/hwy
Assembly: Lafayette, IN
Base/as-tested price: $32,295/$41,320