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 inches 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.
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-inch alloy wheels steamroll highways with attitude. Wait until night to notice LED foglights and LED steering responsive headlamps.
Passengers greet an interior playing Subaru's greatest hits, but with 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 'em, but Subaru says there are 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.
The Ascent does not lack power, harboring the same 2.4-liter turbocharged flat-four engine found in the WRX-challenging Subaru Outback Wilderness. It is considerably larger than the Outback, with 260 horsepower and 277 foot-pounds 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 pounds.
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 an Indianapolis automotive journalist, Send comments to Casey at AutoCasey@aol.com; follow him on YouTube @AutoCasey. To see a video of this review, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WDpZpTLGn_o
2022 Subaru Ascent Onyx
- Seven-passenger, all-wheel-drive crossover
- Powertrain: 2.4-liter T4, continuously variable transmission;
- Output: 260 horsepower/277 foot-pounds torque;
- Suspension f/r: Independent/Independent;
- Wheels f/r: 20-inch/20-inch;
- Brakes f/r: disc/disc;
- Towing: 5,000 pounds;
- Must-have features: Space, style;
- Fuel economy: 20/26 MPG city/hwy;
- Assembly: Lafayette, Ind.;
- Base/as-tested price: $32,295/$41/320