Caraganza First Drive Review 2021 Subaru Ascent: Keeping with the Joneses


I can remember when there were a lot of differences in the world. It seemed as though we were all able to craft our own individual variations on things; bellbottoms or no bellbottoms; TVs were big old clunky consoles accented in wood and you could tell who made what by just looking at them. Cars were different too. A Mustang never looked like a Camaro, and an AMC Pacer, well it didn’t look like anything else by a country mile. We also used to try to keep up with the Joneses. If the Joneses put in a pool, well you had too as well. They’d get an addition onto the house, welp, break out the tools ma.

Somewhere along the way however the world seemed to melt into almost one. We are now “twinning” on social media; we try to squeeze into skinny jeans, and all TVs look the same, LED monsters that can cover an entire wall, with absolutely no wood. And all that applies to cars as well. Maybe not the really expensive ones; no, I refer to the ones that most of us can afford. They all seem to look alike.

And the carmakers are falling in line with this as well. Since SUVs and crossovers are what everyone is buying nowadays, that’s all that is seemingly being made. Even worse, they all lack the individual style that once separated the Bowties from the Blue Ovals. If a particular SUV sells well, expect to see a copy of it built by someone else.

I thought of this when Subaru delivered me a 2021 Ascent for a recent week.

As I’ve noted before when I hear the word ‘Subaru’ I think of one of the first vehicles I owned after joining the military, a 1984 Subaru Brat. ‘Brat’ stood for Bi-drive Recreational All-terrain Transporter by the way. It was sort of a squashed up El Camino. I remember the one I had for the two oddly placed seats in the bed that faced backwards and had grab handles instead of seatbelts. It looked nothing like anything else on the road at the time and I loved it.

And that’s why when I first looked at the Ascent I had to sigh.

The 2021 Ascent can be had in base, Premium, Limited and Touring trim levels. All use a turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with 260 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque paired with a CVT automatic. All-wheel drive comes standard across the lineup.


I had the Limited for my week. Sure, it was nice, loaded with high quality materials on the inside with a power-adjustable driver’s seat, 8-inch infotainment touchscreen and 4G LTE Wi-Fi capability, heated front seats, a power rear tailgate, auto-dimming rearview mirror, navigation, a panoramic sunroof, LED foglights, a heated steering wheel and heated second-row seats, perforated leather upholstery, and a 14-speaker Harman Kardon audio system. There’s also keyless entry and a power rear liftgate.

You can get bench seating for 8, or like my tester, captains chairs with seating for 7. Subaru has always had really good safety systems, and the Ascent is no different with blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, a lane keeping system, rear automatic braking, and front collision avoidance all of which is some of the best on the market.

The interior is nice, and like any large crossover the view is great. And like any good crossover there’s plenty of power on the road. And like any good crossover the ride Is pretty smooth.

Detect a pattern?

Yes, the Subaru is a very good crossover. But so are many others on the road. The truth is that it’s another case of keeping up with the Joneses. I’m not expecting a Brat of course, but where’s the attraction? Where’s the ‘wow’ factor? A buyer could plunk down tens of thousands more for a Mercedes or BMW of course and get all the ‘wow’ they pay for. But for the rest of us why not just go to the first dealer selling SUVs and crossovers for around $35,000 and just sign the paperwork for whatever.

The sad truth is that the Subaru Ascent is the same as the Telluride, or the Traverse, or the CX9, or the Pilot.

At the end of the day, I get it. Automakers have to do what they have to do in order to make a sale, but it’s just a shame that they have to all look the same.

Perhaps I’m longing for the days when a Brat was unlike anything else on the road, and I didn’t care if my neighbor put in a pool. And I sure as hell will never be able to even paint on a pair of skinny jeans.

The 2021 Subaru Ascent
MSRP: $39,585
MSRP (as tested): $43,595
Engine: 2.4-liter turbocharged flat-4, 260 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm, 277 lb-ft of torque @ 2,000-4,800 rpm
Transmission: CVT
Fuel Mileage (EPA): 21 city, 26 highway, 22 combined
Fuel Mileage (mixed conditions): 28 mpg
Base Curb Weight: 4430 lbs

Exterior Dimensions
Height, overall: 71.6 in
Length, overall:    196.8 in
Wheelbase: 113.8 in
Width with mirrors: 85.7 in
Min Ground Clearance:     8.7 in

Interior Dimensions
Passenger Capacity:    7
Passenger Volume: 153.5 cu. ft
Front Leg Room: 42.2 in
Front Hip Room: 57.7 in
Front Head Room: 41.3 in
Second Leg Room: 38.6 in
Second Hip Room: 57.5 in
Second Head Room: 40 in
Third Leg Room: 31.7 in
Third Hip Room: 45.9 in
Third Head Room: 36.3 in
Cargo Volume to Seat 2: 47.5 ft
Cargo Box Width @ Wheelhousings: 45.9 in
Liftover Height: 32 in
Cargo Area Length @ Floor to Seat 3: 19.9 in
Cargo Volume to Seat 1: 86.5 ft
Cargo Area Length @ Floor to Seat 2     47.6 in
Second Shoulder Room     60.3 in
Cargo Box (Area) Height     33.9 in
Cargo Volume to Seat 3     17.8 ft³
Cargo Area Length @ Floor to Seat 1     82.5 in
Second Head Room     40 in
Track Width, Rear     64.2 in
Third Shoulder Room     57.2 in
Third Head Room     36.3 in
Front Shoulder Room     61.1 in
Second Hip Room     57.5 in
Third Hip Room     45.9 in
Cargo Volume to Seat 2     47.5 ft

Powertrain Miles: 60,000
Full Months: 36
Corrosion Miles: Unlimited
Corrosion Months: 60
Full Miles: 36,000
Powertrain Months: 60

Greg Engle