Ace of Base: 2018 Subaru Ascent

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Subaru Ascent

Given my review of this machine earlier this week, today’s selection shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. Not only is it fresh in my increasingly cluttered brain, but I truly do believe the base Ascent represents a good value for money.

So long as you don’t want to tow anything, that is.

That’s my sole beef of mention with the base Ascent. In a bid to limbo under the $32,000 price bar, the Exploding Galaxy binned the car’s auxiliary oil and transmission coolers. This lowers the base Ascent’s maximum tow rating to 2,000 pounds, while its burlier brothers can shoulder a 5,000 pound load.

If your “active lifestyle” doesn’t involve shuttling a dirt bike strapped to a utility trailer or a lightweight camper, however, the base Ascent has a lot to offer. All-wheel drive is standard, because Subaru — a claim not made by many of its direct competitors. We live in a world where one can now sign the note on a front-drive Explorer or Pathfinder, models which this author fondly remembers as rear-drive machines.

Eight people can hit the road in a base Ascent if the owner chooses to deploy the 2-3-3 configuration of seats. The third row is habitable by actual humans, but those extra-long of leg may find themselves eating their knees if they’re back there all day, given the stepped floor that makes way for all-wheel drive gear under the car. Row #2 is completely habitable by all hands on the height spectrum.

Those finding themselves in that row will, thanks to the wonderful world of economies of scale and supply chains, enjoy a zone of climate all to themselves. Tri-zone climate control used to be the stuff of megabuck crossovers and sedans and to find it on a base model is fantastic (at least one of Ascent’s competitors has tri-zone on its base model as well, a vehicle whose name starts with “path” and ends in “finder”).

Most gearheads turn up their nose at safety nannies like those bundled in Subaru’s suite of safety systems, branded under the EyeSight banner. However, a great swath of the driving public (including gearheads) could stand to have a bit of help in the attention-span department, so to have a brace of cameras peering ahead and providing Adaptive Cruise Control, Pre-collision Braking, Lane Departure Warning, and Lane Keep Assist is a benefit for many people on the road. Don’t like it? Then it’s easy to turn all those things off, albeit every time you twist the key.

I remain satisfied with the Ascent’s 2.4-liter turbocharged boxer-four, an engine which spans all four trims and proves the only thing holding a base Ascent from hauling 5,000 lbs is the lack of auxiliary coolers.

Four USB ports pepper the interior, more than I’ve found in the entire waiting area of Gate 55 at Toronto-Pearson International Airport. The steering wheel adjusts for reach and rake, while all hands will stay hydrated with 19 cupholders. Gimmick? Anyone who thinks so mustn’t have small kids, as cupholders are essential items often filled with stuff like those beach rocks to which Junior has developed an inexplicable bond or a sullen teen’s iPod full of brooding music. A few extra for, y’know, actual cups won’t go astray.

And according to Subaru folks, the roof rails are stout enough to bear the weight of a snazzy rooftop tent. Hey, with that sleeping option, maybe hauling a small camper isn’t so important after all.

[Image: Subaru]

Not every base model has aced it. The ones that have? They help make the automotive landscape a lot better. Any others you can think of, B&B? Let us know in the comments. Naturally, feel free to eviscerate our selections.

The model above is shown with American options and is priced in Freedom Dollars absent of any rebates or destination fees. As always, your dealer may sell for less.