When the all-new Subaru Ascent was first revealed at the LA Auto Show last year, many thought it looked like a big Outback. While it does have a familiar family resemblance, it’s a totally new vehicle and the biggest vehicle Subaru has ever built. If you are considering a Subaru family hauler, which nameplate is best for you? Is the new Ascent family hauler bigger than you need? You might consider waiting for the new six-generation Outback coming next year.
Ascent is all new for the 2019 model year and is built on Subaru's new Global Platform, a modular chassis that offers superior crash absorption and improved handling agility. Subaru introduced the fifth-generation Outback in 2015, refreshed it for 2018, and will introduce the next generation model in 2019 as a 2020 model when it will ride on the new architecture. This could be a good reason to wait another year if you are considering the Outback.
Both Ascent and Outback are considered mid-size, SUV/Crossover vehicles, but the Outback carries five passengers, with Ascent you can haul 7 or 8 depending on the middle-row selection of a bench seat or captains chairs. Ascent has the longer wheelbase by almost five inches providing a smoother ride because the vehicle platform covers more square area and therefore bumps are less noticeable. Both offer standard full-time Symmetrical all-wheel-drive for all-weather capability. Ground clearance is the same, at 8.7 inches, so both vehicles are off-road capable and both come standard with X-Mode for serious recreation in the backcountry.
Ascent is longer than the current Outback by seven inches, and Ascent is five and a half inches taller. If you need cargo space, but not the third row, Outback compares favorably with Ascent. Outback comes with 35.5 cubic feet with the seats up, Ascent 19.6 cubic feet because it has an additional row of seats taking up space. With the third row folded down, Ascent has comparable space to the Outback. Outback features 73.3 cu.ft. seats down, Ascent offers 86.5 cu.ft. Both will carry a mountain bike inside and you’ll have comparable room for your four-legged friends.
What about people space?
If you need to haul people, Ascent is the vehicle for carrying 2-3 more passengers than Outback. Outback comes with 108.1 cubic feet of volume inside the cabin, Ascent features 153.5 cubic feet. Ascent has a bit more second-row legroom with 38.6 inches while Outback gets 38.1 inches. So if don’t need that third row, Outback offers enough room for your taller passengers. When the sixth-generation 2020 Outback arrives next year, it will grow in the interior room because of the new Global Platform offering a modular chassis. Look for Outback to get a wider tailgate opening too.
Will you be towing a small trailer or a sailboat? The current Outback can tow a small utility trailer (2700 lbs towing capacity, 3000 lbs with 6-cylinder) but for a sailboat, you'll need the Ascent (5000 lbs). It’s not been announced the new-gen Outback will increase its towing capacity.
Engines and Fuel Economy
Both offer standard Boxer engines. Ascent is heavier and is powered by the all-new 2.4-liter turbo four-cylinder producing 260 horsepower and gets an EPA estimated 20 city, 26 highway mpg. The Outback comes with two engine options now, a 2.5 liter four cylinder producing 175 horsepower getting 25 city, 32 highway mpg, or the optional 3.6-liter boxer six-cylinder producing 256 horsepower getting 20 city, 27 highway mpg. When the new-generation Outback arrives next year, it will likely feature a new direct injection four-cylinder engine with improved power and fuel efficiency and look for Subaru to drop the six-cylinder option.
Comparing the same trim levels, Ascent costs about $6,000 more now than Outback. However, Ascent comes with standard or optional equipment not offered on Outback, such as EyeSight driver assist safety system. It’s optional on Outback now, but Subaru will make it a standard feature on the 2020 model year.
If you don’t need a 3-Row family hauler, the six-generation 2020 Subaru Outback arrives next year. It will ride on the new Subaru Global Platform with improved driving dynamics, will have more interior room, it should get a new fuel-efficient four-cylinder engine and it will get new infotainment.
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Photo credit: Planet Subaru