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  • Writer's pictureCory Fourniquet

2023 Subaru Ascent Onyx: Subaru's 2nd Take at a Proper SUV

Subaru has been without a proper SUV since it discontinued the Tribeca SUV at the end of the 2014 model year. The Tribeca was first introduced as a 2006 model under the name B9 Tribeca, but its bold and unique styling along with its name that did not fit with the rest of the Subaru lineup needed updating. For 2008 the B9 prefix was gone and the styling was toned down to a more pleasing and conventional look.

The changes may have been too little too late, and with the Tribeca looking a little more vanilla after its makeover, the vehicle did not really stand out in a sea of increasing competition. Subaru made the decision to cease production after the 2014 model year, leaving Subaru’s loyal fans to search elsewhere for a large SUV, or downgrade to the Outback wagon.

That all changed with the introduction of the Ascent as a 2019 model. Only 5 years after deciding to exit the market altogether, Subaru gave its fans a proper SUV once more with a 3-row premium SUV built at the same Indiana plant that produced the Tribeca. Styling of the Ascent was more or less an elongation of the current Subaru design. Think big Outback or Forester, which is not a bad thing, but some might call it a safe or less-daring design choice.

For 2023 the Ascent, along with Outback and Legacy models, all get updated styling that is more assertive and aggressive for the small automaker. Most prominently featured is the new grille. Taking the old grille and stretching it downward, the opening appears much larger than prior models, and Subaru accents its logo in the middle with a wide-winged design that extends out from the grille and under the updated headlight units. This design is not going to be called conservative or vanilla.

Our black-on-black Onyx edition did not really do the best job of showing off the new grille as everything up front, with exception of the Subaru logo, is black. However, the overall design is cohesive and blends nicely with the Outback and Legacy models that are also produced at the same Indiana plant.

Moving inside, Onyx models get a two-tone StarTex interior with bright green contrasting stitching on the seats, door panels, floor mats, and steering wheel. It is a very nice touch and does not feel lake a black void you might expect a vehicle dubbed “Onyx” to house on its inside. Seating in the front two rows is comfortable and supportive, but the three-person third row should really be reserved for children or adults on short cross-town trips.

The luggage space behind the reclining third row is tight. So much so that Subaru does not die a figure for space behind the third row on their website. Depending on how upright the rear seat is, you can fit a large suitcase and a carryon bag or two back there without much issue, but be careful to put the widest part of your luggage in the middle of the vehicle as ours almost did not leave enough room for the hatch to latch shut.

Underneath the rear cargo section is a false load floor that houses the rear cargo shade when not in use. It is also a decently sized hidden storage spot for items you do not want to be seen. Fold the third-row seats flat and Subaru claims you will find an impressive 42.1 cubic feet of cargo space. Fold the second-row captain’s chairs flat and you will find a decent 72.8 cubic feet of space. (For reference, the compact Honda CR-V has 76.5 cubic feet of space with the seats folded.)

Overall, this is a competent entry into the very crowded 3-row family hauler market that Subaru faithful should really love. It is larger and rosier than the Outback wagon and has all the Subaru charm, character, and technology you come to expect. The power comes from a turbocharged Boxer 4-cylinder engine powering all four wheels. Safety tech is extensive as well. If you are a fan of the brand and are in search of something bigger for your growing family, this Ascent should fit the bill.

2023 Subaru Ascent Onyx Specs:

  • 2.4-liter Turbocharged Subaru BOXER® 4-cylinder Engine

  • 260 Horsepower

  • 277 lb.-ft. of Torque

  • Lineartronic® CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission)

  • Subaru Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive

  • X-MODE®

  • Hill Descent Control (HDC)

  • Active Torque Vectoring

  • StarTex® Water-repellant Seats

  • 20-inch Black Finish Alloy Wheels

  • Black Grille and Exterior Trim

  • Power Rear Liftgate

  • Standard Panoramic Sunroof

  • Subaru STARLINK 11.6-inch Infotainment

  • Second Row Captain’s Chairs with Rear Seat Access

  • Tri-zone Automatic Climate Control

  • Proximity Key with Push Button Start

  • Hidden Storage Under the Rear Cargo Area

  • 42.1 Cubic Feet of Storage Space with Third Row Folded

  • 72.8 Cubic Feet of Maximum Cargo Space

  • EPA Fuel Economy 19/25/21 (city/hwy/cmb)

  • Starting Price: $33,895 (Base)

  • Price as tested: $42,520

If you are in the East Texas area and in the market for a new or pre-owned Subaru, check out our friends at Peltier Subaru:

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