The present-day Explorer might not be as rugged as its predecessors, but it sure handles, rides and steers better. It feels secure rounding corners, with surprisingly little body roll for a tall vehicle, and the suspension soaks up pavement irregularities with aplomb.
The steering gives decent feedback and requires just the right amount of effort. The optional twin-turbo EcoBoost V-6 provides V-8-like oomph and is tow rated up to 5,000 pounds. The cabin stays church quiet, even over harsh tarmac, and is beautifully finished. The handsome exterior has styling reminiscent of Land Rover, once a Ford subsidiary.
Alas, all is not flawless. Rear vision is abysmal (it’s a good thing a rearview camera is standard). There are three rows of seats, but the third row requires acrobatics to reach and is better suited for kids. And advanced safety equipment, such as automatic emergency braking and lane-keeping assist, is available only on the top trim level or as an extra-cost option. Finally, the EcoBoost V-6 is pretty thirsty (18 mpg in combined city/highway driving). Nonetheless, the latest Explorer is virtuous enough to remain a best-seller.
Base Price: $33,500
MPG: 16 highway, 22 highway
Crash Test: 5 stars
For years, Subaru fans haven’t had the choice of a vehicle with more people-carrying or towing capacity than an Outback or Forester. But for 2019 comes the all-new midsize Subaru Ascent.
It features conservative but handsome exterior design. Inside, the Ascent is the epitome of function, with instrumentation and controls notable for their logical layout and ease of use. Second-row seating is spacious, but third-row seating, not so much.
The Ascent’s ride is civilized, and interior noise levels are low. Its horizontally opposed (“boxer”) engine has only four cylinders, but they provide brisk acceleration and enough power to tow up to 5,000 pounds. As with most other Subaru models, all-wheel drive is standard equipment. So, too, is a suite of advanced safety features, as well as technology that accepts over-the-air system upgrades.
If there’s a downside to this new model, it’s the excessively light steering combined with somewhat ponderous handling. But all in all, the Ascent is a worthy addition to Subaru’s model line.
Base Price: $33,000
MPG: 21 city, 27 highway
Crash Test: 5 stars
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