2022 Subaru Ascent Onyx Edition

Clever packaging by Subaru engineers gives the Ascent more interior space than its larger competitors.
Clever packaging by Subaru engineers gives the Ascent more interior space than its larger competitors.

by Arthur Chiang | March 30, 2022


This is the 2022 Subaru Ascent Onyx Edition. But wait, there’s some background – as one of Japan’s smaller automakers, Subaru relied on quirky designs and solid engineering to build a name for itself on the global stage. As they grew their lineup expanded to include their first three-row crossover SUV, the B9 Tribeca. A nod to Subaru’s past manufacturing airplanes, the Tribeca had a bi-plane styled front fascia that was to become the new face of Subaru.

Like many Subaru designs it proved polarizing upon release – endearing to some, but a non-starter for the broader mass market appeal Subaru so badly desired. Slow sales prompted Subaru to redesign the fascia with a more traditional look but the Tribeca was just too small and underpowered to compete in the class and was discontinued in 2014. In 2017, fresh off the development of the new Subaru Global Platform, Subaru came out swinging with the largest Subaru vehicle ever – the Ascent. Now in its fifth year of production at the Lafayette, Indiana assembly plant, the Ascent continues to deliver the Subaru experience to families that have outgrown the Forester.

New for this year, the Onyx Edition is aptly named for this blacked out trim. With its Crystal Black Silica paint job, black front grill, door handles, window trim and 20-inch black wheels our tester looks all business; it could make for a convincing unmarked police vehicle just as well as a family hauler on your driveway ready for the next trip to the supermarket. Curiously the chrome trim piece across the rear hatch remains but at least the emblems are finished in a smooth shade of black. If you are not a fan of chrome this is definitely the one for you.

Subaru does allow you to choose between four other colors if you only want the chrome deletes but we find the Crystal Black Silica paint combination especially striking in this trim. Another nice touch is the Subaru Six Stars logo etched into the side mirrors, which illuminate when you unlock the vehicle or turn on the ambient lighting.

The stealthy theme continues into the interior; silver bits replaced with sleek black trim and a carbon-esque accent across the dash and doors which complement the interior nicely. The leather wrapped steering wheel is “full-circle” heated but we found the elements to be strongest at hand positions 10 and 2. The black metal trim on the wheel looks great but it also blocks the heat at 9 and 3 which isn’t ideal. While we are being critical, we wish the heat element didn’t take quite so long to reach a decent temperature.

The Onyx Edition forgoes leather seating opting for a two tone charcoal and grey all-weather material similar in feel to neoprene. The seats look decent and easy to clean but the texture is tacky and we can imagine having to peel our skin off it on a hot summer day – it could be a deal breaker for some. Front seats have three levels of heat but ventilation is only available in higher trim levels. Third row space is average for the class, a bit too tight for larger adults on longer trips. The Onyx Edition provides seating for seven but seating for eight is available in other trim levels.

Clever packaging by Subaru engineers gives the Ascent more interior space than its physically larger competitors. The cabin has great visibility and is made brighter with a big sunroof extending through the second row. A powered tailgate with memory function is included, which will aid those with height restricted parking spaces.

Things start to go awry in the interior with the LCD digital pod atop the middle of the dash. While it does a great job of clearly displaying the time and other useful information like remaining range and fuel economy, the display itself looks antiquated and is disappointing if you are coming from one of Subaru’s other vehicles that feature a full color led display. Also a bit perplexing to those of us that enjoy a cohesive looking interior are the sections of red illuminated buttons and the red mirror compass indicator contrasting the white back-lighting found throughout.

Subaru’s new vertical tablet center console infotainment has not yet made its way into the Ascent lineup, which is a positive as we have no complaints about the eight-inch system found here. It is simple and intuitive to use, with all the knobs and buttons expected along with support for wired Apple Car Play or Android Auto. A Harman-Kardon system is available in higher trims but we find the standard audio system here acceptable if a little lacking.

While many of its closest competitors are powered with six-cylinder engines, Ascents are equipped with a 2.4-liter turbocharged flat-four with full time symmetrical all-wheel drive. This powerplant keeps the Ascent on a level playing field with its 260 horsepower and 277 lb-ft. output. The Ascent is easy to drive as the power delivery is tuned for low end torque. Push the engine into the upper reaches of the rev range and it does lose some steam but it’s also the only way to hear some of that classic Boxer growl Subaru fans know and love.

The CVT can be paddle shifted through eight simulated gears for when you want to relive those glory days but for the sake of fuel economy it’s best to let the Ascent come up with the best gear ratio for the situation at hand.  The Ascent comes with Subaru’s X-Mode enhanced all-wheel drive system to help traverse more challenging terrain when travelling under 40 km/h. Manually activated when managing a steep hill ascent/descent or for extra slippery surfaces, the system maximizes traction and control.

Taking full advantage of the inherent packaging advantages of the Subaru engine the drivetrain is mounted low, effectively lowering the vehicles center of gravity. The Ascent handles about as well you can imagine for something so big and tall with surprisingly little body roll. It’s easy to place on the road with excellent visibility and narrow footprint compared to other mid-size crossovers. The electric power steering assist keeps the steering feeling too light, almost like the wheels we used to fling around on the Super Sprint arcade machine. While this does reduce fatigue when driving over long distances we’d prefer more feel.

Being the largest vehicle in the Subaru lineup, the Ascent is also the brands most capable towing machine with its 5000-pound towing capacity besting some of its competitors. Though not equipped standard, accommodations for a Class 3 trailer hitch have been engineered to integrate nicely under the Ascent’s bumper cover only exposed to the elements (and the eye) when a plastic cover is removed for towing.

The Ascent runs on regular unleaded fuel, with which we observed a fuel efficiency of 12.0L/100KM in mixed driving through harsh winter conditions. While not as efficient as the turbocharged four-cylinder of the Mazda CX-9 the fuel economy is in line with others in the segment with an official rating of 11.7L/100km city, 9.0L/100km highway, and 10.5L/100km combined.

The Ascent starts at a base $37,295, going up to our as-tested Onyx edition at $44,995. Topping out at $51,795, Limited and Premier models add leather seats with ventilation and memory, a front view camera, GPS and enhanced audio by Harman-Kardon.

While the Ascent doesn’t have any traits that put it head and shoulders above any of its peers it does do just about everything well. Subaru fans will right feel at home choosing the 2022 Subaru Ascent Onyx edition for their next family hauler. With design that will appeal to the mass market, Subaru’s award winning EyeSight suite of safety features and proven all-wheel drive engineering the Ascent is a solid entry for the brand.

See Also:

2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

2022 Honda Pilot TrailSport

2022 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum

Vehicle Specs
Three-Row Crossover
Engine Size
2.4L turbocharged flat-four
Horsepower (at RPM)
260 at 5,600
Torque (lb-ft.)
277 at 4,800
Fuel Efficiency (L/100km, City/Highway/Combined)
Observed Fuel Efficiency (L/100km)
Cargo Capacity (in L)
Base Price (CAD)
As-Tested Price (CAD)
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About Arthur Chiang

Staff Writer

Arthur is a walking encyclopedia of cars and is a known go-to source for obscure JDM parts in Ontario. He’s an avid track junkie and has amassed a collection of rare Subarus and Hondas.

Current Toys: ’00 WRX STI S201, '03 Impreza TS Wagon, ’98 WRX STI Type R, ’05 S2000, ’72 H2 750, ’08 Ruckus