From the September 2018 issue
It doesn’t matter if you’re a person or a corporate entity or even one of the dogs in its commercials: Chances are, Subaru is riding a better streak than you are. As this is written, it’s been outdoing itself in sales for 79 consecutive months. The last time most of us improved for more than six and a half straight years was before puberty. And now, the brand is poised to ensure that streak continues with its new three-row crossover, the Ascent.
Forget the weird-looking, half-sized Tribeca the company peddled here from 2005 to 2014; the Ascent is a full-commitment, full-size three-row SUV that jumps into the segment with both feet. At 196.8 inches long, 76.0 wide, and 71.6 tall, it’s within inches of the segment’s best-selling Ford Explorer. The Explorer, we’ll note, isn’t here because it lost a comparison test seven years ago and hasn’t changed much since. Neither are many of this segment’s other heavyweights, because they, too, have lost comparison tests more recently than they’ve been significantly refreshed. And so the Ascent faces off against the best of its competitors, and the other newest.> Marc UrbanoCar and Driver
The Ascent begins at $32,970, but for this test, we procured a Touring model, which leaves the ordering mainframe so fully loaded, there are no factory options, only post-assembly bric-a-brac screwed or glued in place after the ute rolls off the line in Lafayette, Indiana. Adaptive cruise control, automated emergency braking, three-zone automatic climate control, and an absurd 19 cupholders are standard on all Ascents; the Touring adds keyless entry and ignition, brown leather upholstery with contrast stitching, a two-row sunroof, heated and ventilated front seats, and piles of other goodies. A 260-hp turbocharged 2.4-liter flat-four is the only available engine. This being Subaru, it routes its torque through a CVT to all four wheels.
Or maybe Subaru didn’t really jump into this market with two feet. Maybe it was more like 1.9 feet. It rounds up, according to Subaru PR. The other significantly new entry to this segment, the redesigned-for-2018 Chevrolet Traverse, outdoes the Ascent with an extra 14 cubic feet of space for people and crap and 7.5 more inches of overall length. Like Subaru, Chevy offers a turbocharged four-cylinder, but these four are in a line and only available with front-wheel drive. Every all-wheel-drive Traverse is powered by a 3.6-liter V-6. Faced with the choice of engine parity or powered-wheel parity, we tried to think like the segment’s shoppers. When we regained consciousness somewhere around the fifth inning of a T-ball game—covered in Teddy Grahams crumbs, hands sticky from what we assume was a leaky juice box, unable to remember if the stove was on—we panicked and chose the front-drive four-cylinder Traverse RS. Gotta cut back on the fuel spend to free up some cash for a smart-home system. In addition to blacked-out exterior trim, the RS comes with 10-speaker Bose sound, leather seats (heated up front), and somewhere between 38 and 83 other trinkets you might care about that we don’t have the patience to list.> Marc UrbanoCar and Driver
At the other end of the size spectrum is our reigning champion in the three-row-crossover segment, the Mazda CX-9. It’s smaller inside than most competitors, but it’s the one entry in this class that seems engineered for a driver. Exhibit A: Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control, a little bit of powertrain programming that imperceptibly cuts torque from the turbo 2.5-liter inline-four the moment the steering wheel turns. It breathes off the throttle, with the effect of ever so slightly shifting load forward for quicker, sharper turn-in. Buyers aren’t likely to understand or notice, but they’ll appreciate the CX-9’s responsiveness and the confidence it imparts. With heated first- and second-row seats, automatic windshield wipers with heated rests, and a heated steering wheel—plus other less hot stuff—our all-wheel-drive CX-9 Signature tallied $45,610.
We nosed our trio north along I-75 until we ran out of Michigan, then crossed into Ontario because we love doughnuts, hockey, and milk sold by the bag. There, we found Highway 556, a remarkably well-maintained 50-mile stretch of dirt road that might exist solely to indulge the rally-driver fantasies of goons in family haulers. Yeah, we know that throwing sideways roostertails of gravel into the woods is not exactly what these vehicles are for. But we’ve made it this far without muttering the M-word. We’re going to deploy it now. If you need three rows, you really should just buy a minivan. But if you’re going to do something you shouldn’t do, you damn well better enjoy it.> Car and Driver
General Motors’ Chi-platform SUVs—the Traverse, Buick Enclave, Cadillac XT5, and GMC Acadia—sell quite well, especially given the stiff in-house people-hauling competition the Chevy and GMC face in the Tahoe and Yukon. With the redesign cycle that began with the 2017 Acadia, GM violated not only one of the core principles of business, but a maxim so accepted as a universal truth that some of our more naive staffers thought it was a constitutional amendment: Don’t mess with success. GM split its old Lambda-platform utes, shrinking the Acadia and letting the Traverse swell even larger.
And it is yuge inside. Its second row is as voluminous as the Mazda’s front. According to the numbers, the Traverse has only a three-cubic-foot advantage over the Ascent back there, but in real life, it’s the difference between large men fitting totally comfortably and not really fitting at all. While the Subaru offers similarly welcoming passage to the third row, only the Chevy could accommodate three adults by the D-pillars without any of them complaining. Mazda doesn’t even try, offering only two seatbelts in the wayback.>
But it is frustrating that Chevy installs different folding mechanisms on the driver’s- and passenger’s-side second-row seats. On the driver’s side, a lever collapses the seatback onto the bottom cushion, leaving third-row occupants to navigate around the folded seat. In addition to that functionality, the passenger’s-side captain’s chair has a second lever that leans the seatback forward and slides the whole thing toward the front. This is the more convenient portal—and the way both sides of the Subaru work. It’s great that the second-row captain’s chairs provide a walk-through space for small people that obviates the need to fold the seats in many third-row-ingress situations, but it’s hard to imagine any other company being so tight as to not install that slide-forward mechanism on both sides. Fire more beancounters, GM.
Online editor Andrew Wendler wrote of the Traverse that it “feels trucky . . . a familiar, comfortable vibe, like something involving water skis and grilling is gonna happen before the weekend is over.” He also compared it with an Astro van. It just drives big in this crowd. And the ride isn’t all that great: Over single bumps, the Traverse suffers from more wheel judder than either of the other two vehicles. Over uglier stuff, the difference is more stark. Here and there on 556, we ran into stretches of mild washboard. Chattering over these stretches at speed, the Chevy’s whole structure shuddered, the doors hammering away in their openings like the blades of a helicopter flaring for landing. The Subaru’s doors rattled slightly. The Mazda’s? Not even a hint of noise or movement. You’d think they were welded shut. And the noise of the gravel pinging off the Chevy’s undercarriage and wheel wells betrayed a lack of sound deadening compared with the Japanese entries.> Marc UrbanoCar and Driver
The Traverse’s interior, too, feels cheaper than those of the others. The contrast-stitched leather dash and upper door panels are nice, but the black plastics used below the beltline give the impression that there’s an edge lurking somewhere in here that you could cut a finger on. Both the Mazda and the Subaru show clear evidence of care and expenditure in their interior materials and designs; while the Chevrolet has its highlights and richer touchpoints, it lacks the cohesive feel and consistent quality of the others.
So we dinged it in the subjective categories, but the Traverse was our numbers champion. The three vehicles were neck and neck in every performance test, but the Chevy managed moral victories in acceleration and braking and on the skidpad. When we tallied fuel economy at the end of our 1000-mile odyssey, it won that, too. But none of these numbers matter so much to buyers as interior volume, and if space is your only priority, [beats head against wall] then buy a freaking . . . [passes out].>
Truthfully, we ended up on Highway 556 because searching Google Maps for the squiggliest line in any given area is a reliable way of finding interesting roads. But if we had to invent some other explanation, well, we did have a Subaru on hand.
In none of these vehicles could we fully disable stability control, but with careful goading, we were able to exploit a wide window in which the Ascent’s system would intervene with subtle brake applications without shutting the fun all the way down. And within this threshold, we did manage to have real fun, penduluming the Subie from turn to turn as that little orange swerving-car icon on the dashboard flickered frantically. When pushed, the Subaru allowed so much yaw that we found a golf-ball-sized rock wedged into the spokes of a rear wheel during a photo stop.>
In the sort of use these vehicles are more likely to encounter, the Ascent is also satisfying. Its ride strikes a nice balance of cush and control, and quick steering makes it feel responsive without being nervous. Our rally-fantasy antics so taxed the brakes that, at another stop, reviews editor Josh Jacquot pulled up the anchor and puttered down the road for a mile to cool what he described as “a campfire” that had erupted from the right-front corner. Critically, the brakes stayed strong and the pedal never went the slightest bit soft.
Our drivers agreed that the Subaru had the best driving position, with excellent visibility all around, even to the rear. Where the Mazda can feel cramped and the Chevy just big, the Subaru feels compact without compact sightlines. And if you keep your attention trained on the interior, the Subaru also impresses with rich materials and smart design. The matte-finish faux-wood trim in our tritone brown, tan, and black interior was particularly pleasing, and even the floor mats were a pretty splash of color that, with their earth-tone reed-look cabana weave, should dutifully hide actual splashes and stains. Our opinions were split on the driver’s seat, however. Two of our three jurors voted it the best, while the third complained that the adjustable thigh support left too little stationary cushion, forcing him to scooch against the backrest like someone shuffling along a skyscraper ledge. Not exactly a comfortable way to pass the miles. Or wait for Batman.> Marc UrbanoCar and Driver
We opined less warmly about Subaru’s tech buffet, which is overkill to a ridiculous degree. One example: In its default setting, the adaptive-cruise-control system emits a beep every time it detects a vehicle in front of it and again when it loses sight of each one. Think about how that plays out on a crowded highway. Dig into those settings and you can disable it, but that’s just dumb. Should something beep every time a spark plug does its job?
On the plus side, not only is there not a beep for every ignition event, there’s none of Subaru’s usual boxer-four coarseness, either. The CVT “shifts” through faux ratios, and while the act won’t fool anyone in the know, it does keep the gearless ’box from calling attention to itself. And the Ascent is the only vehicle here with shift paddles. That counts for a point. Half, at least.> Car and Driver
Appreciating the Mazda CX-9 is as easy as turning on the radio or adjusting the air conditioning. Every knob moves with calibrated precision that imparts a feeling of quality. If inconsequential pieces like these benefit from tangibly thoughtful engineering, just imagine the care that went into the larger systems.
Actually, you don’t have to imagine it—evidence of the Mazda’s engineering depth abounds. The CX-9’s engine testifies to how the company empowers its engineers to make smart decisions, and not just cost-effective ones. It’s unique among modern turbo fours for its extreme prioritization of low-end torque, which better matches the engine’s output curve to the usage patterns of most crossover buyers. The Traverse bettered the CX-9 in our observed fuel economy, but that’s partly because the Traverse was no fun whatsoever on our rally runs, so we didn’t push it. The CX-9 didn’t allow as much play as the Ascent did before stability control intervened, but we still figured out how to achieve small victories over its nannies. As long as we held a steering input, it would allow mild rotation to continue. With that in mind, we took some pretty weird lines through corners, turning in later and letting excess rotation compensate, using mild throttle inputs to tweak our heading. But the moment we countersteered, the portcullis came crashing down and the fun stopped immediately.>
Though the Chevy’s Continental tires eked out a 0.01-g victory in absolute grip on pavement, the CX-9 dominated the slalom, in part because of G-Vectoring Control’s assist on turn-in. And for family vehicles, competent limit handling is a safety feature. Say you’ve got the kids and all your worldly belongings loaded up, and you’re swerving through the debris field from an apocalyptic swarm of super tornadoes. The CX-9 will get your family farther from the threat. It’ll also more competently avoid your neighbors’ cat, for which they’ll thank you, or a deer, for which you’ll thank you.
Of course, the Mazda’s big downside is that, once you reach safety, you’ll be starting over with less, as it doesn’t fit as much stuff inside. It reminds us of that Seinfeld stand-up bit about airplanes. “It’s a whole tiny world on the airplane . . . tiny table there, tiny computer, everyone’s in the little cramped seat, tiny food, tiny utensils . . . ” Mazda’s version is tiny doors, a tiny second row, cramped seats, and a tiny passageway to the tiny third row. The CX-9 is best suited for families that are small, either in stature or in head count.
So what’s it doing in first place? Intangibles like driver engagement don’t matter in a family vehicle, you say? But if all that mattered were practicality, these would all be minivans. That they are not says buyers pick and choose their priorities. So do we. We choose to prioritize quality and engagement. We choose the Mazda.>
Source : https://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/comparison-test/a22851308/subaru-ascent-chevy-traverse-mazda-cx9-suv-comparison/Terima Kasih for visit my website