"The Ascent's continuously variable automatic transmission, a new unit meant for high-torque applications, pairs well with this engine. It's one of the few CVTs we've sampled that somewhat convincingly executes simulated shifts as you accelerate, mitigating the droning sensation that can exaggerate the boxer engines' lack of refinement in other Subies. The gearbox also complements the engine's torque curve nicely, effectively keeping the turbo on the boil and making the Ascent feel responsive and powerful when passing or merging. As is typical of most automatic-transmission Subarus, the Ascent has a jumpy throttle tip-in that can make it difficult to drive smoothly around town, but turbo lag is minimal.
"The Ascent is a competent handler, too, with firm damping that keeps body motions nicely controlled in corners. Its light steering lacks feel and feedback, removing any sense of driver engagement from the equation, but only the 10 Best Trucks and SUVs–winning Mazda CX-9 really provides that in this segment, anyway. Ride quality is good, but we wouldn't call it plush. Instead, the Ascent sits at the tauter, sportier end of this segment, although the firm ride might settle down a bit with a full load of people and/or cargo on board. Impacts are never harsh, even in higher-spec models with the larger 20-inch wheels (lower trims come with 18-inchers). That said, road and tire noise can intrude at highway speeds."
-- Joey Capparella, Car and Driver