Two SUVs and a wagon provided exceptional hauling and plentiful comfort
The 2019 Subaru Ascent, the automaker’s all-new midsize offering, features Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive on all models, has 8.7 inches of ground clearance, and a towing capacity of 5,000 pounds, the most ever offered by Subaru.
Our tested Ascent Premium model, the second trim level of four offerings, was powered by a 2.4-L direct-injection turbocharged Boxer engine that produced 260 HP at 5,600 RPM, and 277 lb.-ft. of torque between 2,000-4,800 RPM. It was all the desired acceleration and performance we required, plus the high-torque Lineartronic CVT with eight-speed paddle shifters offered smooth performance.
Our likes on the new Ascent, which has options for seven or eight passengers, include the AWD and ground clearance, as well as X-MODE with Hill Descent Control (optimizes engine/transmission output and increases AWD engagement), the all-weather package (heated outside mirrors, heated front seats, and windshield wiper de-icer), EyeSight Driver Assist Technology (Adaptive Cruise Control, pre-collision braking, lane departure, and more), blind-spot detection, rearview camera, 19 cup and bottle holders, and 153.5 cubic inches of very comfy passenger volume. Plus there is 86.5 cubic feet of cargo space behind the first row that we used to the fullest.
Ascent models have the STARLINK Multimedia Plus System
offers an eight-inch high-resolution touchscreen with full connectivity and integration. There is also a very workable three-zone climate control system, 18-inch all-season tires (20-inch available on two models), and a Trailer Stability Assist package that monitors and stabilizes trailer sway.
We very much liked this all-new SUV that provided us immense cargo hauling, superb handling, and lots of creature comforts. Our MSRP was a very competitive $34,195, and we had one option package for $1,460.
SportWagon fun and usable vehicle
So, if a wagon is in mix, the 2018 VW Golf SportWagen TSI SE may just be the answer for several reasons, but mostly because it is simply a usable and versatile vehicle.
While there is an option for 4MOTION All-Wheel-Drive, our tester had FWD and the 1.8-L TSI turbo four-cylinder engine that creates 170 HP and 184 lb.-ft. of torque (standard on all four SportWagen models). It was quick enough for us and with a six-speed automatic transmission the fuel economy was great - we averaged well over 32 MPG for a weeklong drive (EPA/DOT ratings are 24/city and 33/highway).
With its electro-mechanical power steering and four-wheel independent suspension, the SportWagen handles nicely and provided an amazing 66.5 cubic feet of storage space behind the front seats.
Likeable features on the wagon included a NHTSA 5-Star Safety Rating, halogen front and LED rear lighting, heated/foldable outside mirrors, heated front seats, power/tilting moonroof, rain-sensing wipers with heated nozzles, forward collision warning, blind-spot monitor, rearview camera, and eight-speaker audio system connected to an eight-inch touchscreen.
There is also the VW CAR-NET package that includes App-Connect plus emergency service and other features.
The SportWagen is not an SUV or crossover, it’s a wagon with more than enough room for passengers and cargo. It moves well in traffic, offers solid fuel economy, and is priced right at $28,215 for the TSI SE (base SportWagen S model starts at $21,685).
We had no options on our tester and our only dislike was a fair amount of road noise.
The Expedition is big and powerful
Over the years we’ve test driven several Ford Expeditions, but it has been a while since we have driven this beast. It doesn’t take long to remember that this is a huge SUV that needs its power running boards for entry; it sits high even for a driver more than six feet tall.
Likes on the 2018 Platinum 4x4 unit we tested include LED fog lamps, hands-free liftgate, 22-inch polished wheels with 22-inch BSW tires, heated/ventilated and very comfortable front bucket seats, heated second row seats, power-fold third row seats, remote start, lots of storage space (cargo capacity over 104 cubic feet), and power/heated outside mirrors.
A 3.50L EcoBoost V-8 engine and 10-speed automatic transmission move the Expedition, but fuel economy is 19 MPG overall (17/city and 22/highway).
Our tester had a Class IV trailer tow package, driver assistance package, Enhanced Active Park Assist, voice activated navigation, SYNC 3 connectivity, and abundant safety features.
Even though it’s gigantic, the Expedition handles well and offers superb standard features, but it’s expensive. The base model starts at almost $52,000, and our 2018 4x4 tester with loads of off-road capability had an MSRP of $76,175. With options, it priced out at $80,520 - lot of vehicle, but a lot of money.