If you can't beat them, join them

by Willy Williamson . Apr 05 2019


It wasn’t so very long ago you could spot certain Subaru models on the road from a mile away — which wasn’t necessarily a good thing.

That Tribeca, for example, the one Kelly Taylor refers to as “original” and “unique” in its styling, is in my opinion about the ugliest looking vehicle EVER. Back in 2007, we tested one and somehow in my haste to get it home after work and hide it in the garage, the headlights weren’t turned on and the police pulled me over. Once the nice officer heard my story and was done running my papers, she returned from her cruiser and told me to turn on my lights and have a nice night. But, she had one final question before sending me on my way... and asked it without a hint of sarcasm: “Is this an actual model they are going to be selling to the public?”

Who could blame her for wondering? The grille design was reportedly meant to convey parent-company Fuji Heavy Industries’ glorious history in aviation. Instead, it looked like a sad/angry chicken. To say it didn’t fly is an understatement of immense proportions. Thankfully, the Tribeca received an update to its ridiculous looking grille only two years after its release, but the damage was clearly done and Tribeca was killed off following the 2014 model year.

It wasn’t that it was a bad vehicle; in fact, if memory serves me correctly, we gave it a positive review. As far as driving dynamics and interior comfort were concerned, it was in line with the competition of the day, but Subaru’s apparent need to come up with something that stood out from the crowd was clearly an abysmal failure.

This wasn’t the first time Subaru turned me off with its oddball styling. Back in 1992, my brother, Allen, who was posted with the RCMP in Alberta at the time, showed up here in Manitoba driving his new Subaru SVX. In case you missed that hot mess, it was another aircraft-inspired albatross with an odd window-within-a-window side glass configuration. It was an all-wheel-drive sports car that went like all get-up, but man, was it ugly. Despite the fact less than 10,000 SVX models were ever sold in North America, they still aren’t particularly collectible — it took Google about 11/2 seconds to find me a nice one for sale in Utah for under three grand. Thankfully, my brother found his way. Nowadays he’s rolling in a blacked-out Durango with a Hemi and rides a Harley-Davidson around Ottawa. Big Al has come a long way, and so has Subaru.

Now, granted, not all Subaru models are odd looking, but they do indeed seem to all be somewhat polarizing. With the new Ascent, however, they have delivered a handsome-looking SUV that checks off a lot of boxes without being all that different visually from the competition. It is a roomy and comfortable family cruiser with three rows of seats, all the latest infotainment and safety technology, a roof rack for your canoe and the ability to tow more than 2,000 kilograms. The 2.4-litre boxer four-cylinder engine makes a respectable 260 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque, is comparatively easy on fuel — and thanks to Subaru’s legendary AWD, it performed flawlessly in the cold and snowy weather we tested it in.

As for the heat issue Kelly Taylor was having, I honestly didn’t notice this vehicle to be particularly cold inside and — unlike Subaru’s Tribeca — with the flagship Ascent, there was no need to cover my face with a ski mask so no one would see me driving it.

You’re forgiven for thinking I’ve joined the robot circus and lost my zest for original and unique vehicles, but in the past, Subaru cranked the style dial way too far, and it’s actually refreshing to see a great new vehicle like the Ascent stand out for all the right reasons.

Sure some Subaru models from the past were original and unique — but so is pouring ketchup on ice cream.




photos by Subaru Columnist Willy Williamson thinks Subaru’s long-gone Tribeca is the ugliest vehicle ever made — and almost got a ticket trying to hide being seen in one.

photos by Subaru

Columnist Willy Williamson thinks Subaru’s long-gone Tribeca is the ugliest vehicle ever made — and almost got a ticket trying to hide being seen in one.