It’s hard to believe it’s been 115 years since the first successful airplane flight.
The 1903 achievement by the legendary Wright Brothers is one of the greatest marvels of innovation of the 20th Century, and still ranks as one of the most mind-blowing adventures in American history when you consider how farfetched the idea had to seem at the time.
In fact, those four brief flights near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina by Wilbur and Orville Wright have remained a point of reference in assessing the viability of a lot other seemingly far out ideas, from UFO sightings to the possibilities with land travel vehicles like the traditional automobile.
The Oddness of History
It’s enough to make us wonder if the recent media test drive we attended for the all-new 2019 Subaru Ascent, the carmaker’s first full-size SUV, during the 19th Annual UFO Festival in McMinnville, Oregon was all by design or really coincidental, as we were told.
After all, a decade or so ago, talk that Subaru, long known for vehicles like the hot WRX STI and trusty Outback, would venture into the world of SUVS, would have been filed under “suspicious speculation” at best. But so much has changed over the 60-plus years since Subaru rolled out its first production vehicle.
Evolution Meets Practicality
For example the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird set a mind-blowing world speed record of 2,193 miles per hour in 1976. And yet the plane, on display at McMinnville’s Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum, one of the stops during our Ascent test drive, pales in comparison to some of today’s military aircraft. And UFO sightings, like the one reported in Oregon back in 1950, are now few and far between.
More to the point, many of the mere mortals who grew up loving Subaru are now in need of a much bigger vehicle than they were when they first laid eyes on a WRX.
More Subaru to Enjoy
Touted as the largest Subaru to ever roam the planet, the Ascent features three rows of seating with available captain chairs, 19 cupholders and up to 86.5 cubic feet of cargo space. But what impresses most about the Ascent is that the SUV doesn’t seem to sacrifice the authentic fun and adventure that traditionally typifies the appeal of a Subaru vehicle.
Powered by a new 260-horsepower 2.4-liter engine, the Ascent is pretty damn fun to drive. The all-wheel drive SUV, which starts right under $32,000 for the base model, also touts 8.7 inches of ground clearance, in the event you do decide to venture off the beaten path, and towing capacity is rated at 5,000 pounds.
The more plush, top-of-the-line Ascent Touring model (priced right around $45,000) comes equipped with dual cameras, Subaru’s high-tech EyeSight Driver Assist Technology and the latest iteration of Subaru’s Starlink multimedia system, which features smartphone integration with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The Excitement of Innovation
Yep, the official name of the infotainment system is “Starlink,” which could make for quite the conversation piece among diehard space enthusiasts. We got a strong sense that any reference to space could spark a few reactions in the town of roughly 35,000 people, especially during the UFO Festival.
The Ascent is also the first Subaru to offer a wi-fi system and a 120-volt power outlet and up to eight USB ports (depending on the model) for charging everything from phones to tablets to gaming devices. The new Subaru SUV is also available with a Harman Kardon Quantum Logic audio system: 14 speakers pumping out a sound as crisp as you’ll hear in any vehicle.
Oh, and the Ascent is also available with a huge panoramic roof, just in case you find yourself wanting to do a little stargazing of your own…