After 100k miles, multiple bad service experiences (and poor mileage) suggest it’s time to move on

We took the risk and bought the first year of Ascension. We first drove the Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander, and we were much more impressed with the Ascent. We also took out the extended warranty thinking something might go wrong with all the safety/electrical related features (in hindsight, most of the problems were mechanical). We were very timely with basic oil/tire changes as well as major recommended services (all done by the dealer). We drove mostly between California and the Pacific Northwest. We loved the size, comfort, looks, safety features, and the factory tow kit worked well with our 16-foot enclosed trailer, or a quad bike rack, or my Ultimate MX carrier bike rack. We even occasionally carried two 17′ kayaks or a large Thule roof. My only initial negative was the relatively light steering (which others have also complained about).

So after 100k miles, what were the negatives (and why won’t we buy another Ascent)?:

1.) Within the first few months, we had a leak in the turbo manifold while on vacation. It appeared that one of the bolts was missing and another was very loose. It took a local dealer (Fairfield Subaru in Fairfield, CA) many hours to sort it out. I was losing my temper watching the mechanic who thought it had something to do with the trailer brake controller! I finally got into the service bay and showed him a comment from another forum member that suggested it was likely the turbo manifold was the problem. What else would make a loud vacuum noise and set off any engine warning system? It was a quick fix after that. You can find my post about it in these forums.

2.) Then we had the horrible transmission failure that required replacement. Unfortunately it affected a long journey that we had to delay. I think that was around 70k, so I guess maybe we shouldn’t complain. It has worked well since then. The artificial CVT shifting never bothered me.

3.) We had an exhaust manifold leak that resulted in over a dozen phone calls and five trips to the service center (Koenig Subaru in Port Angeles, WA). It was never properly repaired and when we had another dealership (Capital Subaru in San Jose, CA) look at it, they refused to touch it given the dealers original mistake. The Koenig service manager even admitted to me that they had a problem with the threads and just drilled out one of the mounting bolts to put a nut in the back to tighten it (which is why the second dealer refused to touch it). I still think it leaks a bit, but I’m exhausted (pun intended) from trying to fix this 100%. It’s also already past its 100k warranty so I’m also concerned about the cost to fix their mistake.

4.) Also, the last time I took it in to try and fix the exhaust leak, I believe they forgot to reinstall the big splash guard tray that goes under the engine and radiator! I didn’t notice it for a few months (who looks under their car?) but I really don’t see how only four bolts and five plastic rivets could have fallen off! I ended up buying another tray and installing it myself. Arghhh! Oh, and I should also mention that the dealer (Capital Subaru In San Jose) where I placed the tray order misplaced my order, missed the agreed upon delivery date, said my original order was accidentally used by their store and didn’t never returned multiple calls! They eventually got it right and lowered the price to help assuage some of my anger.

5.) We also replaced the front fender when I noticed the car felt a little different going over smaller bumps like raised highway reflectors. This is normal wear and tear, so no big deal. However, they replaced one side, but I immediately noticed it on the other side, so they replaced that side as well. Unfortunately, they called these two separate issues, so I had to pay the extended warranty discount twice.

OVERALL we loved our Ascent and were planning to buy another one until we had so many issues with the quality and professionalism of the service centers. Furthermore, with gas prices at $5/gallon, 18-21 mpg is not efficient enough. Now we’re reviewing the new 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Hybrid that gets 35 mpg! 50% more range per gallon is very tempting. That would have been >30k miles of “free” fuel if our 100k+ mile Ascent had the same efficiency. At 20 mpg and $4/gal it means I could have saved at least $5,000 in fuel alone.

I have appreciated all your help over the years. We still think it’s a great car, however the next nearest Subaru dealer is several hours away so we just can’t keep trusting our local service center. Let’s see how Toyota fares… Watch out!

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