Seven Stars with Seven Seats
For a long time, the most number of people that could fit in a Subaru was five.
You can cram four in the second row, but it's not something we recommend (nor is it legal). That was the case in the Philippines and most markets around the world. Subaru did offer two seven-seaters in the past, namely the Exiga and the polarizing Tribeca. The Exiga was only offered in right-hand drive markets, while the Tribeca's divisive looks might have resulted in low sales. The latter was discontinued in 2014.
With that, customers that wanted something with three-row seating didn't consider a Subaru. After all, the biggest crossover the automaker could offer was the Forester. But that all changed when the automaker introduced the 7-seater Ascent in 2017. It’s Subaru’s largest crossover yet, and more importantly, it had three rows of seats. Depending on the layout, it could fit seven or even eight people max.
Four years after its debut, the large three-row Subaru crossover made its way to the Philippines. However, it’s not called the Ascent, over here. Instead, they swapped out that name in favor of Evoltis. But at PHP 3,480,000 the price of entry is rather high. Steep, actually.
The question remails: is it worth it?
Before everything, we have to talk about the design of the Evoltis. Subaru played it safe this time around. They went with a more conservative design similar to the rest of the lineup instead of going radical like the Tribeca. At first glance, you could easily mistake it for a larger Forester. The styling is distinctly Subaru, after all, with the upswept headlights and the signature hexagonal grille. At the rear, it’s got wraparound taillights that form an inverted “L”. Meanwhile, the 20-inch wheels give it more presence.
But then, you realize how big it is compared to the five-seater Subaru. The photos don't give the size justice, and its proportions are deceptive, too. It’s only when you park it next to SUVs do you have an idea of how big it is. Then there’s when you drive it, but we’ll get to that later. Overall, the styling is what you’d expect from a modern Subaru, and it’s the same story inside.
Step inside the Evoltis and current Subaru owners will feel right at home. The design of the dashboard, center stack, and instrument cluster is similar to what you’d find in the brand’s current lineup of vehicles. You’ll also notice there’s more space between you and the surroundings. Do remember the car was intended for the North American market.
Unfortunately we don’t have the option to choose the interior color of the Evoltis like our North American counterparts, but the black interior suits it well. It’s contrasted by wood trim on the door panels that give the interior a more upscale feel. I do wish the pillars and headliner were black as well. That would have given it a more premium feel and would match the rest of the interior. Then there’s the multi-info display in the instrument cluster and on the top of the dashboard; the system is easy to operate and work similarly to the current Subaru models.
One of the highlights of the interior is the large 8-inch infotainment system. It comes with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which are a must in vehicles today. I like how the system doesn’t lag when connecting with CarPlay, unlike some head units. It’s paired with a Harman Kardon speaker system that plays crisp and clean sounds. Audiophiles will also enjoy tuning the sound system to their liking. It certainly helps when driving in traffic and drowning out exterior noise.
But then again, the cabin of the Evoltis is already quiet, to begin with. That’s because the windows are double-paned, helping drown out the exterior noise. To give an example of how silent it is, a motorcycle overtaking registers as a muffled hum.
As for the seats, they’re very comfortable, and the leather won’t burn your backside even after leaving it in the summer sun. The front seats have air-conditioning and heating too. Unfortunately passengers in the second row only have seat warmers. These are features that are rather pointless in the country, unless you live in places like Benguet. The same goes for the heated steering wheel function. It might come in handy if it snows here, though.
Thanks to its American-sized proportions, there’s also a lot of space in the Evoltis. There is more than enough room in the second-row area, although the third row of the Evoltis is a bit cramped. But that’s mainly due to the wheel arch on the side, which also makes ingress and egress more difficult. Don’t need to seat seven all the time? Fold the second-and third-row seats down, and you’ll be able to fit almost anything you can think of.
Need a place to place your drink? The Evoltis has that covered for everyone. There are nearly 20 cup holders inside the crossover, more than one for each passenger. Those seated in the third row even have their own. No need to worry about drinks spilling here.
Possibly the best bit about the Evoltis is the engine. Yes, it’s a crossover, but still, the new turbocharged 2.4-liter flat-four is amazing. Power is rated at 260 PS and 375 Nm torque, and you certainly feel all of it when you put your foot down. It's also well matched to the Lineartronic continuously variable transmission. You can easily break expressway speed limits if you’re not careful. Naught to 100 km/h is done in under 10 seconds.
However, there is a trade-off to that performance, fuel efficiency. The Evoltis drinks quite a lot of gas even when your light on the throttle. In the city, I only managed to average around 7.8 km/L. That figure didn’t go up when I took it on the expressway. All-in-all, I was able to do around 9.5 km/L in mixed driving conditions. I can’t blame the fuel economy all on the Evoltis. Admittedly, I did enjoy the turbocharged flat-four, maybe even too much. Just remember to turn off the start/stop function. It’s not very suitable for the traffic we have in Metro Manila.
What really surprised me with the Evoltis is its handling. Granted, it’s no WRX or BRZ, but it corners well, especially for its size. It’s certainly not a crossover that you would call boring. When we took it up to the twisty mountain roads for the video review, the drive was fun, and the steering was very responsive. It is not something I would expect from a crossover, much more this big.
On the road, driving the Evoltis does take time some getting used to. For starters, there’s just the size of the crossover. It feels big, and it’s a bit hard to gauge how far you are from your right side. Nonetheless, it’s stable and planted. You won’t be afraid to switch lanes at speed when on the expressway. Subaru’s Eyesight also keeps you from getting into an accident, especially with motorcycles cutting lanes quite often in slow traffic.
The great handling does come at a cost – the ride. Compared to other similarly sized crossovers, the Evoltis rides more on the firm side. Even on what seemed to be even roads, you could feel the small bumps on the surface. The somewhat firm ride was something I would expect from the WRX STI and the BRZ, not on a large crossover. The stiff ride is more noticeable from the second row. Thankfully, it does smoothen out a bit by driving faster. Still, I wish the ride was a bit smoother. Maybe switching out the 20-inch wheels to smaller units and fitting higher-profile tires would help?
And now, for the elephant in the room: the price. At PHP 3,480,000, the Evoltis is the most expensive Subaru model in the local lineup. Yes, it is a lot of money for a 7-seat crossover, but you have to remember the Tribeca was even more expensive when it was sold here. When it was launched locally in 2008, the Tribeca retailed for PHP 2,733,000. Factoring inflation, and that’s around PHP 4,260,000 today. All things considered, it’s not that bad with all the features it has to offer. It also looks heaps better than its predecessor.
What do we think? Yes, the Evoltis is pricey, and the ride is a bit stiff. But overall, it’s a great crossover. The power, handling, and big space inside the cabin are more than enough to make up for it. You won’t feel boring when driving it around town or out into the twisty mountain roads either. However, we suggest you take one for a test drive first and see if it suits your needs. If it’s a bit too big for you (or your garage), Subaru always has the Forester or the XV.