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Old 07-25-2021, 10:30 AM   #1
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Texas to Colorado in Subaru Ascent

Hi! We are planning a trip from Texas to Colorado in our Subaru Ascent. The Subaru has a 5,000 lb towing capacity and we have a 19ft Escape.

Does anyone have experience driving up the mountains with a similar vehicle and can share how it performs? We have driven it from Texas to North Carolina up north of Asheville and did fine, but not sure about getting high up into the Rocky Mountains.

Thanks for any advice!
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Old 07-26-2021, 10:15 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by Jbpouns View Post
Hi! We are planning a trip from Texas to Colorado in our Subaru Ascent. The Subaru has a 5,000 lb towing capacity and we have a 19ft Escape.



Does anyone have experience driving up the mountains with a similar vehicle and can share how it performs? We have driven it from Texas to North Carolina up north of Asheville and did fine, but not sure about getting high up into the Rocky Mountains.



Thanks for any advice!
You can do it, but I'm sure you're aware of Subaru's recommendation of 45 mph. That's a complete non starter for us. You're also likely to get very poor mpg in the mountainous areas. At some point you might consider a more capable tow vehicle for the 19. We have towed with an F150 Ecoboost V6 for over 6 years now, and can tow any terrain, at highway speeds, with total confidence. We average 16 mpg towing.
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Old 07-26-2021, 10:24 AM   #3
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My Toyota RAV4 had the same ludicrous recommendation, plus others. It's a "caution", not a warning.
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Old 07-26-2021, 11:31 AM   #4
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I am not aware of Subaru's 45mph recommendation. I've read most all of the towing section of the owner's manual, and haven't seen that warning. I've already driven over 3,000 miles this summer. I just haven't climbed up to 8,000 feet.
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Old 07-26-2021, 12:33 PM   #5
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You can do it, even if it's not ideal. Eventually you may want to upgrade to a truck as I did, but in the meantime, here are my tips from my experience. I once towed a 4k pound trailer with a GMC Acadia Denali (6k towing capacity) across the country twice, including through the Rockies. It can be done...

Be extra gentle on the engine and the tranny. Watch the temperature gauge like a hawk, and be ready to pull over to let it cool down (keeping the engine running). Don't "lug" it, meaning don't tow uphill in too low of a gear. This is typically done by locking out the top gears as appropriate (lots of info online about lugging). I remember mine had a 6-gear auto, and I would typically lock out gears 5 & 6. Also does it have a tow/haul mode? If so always have it in that. And finally...give it some extra love in the service department, early and often. For example, oil & other fluid changes sooner than you normally would. In general, just take it slow and enjoy the views!
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Old 07-26-2021, 07:18 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Jbpouns View Post
I am not aware of Subaru's 45mph recommendation.
It talks about "hilly" country and goes something like this:

"Never exceed 45 mph (72 km/h) when towing a trailer in hilly country on hot days.

-When driving uphill in hot weather, the air conditioner may turn off automatically to protect the engine from overheating.

-When driving uphill in hot weather, pay attention to the following items because the engine and transmission are relatively prone to overheating
-Temperature gauge
-AT OIL TEMP warning light
-Rear differential oil temperature warning light (if equipped)"


They may have pulled that verbiage from the manual for the latest models. Don't really know. In any case, we have no such worries with a stronger tow vehicle.
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Old 07-26-2021, 07:34 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by TahoeJoe View Post
You can do it, even if it's not ideal. Eventually you may want to upgrade to a truck as I did, but in the meantime, here are my tips from my experience. I once towed a 4k pound trailer with a GMC Acadia Denali (6k towing capacity) across the country twice, including through the Rockies. It can be done...

Be extra gentle on the engine and the tranny. Watch the temperature gauge like a hawk, and be ready to pull over to let it cool down (keeping the engine running). Don't "lug" it, meaning don't tow uphill in too low of a gear. This is typically done by locking out the top gears as appropriate (lots of info online about lugging). I remember mine had a 6-gear auto, and I would typically lock out gears 5 & 6. Also does it have a tow/haul mode? If so always have it in that. And finally...give it some extra love in the service department, early and often. For example, oil & other fluid changes sooner than you normally would. In general, just take it slow and enjoy the views!
I’m pretty sure the Subaru Ascent has a CVT (continuously variable transmission), versus traditional gears. I owned Subarus for years, the last being a 2014 Forester with a CVT. I always felt the CVT was a weak link, although it allowed for pretty good mpg. I did tow a light utility trailer with it, and it did fine. But after it hit 110,000 miles, I started noticing what I thought was a substantial reduction in performance, including lags when I hit the gas… the engine would rev, but it would take several seconds to engage. I finally sold it last year, worried about the long term implications. I had also heard plenty of horror stories about failure in this vintage of Subaru CVTs. Hopefully they’ve addressed these issues in the later models, but I probably would not do much heavy duty towing up and down steep grades.

My tow vehicle for my 19 is a Chevy Colorado diesel with a 6-speed transmission. It does a great job hauling up and down the steep grades of Idaho and Montana, but I watch the transmission temperature closely, which has gotten pretty high on several occasions, and I swapped out the fluid at 45,000 miles, as recommended in the owners manual. This vehicle is rated to tow 7,500 lbs, and I wouldn’t want any less for the places I go. Personal preference!

If you tow with an Ascent up and down steep grades, it will probably do fine, but I totally second much of the advice in the above comment… monitor the transmission temp, be prepared to stop and let it cool down, and change your fluids as often as recommended in the owners manual, if not sooner. I guess that’s the most useful advice anyone can share!
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Old 07-27-2021, 09:33 AM   #8
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I’m pretty sure the Subaru Ascent has a CVT (continuously variable transmission), versus traditional gears. I owned Subarus for years, the last being a 2014 Forester with a CVT. I always felt the CVT was a weak link, although it allowed for pretty good mpg. I did tow a light utility trailer with it, and it did fine. But after it hit 110,000 miles, I started noticing what I thought was a substantial reduction in performance, including lags when I hit the gas… the engine would rev, but it would take several seconds to engage. I finally sold it last year, worried about the long term implications. I had also heard plenty of horror stories about failure in this vintage of Subaru CVTs. Hopefully they’ve addressed these issues in the later models, but I probably would not do much heavy duty towing up and down steep grades.

My tow vehicle for my 19 is a Chevy Colorado diesel with a 6-speed transmission. It does a great job hauling up and down the steep grades of Idaho and Montana, but I watch the transmission temperature closely, which has gotten pretty high on several occasions, and I swapped out the fluid at 45,000 miles, as recommended in the owners manual. This vehicle is rated to tow 7,500 lbs, and I wouldn’t want any less for the places I go. Personal preference!

If you tow with an Ascent up and down steep grades, it will probably do fine, but I totally second much of the advice in the above comment… monitor the transmission temp, be prepared to stop and let it cool down, and change your fluids as often as recommended in the owners manual, if not sooner. I guess that’s the most useful advice anyone can share!
Ah, CVT...so less control over the transmission, but...does it at least have a tow/haul mode or anything like that?
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Old 07-27-2021, 06:00 PM   #9
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Ah, CVT...so less control over the transmission, but...does it at least have a tow/haul mode or anything like that?
A continuously variable transmission design does not imply any less control than any other automatic transmission design. On the other hand, this vehicle is not intended for heavy hauling duty, so the transmission modes available are unlikely to include one specifically for towing/hauling.

According to the owner's manual, the Ascent has a transmission control which includes a "manual" mode which allows the driver to select between eight "gear positions", which are presumably fixed ratios that make the whole continuously variable design pointless. It doesn't appear to have sensible mode selections, such as "performance", "economy", or "tow/haul". It shifts just like a typical 8-speed automatic without automatic shift program modes.
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