The 2019 Subaru Ascent is a car made for the great excesses of America, including our insatiable need for large road beverages. It touts an astonishing 19 cup and bottle holders, some of which are vastly better than the others. I bought a completely ridiculous Double Gulp from 7-11 to find out which ones you really want dibs on.
[Full disclosure: Subaru paid for travel, food and lodging up to Oregon to test out the new Ascent. They bought a lot of drinks, but I had to seek out the biggest one I could find myself.]
Subaru would have had an even 20 cupholders if they hadn’t needed to package part of the HVAC system inside the left rear passenger’s armrest. Then it would have had three to match the right rear passenger’s three-cupholder armrest, which includes a lengthwise opening running down the center of all three cupholders to wedge in an iPad, if you wish.
That being said, Subaru clarified during our drive that these are 19 cup and bottle holders—meaning that some are actually too small to fit the 50-ounce Double Gulp that Jalopnik used to calculate the Ascent’s liquid-holding potential right after the car was announced. Some passengers may even be forced to hold it—“it” as in their drinks, not just the aftereffects of said drinks—if you order a round of eight Double Gulps in the eight-passenger Ascent! Tsk, tsk.
So, where has the best cupholders in the car if you’re an avowed urination enthusiast? Here’s our ranking, from best to last.
For some reason, these two equally great cupholders are only available on the seven-passenger Ascent, but they’re by far the best cupholders offered on this vehicle. If you get the three-person (in theory) bench seat, the cupholders are in a much smaller, less usable form tucked into said bench. But if you get the captain’s chairs, you can drink like kings and spew forth liters of liquid gold in the nearest toilet within the hour, guaranteed.
These two cupholders flip down from the back of the center console and use spring-out arms to hold a variety of different-sized drinks securely. The solid bottom is flat so drinks don’t rattle even though the bottom doesn’t cover the whole base. The best part is the ability to keep a number of different-sized drinks in there, be it a can, a Double Gulp or even a stuffed chicken (which I also tested, because you know toys will get crammed in here, too).
As someone who learned long ago that small but high-caffeine drinks were a better road trip solution than a Double Gulp, I appreciate the versatility here. Merely making a larger cupholder can swallow smaller drinks like lattés or cans whole, making it a pain to dig those drinks out. The 2002 Nissan Altima I had in college was especially bad about this—a Grande from Starbucks fit almost flush with the top of the cupholder. So, adjustable cupholders like these flip-downs are truly where it’s at.
Part of what makes a cupholder work is easy access, and you can’t get more convenient for the driver than the rearmost cupholder on top of the center console. It’s not behind the shifter for the driver. It’s an open hole with a fairly flat bottom.
This passed the Double Gulp test with flying colors, as it ought to given its prime placement in this vehicle.
This cupholder should always be your first back-up plan if you’re driving alone with two drinks to hold, or your first choice if you’re riding in the passenger seat. Like the one directly behind it, it’s right there at arm’s length for the front passengers, ready to use, albeit behind the shifter on the driver’s side.
For the passenger seat, though, it’s almost perfect—except the Double Gulp hit the bottom of this cupholder unevenly compared to the cupholder directly behind it.
One of the biggest disappointments I’ve heard voiced is that they didn’t make this cupholder match the three cupholders that the passenger side of the third row gets. That’s bunk.
The three-cupholder row is a bit crowded, to be honest, and you know you’ll be the side that’s forced to share with the middle seat occupant if you get stuck over there. Doesn’t Subaru know that this is AMERICA? Sharing is for weenies, and communists.
You can claim these two on the driver’s side third row all to yourself, no sharesies. There’s also more space between these two so that you can fit two insanely huge drinks comfortably, with space between them to grab either one securely without accidentally catching another drink and spilling it all over yourself. The flexible plastic base of the Double Gulp gets a little pinched on all of the rear cupholders on either side, but it rode securely there without any trouble.
These two are just as conveniently located as the driver’s side third row cupholders, however, the addition of a third cupholder in the center means that they’re a little crowded. As previously mentioned, it’s a tight squeeze for a Double Gulp back there but these are fine. If you’re calling dibs on a cupholder here, aim for the two outer cupholders where your drink is easier to grab.
This one is a tight squeeze between two other large drinks and like all the other back-row cupholders, it squeezes the bottom of a Double Gulp just a little. Yet it boasts a decently flat bottom, so that a Double Gulp rides pretty securely in this hole.
Below the armrest and controls on the door, there is a set of three bins, two of which are officially cupholders. It’s the same case on every door, however, I’m giving the nod to the front doors, as the third bin next to the cupholders in the front is a little more open and accessible.
I was able to wedge a small water bottle in all three holder-bins up front, and I couldn’t say the same on the rear doors. It’s like getting a teeny tiny bonus cupholder, which is pretty sweet.
However, those two or three cups better be small. None of the bottom-of-door cupholders will hold a Double Gulp.
Like the passenger side, this is a nice set of fixed-size, molded-plastic cupholders mounted towards the bottom of the door card. All three can hold a small water bottle, but none can hold a Double Gulp. These two/possibly three cupholders are a conveniently-located place to stash smaller drinks and junk on a road trip.
But do you really want to use bottom-of-door cupholders while driving? It’s easier to play musical cupholders as a passenger, which is why the passenger side got rated slightly higher. On the drivers’ side, these cupholders are the b-team at best: a good place to move empties, so long as those empties aren’t too big.
At the bottom of each rear door is a set of three bins similar to the ones mounted in the front doors with three storage areas. The two officially labelled as cupholders are fine, and get the job done so long as you didn’t bring a Double Gulp or anything else that’s too large. My guess is that these are technically the “bottle holders” Subaru was speaking of in their press release.
However, the space above the third bin isn’t as open, which prevented me from stuffing the little water bottle Subaru gave us in there. These third bins are sort of a cruel joke Subaru is playing on the perpetually dehydrated, I guess. They look like cupholders, but they’re not.
Subaru’s press handlers were able to stuff a juice box in the third bin here, however, which is something I think I’d do out of spite if I was forced to sit here on a long-haul trip. Le Mans-winning jokester and avowed Juicy Juice fan Jordan Taylor would be pleased.
These are right in front of the outer second row passengers and pretty cavernous. Only problem is, my Double Gulp barely fit—and only did so at a perilous angle. These are sizeable and conveniently located, but if you’re a true urination enthusiast committed to comically large cups, I wouldn’t trust this one to hold such a drink securely.
Likewise, if you’re a sensible person who drinks out of regular-sized cans, these cupholders are simply too big. Cans are nearly swallowed hole in these deep pits, which makes them and other similarly small drinks annoying to dig out.
If you have the captain’s chairs in the second row instead, rejoice—the big door cupholder is definitely yours. If you have the bench there instead, woe is you. These two are the most convenient cupholders for the poor schmuck stuck in the middle of the second row if your Ascent is equipped with a bench seat, and that person may want these two big cupholders since each side has two other cupholders further down on the door.
I know we’re over the 19 you get in each Ascent by now, but this is a ranking of all the cupholders available across different models of the Ascent, so yes! There’s more! Frankly, the last two kind of suck.
If you don’t get the second-row captain’s chairs, you get screwed. Instead of the best two cupholders available with this car, you get two cupholders that fold down out of the back of the middle seat of the second row. These are easily the worst cupholders of the car, as they are completely inaccessible if you’ve filled all eight seats in the car.
They’re also rather shallow, and mounted on a flop-down armrest that just hangs above the seat instead of resting on the seat bottom. While I didn’t have the Double Gulp with me when there was an eight-passenger Ascent to poke around, I don’t know if I’d trust these two garbage excuses for cupholders with anything too heavy because of the armrest’s hover-over design.
Honestly, if you buy an eight-passenger Ascent, you should just ask for the center console that comes with the seven-passenger one on principle. Sure, Subaru probably did this to give the middle passenger in the third row some leg room, but in doing so, they screwed said passenger out of their very own set of usable cupholders. I would much rather forfeit my feet-space there to be able to bend over and have not one but two large sweet teas within reach.
This is America! Our right to stuff as much ludicrously sweet liquid down our pie-holes shall not be infringed.