2019 Ascent fills the gap at top of Subaru's SUV roster

LOS ANGELES, California – Subaru has teased us with an abundance of concepts and name changes for its all-new three-row SUV, and finally the stage was set on the eve of the 2017 Los Angeles Show for the 2019 Ascent to make its production reveal.

For Subaru, the Ascent is a big deal, offering up its largest SUV ever and the first one with seating for up to eight passengers. With North American Subaru sales and SUV/CUV sales at record numbers, the Ascent arrives at the most opportune time for the Japanese brand. And by expanding its vehicle portfolio, Subaru can keep consumers within its brand, even when their families expand beyond the means of the Forester and Outback.

“Customer needs weren't being met by our current lineup, and the Ascent can now keep customers throughout the family lifecycle,” said Yasunori Kumagai, Project General Manager of Ascent, Subaru Corporation.

As with the latest compact Crosstrek crossover and Impreza sedan, the Ascent is built on the new Subaru Global Platform. The Ascent was designed exclusively for the North American market with a wheelbase of 2890 millimetres (113.8 inches), length measured at 4998 mm (196.8 in.) as well as cargo space rated at 555 litres behind the third row, 1252 litres behind second row and 2061 litres behind the first row. With those dimensions, the Ascent is truly a large family vehicle that offers up a combination package of size, versatility and cargo volume that's at par with the rest of the segment.

Powering the Ascent is a new turbocharged and direct-injected, 2.4-litre flat-four engine that produces 260 hp and 277 lb.-ft. of torque. Its boxer engine is matched to another new item, an upgraded high-torque continuously variable transmission (CVT) constructed to handle its extra weight and a Subaru all-time high 5000-lb. towing capacity.

Its performance specs match and top many vehicles in its segment including the Ford Explorer, Volkswagen Atlas, Chevrolet Traverse, Mazda CX-9, Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot, but its main focus comes down to family values and safety. Standard on all Ascent trim levels is Subaru's signature symmetrical all-wheel drive, EyeSight and EyeSight Assist suite of safety technologies, 8 USB ports and 19 cupholders. According to Subaru, the brand wanted to instill the same level of comfort and convenience in each row.

Like other new mainstream models, the Ascent takes on luxury treatments and materials to up its look and feel. An eight-inch touchscreen sits dead centre with physical knobs, but the most striking feature in the showcased model were its brown leather seats that make you think twice whether this is a Subaru. If leather isn't your thing, spill-repellant premium cloth seating is available on all trim levels.

Other amenities include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and for the upper trim, 180-degree front view camera and panoramic moonroof.

Bench seating for the second row allows for eight passengers to fit, but captain’s chairs can be opted to provide ample comfort and extra space. In the third row, the Japanese brand wanted to make sure that memories of the discontinued Tribeca are long gone by making that area both easy to enter and exit with a wide third-row access point. Additional assistance comes in the way of an integrated low step-in, bullet train inspired grab handles, and an easy-to-slide second row suited for children.

As for its exterior, it takes on traits from its SUV siblings. Up front, you'll find Subaru's trademark hexagonal grille, along with eagle-eye headlights that lean more towards conservative than edgy.

The Ascent begins production at its Lafayette, Indiana plant starting in the spring of 2018, and consumers should expect it at Canadian dealerships by early summer. Pricing details will arrive in 2018, but the U.S. has already announced its pricing to start in the low $30,000s.

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