Subaru Ascent 2018

In terms of sales momentum, Subaru continues to ascend, a huge cartoon snowball somehow barreling uphill, picking up skiers, snowmobiles, and the odd yeti. It started with a U.S. sales record in 2009, when 216,652 Americans bought Subarus. Seven consecutive record years later, the brand came close to tripling that total, with 615,132 sales in 2016

. Its industry­leading customer­retention rate means that more people come back to buy another Subaru than do the buyers of any other brand in the U.S. But there’s a limit to this momentum; Subaru customers regularly outgrow the brand’s lineup as they look for larger vehicles. In its portfolio of family­ friendly hatchbacks and wagons, it has nothing that seats more than five.

The Ascent will change that. Subaru learned a hard lesson with its last attempt at a seven­seater, the B9 Tribeca (later called simply the Tribeca) that it introduced in 2005 and gave up on about a decade later. Aside from its odd looks, the biggest problem with the Tribeca was that it wasn’t big enough. There are smaller three­row SUVs out there still, but not in the indispensable this­or­a­minivan class.

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That won’t be a problem this time around. The Viziv­7 concept that first previewed the Ascent was longer than a Chevrolet Traverse and as wide as a Ford F­150. We’re guessing the production Ascent might shrink a little bit, but either way, it’s clear that Subaru intends to get the interior space right this time.

Surprisingly, the seven­passenger Ascent will share its platform with the Impreza. Subaru’s Global Platform, introduced under the new 2017 Impreza, is designed to accommodate vehicles of all sizes.

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Also as in the Impreza, the Ascent will pack a flat-four. Subaru still has a flat-six in its portfolio, but given that engine’s 15 percent take rate in the Outback and Legacy and the fact that Subaru’s turbo 2.0-liter boxer produces nearly equivalent power plus more torque at lower rpm, watch for the carmaker to commit fully to a four­cylinder future. We’ve spotted prototypes convoying with a Mazda CX-9 and Ford Explorer, the only Ascent competitors to offer turbo fours. And since it’s a Subaru, expect it to back that four with a CVT routing power to all four wheels. A hybrid model seems inevitable in a few years’ time.

The Ascent arrives in Subaru showrooms by midyear as a 2018 model. Figure on a base price of about $35,000 and wait for Subaru’s snowball to continue its improbable roll uphill.

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