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.
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.
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.