Subaru 'Ascends' New Three-Row SUV on Global Platform
The 2019 Ascent and its widely-adaptable Subaru Global Platform brings more modularity to Subaru's continuing push into mainstream market segments.
Fuji Heavy Industries has needed a competitive three-row utility for its Subaru brand since its first attempt, the slow-selling Tribeca, bowed out after 2014.
The 2019 Ascent, the brand’s largest-ever vehicle, fills that role on a lighter, stiffer, extended version of the new Subaru Global Platform (SGP) that launched with the fifth-generation Impreza and is slated to underpin every model in the portfolio. Available with a standard second-row bench seat or available captain’s chairs, Ascent is powered by an all-new 2.4-L horizontally-opposed four-cylinder gasoline engine coupled to a revised version of Subaru’s TR690 ‘Lineartronic’ continuously variable transmission (CVT) produced in house, and the company’s torque-vectoring AWD system.
New, larger H-4
Based on the incumbent 2.0-L turbocharged H-4, the new FA24 2.4L“boxer” combines direct fuel injection, high (10.6:1) compression, chain-driven DOHC with variable cam phasers and a Honeywell twin-scroll turbocharger with intercooler. Although most three-row CUV competitors use V6 power, Subaru engineers instead chose to increase the cylinder bore of the existing ‘square’ 2.0-L engine to 94 mm (retaining the 86-mm stroke), rather than use the company’s naturally-aspirated 3.6L H-6 to provide competitive performance with better fuel efficiency. The unit delivers a claimed 260 hp (194 kW) at 5,600 rpm, and 277 lb·ft (375 N·m) available from 2,000 to 4,800 rpm.
Per longtime Subaru practice, the new engine uses an integrated Tumble Generator Valve (TGV) located above the fuel injectors to create combustion ‘tumble’ for reduced engine-out emissions at low rpm/low load. High-efficiency exhaust gas recirculation improves knock tolerance. With the new 2.4-L, the Ascent delivers a claimed 21 mpg city, 27 highway and 23 combined EPA economy with standard 18-in. wheels (one mpg lower with available 20-in. wheels). Ascent’s 19.3-gal. (73 L) fuel tank capacity provides an approximate 502-mile (808-km) highway cruising range.
Continuously variable transmissions (CVTs) are polarizing to some customers due to their operating characteristics, but the Ascent’s CVT has very effective eight-speed (simulated) manual ratio selection with steering-wheel paddle shifters and an AWD-enhancing X-Mode with Hill Descent Control. The AWD distributes torque front-to-rear as well as side-to-side, the latter through selective braking of individual wheels—what Subaru dubs Active Brake Vectoring. The Ascent is capable of towing up to 5,000 lb (2,268 kg), aided by a Trailer Stability Assist that employs yaw sensors and individual-wheel braking to help maintain towing stability.
Reinforcing the global architecture
While the Ascent’s iteration of the SGP is longer and wider than the Impreza/Crosstrek’s, carline manager Peter Tenn says engineers used a similar design philosophy with key structural members further reinforced. The primary differences include:
- Longer wheelbase (113 in./2870 mm) and overall length, with a rear floor structure designed specifically to facilitate three-row seating. At 196.8 in. (4999 mm), Ascent’s OAL is about average for its class. The vehicle is 71.6 in. (1818 mm) and 76 in. (1930 mm) wide.
- The Ascent boasts packaging versatility with up to nine unique seating configurations and two rows of 60/40 split flat-folding seats offering up to 86.5 ft3 (2,449 L) of cargo space.
- The crossmember subframes are common and the framework geometries similar, but the Ascent's uses larger cross-sections to suit its heavier weight.
- 64.4-in. (1636-mm) front and 64.2-in. (1631-mm) rear tracks are wider and the front and rear top suspension mounting points are designed specifically for Ascent.
- The body’s D-pillars feature larger cross-sections and stronger joints at both upper and lower corners.
- C-pillars have greater rigidity as does the rear liftgate opening, along with stronger joints from the rear suspension mounts to the C-pillars.
- Body construction uses greater amounts of structural adhesive (21.6 m/71 ft. vs. Impreza’s 7 m/23 ft.).
Tenn adds that one key to the SPG’s chassis performance is its use of varying-strength steels at different locations, and the concentration of hot-stamped steel around the safety cage enables the pillars to be slimmer for improved visibility. Cabin noise is reduced using an acoustic windshield and front-door glass.
SUV conveniences, electronic safety
To accommodate growing families, Ascent’s rear doors open 75 degrees for easier third-row access. Although its 8.7-in. (221-mm) ground clearance is more than that of many SUVs, its step-in height is comfortably low.
No three-row SUV’s specs would be competitive without a plethora of cupholders, of which Ascent has 19. It also offers up to eight USB ports and a 120-V outlet.
Subaru’s trademark two-camera EyeSight Driver Assist package includes Automatic Pre-Collision Braking, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure and Sway Warning, Pre-Collision Throttle Management and a new Assist Monitor that projects a head-up display of system warnings and status on the inside of the windshield. Also available are Blind Spot Detection with Lane Change Assist, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert and Reverse Automatic Braking.
The 2019 Ascent offers Subaru’s STARLINK multimedia systems with a high-resolution touchscreen (6.5-in. standard, 8-in. in higher trims), a rear-vision camera, Aha, Pandora and Bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, SiriusXM satellite radio, anti-theft vehicle immobilizer, child safety functions and over-the-air updates. Also available are remote engine start (on models with push-button start) and available Wi-Fi connectivity for high-speed LTE communications.