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.

(image: Subaru)

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.

Ascent’s D-pillars feature larger cross-sections and stronger joints at both upper and lower corners than those used on other models; C-pillars and rear liftgate opening have greater rigidity. The new body uses three times the amount of structural adhesive as Impreza. (Subaru)

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.

The steel-intensive body makes greater use of hot-stamped and other high-strength alloys. Shown is the make-up of the non-sunroof body. (Subaru)

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.

Underhood view of the Ascent’s new 2.4-L turbocharged H-4 gasoline engine with intercooler mounted horizontally. (Subaru)

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.).
Two rows of 60/40 split flat-folding seats offer up to 86.5 ft3 of cargo space in the 2019 Ascent. (Subaru)

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.

Ascent’s rear doors open 75 degrees for easier third-row access. Second-row seating offers bench or captain’s chairs. (Subaru)

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.

The 2019 Ascent offers Subaru’s Starlink multimedia systems with 6.5-in standard and 8-in. optional touchscreens. (Subaru)

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.