Subaru rolled out its all-new 2019 Ascent large SUV that is spacious enough for eight people. And dogs.
Using a stage with a Pacific Northwest-like setting – dubbed SubaruVille, where everyone drives a Subaru – the company’s new third-row addition made its debut Wednesday at the Los Angeles Auto Show.
The front doors, side doors and rear hatch opened and out tumbled eight adorable pooches in a canine-clown-car routine.
The automaker – which first gained traction in snowy regions with capable AWD station wagons – has come a long way since it first came to the U.S. with the 360 minicar that was “too small and too slow,” said Takeshi Tachimori, executive vice president for Subaru.
The Outback became the brand’s first hit in the U.S., “paving the way for Subaru’s other SUV models, Forester and Crosstrek,” Tachimori said.
Over the past five years, Subaru has doubled sales in the U.S. The market now accounts for more than 60 percent of global sales, he said.
“We have finally made what has been missing from our lineup,” Tachimori said. “The Ascent is truly designed for the American family.”
But the message has sustained – this SUV is comfortable and very large. The 2019 Ascent comes in four trims – base, Premium, Limited and Touring. It has a 113.8-inch wheelbase, offers 153.5 cubic feet of interior space and sits atop 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels. Second-row seating options include a bench or captain’s chairs. There are up to nine different seating configurations.
The rear doors open wide – up to 75 degrees – for easy access to the third row. There is also cargo space in the rear as well as underfloor storage. Cargo stowage grows to 72.6 cubic feet when the two rear rows are folded down. All of the rear seating folds into a 60/40 split.
Over-the-top add-ons include eight USB charging ports (standard for the Touring trim) and 19 cup holders. And if the driver’s feet need a rest, Auto Vehicle Hold keeps the vehicle in position at a stop.
The three-row SUV is powered by an all-new 2.4-liter engine that makes 260 horsepower with 277 pound-feet of torque. It is mated to an 8-speed transmission. The powertrain can tow up to 5,000 pounds, a first-ever capability for Subaru. It’s also fuel efficient with a 500-mile range.
Each trim is progressively more dressed up. The overall styling of the vehicle is reminiscent of the brand’s familiar design cues. The front features Subaru’s signature hexagonal grille and C-shaped headlights. The fenders are pronounced and the roof rack gives the SUV rugged appeal. The boxy shape looks truck-like and capable.
The ability to safely cart all those people and their things is a top priority for the family-friendly automaker. As such, the all-new SUV is packed with a host of standard safety technology. The highlights include automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane departure and “sway” alerts and pre-collision throttle control. A new heads-up display – EyeSight Assist Monitor – flashes system warnings and information on the windshield of the vehicle.
Blind spot monitoring with lane change assist is available. So are rear cross traffic alert and automatic reverse braking.
The Limited and Touring models get headlights that will turn high beams on or off when sensors detect a vehicle ahead or oncoming traffic. Standard on the Touring are cameras mounted on the front and rear of the vehicle that will display on the 8-inch multifunctional screen. The base level’s screen is 6.5 inches.
All those USB ports assume Ascent users are technologically inclined. Thus, the SUV comes with high-speed internet connectivity. It also features Apple CarPay and Android Auto connectivity. Subaru’s Starlink connected technology also offers geofencing, speed alert and curfew to keep teenagers in check.
Subaru designed this car specifically for the American market. It will be made at the company’s plant in Indiana and built on a strengthened and extended version of the Subaru Global Platform.
It’s timing is impeccable as consumers – especially families – demand larger vehicles. Through the first 10 months of the year, light trucks, SUVs and crossovers made up 62.5 percent of the market, according to industry research firm Autodata Corp. That’s up from 58.9 percent during the same period in 2016.
Subaru is no stranger to developing vehicles designed to complement an active lifestyle. Through October, the automaker is enjoying a 6.4 percent sales increase across its lineup this year fueled in part by the success of its Outback and Crosstrek utility vehicles.
Sales of the Outback crossover rose more than 8 percent through the first 10 months of the year, topping 156,000 units. In the same period, the smaller gas-powered Crosstrek hit sales of 88,000 units, an increase of nearly 14 percent compared with the same period in 2016. Both crossovers were refreshed for the 2018 model year. The Crosstrek also is based off Subaru’s Global Platform.
The 2019 Ascent will go on sale next year and have a starting price in the “low $30,000” range, the company said.