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LA show: Subaru’s new engine ticks the boxes

On the Ascent: Subaru’s new large SUV, the Ascent, could point the way to mechanical underpinnings for the next Liberty and Outback.

Subaru Ascent on backburner for Australia, but turbo 2.4-litre engine a good chance

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Subaru logo30 Nov 2017

By RON HAMMERTON

SUBARU’S all-new large SUV, the Ascent, might be in doubt for Australia, but its freshly minted 2.4-litre turbocharged boxer engine would seem to be a monty for vehicles such as the Liberty and Outback when these models are replaced in a couple of years.

So far, the American-built Ascent has been slated only for left-hand drive, although Subaru Australia says it would be happy to consider importing the big three-row Mazda CX-9/Toyota Kluger competitor should a right-hand-drive version become available from Subaru’s Indiana factory.

Shown in production form at the Los Angeles motor show this week after appearing as a concept at the New York show in April, the Ascent effectively replaces the Tribeca large SUV that was discontinued in Australia in 2013.

Based on Subaru’s new global modular platform that already underpins the Impreza small car and related XV small SUV, the Ascent will offer a choice of seven- or eight-seat configurations and four specification levels.

The biggest Subaru ever made, the all-wheel-drive Ascent sits on a 2890mm wheelbase – 145mm longer than the wheelbase of Subaru’s biggest current SUV, the five-seat Outback.

But of more immediate interest for Australian Subaru customers could be the new turbocharged 2.4-litre boxer petrol engine that makes its debut in the Ascent.

Pumping out 193kW of power at 5600rpm and 375Nm of torque from 2000rpm, the engine features direct-injection, twin-scroll turbo and variable valve technology. Like other Subaru models, it is hooked up to a continuously variable transmission (CVT), this time with an eight-step manual function with paddle shifters.

The powertrain would seem to be a ready-made replacement for Subaru’s ageing 3.6-litre flat six in the top-most variants of Liberty and Outback, and maybe even the naturally aspirated 2.5-litre four-cylinder as well.

The 3.6 engine puts out 191kW and 350Nm, but chews through 9.9 litres of petrol per 100km. The 2.5-litre four produces 129kW and 235Nm, and drinks 7.3L/100km.

Fuel consumption figures for the new 2.4-litre turbo engine were not immediately disclosed at the LA show, but Subaru’s press release for the vehicle says the Ascent can cover more than 800km on a tank of petrol.

Subaru engineers have previously hinted that six-cylinder and diesel powertrains will not be continued in the next generation of Subaru vehicles, meaning there could be an opening for the 2.4-litre engine when the Liberty and Outback are replaced in about 2020.

While the engine would seem to be a logical inclusion in the Australia range alongside other new powerplants such as the 1.6-litre turbo engine in the latest Levorg, the Ascent appears to be less of a certainty, mainly because the economies of scale for right-hand-drive production are difficult to argue when some of the biggest RHD markets, including Japan, are not enthused about such a large SUV.

However, Subaru Australia is not saying never, in the off-chance that its American counterparts will find the production room for a RHD run if American demand – which is running high for Subarus of all shapes – calms down a bit.

Unlike the Tribeca with its polarising first-generation styling, the Ascent would not scare anyone. Safe rather than adventurous, the design is unmistakeably Subaru, inside and out.

The Japanese company is aiming Ascent squarely at the family market, offering no fewer than 19 cup and bottle holders – more than two for every passenger – and eight USB points throughout the cabin.

While the rear-most seat caters for three passengers, customers can choose between a three-person bench or a pair of captain’s chairs in the middle row.

The rear row folds away in the floor, while the middle row folds forward on an angle. Both rear rows can split-fold 60/40.

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