Ascent and Atlas: The New Breed of 3-Row SUVs

Subaru Ascent concept

But does it have a third row?

It’s a question that’s inevitable when families shop for an SUV. Anything less is deemed inadequate, because there’s just not enough room for two adults, three kids, and occasional friends in a traditional 2-row sedan or SUV.

Three-row vehicles include the Ford Explorer, Dodge Durango, Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, and many more.

It’s a crowded field indeed, but two automakers each see room for an additional entry.

Say hello to the Subaru Ascent and Volkswagen Atlas.

Subaru hasn’t officially unveiled the production version of the 2018 Ascent yet, but we expect to see it sometime in the next couple of months.

The Ascent will, surprisingly, ride on the same platform as the Subaru Impreza but be about the same size as a Chevy Tahoe.

Car and Driver says,

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 four-cylinder future. We’ve spotted prototypes convoying with a Mazda CX-9 and a 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.

A 4-cylinder will limit towing ability but give better fuel economy for daily commuting, which will appeal to the vast majority of Ascent shoppers. It’ll have Subaru’s famous all-wheel drive and plenty of space inside for seven. Pricing is expected to start at about $35,000.


The Volkswagen Atlas, also debuting as a 2018 model, will come standard with a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder rated at 235-hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, while a 3.6-liter VR6 rated at 276-hp and 266 lb-ft will be optional. Both engines use an 8-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard with both engines and VW’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive system will be an option on the 3.6-liter engine only.

Like the Ascent, pricing should begin at about $35,000, but that’ll get buyers a FWD 4-cylinder model. Opting for the V6 AWD version will almost certainly put it well out of the the Subaru’s league.

What 3-row SUV is on your test-drive list?

-tgriffith

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