Subaru is savouring the spotlight at the New York International Auto Show with three reveals: a redone 2018 Crosstrek, a refreshed 2018 Outback and a massive three-row Ascent crossover concept.
These vehicles mark a bold step forward in design and technology for the niche Japanese auto maker, known for its stellar track record for safety, traditionally high-resale values and loyal customer cult following.
Ascent crossover concept
Bigger is better seems to be the motto here. Subaru’s largest vehicle in its history is the Ascent, an all-new three-row, mid-size SUV concept, which will be built on Subaru’s global platform. It will be U.S.-made at Subaru’s Lafayette, Ind., plant next year. Not only is it daring, beautiful and distinctive in design – both inside and out – it fills a gap in the lineup ever since Subaru’s last seven-seat SUV, the Tribeca, bit the dust in 2014.
One of Subaru’s top-selling vehicles, the Outback gets a refresh, but at first glance, it doesn’t look much different. It’s longer, wider and taller than the previous generation and adds sharper creases and a wider, lower front grille. The changes are barely noticeable.
But why mess with a good thing? “It ain’t broke; don’t fix it,” said Ted Lalka, Subaru Canada’s marketing vice-president, after the press conference.
Design plays second fiddle to engineering, safety and performance in the Outback and customers don’t mind. March was a record-setting sales month for Subaru thanks to the Forester, Outback and WRX STI models. Outback sales during the month hit 1,061 units compared with 1,056 units in March, 2016.
Inside, there are big changes. The dashboard is modern, distinct and includes a new infotainment system, which incorporates Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A larger, available eight-inch touch screen is beautiful. The fit and finish is a marked improvement over the previous version. The interior and cargo area are large – perfect for any thrill-seeking family adventure. This high-riding wagon is more functional, capable and comfortable than ever before.
Both engines, a 175-horsepower, 2.5-litre Boxer engine and a 256-hp, 3.6-L Boxer six-cylinder engine, are carry-overs. Both are mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Bad news for stick lovers though: The manual transmission has been dumped because of lack of demand. Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel-drive system with active torque vectoring is standard.
The 2018 Outback, available in four trims, goes on sale this summer. No pricing is available.
The 2018 Crosstrek gets a redesign that puts it leaps ahead of its predecessor. Built on the new Subaru global platform, it’s longer and wider as well as more spacious in the cabin and cargo area. The front face features Subaru’s signature hexagonal grille and a more rugged, athletic appearance with black side and wheel-arch cladding, funky wheels and roof rails that contrast the exterior body colour. Two eye-catching colours – Orange Sunshine and Cool Grey Khaki – join the lineup.
Mechanically, the Crosstrek gets an all-new version of the 2.0-L four-cylinder Boxer engine with direct fuel injection that pumps out more power – 152 ponies compared with 148 in the previous version. Mated to the engine is either a new six-speed manual transmission, which is standard, or an all-new CVT with a seven-speed manual mode function operated via steering-wheel paddle shifters.
Subaru’s symmetrical full-time AWD system and EyeSight Advanced Driver Assist System is a step in the right direction for the car maker’s foray into semi-autonomous driving. The system acts as a second pair of eyes warning of potential dangers in your path. Among other things, it includes adaptive cruise control, precollision braking, lane-departure warning and lane-sway warning. Lane-keep assist is a new added feature.
Other cool tech safety features include steering-responsive headlights that illuminate curves for better visibility and high-beam assist, which turns on and off the high beams based on approaching vehicles. Reverse automatic braking is also new – it warns the drivers of obstacles while reversing and can even apply the brakes to avoid an accident.
The 2018 Crosstrek, which is available in four trims, including a new entry-level Convenience trim, hits dealers this summer. Prices aren’t available yet.
The writer was a guest of the auto maker. Content was not subject to approval.