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SUVs are a competitive segment, and automakers try really hard to separate from the pack. That’s what Subaru did when it made a gamble in regard to the Ascent’s new engine. That said, this gamble may have actually paid off in Subaru’s favor, here’s how.

What most automakers are doing these days

The Ascent is a midsize SUV, and this means that it’s a larger SUV that is more capable than its smaller counterparts are. As a result, like any larger car, this also means that it needs quite a bit of power in order to perform well. For most automakers, this means equipping midsize SUVs with a V6 engine, since a V6 engine typically generates enough power to do the job at that size. 

This is pretty much the trend across the board for Subaru’s competitors. For example, the Kia Telluride is one of the best SUVs in the segment, and it comes standard with a 3.8-liter V6 that gets about 291 hp.

Other automakers, like Hyundai, Toyota, and Honda have similar engines that are about the same size and that get about the same amount of power. This is simply the industry trend, but Subaru is one of the few automakers that has decided to buck it.

The engine that Subaru uses on the Ascent

As Kelley Blue Book wrote, Subaru has a standard 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine on the Ascent. This engine gets 260 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque, and it’s simply a great engine for the Ascent. As Kelley Blue Book said, this engine is more than enough for the Ascent, as it gives it enough power for regular driving. 

On top of that, Kelley Blue Book said that the Ascent is actually kind of sporty. Not only does it handle well around corners, but the engine doesn’t lose any pep in its step when it’s making those corners, too. Additionally, all-wheel drive is standard, as are smart off-road features such as active torque vectoring.

This means that customers won’t have to pay a premium for these off-roading features. As a result, this makes the Ascent very capable and sporty when it’s on rougher roads and terrain.

Plus, since Subaru is using a CVT, the Ascent also has a pretty good fuel economy. Kelley Blue Book reported that the Ascent gets about 21 MPG in the city and 27 MPG on highways, or about 23 MPG combined.

Due to these factors, Kelley Blue Book ultimately said that the Ascent’s four-cylinder engine was “a good compromise of power, capability and fuel economy.”

Four-cylinders vs. V6s 

A white Subaru Ascent on display at an auto show
A Subaru Ascent on display | MARK RALSTON/AFP via Getty Images

Like U.S. News reported, generally speaking, bigger engines are more powerful, but it’s not as simple as that anymore. Thanks to different designs, and of course, turbochargers and superchargers, four-cylinders can be as powerful as V6s. At the same time, larger engines typically cost more, and they typically cost more to run, too. 

As a result, four-cylinder turbocharged engines like the one that the Ascent comes with can be a great combination of everything that a customer would want from a car’s engine. These engines don’t necessarily do anything particularly well, but are a great choice for customers who want a good balance of everything. 

In the Ascent’s case, its engine may have allowed Subaru to outfit the car with other great standard features. The Ascent, for instance, comes with plenty of standard features that aren’t found in its competitors. At the same time though, the Ascent starts at about $32,000, which makes it comparable in price to many of its competitors. By not having a big V6 engine, Subaru may have been able to put other stuff in the Ascent instead.


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