With seven seats in three rows, Subaru thinks big with its Viziv-7 SUV concept

The 2016 Los Angeles Auto Show could be called the Year of the SUV. Carmakers from Alfa Romeo to Volkswagen are showing off new SUVs in the City of Angels, meaning Subaru’s latest concept vehicle is in good company.

The Subaru Viziv-7 is the latest in a series of Viziv — short for Vision for Innovation — SUV concepts the Japanese automaker has shown over the past few years. It previews a seven-seat, three-row midsize SUV Subaru plans to launch in North American in early 2018. It is exactly the kind of car America seems to want right now, but that Subaru has resisted building for some time.

The Viziv-7 looks like someone put a Subaru Forester in a photocopier and dialed the enlargement setting up to 125 percent. It features traditional SUV styling cues like boxy wheel wells and an upright, squared-off roof, which should at least give the interior a nice, airy feeling. The grille and headlights mimic those of other recent Subaru production and concept cars. However, some elements of the design, like the Subaru badge placed near the top of the grille, make the Viziv-7 look a bit like a Toyota Highlander.

Subaru would not discuss the powertrain, but its last SUV concept, the Viziv Future unveiled at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show, used a hybrid setup. A 2.0-liter boxer-four engine powered the front wheels, while an electric motor powered the rear wheels. It is possible that something like this will be used on the production model the Viziv-7 previews or Subaru may simply go for a non-hybrid powertrain with one of its existing boxer engines.

The SUV mania at the 2016 Los Angeles Auto Show reflects the current boom in SUV sales, something Subaru is likely planning to exploit. The company has had success with the smaller Forester, and with luring SUV buyers into its all-wheel drive wagons, hatchbacks, and sedans, but its last seven-seat SUV, the Tribeca, was a bit of a dud.

The new SUV due in 2018 will be larger than the Tribeca and will be built at the company’s U.S. factory in Lafayette, Indiana. Unlike the Tribeca, which was named after a trendy New York City neighborhood, Subaru previously said the new SUV would “carry a name synonymous with outdoor adventure,” similar to the Forester, Outback, and Crosstrek. So it probably will not be called the Subaru Williamsburg.

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