2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness: A long-legged crossover that’s bold at heart

2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness: A long-legged crossover that’s bold at heart

Oh pioneers! Please tell me you wouldn’t take the average crossover wagon to booty. The salesperson probably told you the car has four-wheel drive, and it probably does. But such systems are often surprisingly vulnerable off-road. In some situations – for example, when extracting on any type of slope – on-demand forward-biased AWD systems can simply refuse to turn any wheel, leaving you stuck. Then you have to eat the dog.

Oh pioneers! Please tell me you wouldn’t take the average crossover wagon to booty. The salesperson probably told you the car has four-wheel drive, and it probably does. But such systems are often surprisingly vulnerable off-road. In some situations – for example, when extracting on any type of slope – on-demand forward-biased AWD systems can simply refuse to turn any wheel, leaving you stuck. Then you have to eat the dog.

The Subaru Crosstrek has no problem getting traction. The third generation design of what is effectively a lifted Impreza wagon was introduced in 2022, and is now the company’s most popular model in the US, and not just with dogs, recording nearly 160,000 sales last year. Among its enticements, the Crosstrek includes the company’s rock-ribbed mechanical all-wheel drive system as standard equipment, starting at $25,195.

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The Subaru Crosstrek has no problem getting traction. The third generation design of what is effectively a lifted Impreza wagon was introduced in 2022, and is now the company’s most popular model in the US, and not just with dogs, recording nearly 160,000 sales last year. Among its enticements, the Crosstrek includes the company’s rock-ribbed mechanical all-wheel drive system as standard equipment, starting at $25,195.

Our test car—the Crosstrek Wilderness Edition ($35,560, as tested)—is the new herbivore in the range, designed to take nature lovers deep into the weeds. Mounted on a beefier, more agile suspension, the Wilderness has 9.3 inches of ground clearance, which is higher than the bottom of the Jeep Compass Trailhawk. This is special. The Subaru’s front and rear bumpers are also shorter and more cheeky than standard, which improves approach and departure angles – that is, the steepness of the holes they can pass through. Under the chin is a non-trivial steel skid plate.

The delicate exposed parts – lower door panels, bumpers and wheel arches – are protected by a heavy layer of polycarbonate, like the molded Vibram sole on a hiking boot. Speaking of shoes: The Wilderness wears a set of 17-inch Yokohama Geolander all-terrain tires (225/60 R17s), wrapped around matte-painted alloy wheels. I thought Stiles was out of the question.

In front of the windshield, the hood has a section of matte paint to reduce reflected glare. On the surface, Wilderness offers a huge selection of charging rods, with a dynamic capacity of 165 lbs and a static capacity of 700 lbs. This means that the roof rack is strong enough to support a roof-mounted tent and two people. Nice – good.

Properly equipped versions of this little guy are rated to be able to tow up to 3,500 pounds. Don’t bother with the kayak. You can trailer your own six-man dugout boat.

The reason is easy enough: Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel drive system is fundamentally better than any similar design in any competitive gas-powered product. What is symmetrical is full-time mechanically distributed torque vectoring. In the special case of the Wilderness, powertrain modifications include a beefed-up rear differential and a lower final-drive gear ratio that improves low-speed climbing, up to 38 degrees of pitch, Subaru says.

Terrain/traction modes, including Snow/Dirt and Deep Snow/Mud, are easily accessed through the central touchscreen.

Between that and that, the Wild is a badass little wagon. And by taking it up a muddy Alaskan logging road, you’ll have an advantage over off-road-oriented competitors like the Ford Bronco Sport Badlands and Jeep Compass Trailhawk. And the price of Wilderness undercuts both by thousands.

So why not? Back in the real world, as an everyday ambassador of self, the sharply designed Wilderness can be too cute and stylish for some to handle, especially in its distinctive blue and gold livery. Make way, the Cub Scout Master is coming.

Also, the curse of the exotic wilderness is to be great where conditions are terrible and vice versa. In the fast-paced big city, Subie’s country roads would make James Fenimore Cooper blush. One might cite the sluggish throttle response of the 182-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder. the sheep-like bleating of the CVT transmission; The frightening incremental acceleration in the traffic lane. Drowning this little woodland creature in interstate traffic is a reminder of where true wilderness lies.

Comfortable yet comfortable, the cabin is dominated by a large central touchscreen, hosting the latest user experience, called Subaru Starlink – the latest for Subaru. Everything seems old to me. But the system connects wirelessly with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The interior is decorated with comfortable upholstery in faux leather, a water-resistant fabric called StarTex. The copper accents on the steering wheel look nice and help relieve arthritis in the wrists (not really).

As for whom? Childless, dog-loving millennials are clearly the type who love the outdoors, and lead active lifestyles like backpacking, kayaking, biking, and rappelling. Weekend escape artists will accept those weekday concessions that come with, say, Subaru Super Tires, which spend most of their time in the city practicing kettle drums. Tree huggers may also be bothered by the average fuel economy (27 mpg, combined).

Not all adventures are limited to the backcountry. The weather in central North Carolina was truly terrible the week the car was in operation, with storms keeping crews stuck on highways. I was out running some errands in the late afternoon when I came across an unattended expanse of roughly graded road construction. Feeling like John Dillinger, I steered the Subi between orange barrels and through the mud at a lively rate, deployed the throttle for traction, and rocked and swayed through the deep tracks of heavy equipment. I made it a long way before I thought about switching to mud mode. I thought to myself: These tires are completely agricultural. Nice suspension travel too.

The next night, we had to take one of my daughter’s friends home, driving along dark country roads between rain-soaked ditches. Once again, Subaru’s all-wheel drive hardware and quality boots meant I could toss my wife a keychain with complete confidence.

What? I was already in jammy.

2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness

Price as tested: $35,560

Powertrain: 2.5-liter direct-injected, horizontally opposed four-cylinder; Continuously variable transmission. Full-time all-wheel drive with active torque vectoring.

Power/Torque: 182 hp @ 5800 rpm / 178 lb-ft @ 3700 rpm

Length / Wheelbase / Width / Height: 176.4 / 104.9 / 71.7 / 63.6 inches

Empty weight: 3,417 lbs

0-60 mph: 8.5 seconds (estimated)

Towing capacity: 3,500 lbs.

EPA Fuel Economy: 25/29/27 mpg (city/highway/combined)

Cargo Capacity: 20/50 cubic feet (behind 2nd/1st row)

BIKER BARS The Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness is recognizable in the wilderness with its rugged integrated roof rack system. Designed with a variety of bike and boat attachment strategies in mind, it has a dynamic capacity of 165 lbs and a static capacity of 700 lbs.

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