- It features an upgraded suspension, all-terrain tires, and 9.3 inches of ground clearance.
- It's the third Wilderness model offered by Subaru, followng the Forester and Outback.
- The interior features water-resistant upholstery for easier cleaning.
Driven: The 2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness Is a Campsite Champ
Upgraded performance and off-road capability make this Crosstrek the one to get
It feels like it's hard to find a good deal on anything these days, when even eggs feel expensive, let alone a new car. That's why it's so refreshing to get behind the wheel of something new and come away not only impressed by its performance but also its price.
The 2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness might sit atop the Crosstrek lineup, but with a starting price of $33,290 it remains relatively affordable. For that money, you're getting a small SUV (or a tall wagon, whichever you prefer) with some off-road chops and a more potent powertrain than most other Crosstrek variants.
This is the third Wilderness model in Subaru's lineup, following in the footsteps of the Outback and Forester, and it comes with many of the same upgrades: higher ground clearance, all-terrain tires and a revised continuously variable automatic transmission, or CVT. I set off on a roughly six-hour drive with the Crosstrek Wilderness (and about half of that spent off-road) near Zion National Park in Utah to see how these changes would affect one of Subaru's best-selling vehicles.
Much of the drive was spent on dirt and gravel roads around the park, with some time reserved for climbing hills and other obstacles sprinkled in. This provided ample time to see how the off-road upgrades that the Crosstrek Wilderness adds perform.
Those changes include Yokohama Geolandar all-terrain tires at all four corners, a retuned suspension, and a CVT with a revised 4.111 final drive ratio (versus 3.700 in the other Crosstreks). The revised suspension comes with longer coil springs and shocks that give the Wilderness extra ground clearance, up to 9.3 inches from 8.7 inches. And in the infotainment screen, there's a display to choose between the dual-function X-Mode off-road driving settings, Snow/Dirt or Deep Snow/Mud.
The all-wheel-drive system that underpins the Crosstrek Wilderness is superb. It never really puts a foot wrong and even in situations where a wheel is up in the air, the system moves torque quickly to where it's needed. The added ground clearance also gives the Wilderness better approach, departure and breakover angles (20 degrees, 33 degrees and 21.1 degrees, respectively). Though the Crosstrek Wilderness doesn't offer the suspension travel of a true four-wheeler (think Jeep Wrangler or Ford Bronco), it still sits pretty high and can go over most obstacles. But rock crawling is still better left to those body-on-frame vehicles.
The revised final drive ratio has really improved torque delivery, especially at the low end of the rev range. I was expecting to have to dip much further into the pedal to access the torque, which can make the vehicle uneven to drive when climbing up hills or trying to get through sand. But I felt like I was in complete command of the powertrain, even pointed up a steep hill with loose dirt or running through a wash.
Though the Crosstrek has a relatively short wheelbase, it's also quite comfortable running over dirt and gravel roads at some speed. The suspension and those big tire sidewalls did well to keep a lot of the vibrations and big hits from making the cabin feel like it was going to shake apart. If you're intending to take the Crosstrek Wilderness out to any sort of campsite or up a fire road, it will be a delightful little workhorse.
If I had one wish, it would be for the steering to tighten up a bit. It feels quite light and devoid of feedback, and that vagueness isn't your friend when driving off-road.
Better on-road too
Though the Crosstrek Wilderness' powertrain upgrades were made with off-road performance in mind, they improve the feel on-road, too. This trim comes standard with the larger of the Crosstrek's four-cylinder engine options, with a 2.5-liter that makes 182 hp and 178 lb-ft of torque. We previously tested a lower trim version of the Crosstrek and found that the 2.0-liter's acceleration is sluggish, but this bigger motor feels much more substantial. Factor in that upgraded CVT, and it feels like you don't have to plan really far ahead to pull out into traffic — an attribute that makes it annyoing to drive the 2.0-liter Crosstrek. I was afraid that the ratio might mean that it sat at higher revs on the highway and make the cabin even louder, but while cruising at highway speeds, the engine hummed well below 2,000 rpm.
The Wilderness also enjoys a big bump in towing capacity (from 1,500 pounds to 3,500 pounds) thanks to a transmission oil cooler. And even with the all-terrain tires, ride quality isn't appreciably worse. If you think that these all sound like changes other Crosstreks with the 2.5L engine would appreciate ... we agree! But sadly, Subaru tells us that there no plans to slide these upgrades down the lineup at all.
There's only one catch: slightly worse fuel economy. The Wilderness gets an estimated 27 combined mpg, while the other variants with the 2.5L get 29 mpg. But that's a price I'd willingly pay for the better performance and upgraded capabilities of the new model.
While the Crosstrek Wilderness' bright copper styling cues and oversized cladding might not be for everyone (though I kind of like it), it does hint at something that I came to really appreciate about the Subie: It's built to be used.
It skips out on leather upholstery that the Limited enjoys, instead favoring a synthetic material that's water-resistant and much easier to clean if it gets muddy. There are all-weather floormats for both rows and a removable tray in the cargo area that you can take out and hose off.
The roof rack has a 176-pound dynamic load capacity and a 700-pound static load limit, which means that it's sturdy enough to support a rooftop tent if you plan to camp. For those who plan on (or wish to) take the vehicle off-road, it's a worthy and willing companion.
The latest Crosstrek trim to arrive is its best one, adding off-road capability and better styling without any real compromises. And in an era where vehicle prices are out of control, the Crosstrek Wilderness also offers stellar value.