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2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness Quick Drive: How to Make Foul Weather Fun

Subaru's trusty little Crosstrek Wilderness proves wintertime commuting doesn't have to be a slog

2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness front three-quarter
  • The trusty little Subaru Crosstrek adds an adventurous Wilderness variant for 2024.
  • We recently spent a weekend with the Crosstrek Wilderness in the meh-some Midwest to see how it fares as a daily driver.
  • With all that ground clearance and those all-terrain tires, the Crosstrek Wilderness is an all-weather brute.

Detroit in December is many things; tropical is not one of them. But in the new Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness, splish-splashing through muddy puddles and that ever-so-ominous "wintry mix" isn't a chore. In fact, it's kind of fun.

A quick refresher: Subaru added the Wilderness variant to the Crosstrek lineup last fall, which not only gave this butch little all-rounder a tougher aesthetic but upped its go-anywhere game as well. Compared to other Crosstrek models, the Wilderness has a 0.6-inch suspension lift, resulting in an impressive 9.3 inches of ground clearance. This little brute also comes with Yokohama Geolandar all-terrain tires, extra underbody protection, a stronger roof rack and a few mechanical tweaks, the most notable of which is a revised final drive ratio that allows the engine to deliver more low-end torque. The end result is a car that looks like it belongs in an REI catalog.

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2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness wheel and cladding

Those upgrades are all well and good for taking the Crosstrek Wilderness off the beaten path, like we did when Subaru invited us to Zion National Park back in October. But there's a secondary benefit to all this granola-fed goodness: The Wilderness is a better daily driver than other Crosstreks, too.

Chunky 255/60R17 all-terrain tires handle sloppy roads and slippery surfaces with aplomb, and the generous sidewall gives the Crosstrek a decidedly cushy ride. There's also an appreciable sigh-of-relief reassurance that comes with having the extra ground clearance; you can plow through deep snow without fear of a hidden rock taking out the front bumper. Wilderness-specific Snow/Dirt and Deep Snow/Mud programs for the X-Mode off-road system change the throttle mapping and traction control parameters, which also help you get through the muckiest of muck.

The taller ride height and all-terrain tires do weaken the Crosstrek's handling chops, but come on, it's not like someone is buying this thing for its corner-carving prowess. Instead, the Wilderness' fun-to-drive factor comes from the fact that you'll want to bomb down muddy roads, slide through snowbanks, and generally get this thing dirty as heck. The Crosstrek is like a little billy goat, all eager to run up a hill and play in the dirt. All that plastic cladding and the huge "SUBARU" text on the back bumper kind of give this thing rough-and-tumble rally car vibes. All it needs is a set of gold wheels and some mud flaps. Well, and a turbocharger. Ahem.

2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness interior

Yes, if there's a single weak-sauce element to the Crosstrek, it isn't specific to the Wilderness. Subaru's 2.5-liter naturally aspirated flat-four engine is sort of a dud, delivering a modest 182 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque through a continuously variable transmission. The CVT drones as you get up to highway speeds and the engine could definitely use more punch — even with the Wilderness' improved transmission tuning. Subaru doesn't offer an electrification option, either; the old Crosstrek Hybrid plug-in is dead.

The Wilderness' EPA-estimated fuel economy ratings of 25 mpg city, 29 mpg highway and 27 mpg combined are relatively easy to hit. These are modest decreases compared to the figures for other 2.5-liter Crosstrek trims, but the Wilderness is still more efficient than the brunt of other compact SUVs. It can also tow a respectable 3,500 pounds — a 2,000-pound improvement over lesser Crosstrek trims, thanks to the addition of a transmission oil cooler.

Fun as this little SUV is in wintertime slop, it's plenty functional and four-season-friendly. The standard interior upholstery is waterproof, and those chonky floormats and trunk liner are easy to remove and clean. Considering this thing is meant to be used and abused, the Crosstrek's easy-to-maintain interior will be a boon for owners of muddy boots and muddier dogs. Sure, the plastics on the doors and center console aren't of the highest quality, but there's room for a million water bottles and bags of trail mix, and the hard-wearing nature of the Crosstrek's cabin means you won't be too upset when you inevitably scuff it up.

2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness rear

The Wilderness isn't a stripper model; at $33,540 including $1,345 for destination, it sits at the top of the Crosstrek hierarchy. As such, it comes with things like heated front seats, a full suite of driver assistance tech, and Subaru's 11.6-inch Starlink multimedia system, which isn't even close to being the best infotainment interface on sale today, but hey, at least it'll run Apple CarPlay and Android Auto wirelessly.

Adding one option package that includes a sunroof, power driver's seat and Harman Kardon stereo brings the final, fully loaded price of a 2024 Crosstrek Wilderness to $35,810, which really isn't bad considering all that you get. Plus, this plucky little go-getter is guaranteed to be more fun than pretty much any other small SUV when the weather gets wonky.

Edmunds says

The Subaru Crosstrek is already a competent and compelling little crossover, and the Wilderness add-ons up its capabilities — and fun factor.