2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness: Off-Roading in a Smaller Package

Published on December 9, 2023 in First Drives by Vincent Aubé

Sedona, Arizona—The new 2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness is the third vehicle wearing the Japanese brand’s off-road label following the Outback and Forester. Those two have enjoyed a fair amount of success so far, so it made perfect sense to give the same treatment to the best-selling Subaru of all. Besides, they all share the same platform.

Let me say this: the new Wilderness is the boldest and most pleasant addition to the lineup since the Crosstrek made its debut a decade ago.

What Does Wilderness Do?

Similar to its larger siblings, the new Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness sports extra plastic cladding—a lot of it. If you thought the standard Crosstrek took it a bit too far with its 2024 redesign, you’re probably going to glance at these pictures and cringe. On the other hand, if you were wishing for a seriously rugged-looking crossover that seems to be equal parts four-wheeler and rally car, this is it. The Jeep Compass Trailhawk, Toyota RAV4 Trail and Ford Bronco Sport Badlands now have another enemy to contend with.

Photo: Subaru

Two exclusive body colours are available with the Crosstrek Wilderness including Alpine Green and Geyser Blue, each one matching rather nicely with the abundant black cladding. The front end has a unique appearance, as well, with a beefier and more aggressive grille grabbing most of the focus. Six-point LED fog lights also change the Crosstrek’s signature when viewed from the front.

In typical Wilderness fashion, copper accents can be found all around (recovery points, badges, roof rails and more). In the rear, the middle section of the black plastic panel covering the bumper is stamped with the letters “S-U-B-A-R-U,” a detail that rally enthusiasts will surely appreciate.

Photo: Subaru

Finally, the revised bumpers and increased ground clearance (+15 mm) give the Crosstrek Wilderness improved approach and departure angles when going off-road. The 17-inch matte black wheels are wrapped in Yokohama Geolandar A/T G015 all-terrain tires. Oh, and one more thing: maximum cargo capacity is bumped to 3,500 lbs. Fantastic.

Inside, the seats are upholstered in easy-to-clean, all-weather material that features the Subaru Wilderness logo embossed in the front headrests. Copper-coloured contrast stitching accents the cabin, complementing the anodized copper accents on the shifter, gauge meter rings and leather-wrapped steering wheel. The all-weather floor mats featuring a unique Wilderness design should reassure those who like to get their vehicle dirty.

Photo: Subaru

Into the Wild

The media event in Arizona included a level-3 off-road trail normally ruled by ATVs and Jeep Wranglers. Not the kind of setting where you’d expect to find a small crossover like Subaru’s Impreza-based Crosstrek, but given the Wilderness’ more capable tires and generous ground clearance, I felt relatively confident behind the wheel.

But wait a minute. Just because the new model gets an upgraded front suspension and a limited-slip rear differential with a lower ratio than a standard Crosstrek doesn’t necessarily mean you can treat it like a genuine 4x4. Well, it turns out it does—if you stay within the vehicle’s limits, of course.

Photo: Subaru

The event’s organizers had made sure to identify some of the most traitorous rocks that needed to be avoided. Ground clearance is not that tall, just to be clear, while the tweaked suspension is not quite flexible enough to blindly launch into bumpy and rocky trails, if you know what I mean.

In Wilderness trim, Subaru’s dual-function X-MODE adds Snow/Dirt and Deep Snow/Mud modes. The first one made the exercise noticeably easier, with key interventions from the electronic stability control system that didn’t prove too intrusive or annoying. Would this Crosstrek be sportier and more prepared for off-road driving with a conventional automatic transmission? I guess, but the CVT never really complained—unlike those times on regular pavement where the naturally aspirated 2.5-litre flat-four engine (182 hp, 178 lb-ft) screamed its heart out at full throttle.

Photo: Subaru

Should You Buy a Crosstrek Wilderness?

On the road, the newest adventurer in the Subaru lineup lives up to its name. The exterior modifications are more about substance than style, the interior is comfortable and neatly appointed, and life for the driver is quite enjoyable (you still get that great outward visibility, too), as is the case in other Subaru models.

As an off-roader, the Crosstrek Wilderness deserves praise and respect, but I feel like it’s not wildly superior to other Crosstrek models, which would probably fare well in the same kind of terrain that we faced in the Arizona desert.

In my honest opinion, Subaru engineers could have built a more extreme Crosstrek Wilderness than the one we have here. Such a model would cost more money, granted, but at least it would really stand out from the pack. I’m not counting on it, of course, and neither should you. Consider the 2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness if you prefer off-roading in a smaller package.

Test drive report
Test model 2024 Subaru Crosstrek
Trim level Wilderness
Price range $28,995 – $37,995
Price as tested 37 995 $
Warranty (basic) 3 years/60,000 km
Warranty (powertrain) 5 years/100,000 km
Fuel economy (city/highway/observed) 9,4 / 8,1 / N/A L/100km
Options N/A
Competitive models Chevrolet Trailblazer, Honda HR-V, Hyundai Kona, Jeep Renegade, Kia Niro, Kia Seltos, Mazda CX-30, Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross, Mitsubishi RVR, Nissan Kicks, Toyota Corolla Cross, Volkswagen Taos
Strong points
  • Rugged appearance
  • Surprising off-road skills
  • Agile and comfortable
Weak points
  • Why not a bit more power and capability?
  • Firm suspension away from the pavement
Editor's rating
Fuel economy 3.5/5 As a car-based small crossover with a CVT, this Crosstrek is reasonably efficient.
Comfort 4.0/5 The upgraded front suspension results in a smoother ride.
Performance 3.5/5 Despite its four-wheeler/rally car looks, performance is not any better.
Infotainment 3.5/5 The 11.6-inch vertical touchscreen is user-friendly enough thanks to large icons.
Driving 3.5/5 Agile both on and off the road, the Wilderness model is fun, yet something is still missing.
Overall 3.5/5 Subaru has a winner with the new Crosstrek Wilderness.
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