– Springdale, Utah

Subaru knows its owners better than most other carmakers. The company actually spends time camping with core buyers to see exactly how their vehicles are being used and what they want going forward. And that led directly to the new 2024 Crosstrek Wilderness.

As the first name implies, it's a new version of the recently redesigned Crosstrek that was so warmly received. And the Wilderness badge makes it the latest Subaru vehicle to get more serious about off-roading, following the Forester and Outback Wilderness models before it.

Quick Specs 2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness
Engine 2.5-Liter Four-Cylinder
Output 182 Horsepower / 178 Pound-Feet
Drive Type All-Wheel Drive
Trim Base Price $33,290
On-Sale Date Fall 2023
2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness First Drive Review

Tougher By Nature

Under the hood is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder boxer engine that's good for 182 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque. That's the upgraded engine over the base Crosstrek's 152-hp 2.0 liter. Power is routed through a continuously variable transmission to all four wheels.

The Wilderness distinguishes itself from its Crosstrek siblings with a reworked suspension tuned for more aggressive off-roading. Ground clearance increases from 8.7 inches to 9.3. To put that in perspective, the base Jeep Wrangler Sport can clear 9.7 inches. The added elevation combined with some sculpting of the front and rear fascia and all-terrain tires give the Wilderness an approach angle of 20 degrees, a 33-degree departure angle, and a breakover of 21.1 degrees.

2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness First Drive Review
2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness First Drive Review

Subaru also claims the Crosstrek Wilderness can scale an incline of 37.8 degrees. Underneath are some strategically placed skid plates and bright orange metallic accents (Subaru calls them anodized copper) that are unique to the Crosstrek Wilderness.

The roof rack can carry as much as 165 pounds when in motion and can support up to 700 pounds when parked. That's plenty for kayaks, canoes, gear boxes, and overlanding tent platforms, playing into the recent trend of prospective owners' desire to get out and to some adventuring after being cooped up during the pandemic, as well as a big component of Subaru's core audience. Add in a 3,500-pound towing capacity which should easily pull a teardrop camper, and the Crosstrek Wilderness is a compelling choice for those looking to go off-grid.

Over The Hill

I had the opportunity to wring out the Crosstrek Wilderness around Zion National Park in Southern Utah, both on- and off-road. Since its focus is on adventure, let's start there. I selected the X-Mode drive setting from the top of the large infotainment screen when stationary because the system nannies won't let you choose when the car is in motion. No big deal though, as once the deep mud and snow setting is selected it stays active until you reach 25 miles per hour and will reactivate when you dip back below that speed.

X-Mode is essentially a traction control setting that also engages hill descent control and alters the EyeSight suite of safety features to reduce false alarms. There's no need to figure out if you want four-high or low, or to lock hubs, disconnect sway bars, etc. Just hit the button and go. Over the deep powdery red sand that seems to coat everything in the region, the Wilderness tracks well in the ruts with very little squirming unless you intentionally provoke it.

2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness First Drive Review

On steep climbs where you only see the blue sky through the windshield, slow and steady is the way. A constant amount of throttle just past idle gets the Crosstrek trudging over rocks as X-Mode figures everything out for you. Coming back down, the hill descent control maintains the speed you crested with. With my feet off the pedals, the gentle crunching of the antilock brakes get you back to level ground with zero drama. Over washboard surfaces and larger undulations, the suspension does feel a bit too firm, though.

I consider the Crosstrek Wilderness capable of moderate off-road terrain. It will certainly handle way more than a dirt trail, though likely can't scale obstacles that a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon or Ford Bronco can, but it should easily suffice for the adventure-bound Subaru owner. Even more importantly, the Crosstrek Wilderness doesn't suck when it's on pavement.

2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness First Drive Review

I consider the Crosstrek Wilderness capable of moderate off-road terrain.

You don't get any of the Jeep’s body-on-frame wobble and the steering doesn't wander off center. By comparison, it's downright enjoyable and the cabin remains pleasantly quiet, even with the Yokohama all-terrain tires. The suspension is on the soft side, which makes perfect sense for the road. It doesn't encourage you to drive it like a BRZ or WRX, but it's not out of its element on a serpentine road, either.

The biggest drawback is a lack of initial power. From a standstill, it feels like the engine wheezes and labors as the CVT drones as you barely get moving. You'll also have to plan for uphill passes in advance, but everything is fine once you're cruising. It feels like an eight-second zero-to-sixty time, which is no more than adequate. Another 50 horses and a turbo would go a long way, especially if you're at elevation.

Play Hard, Pay Less

So yeah, the Crosstrek Wilderness delivers where you want to go as well as where you have to. It starts at $33,290 (including $1,295 in destination fees) and that compares well to the base Ford Bronco Sport at around $32,825 and the base Jeep Compass at $29,995. The more off-road-capable variants will send the price shooting well past that by several thousand, though.

For example, the top Bronco Sport in Badlands stickers at $40,630 while a Jeep Compass Trailhawk will set you back $37,990 to start. If your adventures are more extreme, it may make sense to step up to these models for their numerous mechanical and tech upgrades. For everyone else, the milder Crosstrek Wilderness seems more sensible.

2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness First Drive Review
2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness First Drive Review

The Crosstrek is also pretty decent on fuel consumption, too. It's estimated to return 25/29 miles per gallon city/highway and 27 miles per gallon in combined driving. The Compass gets 27 mpg combined, and the Bronco Sport comes close at 26 mpg.

Altogether, the new 2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness is a dashing little runabout that can get dazzling urbanites to their favorite campground. And let's not forget about the dogs, as Subaru sells plenty of accessories that include ramps, harnesses, and even an interior door guard to keep your pooch from scratching the panel or activating the power window.

It serves as proof that Subaru understands its shoppers' need for adventure in an affordable and well-mannered package. As much as I detest parroting a marketing line, Garrick Goh, Subaru's Vehicle Planning Manager perfectly encapsulated the Crosstrek Wilderness by saying, "This is the car that REI would sell."

2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness First Drive Review

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What Is The Difference Between The Crosstrek And Crosstrek Wilderness?

The Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness is a more capable Crosstrek. It has 9.3 inches of ground clearance, a dedicated X-Mode for rugged terrains, and better off-road angles.

How Much Does The Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness Cost?

The Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness costs $33,290 (with the $1,295 destination fee included). This version is $7,000 more expensive than the base 2024 Crosstrek.

When Can I Buy A 2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness?

The Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness goes on sale in the US in the fall of 2023.

Gallery: 2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness First Drive Review

2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness

Engine 2.5-liter H4
Output 182 Horsepower / 178 Pound-Feet
Transmission Continuously Variable
Drive Type All-Wheel Drive
Efficiency 25 City / 29 Highway / 27 Combined
Weight 3,369 Pounds
Seating Capacity 5
Cargo Volume 19.9 / 54.7 Cubic Feet
Towing 3,500 Pounds
Base Price $24,995 + $1,295 Destination
Trim Base Price $33,290
As-Tested Price $33,290 (est.)
On Sale Fall 2023
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