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The Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness Lets Your Inner Granola Girl Run Wild

A photo of a Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness hatch in orange.
A photo of a Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness hatch in orange.

Subaru’s Wilderness range has brought off-road capabilities to its Outback and Forester cars since 2021. Now, the Japanese automaker has given the Crosstrek the same treatment, raising the ride height and adding rugged styling, performance upgrades and all-terrain tires. This means the new Crosstrek Wilderness makes for a pretty fun entry point into the world of heading off piste.

Full disclosure: Subaru flew me to St George, Utah, and put me up in a bougie tent in Zion National Park so that I could spend a day testing the 2024 Crosstrek Wilderness on the trails.

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A photo of the engine in a Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness.
A photo of the engine in a Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness.


All 182 horses of power live here.

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Subaru has also taken steps to raise the ride height, which now gives you 9.3 inches of ground clearance, and modifications have been made to the front and rear bumpers to increase approach, breakover and departure angles – which now sit at 20.0, 21.1 and 33.0 degrees respectively. To aid its off-road performance, Subaru fitted all terrain tires that are wrapped around 17-inch alloy wheels.

To match its dreams of conquering parts unknown, the $33,290 (including destination) Crosstrek Wilderness now comes with an updated exterior that features lots of black plastic cladding to up the rugged aesthetic. The front end has new Wilderness-exclusive fog lights and the grille has been tweaked to feature a criss-cross pattern that Subaru says is a magnified version of the design found on the standard Crosstrek grille. There are also standard roof rails and neat gold accents dotted across the car’s exterior, which rounds out the design nicely – especially in the metallic orange color my review car came in.

A photo of the rear quarter of a Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness in a national park.
A photo of the rear quarter of a Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness in a national park.


Where every good Subaru owner takes their cars: national parks.

What’s It Like Behind The Wheel?

After all these changes, the car is surprisingly familiar on the road. It feels like a Crosstrek thanks to that rumble of the boxer engine and the same light steering that leaves you feeling nicely in control when you sit behind the wheel. In sensible scenarios like around town and on county roads, the Crosstrek Wilderness is a nice place to be. Standard tech like lane keeping and blind spot detection help you feel safe, while throttle response is good and the brakes are sharp.

When you hit the highway and get a chance to open the taps a bit more, the acceleration is fine thanks to the extra power over the base Crosstrek. But as with most cars fitted with a CVT, the feeling you get as it powers up to cruising speed isn’t setting the world alight.

But Subaru has prepped this car for adventures in parts unknown, and it’s off the beaten track that the Crosstrek Wilderness really comes into its own.

A photo of the front quarter of the Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness.
A photo of the front quarter of the Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness.


Before the dust settles.

Is The Crosstrek Wilderness Ready For Adventure?

Pulling off the highway and onto a sandy trail gave me the chance to test out the X Mode driving features, which come with Subaru’s Wilderness models. This gives you a little control over the way the car handles on rough stuff, with modes like Deep Snow/Mud disengaging the traction control and changing the way the all-wheel-drive system puts the power down.

Speed is limited to 25 mph with X Mode engaged, but the Crosstrek Wilderness feels like it scampers over sand with ease. On a flat trail, I was confident in the car’s traction, no doubt helped by those Yokohama Geolandar all-terrain tires. When the sand got deeper, I didn’t feel the car dig in too much – but caverns left by ATVs are best avoided if you don’t want to risk the Crosstrek’s underside. For peace of mind, there is a metal skid plate at the front end to protect your essentials.

On these trails, the suspension did a good job at keeping the wheels planted over the rough stuff but the ride across ruts and bumps was pretty harsh. You don’t go onto paths like this expecting a buttery-smooth experience, but a little more travel in the suspension might have gone some way in protecting my bony frame from the bumps of the road.

A photo of the Subaru Wilderness badge on the new Crosstrek.
A photo of the Subaru Wilderness badge on the new Crosstrek.


This badge means adventure.

But it isn’t just bumpy dirt tracks that X Mode comes in handy, as Subaru is counting on its nature-loving buyers using their Crosstrek Wildernesses as a means of getting a foot in the door at their local off-road park. To prove the car’s worth on tougher tracks, we headed even further off road and up steep, dusty inclines that put it to the test.

The hill descent was impressive, with the car keeping speed constant as we creeped down banks. A simple dab on the gas or brakes keeps you in control as you drive down rougher tracks and on the undulating course that Subaru set out, the onboard systems did a great job. I only found wheelspin hampering my progress at the top of a particularly steep incline.

Visibility when you head out onto trails like this is pretty good as well. I knew where the car was at almost every obstacle – thanks in part to its diminutive dimensions at just 176.4 inches long and 71.7 inches wide. But the lower driving position you have up front does mean that the nose can get a bit away from you at times. A quick peek out the open window ensures your wheels are pointing the right way though.

Taking this car on the trails was a lot of fun, and definitely a highpoint of my time in the Crosstrek Wilderness. It was surprising how capable it was “out the box” and I’m sure having this performance on hand will be a big sell for the hiking-, camping- and adventure-loving people Subaru attracts.

A photo of the interior of a Subaru Crosstrek.
A photo of the interior of a Subaru Crosstrek.


Black and gold, black and gold.

Does The Rugged Practicality Continue Inside?

Despite its rugged styling and performance, the interior of the Crosstrek Wilderness is markedly civilized. At the heart of the car is an 11.6-inch touchscreen display that handles settings, media and bluetooth pairing. It runs on Subaru’s Starlink system, but will also work with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto wirelessly or through the USB A and and C ports just below. Rather nicely, there’s also a 3.5mm jack for anyone still rocking an iPod Classic.

The rest of the dash is filled with lots of dark colors, including a polished black surround framing the screen. Subaru’s vegan leather alternative, called StarTex, covers the majority of the dash, while black carbon-look plastic adds some variety. There’s a distinct lack of physical buttons across the Crosstrek’s dash, but it does look pretty tidy… until you fill the cab with dust from the trails.

A photo of the Subaru Wilderness logo on the headrest of a seat.
A photo of the Subaru Wilderness logo on the headrest of a seat.


Out in the wilderness.

Across the rest of the cabin, the seats are ensconced in charcoal gray StarTex, which has a soft yet sturdy feel. There’s gold stitching to contrast the dark color of the seats and an embossed Subaru Wilderness logo on the headrests is a nice touch. In the car I tested, there was an optional electronic driver seat, which was very easy to wrap around my gangly frame. This option, coupled with the Harman Kardon stereo and a power moonroof, added $2,270 to its on the road price.

In the rear, there’s more StarTex fabric covering a bench seat that could squeeze in three adults. Legroom behind the passenger side was pretty good, but with the driver seat set to fit my six-foot self it was a little snug for me to then sit behind.

At the rear of the car, you’ll find a good-sized trunk with space for 20 cubic feet of camping gear. In the Wilderness, there’s also a light back there and two cup holders that are each big enough for a Nalgene water bottle – Subaru clearly knows its buyers. If that trunk isn’t quite big enough for your hydration needs, Subaru upped the towing capacity on the Wilderness to 3,500 lbs.

A photo of the rear quarter of the Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness.
A photo of the rear quarter of the Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness.


A wild Crosstrek appears.

Is The Crosstrek Wilderness Worth Upgrading To?

The updates Subaru made over the standard Crosstrek make the Wilderness a compelling option for adventurous types looking to upgrade. On city streets, the ride remains smooth and the cabin has everything you need for the daily commute or a comfortable trip into the great outdoors. Then, when you reach parts unknown, tech like X Mode, Subaru’s hill descent features and all-terrain tires mean that beginner off-roaders will have the confidence to tackle routes they might not have previously attempted.

A side profile view of an orange Subaru Crosstrek.
A side profile view of an orange Subaru Crosstrek.


Right, where next?

All in, the Crosstrek Wilderness’ ability to tackle sketchier surfaces, lug your gear around and stand out in an REI parking lot filled with Subarus mean it’s sure to catch the eye of your fellow granola girls wherever the road (or trail) might take you.

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