It was only a matter of time until Subaru did this, right? The Subaru Crosstrek is a stalwart in both Subaru’s lineup and the whole subcompact crossover shebang. Moving more than 140,000 units last year alone, Subaru’s baby crossover outsells the Impreza hatchback it is based on nearly 3-to-1. The Crosstrek is already one of the more modified vehicles out there, with lift kits, chunky tires, and other goodies commonly installed onto the subcompact crossover for drivers in search of more off-road utility and capability. Well, Subaru is now getting into the game. Enter the 2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness — a factory version of what many Crosstrek owners have been doing to their vehicles all along.
Like the equivalent Outback and Forester, the Crosstrek Wilderness trim gains a smorgasbord of off-road elements, adding capability and toughness. However, the Wilderness trims on the Outback and Forester were conceived after much of their development was already done. For the latest Impreza and Crosstrek, Subaru’s engineers benefited from knowing early on that Wilderness was part of the game plan.
“We were able to get a little crazy this time,” said Garrick Goh, carline planning manager for Subaru. Consequently, Subaru’s engineers say, the Crosstrek’s Wilderness trim is the Wilderness-est of them all, with substantial changes to both its exterior styling and running gear.
Superficially, the Crosstrek’s exterior cladding and gold accents align with what we’ve seen on the Outback and Forester, but if you look a bit more closely, the wilds have encroached a bit more on the Crosstrek’s sheetmetal. The rubberized plastic takes up most of the front fender, much of the lower portion of the doors, and the rear of the car. The rear bumper has Subaru script embossed into the plastic, giving the whole rear of the car a slightly retro yet aggressive feel. The unique grille is the most aggressive yet for the growing Wilderness family.
Mechanically, the Wilderness starts life as a normal Crosstrek equipped with the punchier 2.5-liter engine offered on the Sport and Limited. Subaru brought the ground clearance up to 9.3 inches — up from the Subaru-norm and already lofty 8.7 inches. The coil springs are longer and paired to new dampers tuned to provide more off-road prowess than the standard Crosstrek. The lift is more than cosmetic; it increases the Crosstrek’s approach, departure, and break-over angles by 2.0, 2.9 and 1.4 degrees, respectively. Traversing rough terrain and big rocky obstacles should be easier in the Wilderness thanks to its Yokohama Geolandars wrapped around matte black 17-inch wheels.
Although the 2.5-liter boxer four is bone-stock, the transmission has been retuned (just as it is in the Forester Wilderness). The final drive ratio is shorter and the CVT is tuned to better apply torque in slow, slippery conditions. As a perk, Subaru has added a transmission cooler to the Wilderness, which allows the tow rating to rocket to 3,500 lbs.
“Honestly, we thought that (upgraded tow rating) was a typo, but we were really proud and impressed with what Subaru engineers got out of the Crosstrek Wilderness,” said Goh. Coupled with the roof rails that can support 700-pounds (static) worth of roof tent and people, this car has all the stuff you’d want for an out-of-the-box off-road, or overland-ready small crossover.
There’s only one package available on the Crosstrek Wilderness. For an extra $2,270, Subaru will add a sunroof, a power driver’s seat, and a Harmon Kardon premium sound system. Otherwise, all Wilderness trims get the same cosmetic and mechanical enhancements. With a starting price of $33,290, including destination, the Crosstrek Wilderness offers a lot of utility for a reasonably low price.
The very existence of the Crosstrek Wilderness shows that Subaru is definitely listening to its clientele, giving them what they want in a small crossover. We expect it to be a hit, and so does Subaru; the brand expects 20% of Crosstrek sales to be Wilderness models.