2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness Road Test Review by Ben Lewis

If you haven’t noticed, we’re seeing a resurgence in rugged, off-road type crossovers and SUV’s. From Honda’s TrailSport to Nissan’s Rock Creek editions, people are lining up for that extra-capable, extra-rugged look.

And Subaru has been happily playing in that sandbox. We’ve tested the Outback Wilderness, and Forester Wilderness, and enjoyed them both, for their added outdoors-capable look, and upgraded running gear. So now, Subie has added an all-new Crosstrek Wilderness model, and we couldn’t wait to get our hands on it!

Crosstrek Gone Wild!

Well, there’s no doubt about what you’re seeing when you look at it – this is the most rugged looking Crosstrek, ever!

It starts with an aggressive front end, with a matt-black, anti-glare hood decal, a larger blacked-out front grille, new blacked-out bumpers that reach all the way down to a tough looking lower fascia, and a metal front skid plate. Frowny LED headlights feature a swoosh-like driving light, while unique hex-design LED fogs give the perfect finishing touch.

The profile is equally thrilling, with larger wheel-arch claddings, lower body claddings emblazoned with CROSSTREK in bold gold letters, complimented by Wilderness badges on the front doors. The Wilderness rides high with 9.3-inches of ground clearance, while 17-inch matte-black finish wheels are wrapped in serious-looking Yokohama GEOLANDAR all-terrain tires.

Up top, you’ve got a ladder-type roof rack system, that carries a 165-lb. dynamic load capacity and a 700-lb. static load limit – perfect for a serious overlanding-style tent. Helping to match the copper color scheme, the rack attachment points are painted a rich copper.

Like the front, the rear features a unique bumper that’s more massive and blacked out, with copper accents to keep the faith, along with another Wilderness badge. We absolutely loved our tester’s Geyser Blue paint, exclusive to the Subaru’s Wilderness models, and heck, who doesn’t love a blue Subaru! If you’re not a Geyser fan, there are 8 other colors to choose from.

An Inside For Going Outside

Inside, the Wilderness is very similar to other Crosstrek models, but no problem there – this is one of the most comfy small SUV’s.

Open the door, you will find seats appointed in water-resistant StarTex material (a Wilderness exclusive), with a tasteful Wilderness logo embossed in the headrests. The copper-colored accents from the exterior are also found in the interior, including the chunky leather-wrapped wheel and the gauge rings. Copper-colored stitching throughout the cabin is subtle and pleasing to the eye. Equally pleasing to the eye – and feet – are all-weather floor mats also wearing the Wilderness logo.

The front seats are comfortable and well-shaped, and we have to say these are one of the best heated seats anywhere – not only do your buns get the treatment, but the heat also goes up to give your lower and mid back a soothing warmth. Perfect for those chilly mountain mornings!

Subaru has resisted the full digital dash treatment, and gives you a handsome 8,000 rpm tach and 160 mph speedo with a handy digital driver’s display in between. Like most Subies there’s a large Tesla-like display in the middle of the dash.

On our tester that includes an 11.6-inch Multimedia Plus system, with high-res screen, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and a handy wireless charger. Like the WRX we tested recently, there’s a dedicated area for climate controls, so you don’t have to go fishing around multiple screens and get comfortable. Also like the ‘Rex, Subaru is kind enough to give you actual volume and tuning knobs. Yay!

Those in back will find a respectable amount of room for adults, and plenty of cargo space. And we just love the water-resistant rear cargo tray in the back. Yes, it protects the load floor, but it just looks so cool! Folding down the rear seats is super easy, and they give a nice flat load floor for carrying gear. The rear hatch is manual opening, but we found it light and easy to use.

Greater for the Outdoors

Like the Outback and Forester, Subaru does plenty mechanically to make the Wilderness more capable – this is no stickers and stripes job!

Power comes from Subaru’s familiar 2.5-liter Boxer 4-cylinder, putting out a healthy 182 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque. This is a friendly engine that pulls smoothly, and while it’s no rocket, it gets around town fine.

Subaru decided to give some real off-road cred to the Wilderness, and that starts with a retune of the CVT transmission and a shorter final drive ratio to help scrabble up hills and the like. Those who like to bring the toys will appreciate the addition of a transmission oil cooler, more than doubling the towing capacity to 3,500 lb!

We already mentioned the half-inch taller ground clearance to an impressive 9.3 inches, thanks to longer coil springs and shock absorbers. Approach and Departure angles are also increased, while Yokohama GEOLANDAR all-terrain tires help in the grip department.

There’s plenty of tech to help you get where you’re going, with driver-selectable dual-function X-MODE. Snow / Dirt and Deep Snow / Mud modes let you dial in the kind of grip you need. Other goodies include standard Hill Descent Control, and Active Torque Vectoring not only helps off-road, but makes the Crosstrek a nimble handler around town.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to go off-road in our Wilderness, but there’s a lot to love even in the paved world. That longer suspension gives a composed, unflustered ride, and you scoff as you glide over speed bumps. Ha! Those planning to take the long drive to their favorite off-road venue will also find that the Crosstrek is impressively quiet on the road – even with those large tires. This is a supremely comfortable and serene cabin to spend time in.

Subie also realizes that it’s an urban jungle out there, so you get the full EyeSight driver assist suite, with all the goodies you could hope for, including Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure and Sway Warning, and Lead Vehicle Start Alert. Most useful to us were the standard Blind Spot Detection with Lane Change Assist and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.

 Did They Go Wild with the Price?

Another high point – this is affordable fun. You can get into a base Crosstrek for just $25,195. With standard AWD, all that safety gear, and fun capability, that’s a bargain.

Even if you opt for the top of the line Wilderness, it’s not bad, starting at $32,195. Our tester had the “Optional Package” which includes Harmon Kardon audio system, moonroof and power driver’s seat for $2,270. Add in $1,345 for destination, and we rang the bell at $35,810.

We think a natural competitor would be the Toyota RAV4, equally rugged and capable, but comparably priced at $41,300 it’s significantly more expensive. If you are willing to give up that off-road capability, the Honda CR-V at $37,335 is an attractive choice.

Take the friendliness of the Subaru Crosstrek, add in the great looks and capability of the Wilderness trim and you have a great, small SUV that’s good to go just about anywhere!



Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.

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