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2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness First Drive: Hitting the Rocks

The 2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness | Photo: D.Boshouwers
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Derek Boshouwers
The new edition shows us it can do things most owners will never ask of it

•    Auto123 gets in a first drive of the 2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness

Sedona, AZ – The Crosstrek, otherwise known as the Impreza on Stilts, is the star player on the Subaru roster in Canada. The Outback and Forester are certainly popular models, but the wee Crosstrek currently accounts for some 35 percent of the brand’s sales here.

It’s not hard to figure out why. The city-friendly small SUV offers a comfortable on-pavement ride and all-wheel-drive reassurance for a relatively affordable price.

But there was a gap in the model range, in the view of Subaru. The mantra for the company in producing this new Wilderness version was to offer customers ‘A Crosstrek for Everyone’, making the model as omnipresent on auto shoppers’ short lists as the cacti and healing vortexes found in this beautiful corner of Arizona.

To prove the worthiness of the new Crosstrek Wilderness edition (the Forester and Outback already have their off-road ready version), we would have a small amount of time on the pavement before taking it for a large amount of time on a back-bruising off-road road (level 3, we were told). Sure enough, the model showed us it can do things most owners will never ask of it. But still, to know that it can do those things is nice. If ever.

Specifications sheet of the 2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness

2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness, profile
2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness, profile | Photo: D.Boshouwers

A recognizable design
A close look at the 2024 Crosstrek Wilderness reveals the kind of added elements we’ve seen before on the Forester and Outback Wildernesses, grafted onto the tweaked 2024 Crosstrek we’d encountered already.

See also: 2024 Subaru Crosstrek First Drive: (Extra)-Urban Legend

So you have the glare-deadening black hood, distinct front grille and front bumper beautified by six-LED fog lamps, extreme cladding on the sides, Wilderness badge here there and almost everywhere, and those tow hooks in yellow, two in front and two in back. The back bumper is also different, notably with its shaved corners for fewer bangs on rough terrain, and it screams Subaru at vehicles behind via those extra-large letters. The model rides on exclusive 17-inch wheels shod in all-terrain tires.

2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness, interior
2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness, interior | Photo: D.Boshouwers

A familiar but ‘wilder’ interior
Largely identical to the interior of the other 2024 Crosstreks, this model does get all-weather soft-touch seating, Wilderness-tagged rubber mats and cargo tray and a black headliner instead of the standard grey.

2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness, Crosstrek badging
2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness, Crosstrek badging | Photo: D.Boshouwers

Capabilities
Besides the visual touches and as part of the exterior adjustments designed to help with surviving big potholes and sharp rocks, the Crosstrek Wilderness gets other modifications, notably a higher ground clearance (15 mm more) and greater approach, breakover and departure angles.

Meanwhile the CVT has been adjusted to deliver a lower gear ratio, and the coil springs have a special coating to help protect from whatever the trail throws up at them.

There’s one another advantage to the Wilderness that may covince buyers to shell out the extra cash for it as opposed to other versions: towing capacity. The regular model can pull 1,500 lb, but this version more than doubles that, to 3,500. That comes in part thanks to an enlarged radiator and radiator fan.

2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness, three-quarters rear
2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness, three-quarters rear | Photo: D.Boshouwers

Driving the 2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness

On this day we didn’t actually drive the new Wilderness edition all that much on paved roads, but it was enough to learn that those 17-inch all-terrain tires do not impact on comfort or noise on routine trips, which was not a given.

Otherwise the powertrain has the same strengths and weaknesses as with the Crosstrek Limited that we drove in the morning, essentially as point of comparison. The CVT is one of the better ones out there but it’s still limited by the constraints of its format, and the engine can be made to scream quite loudly if you decide to accelerate on the highway starting at the bottom of a rise, say. There are a lot of occasions to do that on the highways of Arizona.

Going by that alone, it’s hard to justify spending the extra $9,000 it costs to get this instead of the decently equipped Convenience base model. On the other hand, the popular Onyx model is only $4,000 less than the Wilderness trim, the highly equipped Limited only $1,000 less.

2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness, three-quarters front
2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness, three-quarters front | Photo: Subaru

Which brings us to the off-road portion of our test drive, which certainly did highlight the enhanced capabilities of this version designed to shine right here, off the pavement. The x-mode helps inspire confidence and we never felt like losing grip even on the choppiest sections. We were also grateful at those times for the added ground clearance, which meant instead of regularly hearing bangs and bonks underneath we had the snorting-horse sound of the x-mode doing its thing, keeping traction with the correct tires when needed and applying brake power when necessary.

The suspension is a bit firm to be doing this kind of serious off-roading thing – on this day we saw only side-by-sides and a couple of Jeeps cross our paths on the trail – but then, as mentioned, this kind of thing is not what 98 percent of Crosstrek Wilderness owners will do with it.

2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness, Wilderness badging
2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness, Wilderness badging | Photo: D.Boshouwers

The final word
So why bother with it? Well, if you want an affordable Crosstrek and don’t need a lot of extras, you shouldn’t bother. The Convenience is a fine trim at a significantly cheaper price. But, if you want the equipment-packed and more upscale Limited, it’s only a tiny step further to the Wilderness. Unless you don’t like that aggressive cladding, which really can look like a bit much.

However, if you’re going to tow things with your vehicle, and you like Subaru’s AWD system, and you don’t want to be saddled with a bigger SUV making your life complicated (and more expensive) as a city dweller, this version makes a ton of sense. You’ll be able to go rattle your brain and abuse your neck and lower back to your heart’s content.

Pricing of the 2024 Subaru Crosstrek

  • - 2024 Crosstrek Convenience – MSRP $28,995
  • - 2024 Crosstrek Touring – MSRP $32,195
  • - 2024 Crosstrek Onyx – MSRP $33,995
  • - 2024 Crosstrek Limited – MSRP $36,995
  • - 2024 Crosstrek Wilderness – MSRP $37,995

Competitors of the 2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness

  • - Ford Bronco Sport Badlands
  • - Jeep Compass Trailhawk
  • - Toyota RAV4 Trail
The 2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness, at the end of a hard day's work
The 2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness, at the end of a hard day's work | Photo: D.Boshouwers

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Photos:D.Boshouwers
2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness pictures
Derek Boshouwers
Derek Boshouwers
Automotive expert
  • Over 5 years' experience as an automotive journalist
  • More than 50 test drives in the past year
  • Participation in over 30 new vehicle launches in the presence of the brand's technical specialists