Steep climbs of muddy two-track trails may not be part of your typical commute, but in the Crosstrek Sport, they could be. After all, the Sport and Limited trims get a two-mode X-mode system, which adds a deep snow/mud setting to allow more torque, hence, more slip, to the wheels to muscle your way up. The 2.5L provides an additional 30 horsepower and 33 pound-feet of torque, might as well use it to fling mud.
Subaru built a new, stiffer platform for the Crosstrek and tweaked the styling to add a touch more aggression to its design. We already experienced that with 152 horsepower from a 2.0L under the hood, which is what comes in the base and Premium trims.
But how can you resist the chance to drive a Crosstrek up a ski mountain? To do just that, and experience how much difference an extra 0.5L makes, we headed to the Catskills around Woodstock, N.Y., to run the Crosstrek Sport through its paces. Turns out ski mountains are fun in the late spring too.
In short: Subaru’s compact SUV continues to deliver a versatile platform for folks looking to load up on tents, mountain bikes, hiking boots, and whatever else piques their interest. But now, Subaru delivers it in a more refined package that can take you further away from pavement than you might expect.
2024 Subaru Crosstrek Sport
- Vehicle 5-door, 5-seat, Crossover SUV
- Dimensions (length, width, height, wheelbase) 176.4", 70.9", 63.0", 105.1"
- Cargo (2nd/1st rows up) 20 / 55 cu.-ft.
- Engine 2.5L I-4
- HP/ Torque 182 hp at 5,800 rpm / 178 lb.-ft. at 3,700 rpm
- Transmission/Driven wheels CVT / AWD
- MPG 26 city, 33 hwy, 29 cmb
- Less highway noise, than the outgoing model
- Value price for volume of convenience features
- More capable off-road than you'd expect
- Second row is comfortable for adults
- CVT limits acceleration from a standstill
- Lots of body motion with spirited driving
- In desperate need of a front-view camera
2024 Subaru Crosstrek Sport: Proud to Be an American
Subaru builds U.S.-bound 2.0L equipped Crosstreks in Japan. But the Japanese brand builds the 2.5L-equipped models for us Americans in Lafayette, In. Apparently, roughly half of us choose the Sport- and Limited-trimmed models with the bigger engine. It’s a good choice.
Not only do you get more power and torque, but you also get it at more usable engine speeds. And that’s even truer today. While peak horsepower holds steady when compared to the second-genation Crosstrek, peak torque increases by 2 pound-feet. I know I know, big whoop. But that peak also comes 700 rpm earlier than before, 178 pound-feet at 3,700 rpm instead of 176 at 4,400.
That’s a noticeable difference you feel when there’s a need to pass someone on a two-lane road or climb a steep grade with confidence (hint hint, foreshadowing). Subaru pulled the feat off by reworking the intake manifold and tweaking the powertrain software.
This also gives the continuously variable transmission more torque to work with at lower rpms, which makes it easier to keep engine speeds down and fuel economy numbers elevated. The 2.5L-equipped cars manage 26 mpg in the city, 33 on the highway, and 29 combined.
The 2.0L equipped cars do better, but only a little: 27/34/29 city/highway/combined according to Subaru. Regardless of engine, those are healthy numbers for an all-wheel-drive-only compact crossover SUV.
At Least 15 Pieces of Flair
For this third-generation Crosstrek, Subaru did subtly change the styling, edging toward a more aggressive, grittier look. Subaru shaped the front grille hexagonal, with a layered pattern inside of it. There’s also a horizontal plastic bar that pierces the grille and heads outward to meet the new, more squinty-eyed headlights. Beneath that, you see more black cladding to form several contours. And, in the case of the Sport trim, a streak of gold trim above the fog light.
From the side, the Crosstrek looks largely the same because it is. Length, width, height, and wheelbase are all within a few tenths of an inch of the outgoing model. Subaru builds the front fenders from aluminum now, however. And the rear fender flares lower in the body than before, which makes it look a bit more SUV, a bit less hatchback. The beefy roof rack up top remains, by the way.
Same in the back, Subaru generally took an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach to the styling. Though, again, you do see a touch more cladding and flair. Ooh, and a bit more of that gold trim, which also runs across the bottom of the doors.
Finally, the rear will accept up to 1,500 pounds attached to tow around or, you know, a really beefy bike rack.
2024 Crosstrek Sport: Look Inside
Every Crosstrek with the 2.5L engine (as well as the Premium trim) gets a portrait-mounted 11.6-inch center console touchscreen to use. And that includes wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity as well as a wireless smartphone charging placed in front of the shifter. All Crosstreks get dual-zone climate control and a couple of USB ports. Premium and up trims add more.
Subaru also took pains to take the pain out of driving. This latest Crosstrek gets front seats with more support around your pelvis and directly mounted the seat to the frame to limit flex. It’s a noticeable improvement. In the Sport and Limited trims, those seats come standard as heated.
Sport seats also get more gold, this time on the outer edges of the upholstery on both the seat bottom and back, showing off the bolsters in a way. It adds a bit of pizazz without being flashy, but only just.
Back to the fundamentals, the Crosstrek provides easy access to 20 cubic feet of storage behind the second row. And Subaru provides plenty of accessories to make all of these areas easy-to-clean, dog-scratch-resistant spots for dirty gear or pets. Even if you decided to fold the second row and increase available space to 55 cubic feet. Subaru also offers paw-scratch-resistant door trim covers that happen to block the rear window up/down switch.
Rolling Down the Road
Subaru updated its driving aids, named Eyesight, to perform better, and that’s welcome.
But, critically, Subaru also increased the stiffness of the Crosstrek platform by 10% by using more weld points and tripling the amount of structural adhesive to bond all the metals together. And more high-strength steel is in that metal mix than before.
You feel the difference while cruising, the third-generation Crosstrek allows less noise into the cabin and feels more composed and settled, gracefully managing bumps and undulations in the road. Match that with 55 series tires (225/55R18 all seasons), 8.7 inches of ground clearance, and plenty of suspension travel, the Crosstrek rides pleasantly in almost any circumstance.
Bear in mind, that translates to lots of body motion when the road gets twisty. Consider the Crosstrek the anti-Porsche Macan T. It needs a moment to react to your inputs and the body rolls heavily in the opposite direction as you bend into a corner. Any quick jabs of throttle or brake are met with pitch or dive, providing constant reminders the Crosstrek is the WRX’s second cousin once removed. Not its brother.
But the Sport and Limited trims benefit from the bigger engine here too. Having a continuously variable transmission (CVT) limits acceleration off the line a touch, but once the 2.5L gets past 3,000 rpm, you feel a good pull and increased pace at a respectable clip. The CVT also keeps revs high once you get there, keeping the party going.
It’s a much livelier party if you put the Crosstrek in Sport mode, by the way. Otherwise, intelligent mode, as Subaru named it, prefers to keep engine revs low. Good for fuel economy. Bad for fun.
Heading off the Road
Another benefit of the aforementioned ground clearance and suspension travel is respectable off-road prowess. Mind you, we’re not talking about the forthcoming Crosstrek Wilderness. Yet I did find myself driving up a ski mountain named Plattekill. Not the black diamond slopes themselves, rather a muddy two-track trail winding around the back with occasional steep bits and sharp rock poking out from the surface.
It proved a rare need to test the limits of the Crosstrek’s 18-degree angle of approach, 19.7-degree breakover angle, or 30.1-degree angle of departure. But I did scrap the skid-plate-less floor with mud and rocks more than once.
I also engaged the dual-mode X-mode deep snow/mud setting quite a lot. Doing so alters the settings of the CVT, engine controls, as well as traction and stability controls to allow all four wheels to take a bunch more torque and spin up to claw into the ground, spraying all kinds of mud in its wake.
With that system, I managed to climb 20-degree grades of loose dirt freshly drenched by rain. At times I slowed to a crawl, but never got stuck. This particularly impressed with the all-season tires the Crosstrek wears. What goes up must come down and, in those cases, the Crosstrek includes hill descent control to help keep speeds from getting carried away.
Now, I don’t recommend you go climb your favorite ski resort this summer. But do take it as a healthy dose of confidence that you’ll make it to more remote, harder-to-reach trailheads with more ease than most of the compact crossover SUVs sold today — the Ford Bronco Sport being an exception.
2024 Subaru Crosstrek Sport Review: Summary
Choosing the top Limited trim over the Sport does not at all affect off-road prowess; rather, you get additional features inside like leather trim on the seats and different trim details outside. You also pay at least $32,190, whereas the Sport starts at $30,290. That means you pay an additional 4 grand over the base Crosstrek, but for the larger engine and extra equipment, it seems a bargain to me.
Subaru first introduced the Crosstrek Sport for the 2021 model year. And while I instantly appreciated the added grunt, Subaru’s compact crossover otherwise underwhelmed with a noisy interior and unrefined feel.
Engineers took a scalpel to this third-generation model and transformed the Crosstrek into a well-mannered, competitively priced, highly versatile, and capable machine. For the adventurous pet owner who wants to maintain a smaller footprint, both actual and carbon, the latest Crosstrek Sport is the crossover to beat.