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2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness First-Drive Review: Properly Rugged, Needs Power

With a host of unique features, the 2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness is the most capable Crosstrek to date.
2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness(Photo/Andy Lilienthal)
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The Subaru Crosstrek is like a solid, trusty pair of hiking boots. Steadfast, comfortable, and capable on the trail. Crosstrek has always been a versatile jack-of-all-trades AWD hatchback … I mean crossover … er … small SUV that punches above its weight off-pavement.

While not particularly powerful, with generous ground clearance and Subaru’s acclaimed AWD system, these vehicles have gained a following. They’re ideal for people looking to make it farther down the trail or through bad weather. In fact, Crosstrek was the brand’s bestselling car in 2022.

I just returned from the launch of the all-new Crosstrek Wilderness. So, if a regular Crosstrek is your standard hiking boot, the Wilderness version is a new pair with thicker soles, better leather, and flashier styling. But. do you need different boots?

In short: The 2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness takes everything people like about regular Crosstreks and elevates it, besides the power. The added off-road ability, solid AWD system, and more daring looks bolster the company’s go-anywhere attitude and is a solid value — but more horsepower would’ve been a welcome addition.

2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness


  • Drivetrain 2.5L flat-four-cylinder engine mated to a CVT
  • Power 182 hp and 178 lb.-ft.
  • Cargo capacity 20.0 cu./ft. (seats up), 54.9 cu./ft. (seats down)
  • Towing 3,500 lbs.


  • Impressive off-road capability
  • Confident, agile on- and off-pavement handling
  • Hefty 3,500-lb. towing capacity
  • High bang-for-your-buck quotient


  • Pokey acceleration
  • Black plastic door cladding is polarizing
  • Touchscreen infotainment/climate system is difficult to use
  • No manual transmission option

2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness Review

In 2022, Subaru debuted the Forester Wilderness and Outback Wilderness. This wilder Wilderness designation meant better off-road driving performance and exclusive rugged styling.

Now, the new-for-2024 Crosstrek can be had as a Wilderness model, giving Subaru a triple threat for off-road-ready crossovers.

2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness
(Photo/Andy Lilienthal)

Specifically, Crosstrek Wilderness has more ground clearance than Crosstrek or Crosstrek Sport, all-terrain tires, and unique mechanical components like a more robust rear differential, unique transmission tuning, and an aluminum front skid plate, just to name a few things. All this ups Crosstrek’s go-anywhere ability.

On the style front, there are exterior and interior bits that are Wilderness-only, such as the distinctive fender flares, large swaths of door cladding, and signature copper accents throughout.

GearJunkie reviewed the 2024 Subaru Crosstrek already. So, how does the 2024 Crosstrek Wilderness compare?

Equipped for Off-Road Adventure

2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness
(Photo/Andy Lilienthal)

For starters, this small SUV (don’t call it a hatchback) has 9.3 inches of ground clearance. For comparison, a Jeep Wrangler Sport has 9.7 inches, a Ford Bronco Badlands has 8.8 inches, the upcoming Toyota Land Cruiser has 8.7 inches (as do non-Wilderness Crosstreks), and the Kia Seltos X-Line has 7.3 inches. The extra clearance is achieved by taller coil springs, although suspension travel remains the same as standard Crosstreks.

Crosstrek Wilderness has better approach, breakover, and departure angles versus other Crosstreks. These angles are important for knowing how big of an obstacle you can go over. The car … er … crossover has a 20-degree approach angle (+2 degrees versus Crosstrek Sport), a 21.1-degree breakover angle (+1.4 degrees versus Crosstrek Sport), and a departure angle of 33-degree (+2.9 degrees versus Crosstrek Sport).

2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness
(Photo/Andy Lilienthal)

Subaru equipped Crosstrek Wilderness with all-terrain tires for added traction, specifically the Yokohama Geolandar G015. They are the same as Forester and Outback Wilderness, and the same size as Forester Wilderness at 225/60R17.

Crosstrek Wilderness also gets an aluminum skid plate to aid in protecting the engine from trail hazards, a larger rear differential for more robust performance, a CVT with a shorter final drive ratio (4.11 versus 3.7) and a transmission cooler to keep it from getting warm off-road. It even has a higher-powered radiator fan to keep the engine in check when pushed.

2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness
(Photo/Andy Lilienthal)

Adding to the continued capability, Crosstrek Wilderness has two tow points front and rear for recovery, and a substantially higher towing capacity of 3,500 pounds — 2,000 more pounds than Crosstrek Sport with the same engine.

2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness
(Photo/Andy Lilienthal)

The copper-accented roof rack also now gets an official dynamic load rating of 165 pounds and a static load rating of 700 pounds. That should be plenty for those looking to install a rooftop tent, cargo carrier, or other outdoorsy accessories.

Wilder Wilderness Exterior

Crosstrek Wilderness is easily distinguished from other Crosstrek trims by the big fender flares, massive black plastic door guards, signature copper accents, exclusive black wheels, LED fog lamps, black anti-glare hood decal, and unique front and rear fasciae.

2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness
(Photo/Andy Lilienthal)

The rear bumper cover has a Wilderness-only “SUBARU” wordmark molded in. There is also a surplus of Wilderness badges on the vehicle: doors, hatch, headrests, floor mats, and likely other places I didn’t see. Fact: You will never forget you’re driving a Wilderness — and neither will onlookers.

This compact trail tamer can be had in nine colors including Geyser Blue, which is unique to the Subaru Wilderness vehicle family. The rich, jewel-tone Lithium Red Pearl is my favorite; Sapphire Blue Pearl is also a great shade of indigo. The nonmetallic Alpine Green looks attractive but will cost you $395 extra.

2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness
(Photo/Andy Lilienthal)

Subaru ditched its iconic orange Crosstrek paint for 2022, but they’ve brought orange back for 2024, aka, Sun Blaze Pearl. It’s more burnt than bright orange, though.

Crosstrek Wilderness styling is more polarizing than its Forester and Outback siblings. The addition of the black door cladding with copper lettering looks too flashy for me; people either love this or hate this feature. Both fasciae are more distinct than Forester or Outback providing a scrappy appearance.

The overall shape and lines are undeniably rugged. To me, the vehicle looks best from the back, especially when equipped with the wide, functional mud flaps, which are a Subaru accessory. From the rear, it’s muscular, hinting at some rally car DNA.

2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness
(Photo/Andy Lilienthal)

Not So Rapid, but Plenty of Off-Pavement Prowess

Speaking of rally cars, the Crosstrek Wilderness has lots of dirt-ready chops and looks like the automotive equivalent of a HOKA trail running shoe. But unlike most rally cars, it isn’t fast.

It employs the same FB25D twin-cam 2.5L parts-bin flat four available in the Crosstrek Sport, Forester, Legacy, and Outback. It musters 182 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque put through a CVT — the only powertrain option.

Floor it and there isn’t much excitement. Passing in hilly country, especially with the air conditioning on, requires planning in this 3,417-pound lifted hatchback — sorry, crossover. But one doesn’t purchase any Crosstrek in hopes of acquiring rapid transportation.

2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness
(Photo/Andy Lilienthal)

But, as I navigated the stunning gravel backroads around Zion National Park, I couldn’t help but ponder how another 50 horsepower and a more enthusiastic transmission would transform this practical, capable vehicle into a potent rally rebel.

Even without the turbo gusto, the Crosstrek Wilderness was a lot of fun on the hundreds of miles of mesa-lined dirt roads that weave their way across southern Utah. The raised suspension soaked up potholes and rocks with ease.

It was noticeably quiet in the cockpit as well, even on loose gravel stretches. Subaru’s team said they added more sound deadening, and specifically reduced what they called “chip.” This refers to the rock or gravel spray noise from under the car on dirt/gravel roads. 

As we came into a sweeping dirt corner, I gave the steering wheel a slight “Scandinavian flick” and then cut the wheel right. The car’s rear end kicked out predictably, and I’d hoped for a perfect slide around the corner’s apex.

My co-driver held on, and then … the skid control kicked in and I’m brought back to reality. Although traction control can be disabled, skid control always stays on, so my rally car dreams were squashed.

2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness
(Photo/Andy Lilienthal)

X-MODE Marks the Spot

While you might not be able to slide sideways, you can certainly go up and over. The Yokohama all-terrain tires paired with added ground clearance and Subaru’s dual-function X-MODE software help make this Subaru a little mountain goat. 

X-MODE controls throttle mapping as well as transmission functionality to optimize traction off road. The Deep Snow/Mud mode, which I primarily used, allows more wheelspin — crucial when in certain off-road conditions.

2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness
(Photo/Andy Lilienthal)

The car’s hill descent control also worked well on steep dirt declines allowing for one foot driving down hills. While it’s no substitute for a low-range gearset like you’d find on a Ford Bronco or Jeep Wrangler, X-MODE does an admirable job keeping the vehicle under control through tricky obstacles.

And, unlike a Bronco or Wrangler, the Crosstrek Wilderness is EPA rated at 25 city, 29 highway, and 27 combined mpg, on par for the segment.

2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness
(Photo/Andy Lilienthal)

Off Road in the 2024 Crosstrek Wilderness

I was able to push the 2024 Crosstrek Wilderness harder than I would’ve expected off-road; in fact, Subaru encouraged it. The compact SUV was able to successfully climb steep and sandy obstacles, descend loose silty slopes, traverse muddy holes, and straddle deep ruts without protest.

Frankly, there were a few arduous climbs I didn’t think would be doable, or at least would be outstandingly difficult. But the Crosstrek Wilderness proved more capable than I expected; it conquered everything I put it up to. I was genuinely impressed at its capability, and I’ve been off-roading for nearly 20 years.

One downside: Compared to a traditional SUV, it’s harder to see out of due to its high beltline and low car-like seating position. 

Unlike the Outback Wilderness, Crosstrek Wilderness does not have a grille-mounted front camera, which can come in handy when tackling trails or simply parking at the grocery store. Regardless, the car is easy to drive, rides well, and the responsive, nimble chassis and tight steering is entertaining on and off the tarmac.

But let’s address the elephant in the room: This car begs for the 2.4L turbo from the Outback or WRX — and everyone knows it. 

Crosstrek Wilderness Interior

2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness
(Photo/Andy Lilienthal)

The Crosstrek Wilderness gets much of the same interior bits as the other 2024 Crosstrek models, although with more copper accents, Wilderness badging, and a black headliner to hide scuffs from loading cargo or camping gear.

Stitched vegan leather upholstery (their words, not mine) in the form of water-resistant StarTex, covers the seats. The front buckets are heated and comfortable enough.

Nothing felt out of place or in the way, just like it should feel. A heated steering wheel would’ve been a nice addition.

The car’s hatchback configuration and folding rear seats make it versatile to haul all sorts of stuff, just like all Crosstrek models.

2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness

Wilderness gets the company’s large 11.6-inch touchscreen with Subaru STARLINK (not Elon Musk Starlink), like Forester and Outback models. And like those units, there’s a learning curve to use them. I found the climate control frustrating. There aren’t many actual buttons at all. But at least all the screen’s icons are big.

An available option package for Wilderness includes power moonroof; 10-way power driver seat with two-way lumbar support; and a Harman Kardon 10-speaker system with a 432W-equivalent amplifier.

2024 Crosstrek Wilderness: The Price Is Right

You might be asking how much the Wilderness badges, body cladding, and off-road goodies will cost you over a standard Crosstrek. They will cost you $1,100 more than a Limited and $3,000 more than a Sport — both of which offer the same driveline.

With the average price of a new car being $48,451 in August 2023, the Crosstrek Wilderness seems like a deal. The MSRP is $31,995 plus $1,295 delivery, for a grand total before tax, title, and license of $33,290.

The only option package is $2,270, and Alpine Green is $395 extra. So, even the most wildly priced Wilderness is fairly reasonable — on today’s new car market — at $35,955.

2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness
(Photo/Andy Lilienthal)

A Vehicle Worthy of the Swiss Army, Figuratively Speaking

Crosstrek Wilderness is an appealing package that takes the platform to a higher level. Not a faster one, just higher. Its capability is great, the style is rugged, and the value is good. It’s hard to argue with the car’s adventurous personality and go-anywhere capability. It’s a Swiss Army knife of a car.

2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness
(Photo/Andy Lilienthal)

While a regular Crosstrek might be like the standard-issue Swiss Army knife, the Wilderness is the next step up with more blades, the can opener, and maybe the saw. It’ll do everything the regular one will do, plus some.

The blades on both knives can be opened at the same speed, though — it doesn’t matter. But if you want to get the blade out faster, you’d need a switchblade. With the addition of the WRX or Outback Wilderness’ 2.4L turbo engine, Subaru would have a legitimate Swiss Army switchblade, and that would be a true kick in the cargo pants.

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The Crosstrek is already a capable cross-country tourer, but with some basic bolt-on mods it can better handle rough terrain and inclement weather. The key is to keep the Subaru Crosstrek mods focused on function and keep the added weight down, which helps retain fuel economy and factory reliability. Read more…

Andy Lilienthal

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