Test Drive: Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness Offers Serious Capability

This story ran in a previous edition. 

The Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness aptly demonstrates that it doesn’t take a huge vehicle to conquer Herculean hills.

And for all those times when you aren’t in the wilderness, the SUV’s nimble size is still extremely handy. If you’ve ever tried to parallel park a full-size SUV into a tight space in the city, you will very much appreciate what I mean by this. 

Yet there is still plenty of cargo space both inside and on top for plenty of gear (and groceries!) The vehicle has a versatile ladder-type roof rack system, with a 165-lb. dynamic load capacity and a 700-lb. static load limit, allowing safe use of larger rooftop tents.

Subaru actually designs the cars with roof racks in mind, says Garrick Goh, carline planning manager, Subaru of America.

“When we do the design sketches, we sketch them out with gear on the roof because we want to know how they are going to look in the real world,” Goh told the media at a recent test drive event. “It's because Crosstrek owners really like biking, they like hiking, they like to get out there and do their outdoor activities. So we design a car that meets those needs also, including canoeing, kayaking and rafting.”

Safety is very important for Subaru owners in general, and Crosstrek is no exception, he says. 

“They are most willing to pay more for features that will help them survive a crash,” Goh says, adding the Crosstrek is tops in value for the money. 

“Although that doesn't mean the cheapest car in the segment,” he says. “We are far from being the cheapest, but we do offer the most value for money. It's a solid car, it's a safe car, it has a lot of features, including all-wheel-drive capability.”

Half of Crosstrek owners have pets, so the “Dog Tested, Dog Approved” ad campaign is actually grounded in reality, he adds. 

The Crosstrek (starting at $24,995) is aimed at the 23-million-member “youthful explorer” demographic, and the Wilderness version (starting at $31,995) is likely to hit that sweet spot. The Wilderness is aimed at the 9 million consumers who are “the most adventure-filled, most extreme, most fun slice of our standard Crosstrek audience,” according to Goh.

Their median age is 26, 34% are partnered, 19% are LGTBQ+, and the female/male split is 49%/51%. The median household income is $75,000. 

One in five Subaru Outback and Forester owners have opted for the Wilderness package, Goh says. And the company expects about the same percentage for the Crosstrek.

So what does the Wilderness package (which is $1,100 more than the Crosstrek Limited) give you that you don’t get on a regular Crosstrek?

The 9.3 inches of ground clearance is higher than the standard model’s 8.7 inches. The added off-road capability provides a smoother ride and soaks up bumps and potholes easier. The front and rear fascias are redesigned to improve the approach and departure angles.

Revised final drive ratios deliver more torque to the ground for improved climbing ability – and improve acceleration from a stop. 

Compared to the other trim levels, the interior is an easy-to-clean Startex material (similar to other Wilderness models), along with all-weather floor liners and a removable rear cargo tray.

Bottom line: The Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness is a very capable vehicle that can handle huge sand hills and rocky roads with little effort, for “youthful explorers” and everyone else. 

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