Subaru now has three distinct Wilderness models in its lineup, but each caters to a different audience.
Buyers now have a choice of three rugged Wilderness models from Subaru, each delivering a slightly different experience. Freshly revealed at the New York Auto Show, the 2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness has joined the Forester and Outback versions of the same name.
Wilderness derivatives take what buyers love about Subaru products - all-wheel-drive, comfort, practicality, safety, and reliability - and up the off-road capabilities for even more adventurous buyers. These may not be the ultimate vehicles for traversing the Rubicon trail, but they are great for individuals and families planning outdoor activities on the weekends that are off the beaten path.
With three stellar choices now available in the Subaru lineup, we wanted to assist buyers who may not know which Wilderness model suits them. The answer might be as simple as arranging them by size, but we think there's a little more to it than that. There is no one-size-fits-all approach here, so we will summarize what each Wilderness model does best.
Ground clearance is vital for any off-roader since you can't go off the beaten path if you scrape the front end the minute you leave the pavement. Subaru's Wilderness models are all lifted above their standard counterparts but to a varying degree. The Forester Wilderness goes from 8.7 to 9.2 inches of ground clearance, while the Crosstrek Wilderness goes a tick further to 9.3 inches (starting with the same 8.7 inches).
The Outback Wilderness offers the most clearance with 9.5 inches, a nearly one-inch lift over stock. Subaru says the Outback's longer wheelbase allowed for a more significant suspension lift - which would also be necessary to counter the poorer breakover resulting from said long wheelbase.
This approach, departure, and breakover angles all increase, too, not just from the lift but the bespoke bumpers. For the Forester, you get 23.5, 25.4, and 21 degrees, respectively, with the Outback bringing 20, 21.2, and 23.6 degrees to the table and the new Crosstrek Wilderness sporting 20, 33, and 21.1 degrees.
All three models get all-terrain tires, a dual-function X-Mode buttons with Snow/Dirt and Deep Snow/Mud, and revised gear ratios for off-roading - despite all three having a CVT.
Both the Crosstrek and Forester Wilderness use a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated boxer-four engine producing 182 horsepower. Interestingly, Subaru managed to squeeze an additional five pound-feet out of the Crosstrek for a total of 176 lb-ft. We imagine these numbers will be balanced when the 2024 Forester is officially announced. Even if the Forester does get a torque bump, the Crosstrek will be quicker because it's smaller and lighter.
The Outback might be the largest and heaviest of the trio, but it has significantly more power from a 2.4-liter turbocharged boxer-four. This mill delivers 260 hp and 277 lb-ft, substantially more than its smaller Wilderness siblings. As a penalty, the Outback's fuel economy isn't impressive, rated at 22/26 mpg city/highway. The Forester is rated at 25/28 mpg, but the Crosstrek hasn't been rated yet. Both the Outback and Crosstrek can towup to 3,500 pounds, but the Forester is limited to 3,000 pounds.
Bigger is usually better, and in the case of Subaru's Wilderness models, this is accurate. The Crosstrek is the smallest of the three, meaning it has the least carrying capacity with 20.8 cubic feet behind the seats and 55.3 with the seats folded. Upgrading to the Forester ups the storage space to 26.9 cubes (69.1 with the seats folded). The Outback is Subaru's largest two-row crossover with 32.6 cubes behind the rear seats and 75.6 total. Passenger space is a similar story, with the Crosstrek offering the least, the Forester landing in the middle, and the Outback supplying the most.
For the 2024 model year, the Crosstrek gets the same 11.6-inch StarLink infotainment system found in the Outback. The Forester still has an older eight-inch touchscreen with a small upper display that can also switch to a front-view monitor. We foresee Subaru adding the larger screen for the 2024 Forester. Aside from the screen size differences, these cabins all look very similar. Each one gets Subaru's durable StarTex material that's water-resistant and has the Wilderness logo embossed in the headrests. Bronze accents add a pop of color to each cabin, though the Crosstrek doesn't have bronze on the shifter like the other two Wilderness models.
Practicality might be essential in choosing which Wilderness model is best, but it's meaningless if you can't afford the biggest one. Pricing for the Crosstrek Wilderness is the most affordable, starting at $31,995 before destination. We don't have pricing for the 2024 Forester Wilderness yet, but the 2023 model is $34,320. It should come as no surprise that the larger, turbocharged Outback Wilderness is the priciest at $41,255.
With nearly a $10,000 spread between them, many buyers might gravitate towards the cheaper Crosstrek or settle in the middle with the Forester. But the reality is that you'll buy the one that suits your needs. For someone single or a couple with no plans for kids, the smaller interior dimensions of the Crosstrek paired with its epic off-road figures make it a shoo-in, while those with teenagers will default to the larger Outback. The Forester is somewhere in the middle, but its practicality over the Crosstrek makes it ideal for those who need to shove tents and bikes in the back.
All three Wilderness models only seat five passengers, so we believe there is room for an Accent Wilderness to cap off the range.
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