Caraganza First Drive Review 2024 Subaru Crosstrek: It’s been a long time since we rock and rolled

There was a time in my life when I loved spending weeks in the wilderness will little more than a poncho, and a hammock that rolled up into something the size of a softball. Of course, I was in the Army at the time, and it was my job, but I did love trapsing round the woods, living off the land, or whatever came in an MRE; jumping out perfectly good airplanes, and doing all other manner of hooah junk.

I retired in 2005 though and let’s just say that things changed. I haven’t jumped out of a plane since then because I refuse to pay for it (seriously) and as for trapsing round the wilds in a minimalist fashion, um no.

I do admit I miss some of it. No, not the, “Stand up, hook up, shuffle to the door” stuff, I only did that for the extra $150 a month in jump pay, and am otherwise terrified to be higher than the second step on a ladder (maybe the fifth if I been drinking a bit). Getting out into the wilderness is something I’m not opposed to. I just don’t want to have to work too hard to get to it.

I guess that’s why I’ve always liked vehicles like just about anything made by Subaru. I’ve told the story of having a 1984 Subaru Brat shortly after I joined the military. It was a squashed-up version of an El Camino with seating for four; but only two in the cab, the other two passengers were forced to jam themselves into a rear facing seat outside in what doubled for a tiny truck bed. That Brat was cheap, but with 4-wheel drive and being light, I could take that thing off pavement and not worry too much about it.

That last Subaru I tested was a Legacy in 2020. Sure, it was nice, but like many vehicles today I’d be scared to intentionally take it off road.

Then I got my first of the year 2024 model year version for a recent week. And it was a Subaru. A Crosstrek, a compact SUV crossover. Frankly I’d never heard of it, though when I first saw it did look somewhat familiar, no not a Brat, but something else.

The Subaru Crosstrek comes in five variants: Base, Premium, Sport, Limited and Wilderness.

All models come with the Subaru’s EyeSight system, which I’ve always felt is one of the better driving assistance and collision avoidance systems on the market. It features., forward collision warning with automatic braking, and a lane departure warning and lane keeping system.

The Base Crosstrek comes with standard equipment like steering-responsive LED headlights, a large 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto that connects through the USB port, satellite radio, and a rear-seat reminder.

I had the Premium for my week which added such things as raised roof rails, LED foglights, hands-free keyless entry with push-button engine start, a larger 11.6-inch touchscreen infotainment system framed in portrait mode which I’ve always liked, wireless connectivity for the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Subaru’s Starlink connected services and some additional USB ports.

My model also had an option package that gave it a sunroof, heated exterior mirrors, heated windshield, and heated front seats, the drivers seat being power-adjustable. The options also included blind-spot warning with rear cross-traffic warning, and evasive steering assistance.

The Sport model adds styling cues highlighted by yellow exterior accents, bigger wheels (18 inch up from 17) and on the inside gray cloth upholstery with yellow accents and stitching, a simulated carbon-fiber dashboard trim with yellow metallic instrumentation with a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob and a wireless smartphone charger.

The Limited is based off the Premium and adds upgraded headlights, chrome interior accents, and leather upholstery with orange stitching.

New for 2024 is the Wilderness, which will be launched in the fall. This model is based off the Sport but adds off-road stuff like all-terrain tires, an off-road tuned powertrain, and extra protective plastic body panels.

Going off-road is something that I always felt was something in Subaru’s DNA. Maybe not like a Jeep, but with a more refinement perhaps. There’s a rugged sort of edge to the Subaru, that shows it’s not afraid to get dirty.

There are also a few clues to this as well: All Subaru’s are 4-wheel drive, and the Crosstrek has 8.7 inches of ground clearance and comes with hill-descent control and hill-start assist features along the X-Mode system which lets you dial in modes for the terrain. A dual-function X-Mode is standard on Sport and Limited trims that adds a second terrain selector: Deep Snow/Mud. The Wilderness trim ups ground clearance to 9.3 inches and gets the dual-function X-Mode.

Under the hood the Crosstrek Base and Premium get a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 152 horsepower, and 145 lb-ft of torque, while the Sport, Limited and Wilderness get a 2.5-liter four with 182 hp, and 178 lb-ft torque.  All use the continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).

It had been more than a few years since I had a chance to spend a week with a Subaru I really, really liked. That was over a decade ago by the way and was called the Outback, and is the bigger cousin to the Crosstrek hence the reason it looked familiar. Like the Crosstrek the Outback is a sort of station wagon but not really.

So what’s the difference?

Well, the Outback has been around since the mid-1990s and the Crosstrek since 2016 in the States.  And as mentioned the Outback is bigger, 14 inches longer, two and a half inches taller, giving more interior room and cargo space. The Outback also has bigger engines, a 2.5-liter BOXER with 182 horses and an optional 2.4-liter turbo BOXER with 260 horsepower.  All this of course means the Outback costs more, on average the base is $4000 more.

If more space is your jam, then the Outback would be something to look at. If you want to save a few bucks and space isn’t an issue, then head towards the Crosstrek.

As for my week, I really liked the Crosstrek. The interior seems plenty big enough, and while I didn’t get a chance to go off road, I bet given the power to weight ratio, the 152 horses would be okay.

While I don’t think I’d ever want to have a Brat, something like the Crosstrek in my driveway would be just fine. Sure, a Jeep would be nice, but that would be a much more expensive proposition, and for everyday driving wouldn’t be as comfortable as the Subaru.

No, I will never be skydiving again, unless you pay me. A lot, like a whole lot. But I wouldn’t mind getting out into the woods every once in a while. And while I won’t be pulling out a roll up hammock, I could see putting down the seats in a Crosstrek and stretching out.

Keep it up Subaru, see you next time.

UPDATE: A few months after my week with the Premium, I was sent the Sport version. Normally I prefer the Sport model of anything. The Crosstrek, however, was an exception. Sure, it was nice to have a slightly bigger engine, and the inside accents were nice, but to me there is really no need to have any Subaru SUV or crossover have the kind of “sport” flourishes that are used to accent the outside.

The Subaru works best when it’s sort of camouflaged from the rest of everything out on the roads. It’s an understatement that Subaru does best. Give me the bigger engine, the slightly bigger wheels, but leave the carbon fiber and the sport badge to the others. It costs about the same as the Premium ($31,405 to $32,210) but put the bigger engine and wheels in that model and I would be just fine.

The 2024 Subaru Crosstrek Premium
MSRP (as tested): $31,405
Engine: 2.0 4-cylinder 152 horsepower @ 6000 rpm, 145 ft-lb. torque @ 4000 rpm.
Transmission: CVT (shiftable)
Fuel Mileage (EPA): 37 city, 34 highway, 29 combined
Fuel Mileage (as tested mixed conditions): 36 mpg
Base Curb Weight: 3296 lbs.

Exterior Dimensions (Inches)

Wheelbase: 105.1
Length: 176.4
Width, without mirrors: 70.9
Height: 63
Minimum Ground Clearance: 8.7

Interior Dimensions

Passenger / Seating Capacity: 5
Total Passenger Volume (cubic feet): 100.5
Front Head Room (inches): 39.8
Front Leg Room (inches): 42.9
Front Shoulder Room (inches): 56.8
Front Hip Room (inches): 55.1
Second Row Head Room (inches): 38
Second Row Leg Room (inches): 36.5
Second Row Shoulder Room (inches): 55.3
Second Row Hip Room (inches): 53.2
Cargo Space/Area Length Behind First Row (inches): 63.9
Cargo Space/Area Length Behind Second Row (inches): 32.1
Cargo Bed Width Between Wheelhousings (inches): 42.9
Cargo Bed Height (inches): 29.3
Cargo Space/Area Behind Front Row (cubic feet): 54.7
Cargo Space/Area Behind Second Row (cubic feet): 19.9
Cargo Space/Area Behind Third Row (cubic feet): 19.9

Basic: 3 yr./ 36,000 mi.
Drivetrain: 5 yr./ 60,000 mi.
Rust: 5 yr./ unlimited mi.
Roadside assistance: 3 yr./ 36,000 mi

Greg Engle