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The Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness is... a Subaru for trekking across the wilderness

Well, points for accuracy there, Subie. Now, how about bringing it our way?

Published: 06 Apr 2023

This chunky little nugget is what Subaru calls the Crosstrek Wilderness – a ruggedised, off-roadish version of the Crosstrek SUV-cum-wagon thing. And, unless you’re American, you can’t have one. 

Also, if you’re wondering what a Subaru Crosstrek is, wonder no longer: it’s the new global name for the XV, which is basically the smaller version of the Subaru Outback. It is also a decent candidate for the car most deserving of an extra helping of torque. But that might be beside the point a touch. 

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Now, to that Wilderness badge. Subaru’s clearly trying to make ‘Wilderness’ something of a nameplate, like Jeep did with its ‘Trail Rated’ badge back in the day. The Wilderness badge has already graced the Outback and Forester over in the US, offering a more overlanding-oriented take on the standard fare. 

For the Crossfit, there’s 240mm of ground clearance (up 20mm over the standard car), while an added transmission cooler doubles the towing capacity to more than 1,500kg. And thanks to the added ride height, the maximum approach, departure and breakover angles have all increased over the standard Criss Cross. Approach is up from 18 to 20 degrees, departure is up from 30 to 33 degrees and breakover is now 21.1 degrees, over the standard car’s 19.7. And the fact that Subaru’s mentioning this at all gives you a decent indication of where it’s going with the Hot Cross Buns. 

As does the mechanical side of things – the diff has been revised to lift the final drive ratio from 3.7 to 4.111, which means more wheel torque (due to the multiplication from gearing) and easier low-speed crawling. Yes, it’s at the expense of its nominal 120mph top speed, but as roughly no one is going vmax-hunting in a very mildly powered Subaru estate, we’re pretty sure it won’t be a problem. 

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Technically, there should be a small drop in fuel economy while cruising – given the higher engine revs for any given speed – but then the CVT gearbox’s cruising ratio is a tiny 0.513, so the difference in total drive ratio at a 70mph cruise is a piddling 177rpm difference. Oh yes - we did some maths. It was exactly as bad as we remember. 

In better news, at least for the overlanding set, the CVT also looks to have been revised for a deeper... er, ‘first gear’. It’s up to 4.066, over the 3.601 we get on the current Cross My Heart. So drivers of the Wilderness will be able to access torque multiplication in the high 16s at the axle. Sent through the Cross Purpose’s 17-inch wheels and 225/60 Yokohama Geolandar G015s (an A/T tyre rated for mud and snow), that should translate to high all-terrain grip and slow wheel speeds. If that’s still beyond traction (or skill) levels, Subaru has included the mud, snow and hill-descent modes that seem to be a necessity these days.

Logic – or at least our logic – would suggest that the CVT gearbox would be something of a boon for overlanding, keeping the engine right at its peak torque. Combined with the transmission cooler fitted as standard on the Where the Wild Things Are trim level, it should make for a pretty capable little nugget to take on your next trek. 

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