Back in July, I had the opportunity to drive the redesigned Subaru Crosstrek in South Dakota, where it made the perfect glamping buddy – able to haul four people and their gear through mud and muck after a swarm of summer storms. It was just as adept at hauling itself over long stretches of gravel roads and through a rock quarry. It’s pretty happy on pavement too. The Crosstrek made strong first impressions, but it’s good to finally get one at home.
Look close and you’ll notice the Crosstrek is entirely new for 2018. The body is a little edgier, dressed with the familiar black wheel arches and side cladding, taller grille, more sculpted bodysides, and revised lighting. Our Limited model sports LED lights at both ends and trades standard 17-inch wheels for 18-inch alloys. The wheelbase is 1.2 inches longer for significantly improved rear seat legroom, but the body only stretches 0.6 inches to keep things tidy. Pleasing fashionistas, designers return Sunshine Orange to the color pallet and add the dreamy Cool Gray Khaki paint on our car.
Passengers will notice a much more sophisticated interior, dressed with a leather wrapped steering wheel, heated leather seats with rotating headrests, and orange stitching on the dash and steering wheel. Satin sliver trim on the dash and doors adds class. A new touchscreen with proper volume and tuning knobs is easy to use – especially with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Definitely opt for the Harman Kardon speakers.
Safety is no joke to Subaru as our car came with the automaker’s EyeSight system, which uses stereo cameras straddling the rearview mirror to gird Adaptive Cruise Control, Automatic Pre-Collision Braking, Blind Spot Detection, and Lane Departure Warning. Our car also came with Rear Cross Traffic Alert and adaptive curve-following headlamps. Add that to the fortified body structure and the safety card bends dramatically in your favor.
Behind the new grille is a 2.0-liter horizontally-opposed “Boxer” four-cylinder engine delivering 152 horsepower – routed to the standard all-wheel-drive system through a continuously variable automatic transmission. Use the steering wheel paddles to shift through 7 pre-set “gears”. Fuel economy is rated 27/33-MPG city/hwy. The fuel economy is impressive for an AWD crossover, but it takes a very firm foot to kick it forward from on-ramps or when passing on two-lane roads.
In the city and at cruise, no worries. The Crosstrek is the second model (after the Lafayette, Indiana-built Impreza) to adopt Subaru’s new architecture that will also underpin the next-gen Legacy and Outback. The car is noticeably more solid and better engineered to absorb offset crashes. Out in the country, or on my favorite rough city street, the chassis glided over bumps and lumps as if magical Audi genies were manipulating the chassis. On pavement, it’s even better.
What’s surprising, though, is the Crosstrek’s capability. Steep trails take full advantage of the car’s 8.7 inches of ground clearance and X-Mode system, which uses hill descent control to creep itself down steep inclines by managing brakes and transmission. We tackled a rock quarry in South Dakota and were incredibly impressed. This is not just another soft-road baby ute – it’s the real deal with serious capability. A foot of snow would be laughable.
In full disclosure, my family owns a 2017 Subaru Outback. We’re very happy with it, but if I didn’t have a daughter, I’d go for the smaller Crosstrek. I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing it sitting in the driveway each morning, knowing no matter what the day brings, the car is ready. The 2018 Subaru Crosstrek starts at just $21,795 but came to $30,655 as-tested. At that price, you may want to take one home yourself.
2018 Subaru Crosstrek Limited
- Five-passenger, AWD Crossover
- Powertrain: 152hp 2.0-liter H4, CVT auto trans.
- Suspension f/r: elect. Ind/Ind
- Wheels f/r: 18”/18” alloy
- Brakes f/r: disc/disc
- Must-have features: Design, Powertrain
- Fuel economy: 27/33 mpg city/hwy
- Assembly: Japan
- Base/as-tested price: $21,795/30,655