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Is Subaru The New Extreme AWD Off-Road Brand?

Do Subaru owners really use their SUVs for extreme off-roading?


When you think of going off-road with a vehicle everyone thinks of Jeep. But what about Subaru? While most buyers don’t take their SUV off-roading, the Subaru brand attracts a different breed who do take their SUVs off-pavement. Todd Hill, Subaru’s Car Line Planning Manager, says, 33 percent of Subaru Crosstrek owners will use it for off-pavement recreation. Crosstrek isn’t your typical small SUV as it comes with 8.7-inches of ground clearance which no Compact SUV competitor exceeds. It’s the same with the newly-redesigned Subaru Forster and all-new 2020 Outback. They are family vehicles owners use for extreme recreation on the weekends.

Straight from the factory, the newly-redesigned 2019 Forester and new 2020 Outback are even more off-road capable with Dual-Function X-MODE on certain models that give the all-wheel-drive vehicles even more “go-anywhere” attitude and extreme off-road ability. The Subaru SUVs are also popular with families because of its all-weather capabilities and its utility.

They tackle the terrain

The 8.7 inches of ground clearance gives the three SUVs the ability to go over rough terrain without scraping the bottom. The boxer engine sits low in the chassis and gives them a lower center of gravity giving the SUVs the ability to handle the steep 1:3 ratio “axle twisting” gully without tipping over. Subaru’s vehicles cock their wheels, transfers power to the opposite wheel and tackle the terrain.

Many fans mod their Subarus and there are off-road clubs around the country for adventure enthusiasts. In Colorado where this journalist lives, on weekends, you’ll see a long line of modified Foresters with raised suspensions and large off-road tires heading to the high-country for weekend excursions.

awdOffroading Subarus of Colorado

The Forester, Outback and Crosstrek all come standard with the brand’s highly-capable Symmetrical AWD that will take you just about anywhere. But to get completely away from civilization, a lift kit and skid plates will give extra protection underneath so you can get through scrub brush, a river or a rocky trail without damaging your suspension. Subaru dealers are even getting into the modification business offering customers off-road accessories and lift kits for more extreme adventures.

Lifting your new 2019 Subaru Crosstrek, Forester, or Outback increases its ride height beyond the standard 8.7-inches, increases overall clearance, and will give it much more off-road capability. A two-inch lift kit may not seem like a lot, but combined with larger wheels and tires, it can mean all the difference on getting caught up on a rock or gliding over it. Owners have been taking their Subaru vehicles off-road for decades, but the brand is becoming known with a new generation of customers as the off-road brand for extreme adventures.

You May Also Like: Best Adventure Accessories For Your Subaru Forester, Outback, Crosstrek

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Photo credit: Instagram crosstrekcrew, Lunasue_thesubaru, Nate Wellner-Offroading Subarus of Colorado


Cory Towler (not verified)    April 27, 2019 - 4:53PM

Hey man I love that you featured my car in the article. But it’s courtesy to at least give credit to the owner in the very least. If you readers are interested in following my build check out MY Instagram @lunasue_thesubaru

Nate Wellner (not verified)    April 27, 2019 - 9:37PM

Who can I talk to about a complaint about photo credit?

The 2nd picture is taken by me (and I can prove it!), and you did not get it off of either of the credited Instagram accounts, but possibly Facebook.

I am looking forward to speaking with someone about the use of my picture, while posted publicly on Facebook, I did not approve the use for this article.

Thank you very much,
Nate Wellner

Shane Walker (not verified)    April 28, 2019 - 5:14AM

What a joke!
When I think about going off road I don’t think about any of the stupid soft roaders such as the Subaru. Nor do I think about a Jeep, which fir the most part are also pretty useless 4WD vehicles. When going off road the only vehicles that enter my mind are a Toyota Landcruiser, or Nissan Patrol or a Landrover.

David (not verified)    May 12, 2019 - 9:34PM

In reply to by Shane Walker (not verified)

Having owned a Jeep Wrangler, 4Runner TRD off road pro, Land Rover, Range Rover and my wife currently owns an outback... I must say, "thinking" of off-roading and "off-roading" are two different things. Jeeps are highly capable, as are the outbacks. These outbacks are amazing! Great gas mileage and can literally take my family, my whitewater kayaks, and a ton of gear, anywhere I need to go.
After owning a the land rover and Range Rover... I can say, they definitely aren't as capable off road as either the jeep or outback... I damn sure wouldn't spend 60k on an overpriced vehicle like that, would rather get an outback and a jeep. Now- the defender... Maybe.

David (not verified)    May 12, 2019 - 10:35PM

In reply to by Shane Walker (not verified)

Having owned a Jeep Wrangler, 4Runner TRD off road pro, Land Rover, Range Rover and my wife currently owns an outback... I must say, "thinking" of off-roading and "off-roading" are two different things. Jeeps are highly capable, as are the outbacks. These outbacks are amazing! Great gas mileage and can literally take my family, my whitewater kayaks, and a ton of gear, anywhere I need to go.
After owning a the land rover and Range Rover... I can say, they definitely aren't as capable off road as either the jeep or outback... I damn sure wouldn't spend 60k on an overpriced vehicle like that, would rather get an outback and a jeep. Now- the defender... Maybe.

BRS (not verified)    May 13, 2019 - 3:16AM

I sold Nissan Patrol GQ to buy a Kona AWD. Yes the big 4wds are great but when petrol is a $1.70 a litre and these things burn 30 litres to 100km, it's time for them to go. My kona has twice the power to weight ratio and twice the torque to weight ratio than the patrol. It climbs steep hills easier apart from the DCT it would be unstoppable and will be when I lift it. With trails becoming smoother and places becoming more accessible. Massive 4wds (Land cruisers, Patrols) will be a thing of the past.

John Hunter (not verified)    October 3, 2019 - 7:53PM

I love my truck. But being able to go moderately offroad and get 22 to 28 mpg. What's not to like?

Eddie Murphy (not verified)    December 30, 2019 - 8:22AM

Throw in a deep rut, off camber track and the subarus non-articulative suspension will force a tire high in the air. The car looses all momentum and now you’re spinning a tire on the smallest obstacle. It’s quite embarrassing.
Encounter a rock garden and feel the car’s underbelly slam on small basketball sized rocks. Sit there and recharge yourself from those soul crushing hits, and watch a standard suv with some AT tire cruise on by effortlessly.
Subaru’s have a limit. These are points not mentioned or realized until you hit them yourself.

Kris Bunch (not verified)    November 10, 2020 - 11:22AM

In reply to by Eddie Murphy (not verified)

You are correct, a stock Subaru would do that. The article specifically highlighted 2 inch lifts, AT tires, and skid plates....
Subarus will never compete against Jeeps for rock crawling... but that is a useless hobby anyway. Plenty of Subi owners out there who love the AWD and utility of their vehicle on and off the road.

As for going up on 3 wheels and spinning. Subaru AWD handles that with ease.

Philip (not verified)    May 21, 2021 - 1:37AM

In reply to by Kris Bunch (not verified)

You don't have to put others down to compensate for the inadequacies of subarus. Rock crawling isn't a useless hobby and is necessary for most trails in areas like the south west. I've seen subarus on the trails to campgrounds but I've never seen one on any challenging trails. Subarus can not rock crawl, especially not the new CVT models.

marcus (not verified)    January 26, 2020 - 4:41PM

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