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Pursuing Off-Road Wonders in 2018 Subaru Crosstrek

By Arv Voss, January 13th, 2018

The Subaru team, always up for adventures and challenges, chose a secluded South Dakota ranch a few miles outside of the town of Deadwood to establish a base camp for the introduction of the 2018 Subaru Crosstrek -- which has improved in literally every way. When introduced in 2013 as the XV Crosstrek, it was unlike any other vehicle in the Subaru stable, even though many folks compared it to the Impreza.

The new 2018 Subaru Crosstrek is the second vehicle to be based on Subaru's new global platform, and it has grown in both stature and structural rigidity, featuring a longer wheelbase and overall length along with a 4-inch-wider tailgate opening and an increase in luggage space of 2.9 feet. The ride height is now 0.4 inches lower while retaining a ground clearance of 8.7 inches.

The 2018 Subaru Crosstrek is a best bet in the SUV/Crossover segment. It is much more contemporary in its styling than what most competitors have to offer. It is perfect for those who don't want or need a full-size SUV, but require off-road capability. It is extremely attractive and sporty in its appearance, displaying a low shoulder line and blacked out "B" and "C" pillars giving it an almost coupe-like persona with a low drag coefficient.

Motive force for all trim levels is supplied by a 2.0-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder with dual active valve control system, direct fuel injection, and electronic throttle control but with an increase in both horsepower (now 152 at 6,000 rpm) and torque (now 145 at 4,000 rpm).

The drivetrain consists of the front flat mounted Boxer engine with symmetrical all-wheel drive with active torque split and electronically managed continuously variable hydraulic transfer. Depending upon trim level, energy reaches all four wheels through either a six-speed manual transmission with incline start assist or a Lineartronic continuously variable transmission with a seven-speed manual shift mode, a special available X-Mode for off-roading, and hill descent control. Towing capacity is 1,500 pounds.

The manual-gearbox-equipped Crosstrek's AWD system is a continuous type with a viscous-coupling locking center differential, while the AWD system in CVT-equipped models is an active torque split system with an electronically managed, continuously variable hydraulic transfer clutch.

Trim levels include a base 2.0i model, a 2.0i Premium model, and top-of-the-line 2.0i Limited model. My test 2018 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0i came with base price set at $26,295.

The camping theme proved to be the ideal scenario for the Crosstrek launch, as it depicted how the majority of Crosstrek devotees will actually use their vehicles -- in the pursuit of enjoying the wonders and beauty of natural surroundings.

Actual driving took in some normal roads and freeway stints, but most was done on unpaved surfaces, with off-road exercises taking place at an active gravel quarry to illustrate the Crosstrek's capability and prowess in ascending and descending challenging grades and obstacles.

This newest-iteration Crosstrek performed admirably both on- and off-road. Acceleration was adequate despite the high altitude, although turbocharging would have been a major plus factor.

Ride quality was smooth and compliant, without being either too firm or too soft. Ruts and potholes were absorbed in good order with little or no discomfort. Handling characteristics proved to be quite agile and responsive for a crossover vehicle and the CVT's seven-step gear arrangement eliminated any disdain for CVTs. Admittedly, there are those who can't stand CVTs, but the Crosstrek's system is certainly one of the best and is actually quite satisfying.

The Crosstrek is also highly functional and fun to drive. Are you -- or someone you know -- in the market for an affordable, highly capable and responsive all-wheel-drive vehicle with loads of versatility, pleasing fuel efficiency in its category (up to 33 mpg), and 8.7 inches of ground clearance? Your search may well be over with the 2018 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0i Limited. Okay, perhaps the Crosstrek is not a vehicle suited for traversing the legendary Rubicon Trail or for serious rock crawling, but it's certainly up to fording small streams and tackling snow-covered roads and muddy trails with gusto.

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