By Bill Schaffer
Deadwood, S.D. – Where we live, near Portland, Oregon, Subaru brand seems have the most popular cars on the road and right after the introduction of the Crosstrek in 2013, we started to see them everywhere, too. The Crosstrek was an instant success and it continued with strong sales right up until the end of the current generation when it was still setting sales records.
Now just five years after the introduction they have a new, from the ground-up, replacement (95 percent new) built on Subaru’s new Global Platform. The platform was first used for the latest generation Impreza which debuted in 2016.
Subaru selected the South Dakota Badlands, more specifically a camp near Deadwood, as the location for the Crosstrek introduction and to celebrate the company’s 50th Anniversary in North America.
South Dakota was a new experience for me, because I’d never been to this area, even though I was born and raised next door in Western Montana. I was expecting the area to be more like the farms in the flat land of Eastern Montana, but the Badlands had beautiful forest-covered hills. Unlike most new car introductions, which are based at fancy resorts, we camped in a Subaru tent village, emulating what many Subaru Crosstrek owners might do. The area also turned out to have abundant fun-to-drive roads, both paved and dirt. Subaru also set up a challenging off-road course in a gravel pit to demonstrate excellent off-road capabilities of the Crosstrek and the features like hill decent control.
The 2018 Subaru Crosstrek was introduced wearing Subaru’s “Dynamic x Solid” design language. It includes the brand’s signature hexagonal grille and hawk-eye headlights, a more sculptural body, and pronounced wheel arches. Crosstrek rides on a 1.2-inch longer wheelbase with a slightly longer and wider body, plus it has a minimum 8.7-inches of ground clearance. I find the resulting style to be very attractive and unique from competitors.
The interior is larger and incorporates 60/40 split flat-folding rear seats and a wider rear gate opening to make loading gear easier. The new window configuration improves visibility.
From a technological standpoint, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard features along with Subaru’s Starlink In-Vehicle Technology. The Starlink includes Connected Services with the Safety Plus package that offers SOS Emergency Assistance, Enhanced Roadside Assistance, Automatic Collision Notification, Maintenance Notifications, Monthly Vehicle Health Report, and Diagnostic Alerts. This package can be upgraded to the Safety Plus & Security Plus package that adds Stolen Vehicle Recovery Service, Vehicle Security Alarm Notification, Remote Lock/Unlock, Remote Horn and Lights and Remote Vehicle Locator.
Under the hood is a revised version of Subaru’s FB 2.0-liter 4-cylinder Boxer engine now with direct fuel injection and other modifications that boost horsepower slightly to 152 (up from 148-hp) and smooth out the SUVs drivability. The EPA rates fuel economy at 27 mpg city and 33 mpg highway. Acceleration is a bit slow with a 0 to 60 mph acceleration run taking 10.3 seconds.
A six-speed manual transmission is standard on the two lower models, but most buyers will choose the optional ($1,000) Lineartronic CVT. Normally, I am not a fan of the continuously variable transmissions, but the Subaru version is one of the best available. It gives the driver better control, and a more positive feedback than most competitors. The latest generation also has wider ratios which not only help fuel economy, but off-road pulling power. The Subaru CVT has a seven-speed manual mode function that mimics a geared automatic transmission using the steering wheel paddle shifter and when accelerating in the automatic mode.
Like all Subaru models, the Crosstrek has the standard Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive. The system uses an electronically managed continuously variable transfer clutch that adjusts the torque distribution based on acceleration, deceleration, and available traction. The system improves handling significantly on dry and even more so on slippery surfaces.
An addition to the standard drivetrain is Active Torque Vectoring. It was first introduced on the WRX and WRX STI. The system helps reduce understeer and keeps the vehicle on the driver’s intended cornering path.
There are three different trim levels offered for the 2018 Subaru Crosstrek including the 2.0i, 2.0i Premium and 2.0i Limited. One of the best optional features available on the Crosstrek is the EyeSight® Driver Assist Technology which is only offered on the Limited, unfortunately. It adds driver assists including Adaptive Cruise Control, Automatic Pre-Collision Braking and Lane Departure and Sway Warning, plus a Lane Keep Assist function. Blind Spot Detection with Lane Change Assist and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. The package also includes High Beam Assist, Reverse Automatic Braking, and a moonroof all for $2,095. For $3,445, the option also includes a navigation system with eight-inch screen and the Starlink® infotainment features including SirusXM satellite radio and a group of cloud-based applications including a bird watching app.
Crosstrek pricing ranges from $22,710, including the destination charge, for the 2.0i, and goes up to $27,210 for the Limited. With most of the available options, the Limited price can go over $34,000 but it will want for nothing. Subaru offers an excellent selection of aftermarket accessories including a variety of devices for carrying recreational equipment on the roof.
The new Subaru Crosstrek is a big improvement on an already impressive compact SUV. It’s fun to drive, handles well and is very comfortable. The only thing I would change would be to add a bit more power to make passing and merging into traffic easier.