What Is The Most Off-Road-Capable Subaru?

Which of these trail-ready vehicles from Subaru will get you furthest from civilization?


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For a brand that has long prided itself on providing standard all-wheel-drive traction almost across the board, it's no surprise that more Subaru buyers are using their vehicles to leave the pavement behind while camping, overlanding, or just exploring local trails. But which is the most off-road capable Subaru?

Naturally, not every Subaru model is appropriate for these adventures: the BRZ is a low-slung, rear-wheel-drive sports car, while the compact Impreza sedan/hatchback and the Legacy mid-size sedan aren't intended to tackle the rough stuff. That leaves four Subaru SUVs that can make a legitimate claim to off-road prowess.

Which Subaru comes out on top when comparing their go-anywhere capabilities? Let's take a closer look.


Subaru Ascent

There are seven different trim levels of Ascent available for 2022, but none of these is oriented toward trail driving. This makes sense, given that the Ascent three-row SUV is positioned by Subaru as its largest and most comfortable family offering. Still, the presence of Subaru's X-Drive, which configures the vehicle's all-wheel-drive system to better handle challenging surfaces, plus its 8.7 inches of ground clearance, does make the Ascent competent on grass, gravel, and the occasional muddy dirt road.


Subaru Crosstrek Sport

The 2022 Crosstrek is based on the same platform as the Impreza hatchback, but the Sport trim adds a little something extra in the form of a specially-tuned X-Mode system. Called “Dual-function,” it offers additional settings compared with what is found in the Ascent (Deep Snow/Mud and Snow/Dirt) and also offers Hill Descent Control for use on steeper declines (along with its own 8.7 inches of ground clearance).


Subaru Outback Wilderness

The off-road-oriented Wilderness trim line is new at Subaru, and the 2022 Outback midsize wagon/SUV was its first model. Features include 260 horsepower from a turbocharged, four-cylinder engine, plus the combination of taller suspension (the Wilderness features 9.5 inches of ground clearance, nearly a full inch more than the standard Outback) and aggressive 17-inch all-terrain tires. The wilderness trim also offers skid plates to protect sensitive underbody components from potential damage and a more aggressive X-Mode system to better manage its all-wheel-drive system.

Revised bumpers also help the Outback Wilderness boast an approach angle that has been improved from 18.6 to 20 degrees, the breakover angle is now 21.2 rather than 19.4 degrees, and the departure angle now sits at 23.6 degrees as opposed to 21.7.


Subaru Forester Wilderness

The Forester compact SUV joined the Wilderness clan for the 2022 model year, and it matches many of the off-road upgrades found with the Outback version. Along with 9.2 inches of ground clearance (thanks to the same combination of suspension and all-terrain-tire lift), it includes the upgraded X-Mode and skid plates. The Forester Wilderness maintains the same engine as other versions of the SUV, but it does benefit from more aggressive gearing and a strengthened automatic transmission.

The Forester scrapes ahead of the Outback thanks to its shorter wheelbase (making it easier to handle tight trails), as well as its excellent approach (23.5-degree), departure (25.4-degree), and breakover (21-degree) angles.

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Benjamin Hunting
Benjamin Hunting is a writer and podcast host who contributes to a number of newspapers, automotive magazines, and online publications. More than a decade into his career, he enjoys keeping the shiny side up during track days and always has one too many classic vehicle projects partially disassembled in his garage at any given time. Remember, if it's not leaking, it's probably empty.