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2018 Subaru Crosstrek: First Drive Review

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author photo by Rob Nestora August 2017

The mountains of South Dakota are a haven for campers, bikers and sightseers alike -- offering a diverse topography and meandering roads seemingly made for adventures behind the wheel. The location offers not only stunning scenery and a unique experience, but the perfect situation to put the all new 2018 Subaru Crosstrek through its paces. With this in mind, I made my way to a campsite just outside of Deadwood, South Dakota, where Subaru had prepared a media drive that would not only demonstrate their diminutive crossover's mettle but would also feature one of the most iconic landmarks in America.

Looking Good

At first glance, the new Crosstrek is a bit similar to the outgoing model, albeit more attractive. The front fascia is restyled with Subaru's hexagonal front grille, and new headlights that are more similar to the brand's newer models. The Crosstrek's new appearance is bolstered by more cladding in the wheel arches and on the sides, alluding to the crossover's off-road pedigree.

The interior is just as aesthetically pleasing, with a well-styled cabin full of eye-catching design cues. The small accents Subaru included were well-placed while never straying into the realm of tacky or cheap. Even the included orange stitching -- now a hallmark of the new Crosstrek's interior -- stands out and gives a rugged, sporty flair to the interior. Bringing up the the rear, the rubber-lined cargo area gives a nod to the Subaru's go-anywhere demeanor.

New Platform

In addition to the visible restyling inside and out, the 2018 Subaru Crosstrek actually consists of 95 percent new parts over the outgoing model (according to Subaru, the remaining 5 percent are mostly common nuts and bolts). The Crosstrek is also the second vehicle built off of the Subaru Global Platform structure, with the first being the recently released Impreza. Thanks to the new platform, the body structure of the Crosstrek realizes a 70 percent gain in rigidity, resulting is a more stable, comfortable and agile ride. Far be it from Subaru to neglect safety -- the new body structure also improves crash energy absorption by 40 percent, a considerable improvement.

Speaking of Safety...

The new Crosstrek features a wealth of available safety options, including Subaru's stellar EyeSight Driver Assist Technology. Included within the suite of features is adaptive cruise control, automatic pre-collision braking, lane-departure warning and lane-keep assist. Steering-responsive headlights and high-beam assist are available to help drivers to see in dark conditions. In addition, the available reverse automatic braking is another great feature, especially for those of us with a tendency to "back that thang up" just a little too much.

Solid Power Plant

While the Crosstrek isn't a track star, it has just enough muscle to get you where you need to go. Under the hood is a 2.0-liter directed-injected 4-cylinder boxer engine providing 152 horsepower to the wheels. While 152 doesn't sound like a tremendous amount of horsepower, at no point in the mountains of South Dakota did the Crosstrek feel like it was straining to conquer steep inclines -- even in the higher elevations.

Behind the wheel, Subaru's tiniest SUV failed to disappoint once again, as it felt nimble and ready for whatever the winding mountain roads could throw at it. Even the steering wheel felt perfectly designed and comfortable in my hands as I transitioned from secluded rural roads to the tourist congestion of Mount Rushmore.

Off-Road All-Star

Off-road is where Subaru's tiny crossover really shines. We had an opportunity to test out the Crosstrek's symmetrical all-wheel drive and X Mode's prowess at a rock quarry while driving some of the sketchiest hills I've ever traversed. Admittedly, the experience was exhilarating, and even somewhat shocking. At no point did the Subaru feel loose or unsure as it steadily climbed the mini-mountains of loose rock, giving the driver confidence in a situation that was far from ideal. But what goes up must come down, and in turn the Crosstrek and myself were forced to descend a hill consisting of small stones that were constantly tumbling, shifting and sliding. In addition, the grade was so steep that when I approached the edge of the precipice, I could no longer see the descending path in front of me. This is where the capability of the Crosstrek's hill-descent control came into play. As I let my foot off the brake gently, the tiny crossover slowly made its way down a hill that I was unable to navigate on foot without falling. The descent was careful, agile and downright awe-inspiring.

Tech Savvy

While many of the improvements and features of the 2018 Crosstrek speak to the adventurous spirit of many Subaru customers, I would be remiss without mentioning the upgraded infotainment system, which adds some much-appreciated applications. In comparison to the 2017 model, the StarLink infotainment system has been upgraded to include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard features. The updated StarLink interface is now even more attractive and functional, giving users a wealth of application options to truly make the system work for each user and their preferences.

As the Sun Sets in the West...

After a full day of driving and experiencing all the new compact SUV had to offer, I felt slightly reluctant to give the keys back. I mean, it just did everything so well. It would seem that Subaru has made the 2018 Crosstrek even cooler and more capable than the previous iteration of its smallest crossover -- a car for all seasons, if you would. Sure, it's not the biggest or the fanciest, but it packs a ton of features into an attractive, intelligently designed package at a reasonable price. With a MSRP starting around $22,000, the all-new Crosstrek is one compact crossover you should not overlook.

 To gain access to this information, Autotrader attended an event sponsored by the vehicle's manufacturer.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2018 Subaru Crosstrek: First Drive Review - Autotrader