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offroad green subaru crosstrek build

This Offroad Subaru Crosstrek Still Gets Around Even Without a Lift Kit

By Ben Boxer

I initially thought this Crosstrek had a small lift kit on it until I looked closer and noticed that the wheel gap was close to stock. But that made me want to put it out for people to see even more. As much as I love lifting my Subarus, you can still have a ton of fun in them without a lift kit.

Shane was kind enough to share the ins and outs of his Subaru build and if you’re wanting to take yours offroad, this write up should give you confidence in the process.

Vehicle specs

“My car is a 2021 Subaru Crosstrek with the Premium Trim package and has the CVT transmission.”

green subaru crosstrek build in forest

Mod list:

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Reasons for choosing Subaru

If I'm not mistaken, this is your first Subaru. Why did you select Subaru over all the other options currently on the market?

“You’re correct, this is my first Subaru and I was drawn to the brand for their reputation for safety. As a new father at the time, I wanted a vehicle with easy access to the rear seats and a great safety rating. 

Plus, giving in the Northeast, an all-wheel-drive or 4-wheel-drive was a must. Ultimately, Subaru checked all the boxes, and more, so it was a no-brainer.”

Why modify a Subaru for the trails?

offroad green subaru crosstrek build

“Initially, I hadn’t thought about modifying the Crosstrek. I was content keeping it stock. The more research I did on the Crosstrek, the more modified versions I saw.

Coming from the Jeep and Tacoma communities, building an off-road capable Crosstrek was interesting and fit my personality, style, and lifestyle. I also thought it would be fun to have this car called “The Dad Wagon,” which sounds kind of meek – but then it’s this rugged, offroad-ready vehicle.”

green subaru crosstrek build on dirt road

An offroad Crosstrek with no lift kit??

“The Crosstrek is currently sitting at stock height. There is no lift, which is the most frequently asked question. I’ve lost count to how many people have asked or or told me they thought the Crosstrek was lifted. The look is all due to the wheel and tire set-up.”

green subaru crosstrek build

Modifications on the Crosstrek

green subaru crosstrek build front grille

“Nearly all modifications have been cosmetic, including the wheel and tire set-up that gives the Crosstrek the “lifted” look.

Some of the more subtle details that may go unnoticed include a brand-new “wilderness-style grille” from Garage Alpha Offroad, 1/4-rear-window louvers from Extreme Dimensions, 5″ Muffler Nameless Exhaust, and upgraded speakers from Kicker.”

green subaru crosstrek front view

The biggest trade-off of modifying your Subaru, but is it that bad?

“Coming from larger vehicles, I really enjoyed the fuel-efficiency of the Crosstrek. I was easily getting over 32mpg when it was still stock.

As the modifications began, I saw those numbers drop. Losing fuel efficiency was the biggest trade-off, but it’s still better than my two previous vehicles, so it’s a win.

I’m sitting at 28mpg with my current set-up.  I’ve experimented with taking the rooftop accessories off but haven’t found much difference. Maybe a change in 1 or 2 mpg, so it hasn’t been worth the hassle of removing anything when not in use.”

green subaru crosstrek build by airport

When I started customizing the Crosstrek, I had no goals. I simply wanted a badass looking car. I’ve always had a vehicle that stood out, even if it was a subtle modification to make it “mine.” I wanted to do the same with the Crosstrek.

With so many products available in the offroad Subaru market, I knew I could make the Crosstrek my own. After a few small modifications, the direction I wanted to go started to take shape. I knew it had to remain functional as a daily driver for me and the family, but it could also be rugged and capable enough to handle whatever we wanted to throw at it on the weekends.”

Handling performance of the Crosstrek

“The Crosstrek is by-far the best handling vehicle I have owned. In the Northeast, we see all kinds of conditions, with the most challenging being snow – and I’ve never questioned the capabilities of the Crosstrek in the snow.

In fact, one of our last snowfalls, I took it out and tried filming a video doing donuts in an empty parking lot. Even after turning off all the safety controls, it was all I could do to get the car to slide around. As far as terrain, we’ve kept the Crosstrek on fairly tame trails. We’ve seen some mud, lots of gravel roads, and a few rocky trails leading down to water access, and the combination of the Crosstrek’s clearance and all-wheel-drive are unmatched.”

Falken Wildpeaks and fitting 215/75R15 with no lift

“I have zero rubbing with the 215’s. It does look a little tight in spots, but I know others have gone a size larger and also have no rubbing, even at full lock. I felt more comfortable with the 215/75R15, but would consider going up one more size with a lift.

I’ve never owned Falkens, so buying them was on recommendation from others. After experiencing other A/T tires on vehicles, I cannot say enough about the Falken Wildpeaks. They are quiet over-the-road and handle all other terrain incredibly.

We already touched-base on snow-driving and they handle just as well under all other conditions. Most of the offroad terrain we see are gravel roads through the mountains and dirt roads to water access; with the occasional water-logged mud crossing and the Falkens handle everything exceptionally well.”

green subaru crosstrek build with method race wheels and falken tires

Rooftop accessories and Nashfab ladder

green subaru crosstrek build with kayak on roof
green subaru crosstrek build back view

“I interchange the rooftop accessories depending on our needs. I have kayak cradles or a rooftop basket depending on what we are doing as a family. 

The kayak cradles are self-explanatory, as we like to hit the lakes and creeks when we have downtime. Otherwise, I keep a rooftop basket on. It is empty the majority of the time because what I’ve found, at least with the Crosstrek, is when you have two carseats in the back seat, there isn’t a lot of room left once you throw your belongings in the hatch.

Oftentimes, with the car fully loaded, strollers or other large items will end up on the roof.

The ladder is one of my favorite additions. It’s become somewhat of a joke recently with the overland crowd, but I think it just looks super cool. The front of the car has so much character with the rally bar and lights, the ladder completes the look on the backend.

Functionality with the ladder isn’t lost either. It is sturdy enough to climb on, and yes, people do ask if it’s weight bearing. It’s not as much a ladder as it is a step-stool. The ladder helps to hoist yourself up for leverage to tie things down or gain access to the roof of the car.

My son loves it, too, because he can climb on top of the car to look around at shows or to take pictures, which is his favorite and has become somewhat a tradition when we go places.

Shane's offroading tips for beginners

“I’ve spent countless hours on trails and count myself lucky. Knock-on-wood, I’ve never run into an issue on the trails, but looking back, there’s a handful of recommendations I should have been following.

  • First, travel with a buddy or buddies. If something unfortunate were to happen, you’ll have an extra set of hands and back-up if you were to get yourself into a predicament. 
  • Second, always prepare for the worst. This could be simple hand tools, emergency kits, and your basics like cell phone chargers, etc.
  • And last, know your limits. We all want that thrill of sending it through a puddle or conquering that gnarly obstacle, but without the proper armor and equipment, that social media video you want to film could cost you thousands of dollars in repairs or even a night in the woods.

Play it safe, enjoy the serenity of the outdoors, and drive to ride another day.”

Memorable trips in the Dad Wagon

“With two young kiddos, we haven’t taken the Crosstrek on any long excursions, yet; but we’ve been to Subaru’s Boxerfest in York, PA the last three years. Last year, being 2023, was the most memorable of the events.

The car was recognized everywhere we went, which was kind of mind-blowing. We had people waving to us on the interstate, people coming up to us at gas stations, and at the pre-meet and at Boxerfest, people would take pictures with the car or hunt me down to chat about the build. It’s really humbling having a vehicle other people take such an interest in.”

Supporting small business

“A huge shoutout to Orbis Overlanding. Patrick, the owner, has been a huge inspiration to me. Not only does he also have a Plasma Yellow Pearl Crosstrek, but he’s been a mentor and sounding board on my build. I’ve been able to bounce ideas off him and lean on him for questions and troubleshooting.

We’ve become distant friends of sorts and now collaborate on projects together. Plus, my first “real” modification came from Patrick, so for anyone looking to start your Subaru offroad build, please check out Orbis Overlanding for wheels, tires, lighting, and much more.”

I absolutely love this build and couldn’t be happier that Shane was willing to share the details of his Crosstrek mods. Hopefully this helps encourage and inspire anyone planning to upgrade their Crosstrek but feels intimidated by the process or doesn’t want to install a lift kit.

If you want to stay up to date with this build, find Shane on Instagram by following