Close this search box.
subaru crosstrek offroad with all terrain tires

Subarus On The Trail: Reasons Why They Are Great For Off-Road Driving

For years cars like Toyota trucks, Land Rovers, Jeeps, and Ford pickups have dominated the Off-Road market. Their ground clearance, straight axles, and ability to install oversized tires have earned them respect with off-road enthusiasts. But are things beginning to change? Countless Subaru owners are beginning to push their vehicles to the limits and take them off the beaten path.

As Subaru continues to deliver multiple capable options every year, their popularity in the overlanding and off-road community is growing. With 4 of their main models offering nearly 9 inches of ground clearance (even the all-electric Solterra has 8.3 inches of clearance,) and a slew of ground-breaking technologies, they’re beginning to take a large share of the market. In this article we’ll explore why Subarus are great for off-road use and some of the different things that can help them perform even better on the trails.

Ground Clearance

One of the first things that make Subarus absolutely fantastic off-road vehicles is their 8.7 inches ground clearance. The Subaru Crosstrek, Outback, Forester, and Ascent all boast this amount of ground clearance from the factory. To give you an idea of what that looks like, the Jeep Cherokee Trail Hawk also sits 8.7 inches off the ground.

Even in stock form, Subarus are great vehicles to get to most secluded camp spots. If a person wants to explore forest service roads, gravel roads, snowy back roads, or rough dirt roads, a Subaru can handle some pretty aggressive terrain right out of the box. The handsome ground clearance allows Subarus to navigate over and around large obstacles like rocks and small washouts. Whether you’re in Oregon, Washington, California, or another beautiful part of the world, a Subaru will likely take you to most of the places you want to visit.

Want more than 8.7 inches? There are multiple high quality lift kits out there that can give you a bit more clearance and the ability to install a slightly bigger tire. Check out some of our favorite lift kits HERE.

2013 subaru wrx offroad with sparco terra wheels

AWD Creates A Nearly Unstoppable Driving Experience

All wheel drive gives Subarus the ability to spin all four tires when necessary, enabling the car to climb impressive roads and obstacles. This is a big part of what has earned Subaru their reputation for on-road safety. However, people have begun to push Subarus to the limits of what the AWD system can do in off-road situations – and it’s rather impressive.

While it isn’t quite the same as having a dual range transfer case like 4×4’s do, Subaru’s all wheel drive has allowed me to plow through 1.5 of fresh snow without issue. It’s made it possible for me to visit places that I would have previously only thought were accessible by full size trucks and SUV’s. Having all four wheels spinning in your Subaru makes them very capable in deep snow, dirt, rocks, and even mud. The AWD system delivers a truly diverse driving experience.

Helpful Off-Road Technology

Many Subarus now come equipped with X-Mode which helps drivers maneuver through adverse conditions. It coordinates the throttle, transmission, AWD system, and braking to give the driver the ability to tackle tough terrain. X-mode is useful for sand, gravel, snow, and mud. 

X-mode also helps drivers in downhill situations with the Hill Descent Control. It operates the brakes and throttle automatically while letting the driver focus on navigating around obstacles. Proper descent takes a lot of technical driving skills, but the HDC feature allows even the most casual driver to safely navigate steep grades.

Check out how well the Subaru Forester performs with X-Mode in the snow. We were pretty blown away by how well it helped the Subaru crawl around in the snow.

Wide Range Of Off-Road Modifications Available For Subarus

If the stock performance of a Subaru isn’t quite enough for what you need, getting extra ground clearance isn’t too difficult. A simple 1” strut spacer lift kit usually starts at around $199 and can be installed rather easily at a shop or in your garage. I’ve installed a spacer lift kit in an afternoon in my driveway with relatively basic tools. If you want even more ground clearance, up to 6″ inch lift kits can be purchased from a few different companies. Even simple upgrades, like bigger all terrain tires can add ground clearance and more grip. These tires usually add a more aggressive look as well.

There are a growing number off-road specific mods being manufactured for Subarus now as well. Things like winch mount bumpers and rear tire carriers can add a lot of utility and safety when going off-road. I typically recommend people install the following items to improve their Subaru’s off-road performance even more:

  • Lift kit
  • All terrain tires
  • Rear trailer hitch receiver (aids in safe recoveries from the rear of the vehicle and allows for rear tire carrier install)
  • Front bumper or winch mount with recovery points that ties into the frame
There are substantially more accessories than just these four items, but this is a fantastic starting point.
outback wilderness lifted for offroad driving

Fuel Economy

Subaru’s are not only extremely capable in off-road situations, they still manage to get great gas mileage. The 2020 Outback boasts an impressive 28.5 combined MPG. Making it not only a great all around car for outdoor use, but very economical and affordable to drive. Those numbers will drop a tad bit when folks begin installing larger heavier tires and rooftop accessories. But even with mud terrain tires and a bumper cut, my Forester only lost about 4 mpg.

So what does this mean for those of us who want to go off-road? It means more miles on back roads and in the wilderness before worrying about the next fill up at the gas station. I’ve been able to explore for a full weekend with nothing more but a 5 gallon fuel can as a back up. Additionally, it means we’ll be spending far less in overall fuel expenses.

subaru forester offroad in the forest with extra gas for camping trip

Legendary Reliability Gives Peace Of Mind In Off-Road Situations

Subaru’s are reliable and offer peace of mind to those who want to travel off the beaten path. While they have their share of quirks, they are historically some of the most reliable vehicles. I’ve never once been concerned about whether or not my Subaru will fire up. In fact, the few times I’ve had a starter or battery failure, it’s been a complete shock.

When you’re 100 miles from the nearest city, you need to be able to trust that your vehicle will safely get you home. According to Torqe News, Subaru is the #4 for most reliable car brand out there. (Source) With some stiff competition from Toyota, Ford, and Honda, that’s an impressive badge of honor.

If you’re looking for a capable off-road vehicle that doubles as a daily driver, a Subaru with a lift kit may be the way to go. While it may not be a rock crawler, it has everything you’ll need for a weekend getaway in the woods, or a hiking trip in the wilderness. We think they’re the best bang for your buck and absolutely the most fun to drive.