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Building A Lifted 2016 Subaru Crosstrek For Off-Road Trails

By Ben Boxer

I first met Samantha through a local Subaru club in the area I used to live in. We’d seen each other at some of the meets and cruises. At the time, her Crosstrek was mostly stock and hadn’t been taken off-road too much. But as time progressed, I saw all of the work she’d been doing to the Subaru and noticed that she had even begun to take it on some of the more advanced trail cruises with the Subie groups.

I asked Samantha if she’d be willing to share some of her insights on Subaru ownership, and her experience planning out mods for the car. She works professionally in the commercial auto parts industry at a high level and I was curious to hear her take on a lot of the common questions surrounding lifted Subarus. I’m extremely proud that she was gracious enough to share her car with the Lifted Imports audience and to provide some inspiration to others planning to undertake an off-road Crosstrek build.

Samantha is not only the first female to have a build feature on Lifted Imports, but is the first person with a gen 1 Crosstrek to be featured. Needless to say, we’re pretty pumped to pick her brain and see her Subaru. Before we continue, head over to Instagram and give @buster_the_trek a follow and say thank you for sharing her build.


2016 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0 Limited, with a CVT transmission


subaru Crosstrek interior with paddle shifter extensions
lifted subaru crosstrek with all terrain tires and method mr502 wheels

Why Pick A Subaru For Overlanding & Off-Roading?

Is this the first Subaru you’ve owned? What prompted you to purchase one?

“This is my first Subaru. When my lifestyle outgrew my 97 Ford Ranger, I struggled for quite a while between Subaru and Toyota. I had a hell of a time going through pros and cons of rav4 vs 4runner vs forester vs outback, etc. It all came down to timing and price point really. If I had given car shopping another month, who knows- maybe I’d be living the Toyota life. I do know that I wouldn’t change my Trek for the world, though.”

Crosstrek Over An Outback Or Forester?

Is there any reason you chose the Crosstrek specifically over another Subaru like the Forester or Outback?

“You might hate me for this, but honest to god, it all came down to Hobo Johnson’s song “Subaru Crosstrek XV”. If it weren’t for that song being on the radio so often when it came out, I wouldn’t have even THOUGHT of the Crosstrek. After a solid 6 months of shopping around, I saw the post for a beautiful pearl white, stock-as-hell Crosstrek in Portland, and I was in love. It made for a total meme moment too, the second I was handed the keys from the dealership, I was blasting that song out of the lot.”

2016 subaru crosstrek lifted with offroad tires and wheels in the forest

Does Size Matter? Budget-Conscious Lift Kit

“As much as I respect the established rep for quality with big name brands, I like to find affordable & cost-effective, yet sturdy alternatives for “weekend warrior” folks like me, who don’t really have a ton of extra spending money, but just enough to give ourselves a bit more leeway for fun. 

I ended up going with pretty standard 2″ strut spacers from Les Schwab’s “Tuff Country” brand. I know plenty of folks who shy away from spacer lifts, but let’s be honest, this is a 2″ lift for a weekend overlander, not a 6″ lifted rock crawler. I’ve been thrashing pretty hard on them with no issues at all (yet), so I’m feeling pretty confident with these.”

2016 subaru crosstrek lifted with offroad tires and wheels in the forest with lightbar

Fitting Off-Road Tires On The Crosstrek: Rubbing Problems

Were there any initial problems with fitting the new tires? Any rubbing problems?

“Rubbing? YES. I ended up taking off my front mudflaps and a small amount off the fender liner, because no amount of adjusting was getting rid of the shrill SQUEAL that came when I backed up and turned the wheel a good 15 degrees or more. In the beginning, I had 17′ Raceline Evos with some BF Goodrich A/Ts, but when I decided that I wanted to pursue more overlanding/offroading adventures, I went down to 15′ Method 502 Rally’s with Mazama Open Range 215/75R15 tires.”

Selecting Off-Road Wheels & Tires For The Subie

Why did you choose your current wheel and tire combo?

“I perused tire racks to find the tread type and tire sizing I was looking for, both for style and functionality, and these were a good beefy tire at an affordable price, and they look pretty d*#! good on it. 

For a while I debated Sparco vs Method, and ended up going with Method because of pricing and availability, plus I LOVE the look of them.”

white lifted subaru crosstrek with offroad tires and method mr502 wheels in the snow

Gas Mileage In The Crosstrek - Stock vs. Lifted

“Totally stock, I was seeing about 23-25mpg highway. Right now I get about 20-23mpg highway. BEST I’ve gotten was 37.3mpg drafting behind a motorhome for 2 hours from Vancouver, WA to Goldendale, WA. WORST I’ve gotten was 18mph, stop and go driving for an entire week in town.”

white lifted subaru crosstrek with offroad tires and method mr502 wheels in the snow

How Capable Is A Lifted Crosstrek?

I’ve been able to take it on some medium grade trails. I love ripping around Silverstar Mtn, Larch Mtn, and some easy spots around Browns Camp. I’m a creature of habit, and familiarity is important to me, so I typically stay around the Silverstar trails.

Silverstar and Larch are both areas of SW Washington that contain forest roads, OHV trail systems, and hiking areas. They’re both great spots to test out an off-road vehicle of any capability. The off-road difficulty in that area ranges widely and is a ton of fun to explore. Browns Camp is another PNW OHV area with some hardcore trails and some more mellow areas to push your vehicle’s limits.

white lifted subaru crosstrek with offroad tires and method mr502 wheels in the snow going through mud

A Manufacturer's Warranty Saved Thousands In CVT Transmission Repairs

Have you had any issues with the CVT transmission getting warm at all or anything?

“I haven’t had issues with it getting warm, but I did just replace the CVT valve body at 145k.

I was leaving work on a Monday night after ripping up Silverstar the day before, and then the dash lit up like a G#%*!mn Christmas tree. It was shuddering, every single dash light was on and blinking. It was a terrifying after growing up with cars no newer than 1997, and then suddenly having a car that goes into limp mode and shuts down pretty much everything if there’s a big issue. I threw 7 DTCs in total, all for torque converter, AT cooler, AT fluid sensors, AT temp too high, and some others, all transmission related. I happened to have 1000 miles left on my warranty through an independent dealer, so I called Dick Hannah Subaru and said ‘This is way beyond what I can diagnose and fix, will you guys accept my warranty?’ 5 hours in a parking lot waiting for a AAA tow later, and I was on my way to Dick Hannah. I paid nothing out of pocket and I ended up getting a rebuild out of it, with 1000 miles to spare before it was my expense. That’s like 2-3 weeks of driving for me, super close call. Overall for everything, it would have been a couple grand.”

white lifted subaru crosstrek with offroad tires and method mr502 wheels in the snow going through mud back shot

Favorite Mod On The Crosstrek?

“Oh man, that’s such a hard question. As lame as it sounds, I gotta say it’s my black racing stripes above my front wheels. It was the very first thing I ever did to it, and it began my obsession with making it “unique” to me, and not just another PNW Crosstrek. The stripes started it all.”

white lifted subaru crosstrek with offroad tires and method mr502 wheels in the snow front tire

Future Mods For The Crosstrek

What are some of the next plans you have for the Crosstrek?

I want to install a full set of skidplates, and a rear ladder (I’m short and can’t reach my roof cargo without climbing all over stuff), eventually a roof tent and batwing awning.)

white lifted subaru crosstrek with offroad tires and method mr502 wheels in the snow front bumper

I really hope you all enjoyed this build feature as much as I did. Being able to see someone take a stock Crosstrek and build it into something that actually gets used is pretty cool. If you want to follow along with this build, check out Samantha’s Instagram @buster_the_trek

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