Subaru Dealers Get Serious About Off-Roading

Posted by

Subaru dealers are taking Subaru’s already impressive off-road capability up a notch.

Subaru has long been a brand with a reputation for off-road capability. Subaru’s all-wheel-drive models continue to be favorites of outdoor enthusiasts and sell well among those who live in areas where the snow can pile up. With 8.7-inches of minimum (not maximum) ground clearance, Subaru’s Forester, Outback, and Crosstrek are designed for all-road capability and can also head off-road in many situations. No matter how much capability Subaru designs into its crossovers there will always be a group of customers who want more. In the past, these customers could modify their Subaru’s at their own risk and experiment with different accessories. Now, Subaru’s dealers are getting into the business of modifying these vehicles before they ever leave the dealership floor.

Related Story: We test the 2019 Forester on a Land-Rover designed off-road course. How’d it do?

During a recent service appointment for one of BestRide’s personal rides, we spotted a special Crosstrek that we assumed had been modified by a customer. It turned out to be a new Crosstrek for sale by the dealer. Looking more closely at the inventory on the lot, we found that not only were new Crosstreks heavily modified for off-roading but that Outbacks and Foresters were as well. BestRide spoke to Eddie Cicciu and Matt D’Ambra at Patriot Subaru in North Attleboro, Massachusetts to learn more about the modifications that Subaru dealers are now making.

 – Looking for a great new or used crossover for off-road adventures? Start your search at BestRide. 

Mr. D’Ambra told us that dealers throughout New England now offer new Subarus with modifications that transform the looks and capabilities of the Forester, Crosstrek, and Outback. The first upgrades start with tires. BFGoodrich T/A KO2 all-terrain tires are the favorite of most off-roaders and indeed, the Subarus we saw all had the K02s. The increased sidewall profile and strength of the tires make the vehicle much more capable and reliable off-road. Setting aside the incredible traction these tires add compared to standard all-season street tires, the KO2s are perhaps the most impressive style element added to these special Subarus.

Related Story: We take the new Crosstrek off-road. How’d it do?

Look closely at the images and you will notice that these Subarus are not sitting on standard suspensions. Rather, they are lifted. Mr. Cicciu told BestRide that the technicians experimented with a four-inch lift at first. That was found to be a poor compromise between on-road stability and off-road capability. Ultimately, a two-inch lift was found to be the right formula. The springs are changed as well as some other suspension components to increase the minimum ground clearance to about 11 inches. Patriot warranties all of the modifications it makes.

In addition to the traction and ground clearance upgrades, customers have been requesting added cargo capacity and increased lighting. Mr. Cicciu told us that at first Patriot opted to install small LED light bars since that package offers superior performance with minimal changes to the look (see the white Crosstrek above). However, many customers instead prefer the larger and bolder-looking Hella lights that match the style of the standard round foglights on the Outback.

Cargo capacity in the form of cargo baskets, enclosed pods, and multi-purpose racks for bikes, boards, and kayaks are all available from Subaru dealers. Mr. D’Ambra tells us that the next candidate for these modifications is the all-new three-row Subaru Ascent. Shoppers looking for serious off-road capability in a proven crossover should add Subaru to their list of considerations. Jeep’s Trailhawk series and Toyota’s TRD Pro series of SUVs now have real competition.


Image Notes: Top of page image courtesy of Patriot Subaru. All other Images by the author.

Story Note: Neither BestRide nor the author received any payment or trade from Subaru or its dealers for the publication of this story.