What the 2024 Subaru Crosstrek does right when it comes to off-roading

Big surprise here: the 2024 Subaru Crosstrek Premium can push through heavy clots of dirt like a champ. I was testing this all-wheel-drive hatchback  on a warm spring day and found a deserted park by my house where the dirt had piled up to my shin after a long winter.

Of course, I’m always careful. After over 10 years of testing cars and putting them through their paces in every imaginable scenario, I’m always on the hunt for ways to stress test just enough to make sure I’m experiencing the features of the loaner car without actually putting myself in danger, causing any problems, getting stuck, or even raising any eyebrows.

I was alone with the car and no one else was around, so piling through some mud was going to be a nice test. In the Crosstrek, you can enable X-MODE which gives you even better control in heavy mode. According to Subaru, a few things happen when you use X-MODE: 

“With the push of a button, X-MODE controls the engine output, transmission, AWD torque split and braking system to help tackle the trickiest of conditions and bring even more rugged capability into sharp focus.” What that meant for me requires a little more explanation.

Most cars are made for everyday driving. We drive them to work and the shopping mall. The traction control and AWD features are designed to not be so sensitive and in an “always on” mode because it’s rare that we will need to plow through snow and mud.

What X-MODE does is make the AWD drive mode even more sensitive to tire slip, so as soon as I started driving in that mud, the entire system went on high alert. I didn’t fishtail at all, and I could actually feel the car provide more power to the wheels that were getting better traction. In older cars without AWD or this enhanced mode, you are going to lose traction because (in most cars) the front tires drive you forward, so if they slip, you are going to get stuck.

I tested the same road several times, and noticed how the Crossttrek almost smirked at me — is that all you’ve got? There was never even a hint that the car was going to slip or slide, and I plowed through this reasonably thick amount of mud without any mishaps at all.  Because I’m always wondering if this is just my perception or something special, I drove back to the same spot in my wife’s car (a Toyota Corolla) and spun out within about two seconds. The Corolla has no ability to push through mud whatsoever, and doesn’t have AWD.

During my testing all week, I kept looking for other spots to drive through. In a parking lot, I found what looked like a snow bank and plowed right through without any problems. All week long, the car maintained great traction and had no tire slip.

This is where the part of my job is quite fun, not just because I get to drive through snow banks and mud pits, but because it gives me a chance to recommend a feature that actually makes a difference. You can enable X-MODE with one button push, so it’s easy to find and use. AWD is still enabled at all times, of course, it just gives you extra stability. It’s one of the most useful features I’ve found, especially for mud and snow during the spring thaw.