Skip to Content

Are Subarus Good for Overlanding? (Forester, Outback and Crosstrek Builds)

Are Subarus Good for Overlanding? (Forester, Outback and Crosstrek Builds)

The Subaru is a staple vehicle in many mountain towns thanks to its lower price point and AWD capabilities. Combine this with a relatively substantial ground clearance and you have the makings of a potentially great overland build.

So, are Subarus good for overlanding? Although Subarus do not come with true 4×4, they are still great for overlanding due to their high ground clearance, all wheel drive and affordable price point when compared to more traditional overlanding vehicles. A Subaru with their advanced AWD technology called X-Mode, will help you tackle the toughest of off-road conditions.

It is clear to see why overlanding enthusiasts are choosing a Subaru to take them far and wide into the wilderness! 

Why Subarus Perform So Good Off-Road 

With the Forester, Outback, Crosstrek and Ascent model Subarus all having four wheel drive with a mighty 8.7 inches of ground clearance, it is clear to see why these vehicles are popularly used for off-road camping adventures. With updated specifications and functions such as X-Mode now on offer, these vehicles have the potential to tackle some of the most questionable terrain on your explorations.

Whether you’re desiring a relaxing weekend at the river or a full blown overlanding week in the forest, X-Mode is one of the available features that can not only take you to the best camping spots but also help you get out of deep mud or dense snow. By maintaining transmission in a low gear, X-Mode allows the driver to benefit most from available power.

By also increasing hill driving capability with the Hill Descent Control feature, it is obvious to see why off road Subarus are such a reliable choice when it comes to intense driving conditions. The Subaru Symmetrical All Wheel Drive system is trusted by many to tackle true off-road challenges.

The Symmetrical All Wheel Drive system allows simultaneous power to be sent across all four wheels on the car. It is this system that creates maximum traction allowing you to remain not only safe but thriving on the road with the best grip possible across tough conditions. 

Subaru Outback Overland Build


The Subaru Outback offers both more in terms of space and power than the Forester all whilst still maintaining the grand 8.7 inches of total ground clearance. Over on the YouTube channel ‘4EXPEDITION’, Scott Leuthold showcases the  Subaru Outback in all its glory. The video titled ‘Subaru Outback Overland Build by 4EXPEDITION’ is a great example of what the Outback is capable of.

As a base vehicle for overlanding, the Outback already ticks an undeniably long list of boxes, and with everything from lift kits to light bars to skid plates available to ramp up the Outback even more, it seems an obvious choice for serious overlanders. Another great feature of the Outback is its maneuverability and comfortable, rugged interior.

For those looking for a multi purpose vehicle in terms of both commuting and overlanding, the Outback is an ideal fit, remaining agile and dependable on the road – whether the terrain be mud, snow, gravel or smooth tarmac.

The low center of gravity of the Subaru Outback results in impressive handling regardless of road condition and the Subaru renowned four wheel drive system is a remarkable addition for when camp outs off the beaten track are desired. As with any vehicle, the Subaru Outback also seems to have some struggles.

There are several reports from the 2013 model highlighting issues with overheating, piston rings, excessive oil consumption and even some reporting engine failure. Take a look at the 2020 Subaru Outback however, and these problems seem to diminish. On the current US market, there are two different models of the Subaru Outback available.

The initial model boasts an impressive 260 hp supported by a 2.4 litre turbocharged engine with a mighty 277 pounds worth of torque. The other available Outback model features a 2.5 naturally aspirated four cylinder engine, backed with 182 hp and 176 pounds worth of torque.

When looking for a multi use, reliable vehicle with the ability to drive you pleasantly down the highway for your daily commute and take you on wild overlanding escapades at the weekend, the Outback is an option to consider. Performing extremely well even when precarious off road situations arise, it is clear to see why the Subaru Outback is becoming an increasingly popular overlanding choice. 

Subaru Forester Overland Build 


The Subaru Forester has external features renowned for their robust off-road capabilities allowing you to travel far and wide. With a rugged, comfortable interior, it is no surprise the Forester is repeatedly a popular choice for many when choosing an off-road wagon.

The conversion of off road vehicles into overlanders is increasing dramatically in popularity and some great examples of the potential the Subaru Forester has in terms of overland capabilities are featured in the videos over on the YouTube channel; ‘softroadingthewest’.

A video that really manages to showcase the Forester in all its overlanding glory is ‘Overland Subaru Forester Build Progress so Far’ and is a must watch to see the functionality of the vehicle both in terms of camp set up and off road driveability.

The stunning Forester overlander in this video truly looks at home tackling deep areas of water on the problematic forest floor with ease. If a tent box is not an option for your overland build, here we are shown a great set up example of a ground tent to increase functional space and comfort when the idyllic destination is reached.

The Forester is such a dependable option for off-roading and overlanding whilst also costing considerably less than its competitors, meaning the money saved opting for a Subaru can be used elsewhere on the vehicle e.g. lift kit, suspension upgrades etc.

The Forester is able to offer the full package as an overland vehicle and with an abundance of roof tents and ground tents on the market to expand the living space area, it is hard to see why the Forester wouldn’t be a great option. When we delve deeper into the pros and cons of the Forester, a niggling issue of concern is the excessive oil consumption.

Although excessive oil being burned in the vehicle can of course be down to how the car is driven and maintained, this is an issue that keeps arising and is questionable whether it is in fact down to a recurring manufacturing issue. Looking at the past couple of years of the Forester however, these issues seem to diminish with the 2020 and 2021 Foresters being branded reliable and sturdy with great off-road capability.

It really seems as though Subaru keep improving their vehicles, this especially being demonstrated in recent years. With the rear seats down, the 2020 Subaru Forester boasts an impressive cargo space of  76.1 cubic feet allowing comfortable sleeping space and ample storage for overlanding trips.

The 2020 Forester also showcases 182 hp with 176 pounds-feet of torque powering through the most eventful of adventures. The roof rails of the Forester are also able to support a roof tent allowing for a sturdy extension of space from outside the car.

By just the sole addition of high quality all terrain tires, the Subaru Forester is ready to tackle challenging roads and get the most avid explorers to the best camp spots nature has to offer.

Subaru Crosstrek Overland Build


Similarly to the previously mentioned Forester and Outback, the Subaru Crosstrek is a great option for those wanting a commuter friendly, family vehicle that remains suitable as an overlanding rig for those wanting a true off-road camping experience. An outstanding example of a compact SUV overloading with potential, is the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek model.

Featuring sleek, modern infotainment controls and a sportier, edgier exterior aesthetic, the Crosstrek ranks highly against its competition. With 55.3 cubic feet of space when the rear seats are lowered, the interior space is considerably less than the Subaru Forester, however, the Crosstrek excels in other areas such as the modern aesthetic that seems to be a stunning feature across the entire vehicle.

The Subaru Crosstrek remains a successful off-roading vehicle with 8.7 inches of ground clearance ready to tackle the mightiest off-road landscapes. The 2021 model Crosstrek is powered by an impressive 182 hp, 176 pounds-feet of torque all whilst averaging around 30 mpg.

A brilliant display of a Subaru Crosstrek being used as a  robust overlanding rig is shown on the YouTube channel ‘trailtrek’ in the video titled ‘Most Build Overland Crosstrek? Rig Walkthrough’. The Crosstrek in this particular video is such a great example as any issues the owner faced with other overland vehicles have been tackled successfully with his Subaru Outback overland build.

The meticulous thoughts behind the functionality and accessibility of the vehicle are proven in every aspect with the lift kit, tires, electrical system and interior space being only a few examples. A concern with many Subarus that seems to repeatedly crop up is a head gasket issue and there have been reports of the Crosstrek unfortunately facing this problem.

It is important to remember that even with the cons of the Crosstrek, every vehicle inevitably will face an issue in its life span. If a Crosstrek is cared for and serviced well, they should be able to take you on your wildest camp outs yet.

With Subarus notoriously known for their reliability and abundance of models with excellent off road capability, for the price, it’s hard to find a better option than a Subaru and for many, the Crosstrek will tick all the boxes. 

Also read: Overland Vehicle on a Budget: Under $7,500 Spent


Are Subarus good for long distance driving? 

With the Forester, Outback and Crosstrek Subarus all showcasing good fuel economy whilst also being supported by the acclaimed symmetrical all wheel drive system, they are a clear choice in terms of distance driving regardless of terrain. With strong safety scores across the board and a highly comfortable both front and rear interior, these vehicles are ideal for the entire family.

It is important to mention, as with all vehicles, if they are serviced and maintained well, Subarus will perform well for long distances on the road.

What Subarus should I avoid? 

As previously mentioned, the 2013 Subaru Outback seems to have countless struggles in a few different areas of the vehicle, with the majority of complaints surrounding excessive oil consumption due to faulty piston rings. This is a significant issue as engine failure can be an eventual result.

When looking at Subarus, it may be best to avoid the 2013 Outback and instead reach for another model or year to avoid such devastating and expensive problems. Subaru have since worked to increase their reliability and dependability and have shown countless times since the 2013 struggles that their workmanship is constantly improving. 

Are Subarus really that reliable? 

Even with various ups and downs over the past few years, Subaru remain a reliable vehicle brand. The key components such as the engine, symmetrical four wheel drive system and engines are dependable with issues facing only a couple of models. If a Subaru is looked after and maintained well, there is no reason they won’t take you far and wide on your travels.

Closing Thoughts

So, are Subarus good for overlanding? The 8.7 inches of road clearance on the above-mentioned Subarus compete well with many other ‘off-road’ branded SUVs but with a far lower price tag. With a low center of gravity, sturdy body and symmetrical four wheel drive system, the Subaru seems an obvious off-road option and an ideal overlanding vehicle. 

Feature image:


Up Next In Overlanding:

Toyota Tundra For Overlanding – Pros/Cons and Owner Q&A

Best Overland Trailers (10 Off-Road Favorites)

The 10 Best Vehicles for Overlanding

Toyota Tacoma Good for Overlanding? (Owner Q&A)

Share this article!