Home » The 2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness Has The Most Pathetic Skid Plate In The History Of Skid Plates

The 2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness Has The Most Pathetic Skid Plate In The History Of Skid Plates

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The Subaru Wilderness brand is like Jeep’s “Rubicon” or “Trailhawk” brand in that it’s meant to represent the most off-road capable version of a Subaru. “A Subaru that can take you farther, loaded with rugged features so you can take on your wildest adventures,” Subaru says about Wilderness. The brand’s latest offering is the 2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness, an off-road-ified version of the smallest, most efficient tall-wagon in Subaru’s lineup, and while the vehicle offers some meaningful upgrades over the standard Crosstrek, one “upgrade” is currently boggling my mind, and I need to show you all. I am talking about the front skid plate.

Here’s a video of it so you can see for yourself:

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A skid plate’s job is to protect underbody components from damage that might occur when driving over obstacles like rocks and tree trunks. Its primary functions are to 1. prevent obstacles from gouging/scratching underbody components 2. Help a vehicle slide over obstacles 3. Take much of the load from an obstacle (i.e. the weight of the vehicle) so that load isn’t borne by the underbody component; this prevents the underbody component from crushing/cracking. Typical underbody components that are often shielded by skidplates are: transfer cases, transmissions, engines, differentials, and steering components.

When I evaluate any off-road vehicle, I always lay down in the dirt and snap photos of the underbody protection. Here’s the front skid plate on a Ford Maverick Tremor (which, admittedly, has its own underbody protection issues), for example:

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That skid plate is mounted to the front subframe, and protects the engine and transmission from the elements. When I reviewed the Ineos Grenadier, I snapped these shots of its underbody skidplates, which are bolted to the frame, the frame crossmembers, and to the body:

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All of these skid plates prevent components from being either gouged or crushed, as the skid plates are rigidly mounted to the vehicle’s structure. If someone were to drive these vehicles over a rock that was a bit too large, at least some of the weight of the vehicle could be taken by the skid plates without requiring whatever component is underneath to bear that load. This brings me to the Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness

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Go to the Crosstrek Wilderness’s consumer site, and you’ll see in big bold letters “9.3 Inches of Ground Clearance with Front Skid Plate, Improved Angles, and Dual-Function X-MODE.” A video clip of a Crosstrek Wilderness driving over rocks in what looks like Moab, Utah is off to the side. When a journalist at the Subaru Crosstrek media drive asked how thick the vehicle’s skid plate is, Subaru’s representative said “Thick enough.” Between the literature and this reply, I figured the Subaru Crosstrek has a real-deal skid plate — one similar to the Maverick Tremor’s.

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So I decided to take a peek at the underbody protection of a regular Crosstrek and of a Crosstrek Wilderness — just to compare. The regular Crosstrek doesn’t appear to have much underneath to protect the engine or drivetrain:

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The Crosstrek Wilderness, I found, also doesn’t have a whole lot of underbody protection:

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But what about that front skidplate? Well, check it out:

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I know what you’re thinking: “Surely, Subaru didn’t just rivet this thin piece of sheetmetal to the plastic underbody shield, right?”

Wrong. That’s exactly what they did. Look at this thing:

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Watch the video towards the top of this article, and you’ll see that as I push the plastic underbody shield with my hand, the “skid plate” moves with it!

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This is, without question, the saddest, most pathetic skid plate I’ve ever seen. Will it help keep that plastic shield from gouging like the front bumper appears to be doing (see photos above) due to the vehicle’s rather low approach angle? Sure. Is it probably a bit stiffer than that plastic shield it’s fastened to, meaning it will do a better job disbursing a load should the Crosstrek Wilderness drive over a too-tall rock? Maybe.

But this is without question the most useless skid plate I’ve ever seen. The vehicle’s approach angle is so low that I imagine few instances where this skidplate would see heavy use, since that front bumper will likely hit the obstacle first. Plus, if that thin skidplate did hit something hard, it’s just going to push the plastic underbody shield up!

I’m not saying this vehicle needs a legit skid plate given its audience, but this is seriously bizarre. A skid-plate that isn’t rigidly mounted to a structural component, but rather to a floppy plastic shield that’s attached to the rest of the car via plastic clips? I don’t get it!

Interestingly, on Subaru’s media site, the company seems to imply that this skid plate is more of a styling element:

To visually communicate the more capable off-road performance, the Crosstrek Wilderness adds exclusive styling with all-new front and rear bumpers, bold hexagonal front grille, larger wheel arch cladding, metal front skid plate, unique hex-design LED fog lights and an anti-glare hood decal in matte-black finish.

But you can barely even see the skid plate unless you’re under the car, so I don’t quite understand this, either. I’m just confused.

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Opa Carriker
Opa Carriker
9 months ago

Where is the video mentioned at the beginning of the article. This isn’t the first time you have mentioned a video that wasn’t viewable. As it is key to the entire article its being missing is no small detail. Please advise!

Jsloden
Jsloden
9 months ago
Reply to  Opa Carriker

It’s right at the top of the article. Maybe you don’t have your cookies enabled or something.

Defenestrator
Defenestrator
9 months ago
Reply to  Opa Carriker

Works for me. Maybe allowlist the site in the adblocker? Unlike a certain other car site, the ads are pretty unobtrusive and don’t slow things to a crawl just by loading them.

05LGT
05LGT
9 months ago

This isn’t new for Subaru. Way way back I read a review of one of the models with a hood scoop with no intake or intercooler under it. The journalist asked if the scoop was “functional”. The presenter said “Yes.” Thing is, this particular journo wasn’t having any, so he followed up with “What is the scoops function?” After a pause, the presenter earned his $ and answered “It sits up on that hood and looks GOOD!”

This time was only different in that if there was a follow up question we didn’t hear about it. I’m guessing that if cornered and water/beer-boarded, he might have admitted “It’s thick enough to hang down there and look GOOD!”

Gen-O Bernardo
Gen-O Bernardo
9 months ago

subaru has been mailing it in for awhile now. they’ve turned me from hardcore fan/owner to a doubter

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
9 months ago

I think many people here are getting maybe a bit too heated up over, what is essentially, a high trim option package of a subcompact crossover. It’s 3k more than a Sport, with some interior upgrades, upgraded towing to a capacity that’s actually useable, all-terrain tires and an appearance package. Compared to other option packages from other manufacturers, and this is honestly not a horrible deal.

Yeah, calling that thing a skid plate is a bit disingenuous. It’s pretty lame. But we’re again failing as enthusiasts to see what the point of this Crosstrek is. It is NOT an off-roader. It is not a competitor, or even an alternative to vehicles like the Wrangler, or Bronco. Subaru priced this thing, and trimmed it out, as a well-optioned Crosstrek with extra cladding, all-terrain tires, and some ever so slightly beefed up components. This car is meant to be a Crosstrek, but maybe slightly more capable for those who want to get to properties/places with crappy, rutted roads/trails leading to them. That’s the ceiling of this thing’s capability. You might be annoyed that Subaru won’t lean in and give us a Wilderness with real off-road chops and the WRX powertrain, but that thing would be 40k. This is not.

As for the “offroad cosplay” thing, guess what everyone? EVERYTHING IS COSPLAY. The spoiler on your Honda Civic, the cladding on everyone’s commuters, basically every truck that anyone actually buys today, they’re all designed to write checks that cannot be cashed. This is fine. Does it all feel a little cynical? Yeah. But man, if someone can feel special and capable commuting in a Crosstrek instead of bankrupting themselves by financing a 55k Bronco or whatever, I’m going to support that decision every day of the week.

Drew
Drew
9 months ago

I agree with you on the overall package. It’s great at being exactly what the buyer wants for a reasonable price. And it does add value. I’d suggest this to the person who wants the off-road look without the need for a real crawler.

But I do think it’s crappy that they can get away with calling it a skid plate. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect some level of honest assessment, even if things won’t be used. If I buy a car that says it has roof rails, I can reasonably expect those rails to allow me to mount crossbars and haul things on the roof. If it has tow hooks, those should at least allow it to be pulled out of a bit of mud. If it’s advertised with a snorkel, that should be pulling in air.

Sure, call some thin metal a skid plate, but at least mount it properly. I’ve noticed that some vehicles can have “accessory receivers” instead of tow hitch receivers. Maybe we need a term for a reinforced splash guard as opposed to an actual skid plate.

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
9 months ago
Reply to  Drew

Oh, I totally agree that calling that thing a skid plate is pretty darn lame. It might be somewhat helpful compared to just plastic? But it seems unlikely. And I agree, it probably shouldn’t be called a “skid plate” because of what skid plate implies. But as far as marketing bluster goes, this seems to be pretty typical of what to expect.

And that’s why we have DT crawling under every lifted automobile to report on what the marketers won’t tell us.

10001010
10001010
9 months ago

Given this car’s higher ground clearance I’d rather they put a metal plate over the catalytic converter.

Ravi Dhiman
Ravi Dhiman
9 months ago

The third gen Tacoma TRD Offroad also has a thin sheet metal front skid plate and a plastic skid plate for the fuel tank though both are attached to a frame cross member.

Zach Schoenrock
Zach Schoenrock
9 months ago

It’s almost like vehicle manufacturers tell you what you want to hear, this vehicle can go “off-roading” straight from the factory. And as a customer, if you believe them and then go out and break something, it’s on you to pay for the repair, not them. Personally if you want to take your subaru off-roading, look into a company like Anderson Design and Fabrication or Iron Man 4×4 for some real off-road upgrades to protect your ride. All the big manufacturers with vehicles that have oil leak problems just pad their large skidplates with foam or a filler to keep you from seeing the problems with the vehicle until its too late. If you aren’t a DIY’er I’d also recommend finding a good shop near you based on other customer’s reviews to have your vehicle checked out at least once a year. But that’s just my opinion as a mechanic.

Mitch5
Mitch5
9 months ago

That skid plate might be way more effective than your giving it credit for. The sheet metal might be just thick enough to allow the load of a rock to be spread out over the core support and oil pan so you can slide over anything that the bumper somehow missed.

I use .120 al plate for the majority of my skid plate setup with some steel supports. Yes it gets deformed but is also fairly easy to beat straight again. Probably 150lbs lighter than other setups.

Last edited 9 months ago by Mitch5
Brad Comis
Brad Comis
7 months ago
Reply to  Mitch5

The skid plate doesn’t even extend rearward to cover the oil pan. It only covers the bottom of the radiator, which is important, but so is the oil pan. Estimating here but I’d say the dimensions of the “skid plate” are 30″x9″. Woefully inadequate.

Last edited 7 months ago by Brad Comis
Man With A Reliable Jeep
Man With A Reliable Jeep
9 months ago

That skid plate is pathetic. It’s almost cynical how they assume their customers are so apathetic or ignorant, they can get away stuff like this.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
9 months ago

I doubt 90% of car owners have even seen the underside of their cars.

Man With A Reliable Jeep
Man With A Reliable Jeep
9 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

Well, that’s just embarrassing and sad.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
9 months ago

But you know its true.

Man With A Reliable Jeep
Man With A Reliable Jeep
9 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

I don’t dispute it.

Space
Space
9 months ago

It is Subaru, so they will get away with it.

Brandt S
Brandt S
9 months ago

I’m pretty sure my audi allroad has better offroad protection. Haha. I like the comment someone made below about Subarus being for offroad cosplay at this point. The design ethos for Subaru seems to be “add more plastic, beefier tires, and charge as much as possible before people figure out we are a bunch of phonies”.

Who Knows
Who Knows
9 months ago

The main surprise for me in this article is how low much of the Grenadier underbody is, skid plates or not. That Subaru used some paperclips to stick some tin foil to a splash guard is not surprising (I’m sure I’ll continue to see these in some pretty impressive places offroad, just as usual). Seeing that a purpose built offroader to fill in for the old Defender has a differential that isn’t lower than most of the rest of the underbody was a surprise. The Grenadier looks like it has hardly any more clearance in the pictures than whatever crossover looking thing is parked next to it.

sentinelTk
sentinelTk
9 months ago

I wanted to come in here and say the 90’s S-10 begs to differ, but nope……that crap thing is better than this piece of cardboard.

MikeInTheWoods
MikeInTheWoods
9 months ago

David it’s 2023 not the 90’s. Cars are just plastic and sensors and screens now. My buddy’s “trail rated” Rubicon 4xe had it’s battery cooling system taken out by a stick. I actually need to write to you since you are very much into Jeep cooling systems. His “tough” Wrangler has been stranded 2x by sticks poking the underside and destroying 4xe components. Driveway rated *near* the Wilderness should be what these packages are called.

Santiago Iglesias
Santiago Iglesias
9 months ago
Reply to  MikeInTheWoods

Yeah but they willingly bought a chrysler product, what did they expect?

Staffma
Staffma
9 months ago

Reminds me of the stock “skid plate/mudguard” on my base model 2022 KLR… pathetic plastic piece that protected exactly nothing. But you kind of expect that on a KLR as it is an inexpensive bike targeting penny pinchers like myself. I bought it fully expecting to have to do some basic mods for durability offroad. However, if I spend extra money to get a nominally ” offroad rated” package I would expect a lot more.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
9 months ago
Reply to  Staffma

“But you kind of expect that on a KLR as it is an inexpensive bike targeting penny pinchers like myself.”

Like those &$#@ cheap bastards in the Marines and Special Forces!

https://silodrome.com/kawasaki-klr650-diesel/

Staffma
Staffma
9 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

I’d be lying if my long-term goals don’t include a potential diesel swap on the klr!

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
9 months ago
Reply to  Staffma

Those diesel bikes come up on surplus guv’mint auctions sometimes. I hear they’re expensive but it might be cheaper than a DIY conversion.

Edit:

https://www.govdeals.com/?fa=Main.Item&itemid=90&acctid=3237

https://www.bike-urious.com/m1030m1-2009-kawasaki-klr650/

https://www.allsurplus.com/asset/1853/4627

Last edited 9 months ago by Cheap Bastard
Staffma
Staffma
9 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

Quite true, that would be the easy/ right way to get a diesel KLR.

Box Rocket
Box Rocket
9 months ago

Subaru was once a proud brand of quirky capable vehicles that came to be an icon in WRC.

Now they’re largely for adventure cosplay by folks who like to leave their roof racks and cargo boxes – the new toupee of the automotive world – on for their drive to and from the office, and weekends shopping at REI and Dicks and such without going off any beaten path. Gotta be ready for that overnight camping adventure at the drop of a hat, after all.

So, yeah, a decorative sheet-metal “skid plate” to go with all the horrible extra plastic cladding absolutely tracks. If anything kudos to the product planners for making something so abhorrently ugly yet incapable that they keep selling the dumb things.

I look forward to them getting a worse reputation than Nissan soon. Especially with their ongoing widespread CVT failure issues even for those who haven’t put a lift and chunky tires on their poser-mobile.

Ben
Ben
9 months ago
Reply to  Box Rocket

Now they’re largely for adventure cosplay by folks who like to leave their roof racks and cargo boxes

Ugh, pet peeve of mine. If you call yourself an environmentalist (and if you drive a Subaru there’s a better than average chance you do), take off the stupid empty kayak racks that are burning up gas for no reason whatsoever.

IRegertNothing, Esq.
IRegertNothing, Esq.
9 months ago

This is like attaching a winch to the front of your truck by screwing into the radiator supports. The look is there, but you’ll be sorry if you ever try to use it.

SNL-LOL Jr
SNL-LOL Jr
9 months ago

Also see: snorkel kits that extend from the roof down to 3″ below the hood.
More than a handful had flooded their engines in those Rufford Ford YouTube videos.

My Goat Ate My Homework
My Goat Ate My Homework
9 months ago

When the sales rep said “thick enough” do you think they were just being really honest about their customers use of these?

I mean, why would they use heavy, expensive plate steel when nobody buying these cars is actually going to need it? For the <.1% that do there is always the aftermarket. Tin foil over the plastic cover is probably “thick enough”.

Spikedlemon
Spikedlemon
9 months ago

The few people who’ll put on chunky lugs and think about offroading it will likely have upgraded skidplates for all the expensive bits underneath.

For everyone else who might accidentally turn down a gravel road, or a snowy road, this is fine.

Shinynugget
Shinynugget
9 months ago

I used to be a loyal Subaru buyer. I had a GL Wagon 5spd in high school. It was quirky and different from every other car my friends drove. But utterly reliable for an ’80’s car. I loved it. My 3rd favorite Subie I owned.
A Leone Turbo 4WD(w/4Lo) 5Spd when I was stationed in Japan ’90-’94. Awesome, awesome, awesome car in the deep snow of northern Japan! I wish I could have brought it stateside! My 2nd favorite Subie.
My ex-wife drove a 1999 Outback Sedan for 11 years. Her favorite car ever. We sold it to a friend and that car is still running perfectly.
We replaced it with a 2009 Legacy 3.0R. I loved it. My ex hated it and we sold it after 2 years.
After suffering with a CR-V we bought her a 2015 Forrester. Don’t recall the trim level but it had leather and the upgraded stereo. Which was the only thing about that car I liked. The interior materials were cheap, especially the leather seats. The CVT was the single worst transmission I have ever driven. My least favorite Subaru, ever.
My personal favorite was the 2005 Outback Wagon 5spd. Last year you could get a manual with leather interior and a panoramic sunroof. I loved that car. Not just by favorite Subaru I owned, one of my favorite cars of mine ever.
Honestly I think mid-2000’s were when Subaru peaked as a brand. They started to move more mainstream with their offerings and lost some identity. The introduction of the terrible CVT’s meant I would never buy from them again. The Subaru of yesteryear would never have made such a half-ass ‘rugged’ model such as this. Shameful.

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