Well, here is our new 2019 Subaru Crosstrek with a 6-speed manual transmission, STI strut tower brace, and STI alloy wheels.
Having owned a Jeep Wrangler for many years, I thought that I would always be a Jeep owner. Unfortunately, about a year ago, my 2003 TJ (red, with a soft top and half doors) finally became too rusted to save. Our years in Vermont, with their heavily salted roads, left the vehicle with practically no weldable metal left on the frame. Originally, I planned to replace it with another Jeep, but situations change.
The Jeep, and 1989 Isuzu Amigo before it, were great for any rugged terrain that we attempted – and that was a lot of fun. As we age, however, most of our off-road adventures will likely be confined to rutted gravel roads, which can be handled just fine in the Crosstrek. There are also a lot of accessories available for the Crosstrek for hauling kayaks, bicycles, and a canoe. That was a big plus.
Another motive for switching from Jeep to Subaru was our adopting two new dogs. Savannah and Zephyr are a lot more rambunctious than my old buddy Toby. They need more interior space and secure containment than a soft-top Jeep could offer.
We looked at a lot of SUVs and were disappointed at many of the AWD systems offered. Most of them are FWD biased. I have had some bad experiences with FWD cars on slick roads. The Subaru symmetrical AWD system in the Crosstrek is 50/50 front/rear biased if you get the manual transmission, which we prefer anyway (the CVT is 60/40 front/rear biased).
Getting the manual transmission was not an easy feat. Our local dealer only had Crosstreks with CVTs, so the salesman searched the inventory of all Subaru dealers within about 1,000 mi. of Florida. There were only three, and those dealers did not want to part with them. Subaru, like many other car manufacturers, claims that manual transmissions do not sell well in the USA, but try to find one.
As mentioned earlier, the options that we ordered for the Crosstrek were the STI strut tower brace and STI alloy wheels. After seeing several videos, I became sold on the Subaru STI strut tower brace. It significantly reduces body roll. The STI alloy wheels just look good. They are mounted with Yokohama P225/60R17 all-season tires, which aren’t really ideal for off-road travel, but they will do for now. In the future, if we have off-road performance issues, I may have a lift kit installed to accommodate more aggressive tires, but the 8.7 in. clearance and stock tire setup seem all right for the near future.
Anyway, I will post a more in-depth review after putting a few miles on the Crosstrek. In about three months we are heading to the Smoky Mountains for some backroad adventures, which should give me a good feel for the vehicle.