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Is the Subaru Crosstrek More Capable than a Land Rover Defender?

Subaru vehicles, in general, are renowned for their undeniable capability, thanks to their formidable all-wheel-drive system. As the models seemingly get better and bigger every year, it can be a no-brainer to want to compare them to other off-road type vehicles. And while it might not seem fair to compare a car as small at the Subaru Crosstrek to something like a Jeep Wrangler, the folks over at Subaru UK went ahead and did it anyway, although, instead of a Wrangler, they used a much larger Land Rover Defender.

Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive

Subaru’s all-wheel-drive system is called “symmetrical” because the engine is longitudinally mounted and the transmission connects to the driveshaft, which runs down the middle of the car and symmetrically divides up the axles. It’s technically just a marketing term, but the real beauty of the brand’s all-wheel-drive system is that the power can be evenly distributed between the front and rear wheels, like a 50/50 split or an 80/20 split, in order to give the car the best traction.

This helps the Crosstrek considerably since the car is only powered by a 152-horsepower engine. However, with the all-wheel-drive system providing the wheels with traction and decreasing power to the wheels that don’t, the Crosstrek is able to traverse uneven pavement very well. Additionally, the Crosstrek’s 8.7 inches of ground clearance makes going up and down steep features much easier.

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2020 Subaru Crosstrek Premium
2020 Subaru Crosstrek Premium | Subaru

Land Rover Defender’s all-wheel-drive system

As you can imagine, the Land Rover Defender has far more ground clearance and more power and torque than the Crosstrek, which leads us to believe that it will do well in any off-road situation. That’s may very well be the case as the Defender has a whopping 11.5 inches of ground clearance along with permanent all-wheel drive, locking differentials, and a two-speed transfer case.

The face-off

As far as the faceoff that Subaru UK conducted between the Subaru Crosstrek and the Land Rover Defender, it seems that their main intention was to showcase the benefits of the Subaru’s all-wheel-drive system. However, it was quite impressive nonetheless:

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The face-off between the two cars consisted of a series of simulated off-road tests using logs, stairs, and other jagged rock features. It also included elevation changes to showcase the ground clearance and approach/departure angles that the two cars were subjected to. As we can see in the video, the Subaru Crosstrek did surprisingly well and even was able to climb up the obstacle with the steps without any wheel slippage.

The Land Rover, on the other hand, did slip the front wheel on the same obstacle, which goes to show that the Subaru’s intelligent way of sending power to the wheels with the most traction aids in getting the car up seamlessly.

Even on the uneven pavement and severely graded and banked right turn, the Subaru held it’s composure as it graciously went up on three wheels during the steep turn and powered right through. The video then highlighted that the Land Rover’s ride quality was noticeably unsettled when going over the jagged terrain portion of the course while the Subaru’s ride was much smoother.

A Land Rover driving through a puddle
A Land Rover Driving Through Puddles | National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

Real-world situations may not apply

We are fully aware that in a real-world off-road test between these two cars, where slippery and dusty roads would prove much more of a challenge, it’s more likely that the Subaru Crosstrek would have a much harder time. However, we can’t deny that the tests they conducted were a pretty fair comparison and it the way that the Subaru performed was very impressive.