Both The Volkswagen Taos And Subaru Crosstrek Struggle Off-Road, But Which One Does Better Up Tombstone Hill?

You have to temper your expectations if you plan on off-roading either of these crossovers

Subaru Crosstrek vs Volkswagen Taos Off-Road
Both the Subaru Crosstrek and Volkswagen Taos are entry-level models in their respective lineups, but which one handles the rough terrain better? (Image: TFLcar)

The Subaru Crosstrek and Volkswagen Taos also take on TFL’s slip test.

If you’re looking at a small all-wheel drive crossover for somewhere in the mid-$20,000 range, your range of choices just expanded with the 2022 Volkswagen Taos. It’s a class where the German automaker’s been absent in the U.S. market, but now this sub-Tiguan model looks to take on established players like the Subaru Crosstrek. Of course, Subaru has a renowned reputation for building all-wheel drive cars, so we thought our brand new Crosstrek a solid comparison to see just what sort of capability you can expect if you’re shopping in this part of the market.

Here’s a hint before you dig into the video below: Serious off-road SUVs these are not. Both the latest Subaru Crosstrek and Volkswagen Taos try to thread the needle between accommodating an active, outdoorsy lifestyle and still achieving decent fuel efficiency at a relatively low cost. That said, check out how Roman and Tommy managed taking them up the “truth” and “dare” sides of Tombstone Hill.

Crosstrek vs. Taos: How do they compare on paper?

Depending on how you want to slice it, both the newest Volkswagen Taos and Subaru Crosstrek bring their own strengths (and weaknesses) to the table. While both have all-wheel drive — you can get the Volkswagen with front-wheel drive, if you want better efficiency — the Subaru Crosstrek packs 8.7 inches of ground clearance. That makes it one of the best small crossovers on the market, if you’re looking to head off the beaten track. VW’s small crossover, on the other hand, tops out at an unremarkable 6.6 inches.

On the power front, the Taos clearly wins thanks to its turbocharged 1.5-liter engine. Forced induction helps the four-cylinder mill hit 158 horsepower and a decent 184 lb-ft of torque. Contrast that with Subaru’s offering, where the base 2.0-liter manages just 152 horsepower and 145 lb-ft of torque. Mind you, inflate the budget a bit and you can get a more powerful 2.5-liter option that puts out 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft of torque. Either way, Subaru yokes its boxer engines to a continuously variable transmission. Stick with Volkswagen’s small crossover, and you get a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic with the all-wheel drive models. The front-wheel drive models, though, sport an 8-speed automatic instead, but then you really have to sacrifice off-road capability.

Tech-wise, both cars are fairly comparable depending on how you spec them. But if you’re looking to split the two on capability both on Tombstone Hill and TFL’s slip test, see the results below: