Automobile

Subaru Wilds Out with the 2022 Outback Wilderness

As if the brand voted best in the world by Mossy Redwood Quarterly needed to print it on its cars, Wilderness is going to be a reoccurring name in new Subaru models. The 2022 Outback Wilderness is the first out the door. The Subaru Outback was already a popular choice for outdoorsy types who weren’t into hardcore rock-crawling, and the Wilderness package incorporates changes that Outback owners were already making to their cars to make them more off-road capable—such as lift kits and all-terrain tires—as well as details to make the tall wagon easier to live with back at the campground, including a washable rear seatback and a hatch-mounted cargo light. The result looks like a Subaru Outback that spent six months in the gym. It’s wider, tougher, and standing taller but still a comfortable, pliable ride with plenty of station-wagon utility.

Spicing up the Outback was an easy task because the basic recipe was already a winner. Who doesn’t like a chunky hatchback? Subaru just took what was already good about the Outback and added more of it. More cladding, more ride height, and more features specifically intended for outdoor activities. External changes might not be obvious to non-Subie fans, but current Outback owners will notice how the Wilderness tucks the corners of the front fascia for better cliffside clearance and extends the plastic cladding up the nose and above the wheel wells to lessen the likelihood of shrub-related scratching. Everything chrome on the standard Outback is satin black on the Wilderness, and important action points, such as tow-hook anchors and roof-rail tiedowns, are a bright anodized copper, giving the Wilderness a pirate’s saucy gold-tooth grin. “Avast, mateys, I’ve come to haul your canoe.” With a tow rating of 3500 pounds, the Wilderness could actually tow a good-sized boat, and the redesigned roof rack can haul up to 220 pounds in motion and support 700 pounds while standing still. Conveniently, that means it can not only carry bikes or kayaks but could also hold a rooftop tent—just not an occupied rooftop tent.

We haven’t had a chance to sleep atop the Wilderness, but we did get it dirty. It can’t steamroller its way over obstacles like a Jeep Wrangler, but it climbed some steep, shaley hills with all-wheel-drive aplomb. The Outback’s off-road X-Mode has two options: a Snow/Dirt mode that minimizes wheelspin to climb slippery hills or slick driveways and a Deep Snow/Mud mode that allows more wheelspin to keep the car from getting bogged down. X-Mode also recognizes a downhill slope and automatically controls vehicle speed based on braking input, down to around 5 mph on a loose surface. Along with sending us up and down sandy hills, Subaru had arranged a cairn of intimidating boulders, which we clambered over to demonstrate the Wilderness’s goatlike agility and improved approach, breakover, and departure angles. Where the regular Outback would stuff its nose or drag its belly, the Wilderness cleared. To achieve the underside space, Subaru increased ground clearance to 9.5 inches, 0.8 inch more than the standard Outback. Taller springs also allow more compression travel, and the redesigned front and rear bumpers make a more forgiving hill climber. The end result is a 20.0-degree approach angle, a 21.2-degree breakover, and 23.6 degrees before you scrape the back bumper. It’s not going to take a King of the Hammers trophy home, but you’ll never meet a speed bump you need to brake for. If you don’t tend to measure the angles of local obstacles—or fail to notice them, even with the help of the front-mounted 180-degree camera—you can add some optional underbody armor to minimize the repercussions of miscalculations.

Under the hood, the Wilderness comes standard with the turbocharged 2.4-liter flat-four making 260 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque. It’s backed by a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), which does its best to pretend to be an eight-speed but can’t always maintain the illusion. On steep hills or leaving a stoplight, it does more of an impression of stepped-on chewing gum—streeeeeatch, and there we go, we’re moving now. The CVT does its job just not with any joy. There’s a similar dullness in the steering, and the tall sidewalls on the 225/65R-17 Yokohama Geolander A/T tires mean the on-pavement ride is on the squishy side. This last observation is not a complaint. Not everything needs to be a high-strung thoroughbred, and what you give up in high-speed cornering you can enjoy in cushioned ride comfort. Oh, by the way, if you pop one of those Geolanders on the trail or the highway, there’s a full-size spare on a matched alloy wheel, complete with tire-pressure monitor, under the cargo area in the back.

The interior of the Wilderness is attractive in a sensible way. The layout is ergonomically friendly, and the 11.6-inch touchscreen is mounted vertically, so it’s all within reach of the driver. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard, as is Subaru’s full suite of driver’s aids. There are a few options available, including a sunroof and reverse automatic braking, but the Wilderness comes pretty loaded even in its unoptioned form. The seats are covered in non-leather, water-resistant material, and the patterning and colors repeat the honeycomb of the grille and the copper of the exterior accents. With wet dogs and muddy gear in mind, Subaru’s designers kept the headliner dark to hide scuffs, and the cargo area and that washable seatback is also waterproof. There’s lots of room in the back seat and behind it. The rear seats are comfortable, with a folding rear armrest, USB ports, and optional seat heaters, perfect for getting cozy after someone has the bright idea to camp in the freezing cold desert over New Year’s Eve. Not speaking from experience or anything.

While the Subaru Outback Wilderness can’t keep you from making bad decisions about when and where to venture, it can get you there and back in comfort. With a starting price of $38,120, it’s one of the more expensive Outback models, but there’s also a subtle flex to off-roading in a unibody wagon rather than the more traditional 4×4. Over the years, the Subaru Outback has certainly startled many a knobby-tired SUV driver by appearing on a trail long past the closest paved road, and the 2022 Outback Wilderness makes it that much easier to pick your way past the pavement.

Specifications

Specifications

2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness

VEHICLE TYPE

front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door wagon

BASE PRICE

$38,120

ENGINE TYPE

turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve flat-4, aluminum block and heads, direct fuel injection
Displacement

146 in3, 2387 cm3
Power

260 hp @ 5600 rpm
Torque

277 lb-ft @ 2000 rpm

TRANSMISSION

continuously variable automatic

DIMENSIONS

Wheelbase: 108.1 in

Length: 191.3 in

Width: 74.6 in

Height: 66.9 in

Passenger volume: 103–107 ft3

Cargo volume: 33 ft3

Curb weight (C/D est): 3900 lb

PERFORMANCE (C/D EST)

60 mph: 6.3 sec

1/4 mile: 14.8 sec

Top speed: 130 mph

EPA FUEL ECONOMY

Combined/city/highway: 24/22/26 mpg

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