The Outback is a huge success for Subaru, and extremely well-loved among the Subie faithful. And those faithful come in all types too, from those who want something just a little more confident in snow and slick weather to serious off-roaders and outlanders willing to travel the edges of the earth, paved or unpaved.
For those go out-there and get-em types, it’s quite common to see an Outback riding around on a raised suspension with blacked out wheels, protective cladding, and racks capable carrying some serious gear. So, Subaru thought, why let the aftermarket have all the fun? Let’s build one of these extrovert models ourselves.
Welcome to the Outback Wilderness Edition. The Wilderness label will find itself on other models, (the Forester Wilderness was just introduced) but the ‘Back is at the front of the line, so let’s take a look at this rugged big guy.
It’s a Rugged Big Guy
Subaru says the Wilderness is the most rugged and capable Outback in history, and we believe it. From the front, there’s an all-new bumper, hexagonal front grille, and cool hex-designed fog lights. Look on the hood and you’ll find a matte black anti-glare hood decal, peek below and you’ll see a protective skid plate. Anodized copper finishes give some bling for those who don’t thing chrome is the way to go. Mean and capable from the start.
Swing around the side, and the first thing that hits you is the ride height. The Wilderness sits tall in the saddle, with a full 9.5 inches of ground clearance – nearly an inch above other siblings. The extra height is accentuated by larger wheel arch claddings, and finishes the look with new 17-inch, matte black off-road alloys wrapped in all-terrain Yokohoma GEOLANDAR tires. Showing serious intent, a full-size spare is located below the cargo area.
Look up, and you’ll see a unique fixed-ladder type roof rack, capable of handling 200 lbs. in motion and 700 lbs. when parked – perfect for one of those cool overlanding tents! And in case your neighbors weren’t sure which model you went for, a large Subaru Wilderness badge (which really does look like a great label for a beer bottle) adorns the door panel below the outside mirrors.
Out back of the Outback (ok, it’s a dad joke), is restyled rear bumper, and like the front, it has been reshaped to offer more clearance, enhancing approach and departure angles – a nice plus for serious off roading. Another Subaru Wilderness badge, and some bronze accents round out a tough, cohesive look.
The perfect finishing touch, our Wilder-beast (Dad joke #2) was finished in a gorgeous Geyser Blue, a color Subaru says was inspired by the brand’s rally heritage and scenery found in the U.S. National Parks. It’s obvious this is no paint and sticker job – the company put some serious thought in the new model.
Your Cabin in the Wilderness
Inside, the changes are more subtle, but still add up to a special vehicle. Open the door and it’s typical Outback, spacious, sensible, and comfortable. You won’t find leather here, instead getting Subaru’s StarTex water repellant material. Soft touch materials provide an upscale vibe. Adding a touch of bling, the Wilderness logo is embossed in the headrests, while Anodized Copper finish accents are used on the steering wheel, shifter assembly and on the meter rings.
Those meters are big, easy to read analog gauges, while the center stack is a massive vertical 11.6-inch multi-media navigation touchscreen. Everything is handy, but you do have to fish around on the screen to find specific items, at least at first.
After driving the Hyundai Tucson recently with a pushbutton transmission, which also lacked volume and tuning knobs, the Outback was a breath of fresh air with a nicely sized shift lever and basic controls for the everyday stuff. Yay.
The front seats are super-comfortable, and the tall seating position gives SUV-type comfort without having to resort to an SUV. Rear seats are adult friendly as well, with loads of legroom, and there’s plenty of cargo space behind them.
Like the exterior, it’s clear that Subaru gave some thought about how off-roaders will use the vehicle, so you’ll find a darker headliner that’s less likely to show dirt, and gunmetal grey trim instead of chrome on places that get a lot of fingerprints, like cupholders and vent grilles.
When the going gets wet and muddy, you’ll appreciate standard all-weather floor mats with Wilderness logo, plus a rear seatback wrapped in waterproof material, as well as a waterproof rear cargo tray. It’s begging you to go out there and have fun!
Go Out There and Have Fun
Driving the Wilderness is a joy on-road and off. Under the hood is the familiar 2.4-liter turbo, pumping out 260 horsepower, and 277 lb.-ft. of torque at just 2,000 rpm. Transferring that power is Subie’s Lineartronic CVT, which as far as CVTs go, is a good one, and it will imitate an 8-speed automatic in manual mode.
With a large engine and lots of power, you appreciate the CVT’s smoothness. Because of the added weight and running gear changes, the final drive ratio has been adjusted for better go, and the Wilderness goes quite quickly, with 0-60 in under 6 seconds. Subaru says it also helps the Wilderness climb grades up to 40 percent on a gravel surface.
All this, and fuel efficiency is only 1 mpg less than other Outbacks at 22 City/26 Highway MPG, it’s a win-win in the powertrain department. Towing capacity is a stout 3,500 lbs. as well.
That 9.5-inch ground clearance is best in class and is also a win-win. On the road, it provides a pillowy soft ride that will have you fearing no speed bump, while off road, combined with extended approach, departure and breakover angles you have an easier go on rough terrain.
Those who travel far from the paved will appreciate the standard dual-function X-MODE, with Snow/Dirt and Deep Snow/Mud modes. A new advanced feature for the Wilderness, X-MODE allows the vehicle to switch automatically from low-speed managed driving to speeds over 25 mph without interruption of power or performance. Like we said – Subaru really thought about everything!
To make sure you have confidence in the everyday as well, the Outback Wilderness also features award-winning EyeSight Driver Assist Technology, which we think is one of the best – it is flawlessly integrated into the driving experience, and a pleasure to use.
How Much to Get Away to the Wilderness?
It seems like most people who want an Outback, already have made their minds up – and we can’t blame them, it’s one of our favorite adventure vehicles. But you will have to decide how much you want to spend. The base Outback starts at $26,495, and with standard AWD, EyeSight Driver Assist Tech, and goodies like roof rails, it could be all the Subie you could ever want.
The Wilderness is at the other end of the spectrum, starting at $36,995 – only the Limited XT and Touring XT ($37,995 and $39,945) – cost more. But the Wilderness is a specialty model, and there’s loads of features that you can’t get on other Outbacks, so it is a special case.
Our tester had one option package that added a panoramic moonroof, multimedia display with Navigation and Reverse Automatic Braking, all for a reasonable $1,845. Adding in $1,125 for destination, and we just snuck under the $40k mark at $39,965.
For competitors, you might consider a Jeep Wrangler, but a well-optioned Rubicon easily scoots past $50,000. It’s probably more capable in an ultimate off-road sense, but the Outback would be much more livable. The most likely competition will probably be from the Subaru Forester Wilderness that’s coming out soon. A bit physically smaller, it’s also about $4k less expensive, as well. We’re looking forward to a full road test soon.
The all-new 2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness Edition takes you further with rugged looks, added capability, and excellent value!
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.