We recently tested the Subaru Outback Wilderness and loved the added capability and looks that the manufacturer gave its popular SUV/Wagon – doing what many owners have been doing for a while but giving it the factory goodness to raise it all to a new level.
So, it only makes sense that Subie did the same idea to the popular Forester – so is it equally successful, even more successful, or maybe a marketing flop? Let’s take a look!
The Wild Blue
The Forester Wilderness makes a strong first impression, thanks to our tester’s available exclusive Geyser Blue paint. It’s the same color our Outback was, and it’s equally as eye catching here.
Up front, there’s an exclusive Wilderness grille and front bumper that look meaty and tough, and we love the hexagon design fogs set low in the intakes. As your eyes travel up, you’ll see an anti-glare hood decal in matte black on the hood. Serious.
The profile looks even more mission ready, and you instantly see the tall stance from the 9.2-inch ground clearance (.5 inches higher than other models), and large black wheel arches and side cladding. 17-inch matte finish alloys with raised white letter Yokohama GEOLANDER all-terrain tires say this is no garden variety Forester.
If that’s not enough, the bold Wilderness badge on the front door and anodized copper accents on the roof rail add some visual bling. That rack isn’t just for show, by the way. With 220 lb. dynamic and 800-lb. static load capability, it’s perfect for one of those very cool overlanding tents.
The rear is more subtle, but features a unique bumper, Wilderness badging, and the taller stance is obvious. This is one capable looking vehicle!
Inside, the Forester is designed for hard work and play. Most of it is standard Forester, with comfortable upright seating, clear analog gauges and large controls easy to be operated, even with gloves on.
The seating materials is StarTex (faux leather) with a honeycomb design that’s water resistant and looks up for the long haul. Wilderness logos on the front headrests make it feel a bit more special. Other Wilderness goodies include Anodized Copper-finish stitching and accents, gunmetal gray touchpoints, sporty brushed aluminum pedals and a black headliner. Wilderness logo floor mats finish up the bespoke interior.
Those in back also enjoy the tall upright seating position, and folding the rear seats gives a huge cargo hold. The one-touch folding seatback is great when your hands are full. Interestingly, the Forester comes in at 74.2 cubic inches of cargo space, while the Outback squeezes a hair more, at 75.7. The difference is the Forester’s height gives you more room for upright items, while Outback’s added space is more in the horizontal direction. So, if you carry a lot, best to check and see which works for you.
The center stack features a nicely-sized 8.0-inch info-tainment display, with thankfully both volume and tuning knobs. Above is another smaller multi-function display, which is very handy when using the Subie Eyesight system with cool graphics for adaptive cruise control and lane correction. A nice touch on the Wilderness models, tap a button, and the screen becomes a forward-looking camera display – designed for off-roading, but equally useful in tight parking spots.
Into The Wilderness
So, the real question is what kind of off-roading upgrade do I get? Again, look to the Outback and you’ll find much the same here.
That’s a good thing, since we were mightily impressed that Subaru went to the trouble of making Wilderness models more than just a cosmetic upgrade – capability gets a level up as well. Under the hood is the familiar 2.5-liter, flat-four “boxer” engine, with 182 horsepower and 176 lb.-ft of torque. This is unchanged from other Foresters and is a tried and trusted workhorse.
While the CVT automatic transmission remains, it’s had some tuning, now featuring an 8-speed manual shift mode (other Foresters have only 7 speeds) which is probably to give some help pushing around those bigger wheels and tires.
Add in a shorter final gear ratio, and the Wilder-beast is more than peppy around town, and if you nudge it into S mode the CVT holds the rpms higher, shifts more quickly and gives a sportier experience. Subaru even added a cooler to the CVT that doubles the Wilderness’ towing capacity to 3,000 lbs. Useful stuff.
By using exclusive coil springs the Wilderness gets that raised 9.2-inch ground clearance we mentioned, and combined with the redesigned front and rear bumpers, you get enhanced approach and departure angles – definitely useful when you get into the more serious off-road conditions. Exclusive Dual-mode X mode also enhances off-road capability.
While you might wonder if this makes the Forester tall, wobbly, or soft, no worries – it has the same confidence you find in all the models. The ride is excellent and the suspension that can soak up the rough stuff serves up a creamy smooth ride on the pavement, and we were also impressed with how quiet the Wilderness was on the superslab.
It’s also plenty of fun to toss around twisty roads and the daily commute. In fact, around town, we prefer the Forester’s tight dimensions over the Outback, which feels much larger. Yes, the 260-horse turbo of the Outback makes it notably quicker, but in Urban environments, we’d go with the Forester – and the tall, upright seating position gives great visibility, on-road or off.
Should I Answer the Call of the Wild?
Absolutely! Let’s run the numbers. You can get into a basic Forester for just $25,195. For an AWD all-season runabout, with that great Subie vibe, it’s a bargain. At the other end of the spectrum is the Forester Touring, which loaded to the gills, starts at $35,295. We like that Subaru showed some restraint in the Wilderness pricing, starting at $32,820. Add in an Engine Under Guard ($220) and Destination ($1,125) and we rang the bell at $34,165.
You can see one reason to opt for the Forester for your Wilderness needs – Our Outback Wilderness rang the bell at $39,965, a significant upgrade in power, to be sure, but also in price.
Other competitors would include the Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road, comparably equipped it comes in at a gulp-inducing $39,960. Ouch. The Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk would be a solid competitor, and probably more capable off-road, but at a comparable $42,965, you could get an awful lot of Overlanding gear in your Forester and still be thousands ahead!
The 2022 Forester Wilderness is a great combination of looks, off-road capability, and the Subaru vibe we’ve come to love. A great all-around SUV at a great price!
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.