2022 Forester Wilderness

BEND, Ore. — I’ve been driving for hours, slogging supposed roads that are more like rock-strew moonscapes with moguls that sometimes leave only three wheels touching earth.  The scenery is heavenly though, with snow-capped peaks dotting the distance and vast prairies of pine trees between.  I’m in Bend, Oregon driving the 2022 Forester Wilderness — the latest of a growing family of Subarus for adventure-getters.

As with the Outback Wilderness that was launched earlier this year, and that I quickly purchased for my own family, the Forester Wilderness is aimed at outdoor enthusiasts who don’t need to crawl up canyons in Moab, but want a more capable ride to the campsite or trailhead while still riding comfortably on city streets and kicking the kids out at school. The Forester Wilderness can do it.

An Angrier Critter

There’s no doubt I’m dealing with an angrier critter as I walk up to the Forester Wilderness on the lawn at our ranch basecamp.  Especially in lighter colors like silver or white, or even in signature Geyser Blue, accentuated black cladding around the wheels, lower body and covering shaved bumpers for improved approach/departure angles serve purpose.  The hood’s black anti-glare patch, 17” black alloy wheels wrapped in Geolander all-terrain tires, and anodized copper accents that highlight attachment points add style and function.  

Sipping a cup of coffee, I notice other details.  There’s a new 180-degree camera in the nose for peering around trails (or around parked cars while leaving downtown driveways).  The Forester Wilderness sits a half-inch taller for improved ground clearance; roof racks have been upgraded to hold a three-man tent of up to 800 pounds when parked.  Front skid plates are standard, but full protection is available from the dealer.  

Customers inspired other upgrades.  Popping the power hatch exposes a cargo compartment protected with rubber flooring and seatbacks to repel dirt and water from camping gear, mountain bikes, or surfing wetsuits.  An LED light was placed on the liftgate to illuminate the back off the vehicle when loading at the end of a long day.  And, if one of those rocks had punctured a tire, I would have pulled out the full-size spare on an identical black wheel, constantly watched by a tire pressure monitor.  I would have gotten home.

Long Travel Comfort

Moving up front, the gray StarTex vegan leather seats looks expensive, feels comfortable, and wipe clean.  Alloy pedals, Harman Kardon audio, and an extended-length sunroof add luxuries while automatic climate control, heated front seats, actual knobs for volume/tuning, and Apple/Android connectivity ease driving.  Engineers even recalibrated the twin-camera EyeSight crash avoidance system for the Forester’s amped ground clearance.

Unlike my Outback Wilderness, the Forester goes sans turbo.  With a standard 2.5-liter flat-four delivering 182 horsepower, it doesn’t really need a turbo, but the unholy acceleration from my own Outback makes me want one anyway.  Fully stomped, the Forester lacks vigor, but around town, easygoing.  The continuously-variable transmission was recalibrated with a lower ratio for off-roading and peaceful highway cruising.  For you with RVs and boats, towing capacity was doubled to 3,000 lbs.  Drive gently to see 25/28-MPG city/hwy.  I don’t.

Our hosts chose a combination of pavement, gravel roads, and near impassible trails for our Oregon adventure.  The updated suspension certainly clears obstacles better, but also reduces lean through fast corners and better absorbs potholed city streets.  At several points, the X-Mode system, with settings for Snow/Mud that allow more wheel slippage, simply shifts torque around without me noticing.  Over mounds of mud with only three wheels touching, power shifts and I keep moving.  There’s more road noise and suspension harshness than in the Outback Wilderness, but the Forester Wilderness costs thousands less.

Final Analysis

The Forester Wilderness makes a lot of sense for owners.  Nearly 25% of Forester drivers camp and more than 33% carry bikes.  Subaru is second only to Jeep for people who want an off-road vehicle that will actually be used off-road.  In the end, Subaru delivered their mission of a “well-rounded vehicle with superior off-road capability”.  It’s not just a look.  No posing.

By the end of the drive, I’m ready to hug the necks of Subaru’s P.R. team for subjecting my cohort to a bladder bending slog in a tarted up crossover, but they know what they’re doing.  The Forester Wilderness is livable in daily adventures while still taking you to the weekend ones.  I think most will find it offers fair value with prices starting at $32,820.

— Casey Williams (MyCarData)