2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness

INDIANAPOLIS — I did a thing.  A good thing, as it turns out.  After driving the new 2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness at its preview in Michigan, I couldn’t quit thinking about how cool it looked, how capable it was off-road, and how comfortable and practical it would be for my family.  The turbo engine kicked me in the pants.  We owned a 2017 Outback for nearly five years, so my family was well acquainted with the breed.  Turns out, our old car held its value incredibly well.  And now, there’s a new Wilderness edition in our driveway.

Our Ice Silver model with flared fender cladding, black anti-glare hood patch, and anodized copper accents looks sick.  Front and rear facias are protected with edgy black plastic, but are reshaped to improve approach and departure angles off-road.  Hexagonal foglamps are moved inboard for their protection.  Sinister style and legit capability are enhanced by black 17” wheels wearing Yokohama GEOLANDER tires and increased ground clearance from 8.7” to 9.5” — about the same as the Mercedes G-Class.  If I had to choose a second color, it would be the Wilderness brand’s hero color, Geyser Blue.
Much of the interior has the same family-friendly lay-out as other Outbacks, including plenty of space for five, tablet-style touchscreen, and thick leather-wrapped steering wheel.  Seats are big and cushy.  Wilderness flourishes include easy cleaning faux leather upholstery, black headliner to hide scuffs, washable rear seatbacks and copper accents on the steering wheel and shifter.  Safety tech includes pre-collision braking, lane keep assist, blind spot warning, and rear camera.  We got rear auto braking, a power sunroof, and wireless phone charging too.  
Turns out, the Outback Wilderness is the WRX STi of the Outback family, able to out-accelerate my 1989 Corvette with its 2.4-liter turbo boxer engine that kicks out 260 horsepower and 277 lb.-ft. of torque.  A lower final drive ratio, fat tires, and torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive allow the big wagon to run 0-60 mph under six seconds.  I’ll never love continuously variable transmissions, but the torquey engine makes them less annoying.  Fuel economy rates 22/26-MPG city/highway, down a few clicks due to fat tires and taller ride.
We may never use it, but the Dual mode X-Mode system enhances the vehicle’s traction, powertrain, and hill descent control to storm up sloppy hills and creep feet-off down the other side.  I drove the vehicle off-road during the press preview.  It’s seriously legit.  A full spare tire with pressure monitor - identical to the other four - adds confidence.  Comprehensive underbody skid plates are available.  Up top, a sturdier luggage rack holds a static 700 pounds for a roof-mounted tent or other gear.
After a month of driving, we only have a couple of small complaints about the Outback Wilderness.  While the audio system has all kinds of special effects, it is nowhere close to the Touring edition’s sweet Harman Kardon system.  Would have paid for it, but it’s not available.  You also cannot get a heated steering wheel or ventilated seats.  Happy travels so far, but we’re looking for a longer drive to Asheville, NC and back over Labor Day weekend when we can load up and put the turbo through its paces.
Subaru has created something truly special with the Outback Wilderness – even more special than I believe they intended.  In a bid to give hard-core outdoors people an upfitted wagon straight from the factory, they created the equivalent of a family-friendly WRX that can handle almost anything.  The turbo engine, beefy tires, and compliant suspension make it even more enjoyable during family journeys.  They’re a little hard to come by at the moment because of the chip shortage, but the Outback Wilderness starts at a very reasonable $36,995.  All in, we’re looking at $39,965 as tested.

— Casey Williams (MyCarData)