Subaru Forester — Now with more off-road capability

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

(December 19, 2021) It seems every manufacturer has created a special trim level with a robust off-road look for their SUV lineup. Some of the special editions are for show only with exterior bits and pieces such as larger tires and body side moldings giving the vehicle additional driveway panache. There's nothing underneath the skin to back up the trail-rated looks. But other manufacturers are giving their vehicles not only a hardcore persona, but are backing it up with off-road equipment for "overlanding" duties that can take the occupants beyond the rutted fishing-hole road.

That's the direction Subaru has taken for its mid-sized Outback and compact Forester. Buyers who want an extra measure of off-road ability — "adventure ready" according to Subaru — should check out the Wilderness edition, new for the 2022 model year.

As applied to the Forester, the Wilderness trim level talks the talk and walks the walk. Compared to its siblings, it sits a half-inch higher atop its four-wheel independent suspension thanks to longer dampers and taller springs resulting in a healthy 9.2 inches of minimum ground clearance — and an improved break-over angle of 21 degrees.

Since the Forester isn't as long as an Outback, the jacked-up stance has shorter front and rear overhangs to produce more favorable approach and departure angles of 23.5 and 25.4 degrees, respectively. It's also 2.4 inches narrower than the Outback, so it's more compatible with brush-lined trails.

The Forester first appeared in 1998 as a high-riding station wagon with all-wheel drive. Since then Subaru has taken the Forester to a new level of sophistication with excellent driving dynamics, all-weather capability, great sight lines, comfortable seats, and a quiet interior. It imparts an all-around good feeling not only for the driver, but for passengers as well.

It has been and continues to be a practical and comfortable vehicle that is affordable to most people desiring new transportation.

The current iteration of the Forester was introduced in 2019, and for 2022 it has been refreshed with a bolder new look including a redesigned front fascia, grille, headlights and fog light covers, with each change element varying to match the character of each trim level. The Forester also gets upgraded roof rails that can support more weight, and increased maximum towing capacity to 3,000 pounds.

The EyeSight suite of driver-assistance features has upgraded camera sensors, which increases the system's field of view, and introduces a new Automatic Emergency Steering system. And all models come with a revised Subaru Intelligent Drive (SI-Drive) torque-vectoring system, an electronic parking brake with auto-hold, and an auto start-stop feature. Unfortunately, blindspot warning with cross-traffic alert is optional on the lower trims. We believe that feature is extremely important and should be standard across the lineup.

With the addition of the Wilderness model the Forester comes in six trim levels — Base, Premium, Sport, Wilderness, Limited and Touring starting at $26,320. To Subaru's credit, it has made the Base version livable with considerable standard equipment. We recommend moving up to the Premium version at $29,320, which comes with most of the stuff people desire in their everyday transportation.

All Foresters get the 2.5-liter flat four-cylinder engine that has graced the vehicle — in some form — throughout its history, growing in horsepower and torque over the years. It started out 25 years ago with 165 horsepower and now comes with 182 horsepower at 5,800 rpm and 176 pound-feet of torque at 4,400 rpm mated to a continuously variable transmission. The engine gets the job done, measured at 8.5 seconds from 0-to-60, but we wish Subaru would offer a larger powerplant an an option. It would elevate the very good crossover to the top of its segment.

Ironically, Subaru once offered a more potent turbocharged 2.0-liter engine making 250 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, but it was discontinued with the current generation in 2019.

Gas mileage is decent considering all Foresters come with all-wheel drive, EPA-measured at 26 mph city, 33 highway and 29 combined. For those who opt for the Wilderness trim such as our test car, mileage will be slightly less at 25/28/26.

One of the highlights of the Forester is its passenger and cargo space. It has scads of rear-seat legroom, which has become important to us who most weeks carry four adult passengers to dinner. It's gratifying to make the back-seaters comfortable. At the same time, there's a generous 26.9 cubic feet of cargo space behind the seats. With the rear seatbacks folded cargo space increases to 69.1 cubic feet.

While we very much liked the Wilderness trim, especially the macho way it looked sitting in the driveway, we would probably opt for the Limited trim starting at $33,000. The Wilderness starts around $34,000 and our test vehicle, which included a couple of options, carried a bottom line of $36,000.

Edmunds says in this unprecedented time of vehicle shortages because of the microchip crisis expect to pay slightly over sticker price — if you can even find the Forester you want.

2022 Subaru Forester Wilderness


Base price: $33,945; as driven, $36,000
Engine: 2.5-liter flat 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 182 @ 5,800 rpm
Torque: 176 pound-feet @ 4,400 rpm
Transmission: continuously variable
Drive: four wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 104.9 inches
Length: 182.7 inches
Cub weight: 3,620 pounds
Luggage capacity: 26.9 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 69.1 cubic feet
Towing capacity: 3,000 pounds
Fuel capacity: 16.6 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 25 city, 28 highway, 26 combined
0-60: 8.5 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Jeep Cherokee, Ford Bronco Sport, Hyundai Tucson

The Good
• Hot looks with black wheels
• Standard all-wheel drive
• High level of safety equipment
• Off-road ready

The Bad
• We prefer standard transmission over CVT

The Ugly
• Rather weak 4-cylinder engine