This whole Wilderness thing is perhaps the smartest idea Subaru has ever had. It just makes too much sense; an all-wheel drive, outdoorsy brand with dogs in every commercial is perfectly suited for something more rugged.
Now, I tested the Outback Wilderness last year and loved everything about it BUT the way the CVT dragged it down on country roads. And next up is the Forester Wilderness; another cool looking creation meant to go farther.
It’s Subaru’s best-selling model and their owners love them but let’s be honest; it’s never been a looker. Dorky is the descriptor that always comes to my mind but this Wilderness model is a game changer for Forester, taking it in a completely more appealing direction.
Now, Subaru could have done a Fugazy LL Bean Edition wheel and sticker job here but no; this is a real deal off-road upgrade: more ground clearance and thus better trail-tackling metrics, specially tuned suspension components to compensate for the vehicle’s added height, all-terrain Yokohama 17” tires, a deep snow and mud driving mode that can work at higher speeds than in other Foresters,
a transmission with an 8th gear, if you will, for the paddle-shifted manual mode and that also automatically detects steep gradients and locks into lower gearing to get the power to the ground, 3,000 pounds towing capacity – double that of the other models and a roof that can support an additional 100 pounds for things like a tent.
This one is also equipped with an optional aluminum under guard for the engine and it’s the only way to get this sharp Geyser Blue paint. It looks amazing and the copper finish accents and Wilderness logos are appropriately sprinkled inside and out to give it a special feel.
I’ve never been a big fan of Subaru’s cabin designs but this here works beautifully. From the chunky mats to the water resistant upholstery to the front view camera, it’s so well-conceived and executed that it makes me want one and I’m not sure I’ve felt that way about any of Subaru’s mainstream products.
The windshield is huge for easy viewing, the electronics integrate quite well and the Harman Kardon sound system punches hard. For $36,000 this feels like a bargain.
And the Wilderness isn’t even the highest trim level – the Limited and Touring are situated above it. But it’s really well equipped with this tester benefiting from the Wilderness’s only optional package; a $1,850 grouping that adds the Starlink infotainment system with built in navigation, the aforementioned 9-speaker sound system and a power rear gate. It’s a really ideal SUV for your rugged aspirations; big on the inside but with a trail-friendly footprint, the Forester Wilderness is a gem that doesn’t come with the nagging CVT issues of the Outback Wilderness.
So it’s evident to me now; it’s the turbo/CVT pairing that kills the drive as is the case in the Outback Wilderness because this 2.5-liter engine works much better with the CVT making it immeasurably more enjoyable climbing hills and driving through the mountain passes. So that being said this is the Wilderness model I would want…it’s expertly designed and so smart for Subaru. Its off-road chops are legit, its on-road ride is as smooth as butter and I love the attention to detail that gives this Forester its own distinct personality.
182 horsepower and 176 pound-feet of torque aren’t going to blow you away yet present as adequately fortified and the ride quality is surprisingly compliant in all situations…soft and forgiving. So this is a Forester that transitions seamlessly from Main Street to Mud.
Subaru’s all-wheel drive system is always on, perfectly symmetrical and packed with wheel-to wheel torque vectoring. Combined with over 9” of ground clearance and these well-rounded Geolander tires which perform admirably both on- and off-road, this is a Forester that can really get after it.
The X-Modes setup the pertinent systems for success by turning this dial while traveling at speeds of 12mph or less, automatically putting hill decent control on standby. This upgraded version permits more beneficial wheel slip when you’re in the deep stuff and can also maintain its capabilities beyond speeds of 25mph depending upon the mode.
Drive back on the tarmac in Snow/Dirt and a buzzer will sound when you hit over 25mph letting you know X-MODE has been deactivated. And then right here on the wheel is a sport sharp mode when the most responsive throttle is desired.
As for the dual screen setup, you control this one with the Info button on the steering wheel, rotating through feature pages and also displaying the front view monitor though a 360 degree view would be even better. And then down here the phone holder is undersized so your device doesn’t quite fit and it still has to be connected via a cable. But this Starlink touchscreen is easy to operate and comes with TomTom navigation.
This Forester could also use a height-adjustable passenger seat because this one is fixed very high.
The sunroof is oversized, the thoughtful cargo area has everything you need in a Wilderness model including remote levers to drop the rear seats and the overall spaciousness is impressive.
Starting MSRP for the Forester Wilderness is $33,945 for what turns out to be the most well-executed Subaru of all-time.
2022 SUBARU FORESTER WILDERNESS TEST DRIVE BY CAR CRITIC STEVE HAMMES | TESTDRIVENOW 2022(c)