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2022 Subaru Forester Wilderness: Bred For Trails, Tamed For Suburbia

There’s no doubt the 2022 Subaru Forester Wilderness is capable of tackling really challenging trails. My trip to Bend, Oregon last October for the press preview proved that. I think we hit every log road in the state and it demonstrated its substantial prowess. But, back in the real world, all of the upfitting for the back country pays dividends in suburbia with easy maneuvering and safe traveling.

Upon first glance, there’s no doubt this is not the usual compact Forester crossover. Setting the Wilderness apart are black cladding around the wheels, lower body, and covering shaved bumpers that improve approach/departure angles. The hood’s black anti-glare patch, 17” black alloy wheels wearing Geolander all-terrain tires, and reinforced roof rack that can hold 800 lbs. of tent add purpose. The anodized copper accents look chic, but also hide attachment points. Look close and you’ll notice an additional 0.5” of ground clearance. When snow comes, you won’t worry about getting yourself to work or the kids to band class.

Environmentalist customers said they wanted a vegan leather option, so they get one with Subaru’s StarTex upholstery that looks like leather and feels like suede, but wipes 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. Rubber floor mats throughout, full-size spare with identical fifth black wheel, and LED light on the liftgate confirm this Forester is for extreme fun. Subaru’s twin camera EyeSight system provides auto emergency braking, adaptive cruise, and lane centering for safety.

I was surprised at how enjoyable the Forester Wilderness. Those big tires grip trails, but also better absorb potholes and rough pavement. In town or on the highway, it provides a comfortable ride. The 182 horsepower flat-four engine provides plenty of power and 25/28-MPG city/highway, but lacks the oomph of the Outback Wilderness’ turbo engine. I’m not a fan of continuously-variable transmission, but the Forester’s keeps the engine in a peppy rev range and can be manually shifted through eight “gears” with the paddles. Tow up to 3,000 lbs. of boats or RVs.

When we were out in Oregon, Subaru sent us on a combination of pavement, gravel roads, and near impassible trails. The updated suspension certainly clears obstacles better, but also reduces lean through fast corners. At several points, the X-Mode system, with settings for Snow/Mud that allow more wheel slippage, simply shifted torque around without notice. There’s more road noise and suspension harshness than in the Outback Wilderness, but the Forester Wilderness costs thousands less.

According to Subaru, 25% of Forester owners camp and more than 33% carry bikes. Subaru is second only to Jeep for people who actually go off-road. But, adventurous customers are unwilling to compromise on their vehicle’s ability to get the kids to school, run errands to the mall, or pick up dinner. In the end, Subaru delivered exactly that vehicle. It’s also pretty affordable with an as-tested price of $34,165. Competitors include the Toyota RAV4 TRD, Ford Bronco Sport, and GMC Terrain AT4

Storm Forward!

Send comments to Casey at AutoCasey@aol.com; follow him on YouTube @AutoCasey.