Displaying items by tag: Subaru Forester Wilderness


Versus the competition: Fortified with more than just stickers and plastic fenders, the Forester Wilderness is more suited to its purpose than most off-road-themed compact SUVs.

The Subaru Forester is a perennial Cars.com favorite: It’s finished on the podium in our past two compact SUV tests, placing second in 2019 and third in 2021. For 2022, the standout change for the Forester is a new Wilderness trim level, which takes a small SUV with impressive ground clearance and standard all-wheel drive and turns it up a notch, making what Subaru says is the most trail-capable Forester yet.

Three main components are changed on the Wilderness to create its extra capability: tires, suspension and gearing. The Forester Wilderness ends up with double the towing capacity of other trims: 3,000 pounds versus 1,500 pounds. A thorough off-road test will come later — I drove our test Wilderness mostly on-road, with just some light gravel and dirt-road driving for this review — but the Wilderness treatment (including Subaru’s Outback Wilderness) doesn’t make way for hardcore off-roading. It does, however, do more to make these Subarus off-road-ready than many off-road-themed crossovers.

The Wilderness is the most significantly changed version of the Forester for 2022; other trims have minor changes that wouldn’t alter — for better or worse — where the 2022 Subaru Forester placed in our 2021 Compact SUV Challenge.


The Wilderness’ standard tires are meaty 17-inch Yokohama Geolandar A/T (all-terrain) tires, sized the same as the Forester Premium’s street-oriented 17-inch tires (225/60R17). The Geolandar A/Ts are more off-road-oriented tires, with knobbier tread blocks, that wouldn’t look out of place on a Jeep Wrangler.

For how aggressive they look, though, they don’t increase road noise much. The Geolandar A/T G015 is designed to be a daily-driven all-terrain tire; it’s not a max-effort off-road tire. You can feel the tires’ squirminess on-road versus an ordinary passenger-car street tire, but that’s a typical trade-off for the additional capability they offer. Two more attributes that may be associated with the tires are slightly harsher impacts versus the Forester’s standard tires and, on the plus side, confident roadholding on loose gravel and dirt roads.


A surprise-and-delight feature of the Wilderness is that there’s a matching full-size spare tire and wheel, which you’d appreciate if you got a puncture off the beaten path and needed this tire’s capability to get back to a main road.



The Wilderness’ wheels and tires are attached to a lifted suspension that gets its height via longer springs and shock absorbers. Ground clearance is up half an inch — to 9.2 inches from 8.7 inches — which improves approach, departure and breakover angles. The suspension has been tuned to the new ride height, and it’s buttery smooth on-road — though with some slightly harsher impacts than you’d feel in a regular Forester.

On loose dirt and gravel-covered roads, the tires and suspension absorb imperfections at high speeds without upsetting the cabin. That’s in stark contrast to the Ford Bronco Sport Badlands’ suspension, which is also off-road-oriented but feels like it’s made of bricks compared with the pillowy nature of the Forester’s ride. The Bronco Sport has its own advantages, though, like a rip-roaring 250-horsepower engine and torque-vectoring rear axle.



For now, we’ve spent more time in the Wilderness on-road, where the effect of its shorter final drive ratio (4.11:1 versus 3.70:1 in other Foresters) is most notable in improving the Forester’s snappiness and accelerator response. The Wilderness gets up and goes with more vigor than an ordinary Forester, making passing more confidence-inspiring thanks to quicker reactions while at speed. According to Subaru spokesman Charles Ballard, the gearing change was made in the continuously variable automatic transmission through an updated pulley ratio, and the rear axle ratio was optimized to work with it.

The new gearing makes the most of the Forester’s only engine, a 182-hp, 2.5-liter flat-four-cylinder, which in our testing scooted the Wilderness from 0-60 mph faster than the standard Forester: The Wilderness accelerated to 60 mph in 8.6 seconds, versus the 9.57 seconds a Forester Touring took.

On the downside, the Forester’s highway mpg rating took a hard hit from the gearing change, dropping an EPA-estimated 5 mpg, from 33 mpg to 28. The combined rating drops 3 mpg, from 29 mpg to 26, while the city rating is least affected, dropping only 1 mpg (26 mpg to 25). The Wilderness’ 26 mpg combined rating does, however, still compare favorably with other top compact SUV off-road trims: The Ford Bronco Sport Badlands is rated 23 mpg combined, and the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk has a 21 mpg rating. The Wilderness does come in slightly lower than the Toyota RAV4 TRD Offroad’s 28 mpg rating.

Higher Towing Capacity

The Forester Wilderness’ towing capacity has doubled to 3,000 pounds versus the standard Forester’s rating, and the Wilderness’ goods are to thank. An external transmission oil cooler helps keep the transmission’s fluid temperatures cool while working, and its higher numeric gear ratios deliver more wheel torque to make the car easier to move under load. (Trucks often include numerically higher gear ratios and transmission coolers in optional towing packages to increase towing capacity.) Ballard said a reinforced transfer case and more powerful radiator fan (up from 120 to 160 watts) also help increase the tow rating. The Forester Wilderness’ towing capacity is notable but not class-leading; other compact SUVs are rated to tow more than 3,000 pounds.

Compact SUVs With High Towing Capacity

  • Jeep Cherokee: 4,000 pounds with 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and Trailer Tow Package, 4,500 pounds with 3.2-liter V-6 and Trailer Tow Package
  • Ford Escape: 3,500 pounds with towing package and optional engine in Titanium and SEL trims
  • Toyota RAV4: 3,500 pounds with Adventure and TRD Offroad trims

Is the Wilderness Worth It?

While I didn’t experience the Forester Wilderness’ peak off-road capabilities, I liked it even on pavement compared with other Forester trim levels. The new gearing does a lot for accelerator response, while the suspension and new tires make quick work of bad roads. On the downside, fuel economy is hit pretty hard, and there are quirks in all Foresters that can’t be addressed without a redesign — like poor cabin storage, an awkward information display atop the dashboard and excessive wind noise. As a whole, though, even with those quirks you can’t go wrong with a Forester, and this off-road package is more than a few stickers. It’s certainly a big enough change to consider its $34,000 asking price if you’re in need of more off-road or towing capability from your Forester.



Published in Subaru

Subaru hopes to make “Wilderness” the “STI” of off-roading.

The "STI" name holds a special place in the hearts of Subaru performance enthusiasts. Usually affixed to the rump of a WRX in this country (but also found on Foresters, Legacys, BRZs and more in Subaru's home market), STIs are the ultimate road-going Subarus. With the launch of the new 2022 Subaru Forester Wilderness, the second off-road focused Wilderness model in the brand's portfolio, Subaru hopes to make the Wilderness sub-brand just as meaningful for fans and buyers. After beating on the new Forester Wilderness for a day on Central Oregon's forest roads, we think the company may be on to something.

What Is The 2022 Subaru Forester Wilderness?

The Forester Wilderness is a new addition to the revised-for-2022 Forester line. The most obvious change across the lineup are new ovoid-shaped headlights on the modified front fascia, some subtle nips and tucks to the Forester's rear end, and the newest iteration of Subaru's Eyesight advanced driver assist system. But the automaker spent some time under the skin, too. Though the 182-hp and 176-lb-ft 2.5-liter flat-4—the sole engine option the Forester offers—remains the same, new engine mount brackets were added in an effort to improve NVH levels, while elsewhere Subaru revised the Forester's suspension tuning to reduce the body roll and porpoising we complained about in our last Big Test.

The Forester Wilderness amps things up a bit further in an effort to improve off-road capability. Longer coil springs and shock absorbers increase ground clearance by a half inch to 9.2-inches, while Yokohama Geolandar all-terrain tires coupled with revised X-Mode off-road settings ensure that the all-wheel drive system (standard on all Subarus, save the BRZ) has even better traction in low-friction surfaces. The Wilderness model also gets a bespoke version of the Forester's standard CVT. It features a lowered final drive, increased gear ratio spread, and a stronger variator pulley, all of which work together to improve low-end torque off-road. As an added bonus, Forester Wilderness models are rated to tow up to 3,000 pounds, versus just 1,500 for other models in the lineup.

2022 Subaru ForesterWilderness Bend 41
 Rounding the package out inside is a "Startex" cloth interior (designed to be easily cleaned), additional hooks in the cargo area, and a liftgate-mounted LED light that shines down on the ground when the hatch is opened. Outside, the Forester Wilderness gets a heavier-duty roof rack with a 220-pound dynamic load capability (or 800-pounds static; enough for a three-person rooftop tent), some extra black cladding, subtly reworked bumpers to improve the model's clearance off-road, and an aluminum skidplate under the engine (though Subaru offers additional skidplates, including a thicker engine skidplate, plus fuel tank, transmission, and rear-differential skidplates). Approach/breakover/departure angles improve from 20.0/19.6/24.6-degrees on the standard Forester, to 23.5/21.0/25.4-degrees on the Wilderness. Though that gives the Forester Wilderness the best all-around off-road angles of any Subaru, those are relatively middling numbers compared to a Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk—trust us when we say that you'll want to budget a few hundred extra for those optional skidplates.

Is The Subaru Forester Wilderness Good Off-Road?

While Subaru's own research shows that only 16-percent of Forester owners go off-road ("off-road" is defined as however the survey takers perceive the term), it is nevertheless the reason why the Forester Wilderness exists. To Subaru's credit, it didn't hold back with a challenging test route, unleashing us on the surprisingly diverse forest roads surrounding Bend, Oregon.

The trails largely consisted of rutted dirt roads, high-speed washboard gravel, and low-speed skull-sized rocks, with some mud, snow, moguls, and water crossings thrown in for good measure. The 2022 Forester Wilderness acquitted itself well. Unlike the Outback Wilderness, where you're always fighting body roll and purpoising at higher speeds off-road, the Forester's suspension does a fantastic job of ironing out impacts and washboards, making sure they're one and done affairs. The revised CVT—which does its best to convince you it's an eight-speed auto—coupled with Subaru's already stellar all-wheel drive system, also lends to the overall capability of the Forester Wilderness. It keeps the engine in the meat of the powerband, turning easier washboard gravel sections of the road into impromptu rally stages, like the kind the STI brand cut its teeth on.

The Forester's improved approach angle versus other Subarus lends to that level of confidence as you worry less about bashing its nose into the ground…until you inevitably do. Multiple times. Offset pits were usually approachable at low speeds, but larger ditches were more of a gamble, introducing our Forester's optional engine skidplate to unassuming small rocks on multiple occasions. Though battered, the upgraded skidplate ultimately did its job.

The Forester Wilderness other weak point is one it shares with other Subarus. Much as we found with the Outback Wilderness in our budget overlander comparison, low speed, low-traction, uphill climbs—especially when a wheel is unloaded—can be tricky to traverse as the relatively modest output of the flat-4 and CVT conspire with a lack of off-the-line torque. One sandy uphill obstacle in particular, at an off-road park that Subaru says is about the absolute limit of what a Forester Wilderness is engineered to handle, bogged our vehicle down as X-Mode struggled to send power to the tires with the most available traction. While the Forester eventually built up enough torque and traction to get over the obstacle, for owners, momentum will often be your friend in climbing steep, slippery grades. Just mind that nose.

It's worth pointing out that we're not convinced our day of off-road driving was anything a stock Forester couldn't handle. That said, the Wilderness adds some extra peace of mind in the form of off-road upgrades to the Forester's already relatively high baseline capability.

How Is The Forester Wilderness On Road?

While off-road capability may have been the primary focus for the Forester's mid-cycle update, the 2022 model is unquestionably nicer to drive on road than pre-refresh versions. The biggest change is in how the Forester Wilderness rides and handles. The 2022 Forester no longer wallows down the road, instead it feels planted, poised, and confidence inspiring. Steering is quick, well-weighted, and natural-feeling, if a touch dead on center which we suspect is likely due to the all-terrain tires.

Powertrain tuning is better, too. Subaru attempted to make the pre-refresh version of the Forester feel quicker than it actually was with hair-trigger throttle response that snapped occupants' heads back when accelerating. That trait is thankfully long gone. No one will mistake the Forester Wilderness for being quick, but it accelerates off the line linearly, and feels quick enough for city duty. Highway passing will likely require a bit of planning, but that's the case with pretty much every non-turbocharged Subaru.

2022 Subaru ForesterWilderness Bend 73

Not having driven lesser versions of the 2022 Forester yet, it's tough to say how much the Wilderness hardware is responsible for the better on-road manners, but we're cautiously optimistic for the rest of the lineup.

The Forester's cabin remains a comfortable place to soak up hours on the road. Visibility is excellent, and the seats are comfortable and roomy. The cabin can be a bit noisy at highway speeds—the all-terrain tires certainly don't help matters much—but the off-road capability tradeoff makes it worth it.

Is The Subaru Forester Wilderness Worth It?

Based on the Forester Sport (which starts at $30,890), prices for the Forester Wilderness start at $33,945—or $34,394 if you factor in the skidplate upgrades. Although not as big of a value slam dunk as the Outback Wilderness versus lesser Outbacks, the Forester Wilderness still makes a compelling case for itself; a Forester Sport upgraded with all-terrain tires, 17-inch wheels (downsized from the stock 18-inch to match the Wilderness and allow for a more aggressive tire), and with the Wilderness' upgraded skidplates would set you back about $34,117. A couple hundred less, and that's still without the suspension lift, improved off-road angles, upgraded CVT, and features like that heavy duty roof rack.

The Verdict?

Ultimately, the 2022 Forester Wilderness is not just the best Forester we've driven in the past few years, but the most convincing Wilderness product yet. While there's likely a ways to go before "Subaru Wilderness" has the same cachet as "Subaru STI," the Forester Wilderness is a solid step in the right direction, bringing a sense of capability and durability to the line that Subaru owners will most certainly use.


Published in Subaru

With its tidier dimensions and lower price, the hiked-up Forester Wilderness proves that less is more—until you stab the throttle.

As applied to the Forester, the Wilderness formula is very familiar. Compared to its siblings, it sits a half-inch higher atop its four-wheel independent suspension thanks to longer dampers and taller springs, and that amounts to a healthy 9.2 inches of minimum ground clearance and an improved breakover angle of 21 degrees. Since the Forester isn't nearly as long as an Outback, the jacked-up stance conspires with stubbier front and rear overhangs to produce more favorable approach and departure angles of 23.5 and 25.4 degrees, respectively. It's also some 2.4 inches narrower, so it's more compatible with brush-lined trails even before Subaru slathers on the Wilderness-spec layer of protective body cladding. Conversely, the Forester Wilderness is 2.0 inches taller than its Outback counterpart, but we'll take that because it comes with a more upright driving position that makes it easier to see over the hood and pick your way along a trail. Blind crests are no problem because there's a front camera, but the button to activate it is nowhere near the display itself.

2022 subaru forester wilderness

A drive along forest roads near Bend, Oregon, proved that the Forester execution works equally well on both smooth gravel roads suitable for stage rallies and lonely meandering two-track forest trails that haven't seen the blade of a road grader in years. Subaru's Wilderness-specific shock and spring tuning readily soaked up washboard surfaces on high-speed tracks, but they also went about the quiet business of damping out head toss through rocky sections, snaking around fallen limbs, or easing down eroded ledges. None of this was black-diamond rock crawling, but vehicles built for that use case would have punished us with the heavy unsprung mass of solid axle overkill thumping up from below. Independent-suspended crossovers have their place out here if they can muster sufficient clearance and traction, and the Forester Wilderness proved to have enough of each.

A good deal of the necessary extra traction comes from a set of Yokohama Geolandar A/T tires, with outline white-letter sidewalls adding spice to an otherwise black background of alloy wheels and cladding. There's even a matching, full-use spare with its own TPMS sensor in the underfloor well.

2022 subaru forester wilderness
Whereas other Foresters have seven simulated gears in their continuously variable automatics (CVT), the Wilderness version has eight, like the Outback. But it differs from even the Outback Wilderness in that it has a wider overall ratio spread across its working range, with an ultra-low 4.07:1 "first gear" that gives the Forester Wilderness a better low-speed crawl ratio when the exclusive Dual-mode X-Mode detects conditions that call for hill-descent control. The 2022 Forester also debuts an improved X-Mode logic that no longer shuts completely off if the driver momentarily exceeds its maximum operational speed of 25 mph. It now goes into a standby mode and will automatically reengage when the car slows to 22 mph. That prevents constant dithering if your speed lingers near 25 mph. The hill-descent control features a related improvement that more quickly resumes the original crawl speed if the driver temporarily adds throttle and then backs out.
2022 subaru forester wilderness
The Wilderness will, of course, spend the bulk of its time on pavement, so it's good there's nothing overtly off-roady or off-putting about its on-road demeanor (probably not something that could be said if you bolted on random off-road mods you read about in forums). Subaru's engineering team has delivered a smooth and composed ride that is never harsh. The body doesn't pitch or bound, and there's a smidge more reassuring control and less squishiness than with the Outback Wilderness. Frost heaves don't upset it, and the all-terrain tires were remarkably quiet until we came to a particularly coarse stretch of asphalt that had been chewed by studded tires in previous winters. When pushed, the Wilderness does not feel like it's standing on tiptoes. It turns into corners smartly, with a modest amount of body lean that builds up gradually and takes a reassuring set. The thing that flummoxes the steering is cruising straight at highway speeds, where the feel is dull and indistinct.

That's small beer compared to the lackluster engine performance, but this won't surprise any current-generation Forester owners because the Wilderness has the same 2.5-liter flat-four with a middling 182 horsepower and 176 pound-feet of torque. Why not the 2.4-liter turbo as in the Outback Wilderness? Outback product planners had two homologated engines to pick from, but the fifth-generation Forester has only one, since the turbo 2.0-liter was dropped with the previous model in 2018. For what it's worth, we didn't notice a serious lack of beans driving in the forest, and the car felt reasonable enough around town.

2022 subaru forester wilderness
That might be because its final drive ratio is a short 4.11:1 instead of the regular Forester's 3.70:1 gearing. Combined with the CVT's lower initial gearing, this might shave a couple of tenths off the 8.4-second zero-to-60-mph time we previously measured with a standard Forester, but the more significant benefit of this change is the new 3000-pound tow rating.

Our experience also makes us think the aerodynamic penalty of a rooftop tent will be easier to bear, which is relevant because the Forester Wilderness is specifically courting those buyers. It has beefier wide-set roof rails that can accommodate 220 pounds of mass while in motion and 800 pounds when parked—enough for a three-person tent with occupants. The penalty for the shorter gearing is lower fuel economy, particularly on the highway. A regular Forester is EPA rated at 29 mpg combined (26 city/33 highway), but the Wilderness manages just 26 mpg combined (25 city/28 highway). Nevertheless, this still bests the Outback Wilderness and its estimates of 24 mpg combined, 22 city, and 26 highway.

2022 subaru forester wilderness
All 2022 Forester models debut the fourth iteration of Subaru's EyeSight, which features dual cameras with nearly twice the field of view. On our back-road tour, it proved to be surprisingly good at detecting faint centerlines that have been so thoroughly bleached we weren't immediately conscious of them. You'd think that kind of sensitivity would lead to a raft of unwanted warnings elsewhere, but we didn't find ourselves hunting for an "off" button when clipping apexes. The system behaved as if it were able to project a forward path to distinguish a true inattentive lane departure from spirited driving, which isn't that far-fetched when you consider the kind of added logic that would've been necessary to support the new lane-centering feature that supplements the adaptive cruise control.

The 2022 Subaru Forester Wilderness will arrive in December at a price of $33,945. That amounts to $4625 more than the Forester Premium we generally recommend, but it's also a full $4175 less than the larger and more powerful Outback Wilderness. From where we just sat, the Forester Wilderness is a more right-sized interpretation of the Wilderness concept that does a proper job off the pavement but still comes across as a pleasant daily driver if you're merely going for the off-road look. Either way, you can now gratuitously toss around the word "overlanding" in conversation. Come to think of it, please don't.


Published in Subaru

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