Amongst folks who enjoy spending time in the great outdoors, having a versatile and capable car can often be priceless when it comes to venturing off the beaten path. For many years, this often meant having to get a full-frame sport utility vehicle or pickup truck. These bigger means of transportation bring with them compromises in fuel economy, ride quality, and in many cases, an elevated purchase price. They are generally overkill for regular street use, where they spend the vast majority of their time. This week’s car review of the 2022 Subaru Forester Wilderness, with the car courtesy of Subaru Canada, aims to challenge the status quo with a new and more rugged version of the popular compact crossover SUV that many have become familiar with.
Check out Mapiful by clicking the image below – these custom posters celebrate your meaningful moments, and every purchase through us helps us bring you more awesome content!
This year, the Forester joins its larger brother, the Outback, in terms of getting the Wilderness treatment. On top of that, a mid-cycle refresh for the rest of the Forester lineup is also happening, with a new front fascia and a series of updates abound. In particular, the Forester Wilderness gets a fifteen millimetre (0.6 inches) increase in ride height, along with skid plates underneath the engine and rear differential. 17-inch black-painted aluminum alloy wheels are wrapped in Yokohama all-terrain tires that are three-peak mountain snowflake (3PMSF) rated, which means better winter performance along with built-in eligibility for winter-tire insurance discounts, in case your jurisdiction has them.
Outside, more aggressive styling is present throughout, including unique headlights, a matte black grille, fancy-looking hexagonal LED fog lights, and a matte black hood decal. Anodized copper accents are scattered throughout on places such as the roof rack and side badging, and the roof rack itself is now rated for 100 kilograms when driving (versus 80 on other trims), and 363 kilograms (versus 318) when parked. For our friends in the United States, that’s 220 and 800 pounds, respectively.
The interior of the Forester Wilderness gets some goodies of its own, too. The same shade of anodized copper makes its way into the gauge cluster (with a big “Subaru Wilderness” logo), steering wheel, seat and steering wheel stitching, shift knob, and X-MODE off-road control dial. All-weather rubber floor mats are adorned with the Wilderness insignia, the seats are upholstered in weather-resistant material, and the throttle, brake, and dead pedals are aluminum.
The powertrain for the Wilderness is mostly the same as other trims but does get some unique tweaks. A 2.5-litre horizontally opposed (“boxer”) four-cylinder engine gets improved oil cooling and makes the same 182 horsepower and 176 pound-feet of torque. Like the other Foresters, a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) is the only gearbox available, but in the Wilderness, it’s been revised with shorter gear ratios that provide improved torque and response both on and off-road. It’s still not exactly the type of car to win any drag races, but the CVT makes the most of what’s available, and it’s more than enough power for most families. The boxer engine is a bit gruff as it revs up, but this is also a somewhat endearing feature that some Subaru enthusiasts happen to like.
Beyond the cosmetic and mechanical goodies, the Wilderness is equipped similarly to the slightly cheaper Sport trim inside. The infotainment is an 8-inch touch screen without navigation but does have standard (wired) Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality. With a decent-sized screen, a relatively intuitive menu interface, and actual buttons and knobs for common controls (volume, tuning, radio, home, and dual-zone heating/cooling), the 2022 Forester has one of the better infotainment setups in the Subaru lineup. It’s not as flashy as the large 11.6-inch vertical touch screen in the Outback Wilderness, but the Forester’s setup is ergonomically superior and is better to live with every day. That said, a six-speaker stereo is the only option, and doesn’t sound too great – American customers have the option of adding premium Harman/Kardon audio.
Practicality-wise, the passenger and cargo-carrying capacity of the Wilderness is the same as other trim levels. There’s two-row seating for five, and families of four will have plenty of room for daily life. The rear seat LATCH/ISOFIX anchors are very easily accessible, and there is ample rear-seat legroom, which means that rear-facing infant seats are a little more friendly in terms of not stealing space from front-seat passengers. The Wilderness also gets an all-weather rear cargo mat as standard equipment, as well as a power rear liftgate.
Road manners on the 2022 Forester Wilderness are a bit improved over the regular models since the taller suspension is achieved using longer coil springs. This allows for more travel and suspension compliance to go with revised shock absorber tuning. Highway cruising is a smooth and quiet experience, and the steering is weighted heavily enough to inspire confidence at high speeds while still retaining maneuverability at low speeds. Cornering and road-holding with the additional ride height don’t appear to have changed much, which is a very nice bonus compared to lumbering full-frame SUVs that one might use for outdoorsy activities.
In terms of performance when conditions are less than ideal, Toronto was fortunate enough to get a good dusting of snow during the Wilderness’ week of testing. The winter-rated all-terrain tires did their job admirably and had plenty of traction. Enabling X-MODE – which adjusts engine, transmission, braking, and all-wheel drive output, adds more fun factor to the winter driving quotient on top of having plenty of control.
For 2022, the Forester’s EyeSight driver assistance system has been updated and is now in its fourth generation. The two stereo cameras at the top of the windshield now have a wider field of view, and the computing hardware and software are now more powerful than before. This allows for quicker and better decision-making from each of the assist features, which include forward collision warning with automatic braking, lane departure warning with lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, rear-cross traffic alert, and reverse automatic braking.
Canadian pricing for the 2022 Subaru Forester Wilderness comes in at $38,995 before taxes and fees, which puts it right alongside competitors such as the Toyota RAV4 Trail – and the Forester wins in the ruggedness if compared head to head. With a mid-cycle refresh bringing an updated look and improved safety to all trims, the Wilderness’ specific performance and overall design extras make for an absolute home run. While some of the usual Subaru gripes remain (engine refinement with merely adequate power), the rest of it is an impeccable package that the Subaru crowd will likely be clamouring toward. It has the right piece of kit underneath it, it looks cool, and it’s enjoyable to drive. What else could we ask for?