By Cars.com EditorsJanuary 20, 2022
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2022 Subaru Forester Wilderness: Review — Cars.com
(upbeat music) Subaru is known for its all wheel drive and its outdoor image.
But what happens when they decide to level up? Well, you get the 2022 Subaru Forester Wilderness, and this is actually the second entry into the Wilderness lineup, following the Outback Wilderness. For the Forester, the hard parts that increase the car's capability and ruggedness include a lifted suspension, new tires, and new gearing. And that's in addition to a bunch of cosmetic updates, as well as an updated version of Subaru's X-Mode Train Management System. Let's start with the meaty stuff first, like these tires. These are 17 inch Yokohama GEOLANDER all-terrain tires, model G015. And they're actually the same size tire, with almost identical overall diameter as the seventeens that come on the Forester premium trim level, on which the Wilderness is based. Now, what you get in this all-terrain tire, taller, knobbier tread blocks, definitely a more aggressive tread pattern for more grip off road. And there's a little extra squirminess while driving, especially during cornering, but that's the expected trade-off that you get with tires like these. Surprisingly though, not that much road noise when you're at highway speeds. A lot of times you get a whirring or a humming noise with aggressive tires like these. But not so, at least on this car with only a couple thousand miles on it. Now, another added bonus, a full-size, matching spare tire. Now this is cool because if you're off on a trail, you're deep in the woods somewhere and you get a flat, well, you can replace it with a full-size spare and have that same capability to make it back to the main road. That's just a nice touch. The wheels and tires are attached to a suspension that's been lifted on the Wilderness. Now there's 1/2 inch of additional ground clearance, thanks to longer springs and shocks that help get an overall 9.2 inches of ground clearance. And that is good to assist approach angle, departure angle, and break-over angle, for more off-road capability. The suspension has been tuned to the new ride height, and it retains the Forester's trademark ride quality, which is buttery smooth. And on the 17 inch tires, there's just not a lot of impact harshness. It's very nice to drive, even on high-speed, loose, dirt, gravel roads. There was still a lot of composure and confidence in how this drove. Now its soft ride quality is in stark contrast to a competitor, like the Ford Bronco Sport Badlands, that honestly rides like hell compared with the Forester. Now the Bronco Sport has its own advantages, like the more powerful engine, but this, the Forester Wilderness, is so pleasant to drive. A more strenuous off road test will have to wait, as we do plan to put it through its paces, like we have the Outback Wilderness. For now though, we've spent most of our time in the Wilderness in the suburban jungle, which is an area you wouldn't think a steeper gear ratio would make much of a change, but it's really improved the Forester's punchiness and acceleration response compared with the base version. I was a judge on cars.com's compact SUV comparison, where a Forester Touring placed third out of a field of six. Now the Wilderness has a 4.11:1 differential ratio, versus the 3.70:1 in the regular Forester. And the Wilderness just moves with more vigor. It feels like it helps the CVT react more quickly, and it's really noticeable when you're passing and merging on the highway. The new gearing makes the most of the 182 horsepower, 2.5 liter, flat four cylinder engine, which feels more powerful. On the downside, fuel economy ratings are down, and quite a bit. The Forester's highway rating drops from 33 to 28 miles per gallon. And the combined ratings drop from 29 to 26 miles per gallon. Now, the city rating is least affected, only dropping one mile per gallon. So depending on how and where you drive, that fuel economy can either be a small or a big difference. The big changes are the tires, the suspension, and the gearing, but there's a lot more that comes with the Wilderness. There's exclusive front styling. And I believe they used the Warthog as inspiration. There's larger wheel cladding, a front skid plate, unique LED fog lights, and a matte black anti-glare hood decal. On the inside, there are water resistant seating services, which also proved resistant to spill Dr. Pepper, in my experience. There are unique floor mats and a cargo mat with Wilderness badging in a mountainous design. There's a ladder type roof rack that can support 800 pounds when parked, for a roof mounted tent, or 220 pounds when you're on the go. The revised X-Mode Train Management System, it can detect a steep gradient and shift the CVT to a lower ratio. There's a new external oil cooler, rear differential oil temperature sensor to keep oil temps down and in check. And the transmission has an eight speed manual mode versus the seven speed manual mode of regular Foresters. Now you add up some of these gear changes and oil coolers, and the towing capacity has actually been doubled to 3000 pounds. There's also a front view monitor, but I actually find its useful in this questionable, considering it's a small screen that's far away. The resolution isn't great, and I also found it easily washed out by sunlight. Copper accents abound on the interior and exterior. And you get all of this for a starting price of $33,945, including destination. Even though I didn't get a chance to drive the Wilderness at its peak off-road capability, I still found a lot to like driving this on road, compared with other Forester trim levels. The punchier acceleration, the ride quality still compare really well with other Foresters. On the downside, that fuel economy is a pretty big hit. And also, you're just living with regular Forester quirks, which include wind noise and the storage cubby underneath the climate controls. It's just not big enough for a modern phone. And that's where you plug in your phone. There's also no room for a large water bottle, which I thought was very strange for an adventure type vehicle. As we've demonstrated in our compact SUV comparison, you just can't go wrong with the Forester. And the Forester Wilderness is a lot more than just a sticker package. Now, we'll have to find some mud and some sand to really give it the final thumbs up, but if you found things in this package that you like, then I definitely feel that what's changed is worth the $34,000 asking price. (upbeat music)