2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness First Drive Review | Refined ruggedness

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AUBURN HILLS, me. - In recent years, off-road vehicles have continued to increase. Whether it's a Ford F-150 Raptor that cuts few costs or a more humble Jeep Renegade Trailhawk, customers seem increasingly obsessed with getting their cars as far as possible. And it has reached a point where one of the toughest auto pioneers, the Subaru Outback, needs another dose of skill. The result is the 2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness that increases performance while maintaining impressive comfort and sophistication. That being said, it has some tradeoffs that mean it won't be the perfect choice for everyone.
To spice up the outback, Subaru mainly focused on suspension, tires, and bodywork. It features new springs and shock absorbers that increase ride height and increase ground clearance from 8.7 inches to 9.5 inches. This puts it well ahead of the Ford Bronco Sport Badlands (8.6 or 8.8 inches) and the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk (8.7 inches). Subaru also redesigned the body not only in terms of style, but also in terms of function. The front and rear bumpers are built in a little better to improve the approach and take-off angles, and they have larger sections of tough, black plastic that tend to be more prone to scratches and scrapes. The approach angle is 20 degrees, the breakthrough is 21.2 and the take-off is 23.6. The aforementioned Ford and Jeep both have better approach and departure angles, although the Subaru's breakthrough number is between them (in front of the Ford, behind the Jeep).
The chassis improvements are rounded off by 17-inch wheels with Yokohama Geolandar all-terrain tires and a standard aluminum underrun protection plate at the front. This can be supplemented with an additional aluminum underrun protection plate under the engine and steel underrun protection plates for the gearbox, the differential and the fuel tank. The Subaru X-Mode driving mode, which adjusts stability and traction control for low-grip situations (and enables hill descent control), has also been updated specifically for the wilderness. There are two types of low traction settings in all of the Outbacks, and they only work below 40 km / h. In the wild, the deep snow / mud setting is retained even above 40 km / h, and above this threshold a unique traction and stability logic from the low-speed version is used. Finally, the final drive ratio is slightly shorter at 4.44: 1 for better response at lower speeds.

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We got the chance to try these mechanical improvements at the Holly Oaks Offroad Park near Auburn Hills, Michigan. As is typical of the launch of an off-road oriented vehicle, Subaru set up the course we drove through, unlikely to get stuck, but the wilderness was still impressed. The ground clearance means you don't scrape on dirt roads very often and with the skid plates you can drive safely on ridged, slightly rocky roads. Amazingly, no matter how reddish and stony the road was, we had no chassis flexion or creaking and squeaking in the interior. The narrow body made it easy to get through tight spaces, but the long front and rear overhangs required extra attention, not only when approaching hills but also when nosing around tight turns.
The Wilderness’s front camera helps with this, although the image quality is quite grainy. The soft suspension also helped avoid rough bumps and kept the outback stable and controlled. The tires offered solid grip and the X-Mode setting allowed a lot of spin so we didn't get stuck. The Outback lacks the limited-slip differential of the Cherokee Trailhawk and the dual-clutch differential of the Bronco Sport Badland, which can move torque back and forth and effectively block it. So we suspect that these are a little better able to get you out of trouble (or deeper into) the terrain.
While the Wilderness may not have the absolute trail ability of American SUVs, it does regain some advantages on the sidewalk, where, if we're honest, those crossovers will spend most of their time. The big problem for the outback is ride quality and general calm. The additional suspension travel and the higher tire sidewalls allow you to float directly over huge potholes and cracked asphalt. The car also stays calm and controlled so you don't have to feel seasick. This is a stark contrast to the Bronco Sport, which in comparison delivers what would aptly be called a bucking ride, as well as the Cherokee's more truck-like ride.
2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness
Hardly any noise can be heard in the cabin either. The off-road tires are quiet, the engine is well insulated so it doesn't sound harsh even at high revs and even the roughest concrete won't compete with the radio or your conversation.
The turbo engine and CVT also work well together most of the time. The reinforced boxer engine delivers its 260 horsepower smoothly, and the healthy 277 pound-feet of torque is available early, starting at just 2,000 rpm. That means the CVT doesn't have to increase revs every time you want to accelerate, but it does when it does, it's never sudden or rough. Manual mode is even responsive. Even so, it's frustrating that it takes a serious throttle up in order for it to shut down in automatic mode.
The Wilderness is also not as efficient as a normal outback due to the combination of redesigned gearbox, off-road tires, and aerodynamic changes due to the extra height and different bumpers. The fuel economy figures are 22 mpg city, 26 mpg highway, and 24 mpg combined versus 23/30/26 for a regular turbocharged outback. It's still more fuel efficient than the Bronco Sport Badlands' 23 mpg and the Cherokee Trailhawk's 21 mpg.
2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness
The regular outback's comfortable, high-lift chassis is ideal for driving comfort and off-road freedom, but the resulting handling is not particularly good. Unsurprisingly, the wilderness is worse. Aside from the suspension, a lot of the blame goes on the tires. They're pretty muddy and out of grip, so there's a slight delay between your steering inputs and the car's response. It doesn't take long to find the limits and the car just wants to understeer. And of course there is also a bit of body roll.
Experience all of this in the stylish and spacious interior of the Outback, which has been upgraded with copper-colored contrast stitching and plastic accents, Wilderness tags, nifty waterproof padding with embossed Wilderness logos and custom rubber mats. The sleek and supportive front seats, roomy but firm rear seats, and cavernous cargo space are shared with every other outback. In fact, this is where this ultimate off-road vehicle enjoys its greatest advantage over the Bronco Sport and Cherokee Trailhawk. The larger space between the rows of seats makes the Subaru far more family-friendly. Our cargo tests of the Outback and Bronco Sport showed the Subaru had a slight advantage, and specs suggest it has a massive lead over the Jeep's cargo capacity (75.7 cubic feet versus 54.7 cubic feet).
The Wilderness also gets different roof rails than the rest of the Outback Line. It sacrifices the trick of built-in cross bars in favor of heavier rails that can carry 700 pounds when parking (220 when moving). That is more than enough for a roof tent and its occupants or for other particularly heavy things that you would like to set up on top.
2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness
The cost of entry to the Outback Wilderness is $ 38,120, which makes them more expensive than the Bronco Sport Badlands ($ 34,315) and the Cherokee Trailhawk ($ 37,295). It's also $ 1,925 more than the similarly well-equipped Outback Onyx Edition XT - the more expensive Limited XT and Touring XT stay on the Outback trim ladder above them. With a $ 1,845 option package that includes a sunroof, navigation, and automatic rear-wheel braking, you can bring the Wilderness closer to this upper-end trim level. The additional skid plates available cost between $ 100 and $ 130.
While the Subaru Outback Wilderness costs more than its most obvious competitors and may forfeit a bit of off-road capabilities, it is possibly the best rugged all-round crossover on the market. It will get you almost anywhere you need to go over the weekend except for something with a short range. Thanks to the large cargo space and the easily accessible high-performance roof rails, you can bring all your toys with you. Then during the week, you'll love that it doesn't feel like a truck and doesn't drink fuel like one. either. So the added cost seems to be well worth it for this impressive dual-use crossover.
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