Class: Midsize Car
Miles driven: 215
Fuel used: 9.2 gallons
Real-world fuel economy: 23.3 mpg
|CG Report Card
|Room and Comfort
|Power and Performance
|Fit and Finish
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.
|Big & Tall Comfort
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.
Driving mix: 45% city, 55% highway
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 22/26/24 (city, highway, combined)
Fuel type: Regular gas
Base price: $36,995 (not including $1125 destination charge)
Options on test vehicle: Option Package 22 ($1845; includes STARLINK 11.6-inch multimedia navigation system, power sunroof, and reverse automatic braking)
Price as tested: $39,965
The great: Roomy, nicely finished cabin; off-road/foul-weather prowess is enhanced in Wilderness model
The good: Ample power from turbocharged engine; wagon utility
The not so good: Wilderness’s special gear takes a toll on fuel economy; engine’s stop/start function is clunky; StarTex upholstery can be uncomfortably warm in hot weather
Subaru adds a new version to its Outback line for 2022, the Wilderness, which moves the popular all-wheel-drive midsize station wagon closer to its dream of being a sport-utility vehicle when it grows up. The newbie—one of what’s now eight Outbacks—mixes the most powerful engine in the series with its most versatile traction system and throws in a number of distinct functional and appearance features to stay abreast of a growing body of off-road-influenced crossover SUVs.
When the sixth-generation Outback launched for 2020, it did so with a new Onyx Edition XT complete with an enhanced terrain-management system, water-repellent seat coverings, black-finish wheels and trim, and what was a then-new turbocharged 2.4-liter engine. The Wilderness takes the Onyx building blocks and tosses in an additional 0.8 inch of ground clearance (to 9.5 inches overall), an exclusive version of the dual-function X-Mode traction system, front skid plate, stouter roof rails, and more to make Outback more useful to the outdoorsy set. With delivery, the Wilderness has a base price of $38,120, which is $1850 more than a ’22 Onyx Edition.
Though the Consumer Guide test reported here took place in city and suburban commuting, we have had some off-road experience with the Wilderness. Please see our First Spin report for CG’s generally favorable impression of the wagon’s off-pavement behavior.
Half of the Outback family uses the 260-horsepower “boxer”-type turbo four that makes 277 lb-ft of torque. Drivers might encounter some turbo lag in forceful starts, but there’s enough power for perky in-town driving and sound highway-cruising capability. The Subaru “Lineartronic” continuously variable transmission is designed to tolerate a higher torque load from the 2.4 engine. It behaves about as well as any such transmission, but those who grow impatient waiting for it to work into the power band can take advantage of a manual mode that has the effect of eight stepped gears. Towing capacity with this powerteam is 3500 pounds. For terrain that’s more rugged than asphalt, the Wilderness version of X-Mode has been reconfigured to allow additional wheel slip when powering through adverse conditions, with automatic switching from lower-speed “Deep Snow/Mud” or “Snow/Dirt” functions to higher-speed operation for normal driving. Also, front and rear gear ratios have been revised for better low-speed climbing on grades up to 40 percent.
The differences cost the Wilderness some EPA-estimated fuel mileage. At 22 mpg in city driving and 26 mpg on the highway, the new model is projected to be one to four miles per gallon thirstier than other Outbacks with the 2.4, respectively. But that’s on paper. Folding in some miles inherited from another CG editor, this driver saw 26.5 mpg when he topped off after 103.9 miles, 47 percent of it in city-style driving—solidly beyond the feds’ 24-mpg combined estimate.
Other modifications can be found under, over, and within the Wilderness. It rolls on 225/65R17 Yokohama Geolander AT white-letter all-terrain tires wrapped around 6-spoke alloy wheels with a matte-black finish. Suspension tuning is tweaked to accommodate the change in ride height. While the tires might raise a slight bit more noise than the rubber on other Outbacks we’ve tested, ride and handling aren’t appreciably altered—they remain composed and responsive. The vehicle’s taller stance barely registers on the ease of entry and exit. Bumpers have been redesigned for increased approach and departure angles around terrain obstacles.
Model-specific ladder-style roof rails are rated to hold 700 pounds of static weight, enough to support a roof-mounted tent that sleeps two average-sized adults. Another standard feature that might prove helpful for a bivouac in the boonies is an LED light built into the inside of the hands-free power liftgate that can illuminate the surroundings when the hatch is raised. Fog lights have been moved inboard and further out of harm’s way, and extensive areas of body-protecting matte-black plastic cladding sprout on the front and rear fasciae and around the wheel openings. The distinct mesh grille, mirror shells, and window moldings are all in black, and a black anti-glare patch runs down the center of the hood. Roof-rack tie-down points, tow-hook covers, and Outback name badges found on the lower-body cladding are dressed up in an Anodized Copper finish. Six paint colors are available for the Wilderness; one—Geyser Blue (it was on the test car)—is exclusive to the model.
On the inside, “StarTex” seat covering that can stand getting wet features unique embossed detail panels with a honeycomb look. “Subaru Wilderness” logos that match the labels found on the bodysides and heavy-duty floormats are embossed in the front headrests. The exterior’s copper-colored accents are reprised on the steering wheel, shift lever, and stitching. Gunmetal trim replaces bright-metal bits on the instrument panel, console, and doors.
While the Wilderness goes its own way to an extent, it’s still an Outback through and through. That means it comes with EyeSight Driver Assist and STARLINK Multimedia infotainment. EyeSight packages adaptive cruise control, lane centering, pre-collision braking, lane-departure and sway warning, and lane-keep assist. The STARLINK in the tested vehicle was the Plus version with its vertically oriented 11.6-inch touchscreen and optional navigation (included in a group with reverse automatic braking and a power moonroof). Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone linkage, apps, Bluetooth phone and audio-streaming connectivity, and satellite and HD radio are included and fairly easy to access and operate.
Passenger space is good in both rows and seats are comfortable. Drivers will find uncluttered sightlines in nearly any direction. Cabin storage consists of a large glove box, covered console box, exposed console cup holders, and door pockets with bottle holders. Pouches on the backs of the front seats, door pockets, and cup holders in a pull-down armrest serve rear-seat occupants. A generous 32.5 cubic feet of flat-floored cargo space grows to 75.7 cubic feet when the rear 60/40-split seats drop flush with the load floor.
Subaru Outbacks have always tried to appeal to folks who don’t want to stop when the road does. The Wilderness lets them go a little further beyond.
2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness Gallery
(Click below for enlarged images)
Subaru Outback Wilderness
Subaru Outback Wilderness