2022 Subaru Forester Wilderness First Test: No surprises, except for mpg

Subaru Forester Complete Overview

wild. The name alone motivates the soul to life. Subaru’s new adventure-oriented Wilderness package takes Subaru’s already well-appointed four-wheel drive package even off the beaten path. The Wilderness trim was initially introduced for the 2022 Outback, to the 2022 Forester.

It would be easy to dismiss the 2022 Subaru Forester Wilderness as more than just a good idea portrayed with luxurious badges, embroidered headrests and an all-weather floating coordinator. Yes, it has all those dazzlingly stylish cues and more — right down to the brushed aluminum pedals, stitching, and anodized brass accents. But the wilderness is also packed with a number of meaningful off-road improvements.

The black livery protects the most vulnerable parts of the body from rocks and scrapes, and the wilderness-specific front and rear bumpers improve approach, departure and breakage angles. It has more ground clearance than the base Forester, and comes with upgraded suspension and all-terrain tires. It’s also the only forester to offer full-size parts, which is a big deal in off-road situations where flats are almost always possible. Roof rails can carry much more load and beg for a rooftop tent. Also unique to Wilderness: a 180-degree head-up display to aid visibility on the road; Cool LED fog lights with hexagonal pattern; Enhanced Subaru X-Mode Terrain Assist feature dual-function; And special and durable upholstery.

So the 2022 Subaru Forester Wilderness has its share of goodwill off-road, but how does it perform in the urban jungle? To find out, let’s take the wilderness out of the forest and plunge it into the sidewalk to test how it handles the winding roads that lead into the wilderness.

Under power, all terrain

The Forester Wilderness’ engine, which is powered by a version of Subaru’s 2.5-liter flat-four, cuts 182 horsepower and 176 pound-feet of torque. There are no surprises here, as this is the forester’s only motor – not a real exciting motor at the time. It’s powered by Subaru’s continuously variable Lineartronic transmission with eight-speed manual mode. The CVT features a lower final drive (4.11:1 versus 3.70:1), a lower release ratio to maximize rock-climbing torque, and a stronger CVT pulley, all of which improve lower torque off-road. Interestingly, other Forester trims have a seven-speed setting, making the Wilderness the only option that comes with an eight-speed setting.

As part of its specialty, the 2022 Forester Wilderness is the only Forester that rolls on 225/60R17 Yokohama Geolandar all-terrain tires. An improved suspension system gives it 9.2 inches of ground clearance, which is half an inch more than other woodlanders. Finally, at about 3,600 pounds (specifically 3,610 pounds for our test vehicle), it’s the heaviest woodland, about 30-150 pounds more than other woodlanders.

With these factors in mind, how does forester wilderness work compared to other forests? Will its off-road stature negatively affect its off-road performance? And how does the Wilderness stand up to its competition, namely the Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road?

Peppy Enough From Stoplight to Stoplight

Basically, no perceptible heaviness emanating from the wilderness’s clothing outside the pavement should equate to slowing away from the line or the feeling of being “dragged down” from traffic light to traffic light, where the majority of driving takes place.

Good enough at Twisties

The Subaru Forester wasn’t transmitting STDs MotorTrendIt’s a track number eight, but “overall, it wasn’t awkward in the least and affected a respectable performance,” said road test editor Chris Walton, who was pleasantly surprised by its poise and polish. In Figure VIII – which assesses acceleration, handling, braking, and transitions between these elements – Forster put a time of 28.4 seconds at 0.57 g (average).

“It’s easy to adjust the brake pedal and find the ABS threshold,” Walton said [60 mph to 0 took 133 feet]. There isn’t much grip on the skidpad, but the cap was easy to find and keep there as well. The steering feel is slightly spring-loaded – not its best feature. I had to resort to manual transmission in order to get a quick exit, and it made a difference.”

In comparison, the Forester Touring was over a full second faster at 27.3 seconds at 0.63g (average); The Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road ran the course in 28.0 seconds at 0.59 g (average). While both were a touch faster, the differences were by no means a deal breaker in real-world situations.

Basically, the Wilderness’s all-terrain tires weren’t much of a flaw around the figure-eight, proving that they can hold their own in the twists of an off-the-pavement adventure. The Subaru Wilderness package isn’t so off-road focused that it can’t handle pavement quietly. Alternatively, the problem is probably the other way around, that what you get with the wild may not be useful enough on your average dirt-worthy Subaru.

Poor fuel economy can’t be ignored

This 2022 Subaru Forester flagship is rated EPA 26/33 mpg city/highway. Not the wild, though, that comes in a lot Less 25/28 mpg city/highway. It’s a huge 5 mpg hit on the highway (and 1 mpg is tolerable in the city). Worse, our average time behind the wheel was 22.0 mpg, and we weren’t whipping it up or going off-road.

Whatever the reasons for the blow – all-terrain tires, CVT tuning – it’s a pretty weak offering from the same four-cylinder engine. On the bright side, we saw 28.0 mpg on our last 20-mile highway ride, assuring us that at least the advertised (poor) wilderness economy can be achieved. Stay in the wild, not on the highway. The towing is rated at least at 3,000 pounds thanks to its shorter gears, which are twice those of other woodlanders.

Unique upholstery and weird screen

If you’re going out of a full-size truck or SUV, the Forester Wilderness drives a small, nimble vehicle (because it is), and it doesn’t take much time to get comfortable in the cabin. However, despite its small size, the interior feels spacious and not cramped. The rear doors opened nicely and wide, allowing us to jam the two large car seats in the back with relative ease. The LATCH system (which stands for Bottom Anchors and Laces for Kids, Who Know!) was spot-on and easily accessible. Best of all, we weren’t miserable on a trip with our family of four. One of the kids might have called the Geyser Blue Forester Wilderness a Polaris, but in her world, that meant it was one flight. If you think about it, innocently comparing it side-by-side can be taken as the final compliment to a fairly lightweight off-road vehicle.

Although the Wilderness is the only Forester to have StarTex waterproof upholstery, it has been on a few other Subarus for a few years. It feels smooth and inviting, and it’s deceptively upscale for off-road trim. A passerby was convinced the leather was made of leather, an unforgivable mistake given that it mimics its texture. It is actually a synthetic, chemically produced polyurethane plastic. Physically lighter than leather and resists water while keeping it breathable. The real test will come naturally with time (and kids), but Subaru says it stands up to the elements.

Visibility is great when it comes to changing lanes and being aware of the surroundings. However, we found the 180-degree front-view screen to be somewhat distorted, which breaks its goal of front-end clarity. The front end was hard to discern as far as things go. This may be because it’s displayed on the small screen on top of the larger 8.0″ screen, so it feels remote, hard to focus and a bit awkward. Like, that little screen (that no one’s talking about) could go away, and we’d all be fine.

Worthy of the wild name?

All in all, the 2022 Subaru Forester Wilderness was a blast behind the wheel. We’d immediately throw a rooftop tent and hit the wilderness, calling it our affordable (and about $34,000, reasonably priced) off-road and off-road vehicle. We’ll then look at more lift tires and some heavy-duty tires – and maybe go a little too far in the wild look. We can think of worse things.

Look well! More details?

Subaru Forester 2022 wild specs
Base price $34195
Price as tested $34414
car design Front Drive, 4WD, 5 Pass, 4 Door SUV
engine 2.5L Direct Injection DOHC 16 Valve Flat 4
POWER (SAE NET) 182 HP @ 5800 RPM
Torque (SAE NET) 176 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm
transition auto variable function
Appropriate weight (front and rear distance) 3,610 lbs (57/43%)
wheelbase 104.9 inches
Length x width x height 182.7 x 72.2 x 68.3 inches
0-60 mph 8.1 seconds
quarter mile 16.2 seconds @ 87.3 mph
Braking, 0-60 mph 133 feet
lateral acceleration 0.77 g (medium)
MT figure VIII 28.4 sec @ 0.57 g (average)
EPA CITY / HWY / COMB FUEL ECON 25/28/26 mpg
EPA scope, comb 432 miles
for sale Currently