Subaru has a new Outback model called the Wilderness. It’s a curious name given the fact that motorized vehicles are prohibited in areas with Wilderness designation.
But Washington abounds with off-highway places that can seem like wilderness, accessible only with a rugged off-pavement vehicle. And wilderness, like adventure, can be just a state of mind, too.
So the Wilderness name works. The nice Subaru Wilderness logo certainly helps.
The garden-variety Outback has outdoor recreation chops of its own, but Subaru upped its game by giving the Wilderness 9.5 inches of ground clearance, a lift of 0.8 inches above the standard Outback’s already-tall 8.7 inches. A standard front skid plate, all-terrain tires, suspension components suited to more challenging trail capabilities, and copious cladding are among the many modifications designed to put Wilderness firmly into SUV territory.
Subaru’s X-Mode system with settings for Snow/Dirt and Deep Snow/Mud gets a new feature exclusive to the Outback Wilderness. It enables the SUV to switch automatically from low-speed managed driving to more than 25 mph without disrupting power or performance.
A fixed ladder-type roof rack system on the Wilderness has a static load limit of 700 pounds, capable enough to hold a roof-top tent. The rack’s moving load limit is 220 pounds.
A full-size matching all-terrain spare tire is stored beneath the cargo area.
Significant contact points such as the tow hook anchors and roof rail tie-downs are a high-contrast goldish yellow color Subaru calls Anodized Copper, a useful and attractive touch. The theme is used cosmetically inside the cabin to lesser effect on the steering wheel.
The Wilderness engine is Subaru’s 2.4-liter turbocharged flat four-cylinder with 260 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque, joined to an eight-speed continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). The powertrain doesn’t meet the definition of a powerhouse, but it gets the job done. Rapid acceleration comes a little late to the party after stomping the gas pedal, but it arrives with gusto.
Fuel economy is EPA rated at 22 mpg city, 26 mpg highway, and 24 mpg combined. Maximum towing capacity is 3,500 pounds.
Though the Outback Wilderness has achieved off-pavement mastery, there’s no roughing it in this SUV. Its highway ride is quiet and relaxed. Curvy roads are handled respectably. Comfort, convenience and tech features are plentiful and all are standard equipment. The spacious interior offers lots of room, including for backseat passengers.
Pricing starts at $38,120 including a $1,125 destination charge. There’s an option package ($1,845) adding a power moonroof, 11.6-inch infotainment system with navigation, and reverse automatic braking.
Standard features include heated front and rear seats, a 10-way power driver’s seat, automatic climate control, adaptive cruise control, hands-free power liftgate, LED headlights with automatic high-beam, LED fog lights, LED lights on the liftgate for excellent cargo-area illumination, 180-degree front view monitor, Subaru’s EyeSight driver assist and Starlink connection technologies, StarTex water-repellant upholstery, and all-weather rubber floor mats.
Subaru’s rally heritage is given a nod with a new Geyser Blue paint color exclusive to the Wilderness model. My tester had Crystal Black Silica paint that not only looked cool but also camouflaged the abundant cladding. The standard 17-inch dark spoked wheels completed the great look: outdoorsy badass.
2022 SUBARU OUTBACK WILDERNESS
Base price, including destination charge: $38,120
Price as driven: $38,120
Mary Lowry is a member of the Motor Press Guild and a member and past president of the Northwest Automotive Press Association. She lives in Snohomish County. Vehicles are provided by automotive manufacturers as a one-week loan for evaluation purposes only. Manufacturers do not control content of the reviews.