2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness has rugged looks and capability to match
Increased ground clearance, all-terrain tires and a butch makeover amplify the Subaru Outback's best traits.
Steven EwingFormer managing editor
Steven Ewing spent his childhood reading car magazines, making his career as an automotive journalist an absolute dream job. After getting his foot in the door at Automobile while he was still a teenager, Ewing found homes on the mastheads at Winding Road magazine, Autoblog and Motor1.com before joining the CNET team in 2018. He has also served on the World Car Awards jury. Ewing grew up ingrained in the car culture of Detroit -- the Motor City -- before eventually moving to Los Angeles. In his free time, Ewing loves to cook, binge trash TV and play the drums.
is already synonymous with rugged outdoorsy stuff, and this new Wilderness version leans into that go-anywhere ethos. Making its debut Tuesday, the 2022 Outback Wilderness has a whole bunch of neat upgrades that give
trusty wagon increased off-road capability, greater functionality and a rad new look.
The Wilderness is powered by the same 2.4-liter turbo flat-4 as other Outback models, making 260 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque. That engine is paired with a continuously variable transmission, which has an increased final drive ratio specifically for the Wilderness (4.44:1 versus 4.11:1). While this doesn't increase the engine's overall output, it means more low-end torque is available, and Subaru says the Outback Wilderness can climb a 40% grade on a gravel road. The all-wheel-drive system's X-Mode off-road settings have beefed-up Snow/Dirt and Deep Snow/Mud programs, and the Wilderness can tow 3,500 pounds, too.
More importantly, the Wilderness has longer shock absorbers and springs than a standard Outback, resulting in 9.5 inches of total ground clearance -- a 0.7-inch increase. The retuned suspension softens the Outback's ride quality on rough roads and improves the wagon's off-road geometry. The standard Outback's 18.6-degree approach angle, 19.4-inch breakover angle and 21.2-inch departure angle bump up to 20.0, 21.2 and 23.6 degrees in the Wilderness, respectively. Standard 225/65-series Yokohama Geolandar all-terrain tires offer better off-pavement traction, and the raised white lettering looks super cool. Ditto the 17-inch black wheels, which are unique to the Wilderness and come with a full-size spare under the cargo floor. (These wheels would also look sweet on a
with some fat tires, just sayin'.)
2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness is far more than a cool appearance package
In addition to the wheels, tires and taller ride height, the Outback Wilderness has a few other exterior tweaks. The wheel arch cladding is more pronounced, the front fascia has hexagonal LED foglights, there's a matte black hood decal and a big front skid plate. This all looks great with the new Geyser Blue paint, and do note the little dots of Anodized Copper accents, which indicate useful points like tow hook anchors and roof rail tie-downs.
Speaking of the roof rails, Subaru says its customers have been asking for a setup that can easily accommodate a roof tent, so the rails were redesigned for the Wilderness. So equipped, the Outback can now carry 700 pounds on its roof. Considering overlanding is more popular than ever, this is a great update.
Inside, the Wilderness has StarTex water-repellant seat material on all seats. The rear bench even has StarTex on the seat backs, meaning the waterproof material is usable when the seats are folded flat. Anodized Copper accents are found on the steering wheel and shifter, and there are Wilderness logos throughout the cabin.
Otherwise, the Wilderness' interior is the same as any other Outback, meaning there's plenty of space for people and cargo. The Wilderness comes standard with the Outback's 11.6-inch portrait-oriented infotainment display -- a system we've grown to like, though it's not without its faults. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, and embedded navigation is available in an option package that also includes a power moonroof and reverse automatic emergency braking. On that note, Subaru's EyeSight suite of driver-assistance systems is also standard across the board, and all of the technologies are recalibrated to account for the Wilderness' increased ground clearance.
The Outback Wilderness will go on sale later this year, and pricing will be announced closer to its arrival in Subaru showrooms. Considering it comes standard with the turbo engine and a few other niceties, our best guess says the Outback Wilderness will be priced right around $40,000 -- about the same as a loaded Outback Touring XT.
Overall, the Wilderness upgrade seems like a no-brainer, not just for the Outback, but for Subaru in general. To that end, while the company won't confirm anything just yet, look for a Wilderness version of the
to launch in the not-too-distant future. Now, how do we convince Subaru to build a Wilderness STI so we can live out our rally driver dreams?
Watch this: 2020 Subaru Outback is still capable, more comfortable