Subaru formally launched what will become a new family of rugged off-roaders today, pulling the wraps off the 2022 Outback Wilderness.
Positioned as the Subaru alternative to the likes of the Jeep Rubicon line-up, the Japanese automaker is expected to follow up with Wilderness versions of its Forester and Crosstrek crossovers in the near future.
The automaker is describing the ’22 Subaru Outback Wilderness as “the most rugged and capable” version of the crossover in its history. Where the original Outback was little more than a gussied-up station wagon, the Wilderness model adds features designed to give it serious off-road credibility, starting with an increase in its ride height, upgrades to the suspension, revisions to its all-wheel-drive system and a standard front skid plate.
Getting back to basics
For much of the past two decades, automakers have shifted away from classic SUV off-roaders to what can be derisively referred to as “soft-roaders” able to handle little more than gravel roads. There’s been a shift, of late, with more manufacturers starting to reintroduce serious off-road capabilities to some of their SUVs and CUVs.
Now, Subaru is getting into the game. The choice of the Outback seems appropriate. The name was first introduced in 1994 when Subaru realized the need for a product to compete with the likes of the then new Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V. But the first-generation Outback was little more than a Legacy wagon given a light dose of steroids — mostly in the form of cladding over the wheels and a minor increase in ride height.
Since then, the Outback has been separated a bit more from the standard Legacy, but in Wilderness form it takes a big step closer to offering serious off-road capabilities.
By the numbers
It now boasts what Subaru claims to be “class-leading” ground clearance of 9.5 inches, about an inch more than the standard Outback.
“Approach angles on the SUV have been extended from 18.6 degrees to 20, ramp breakover angle shifts from 19.4 degrees to 21.2 degrees, and the departure angle soars from 21.7 degrees to an impressive 23.6 degrees,” Subaru noted in a statement.
The suspension has been retuned to retain stability on rough terrain. And the Outback Wilderness rides on 17-inch matte black alloy wheels shod in Yokohama Geolander All-Terrain tires. There’s even a full-size spare tucked under the cargo area – a definite must for anyone going trail crawling.
As with the standard-issue Outback, the Wilderness edition draws power from a 2.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder gas engine making 266 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque. It’s capable of towing up to 3,500 pounds and has an EPA rating of 22 mpg city and 26 highway.
Making the grade
The turbo-4 is paired with a Lineartronic CVT sending power to all four wheels using Subaru’s X-Mode all-wheel-drive system. The gearbox features an 8-speed manual mode controlled by paddle shifters. The AWD system, meanwhile, has been modified for off-road use. Among other things, Subaru claims the Outback Wilderness can “climb grades up to 40% on a gravel surface.”
The X-Mode system adds new driver-selectable Snow/Dirt and Deep Snow/Mud modes. And, says Subaru, “a new advanced feature for X-Mode allows the vehicle to switch automatically from low speed managed driving to speeds over 25 mph without interruption of power or performance.”
The Wilderness carries over the standard Outback’s Active Torque Vectoring It adds features like a Front View Monitor and a hands-free power liftgate.
From a visual perspective, the new model gets new bumpers, front and rear, a modified hexagonal front grille, bigger wheel cladding, unique LED foglights and a front skid plate. There’s also a more rugged ladder-style roof rack that can handle up to 700 pounds.
Inside, the Wilderness uses Star Tex, a water-resistant fabric for its seats, with waterproof floor mats and cargo flooring. Anodized Copper detailing, inside and out, helps distinguish the off-roader.
The Outback Wilderness not only rides higher but sits about 0.8 inches taller than the regular Outback. It measures 1.6 inches wider, though wheelbase and overall length are unchanged.
Eye see you
Like the rest of the Outback line-up, the new model features Subaru’s Eyesight advanced driver assistance package and other high-tech features.
The 2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness will go on sale “later this year,” with pricing to be announced closer to the on-sale date.
The automaker says it isn’t ready to discuss plans for additional Wilderness models but Forester and Crosstrek models are expected to follow.