Subaru’s new family of more extreme off-roaders is about to double in size with the debut of the new Forester Wilderness model.
During the last two decades, manufacturers have shifted away from classic SUVs in favor of more subdued crossovers unlikely to see anything more rugged than a gravel road. But, like a number of its competitors, the Japanese automaker discovered there’s growing demand for machines that actually can handle some moderate to serious off-roading. And it’s hoping to win over those buyers by launching the Wilderness sub-brand.
The first entry, the Outback Wilderness launched last spring. Now, it’s about to joined by the 2022 Subaru Forester Wilderness and still other models are likely to follow, company officials hinted during a recent backgrounder in New York State’s rural Hudson Valley.
Like the Outback version, the Forester Wilderness will add a number of features meant to give it a more rugged look, including a standard front skid plate. But unlike some dress-me-up packages we’ve seen in the past, the goal is to actually give the new model some real off-road capabilities. No, you likely won’t take this out on the rugged Rubicon Trail, said planning manager Michael Redic, but you should be able to handle some reasonably serious backwoods trails.
Upgraded for off-roaders
The 2022 Forester Wilderness starts out with the fifth-generation take on the crossover, joining the current line-up of Base, Premium, Sport, Limited and Touring trims.
All of the Forester models are being updated for 2022, among other things introducing a new front bumper, grille and LED headlamps, as well as a revised rear bumper and other exterior trim. There’s also an updated version of Subaru’s EyeSight suite of advanced driver assistance systems. That now includes automatic emergency steering to help a driver get around a potential crash, as well as an updated camera system that expands the field of view.
The Wilderness model not only adds a front skid plate — with a second plate available as an option — it also gets a suspension raised to provide 9.2 inches of ground clearance. As with the Outback Wilderness, that substantially improves the ute’s approach, departure and breakover angles. There’s an off-road oriented version of the X-Mode all-wheel-drive system, and unique-to-Wilderness all-terrain tires mounted on 17-inch wheels.
Visually, the Forester Wilderness adds black cladding and other exterior accents, and the roof rails and crossbars have been widened slightly to handle a rooftop tent that can sleep up to three people — or handle up to 800 pounds. When driving, the roof rail capacity has been increased to 220 lbs.
There’s also an LED light built into the inside of the tailgate to make it easier to find cargo and accessories at night.
Keeping things clean
The cabin makes extensive use of the same, water and dirt-resistant StarTex material as the Outback Wilderness.
The Forester Wilderness shares the rest of the line’s 2.5-liter boxer-four engine. Making 182 horsepower and 176 pound-feet of torque, it’s paired with a CVT gearbox and sends torque to all four wheels. With the Wilderness package, the Lineartronic gearbox can simulate an 8-gear step transmission.
Fuel economy is rated at 25 mpg city, 28 highway and 26 combined. That’s down from 26/33/29 or the rest of the line-up.
The Wilderness package also sees the towing capacity of the Forester double, from 1,500 to 3,000 pounds.
Pricing starts at $32,820 for the 2022 Subaru Forester Wilderness before adding in $1,125 in delivery fees. That positions it about $7,600 above the base Forester, and about $2,400 less than the top-of-the-line Forester Touring.
Last year’s lockdowns during COVID pandemic clearly got many Americans thinking about ways to get back to nature. There’s been a measurable surge in demand for products like the Jeep Wrangler — and Rubicon and other Trail-Rated models, in particular — along with the new Ford Bronco and other products targeting off-roaders.
While Redic doesn’t expect the Wilderness model to dominate the 2022 Subaru Forester line-up, he is confident it will find a solid niche, telling TheDetroitBureau.com “We’re probably looking at 15%-plus of total” Forester demand.
Look for the Subaru Forester Wilderness to start arriving at U.S. dealer showrooms in October.