Subaru’s Wilderness label is more than just a merit badge for a more outdoorsy Subaru owner. Deployed previously on the 2022 Outback, the orange-black logo signifies the most off-road capable spec from the factory, with enough mechanical and cosmetic upgrades to make a real difference for camping-addicted adventurers who loved dirt trails and think nothing of 10-mile hikes. We all have friends like that, and for them, the 2022 Subaru Forester Wilderness is their ticket to a good time. Here are the most notable features.
1. More Torque Where You Need It
The Forester’s gritty 2.5-liter flat-four remains with a miserly 182 horsepower, but now it’s attached to a transmission with shorter gear ratios. Think of how a bicycle’s gears work in concert between the pedals and the wheel. Put the chain on the small gear in front and the largest gear in the back, and you’ve got some serious torque multiplication. That helps provide quicker acceleration from a standing start and instant throttle response at low speeds when navigating difficult terrain. It’s the same principle in a car, and why serious off-road vehicles often include a low range—to multiply the amount of available torque from the engine.
The Forester Wilderness doesn’t have a low range, but its continuously variable transmission (CVT) does have eight manual ratios or “simulated gears,” one more than the regular Forester. The setup leverages that additional ratio to keep the torque more accessible. It also uses a 4.11:1 ratio in the differentials—think the large rear gear in the bicycle analogy—versus 3.70:1 for the standard Forester. This helps on the trail and is ideal for driving up steep inclines, but it comes at the expense of fuel economy. The Forester Wilderness earns a 28 mpg highway EPA rating versus 33 mpg for the standard Forester.
2. Maximum X-Modes
Subaru’s X-Mode is a one-button driving mode. It adjusts the throttle, transmission, torque split, and traction control for trail driving. The Forester Wilderness gets the deluxe version that includes Snow/Dirt and Deep Snow/Mud settings as standard kit. (It’s also available as an option on Crosstrek Sport, Forester Sport, and Outback Onyx Edition XT models.) X-Mode acts as a virtual low-range gearbox by automatically switching the transmission into its shortest ratio when the vehicle detects an incline at low speed. It also engages hill descent control, which can brake individual wheels and switch on the front camera for a clear view of the road and or obstacle directly in front of the vehicle.
3. More Strokes for Higher-Riding Folk
Longer coil springs and dampers raise the Forester’s ride height from 8.7 inches—already higher than many pickup trucks and full-size crossovers—to 9.2. The extra tenths pay off. They’re paired to new bumpers that allow greater approach and departure angles (the maximum incline and decline a vehicle can take without scraping). Subaru promises a cushier ride than the regular Forester because the dampers have a longer stroke under compression. For reference, the departure angle and breakover angle (the maximum possible angle to avoid high-centering the vehicle between its front and rear axles) are greater than those on a Nissan Frontier Pro-4X. Impressive.
4. Skid Plates
A front metal skid plate protects engine vitals when traversing rocks and has the added visual bonus of glinting in the sunlight. Subaru also offers accessory plates owners can install under the fuel tank and rear differential in either steel or aluminum.
5. More Body Cladding
Plastic cladding is purposeful. Branches, pebbles and anything loose that can brush against paint or ding the body are the enemies of average crossovers. The regular Forester is already well defended on this front. The Wilderness goes hog wild with the cladding, with thicker, taller sections covering more of the lower flanks, fenders, and nearly the entire front. At speed, you won’t be afraid of scuffing anything.
6. All-Terrain Tires
An all-terrain tire has a knobbier tread pattern with more sipes to evacuate water and bite through mud and snow. Like a good cross-country sneaker, they’re more predictable on gravel trails and offer greater control in slippery terrain. The Forester Wilderness comes with the same Yokohama Geolander A/T tires as the Outback Wilderness, with white letter sidewalls mounted over polished black 17-inch wheels. These are more street-friendly than the all-terrains you’ll find on trucks, so no worries about excessive road noise or poor traction on pavement.
7. Double the Towing Capability
A transmission oil cooler and external engine oil cooler reduce operating temperatures under heavy loads. That’s why Subaru can double the Forester’s towing capacity to 3,000 pounds on the Wilderness trim. In addition, an oil temperature sensor on the rear differential offers an extra warning in case things start to get too hot.
8. Heavy Duty Roof Rails
The metal roof rails on the Wilderness can carry more weight—up to 800 pounds when parked (an increase of 100 pounds) or 220 pounds (up 44) on the move. Gold covers indicate tie-down points.
9. Heavy-Duty Floor Mats
Rubber floor mats are custom to the Wilderness. They’re thick and pretty—check out the big badge emblazoned in the center and the deep grooves to trap the muck from your boots.
10. Special Textures and Colors
Finally, some flamboyance. Orange stitching and trim brighten up the Forester’s cabin, which features dimpled textures on the dash and seats (covered in StarTex, Subaru’s soft water-resistant vinyl, and embossed with Wilderness badges). A matte gray hood decal livens the outside, plus there’s the very bright Geyser Blue paint that’s exclusive to the Wilderness and reminds us of Subaru’s 1990s rally cars.