The Most Off Road Capable Forster Ever...And The Best Forester
Subaru owners are all about getting out into the wilderness, or at least their marketing department would like you to think so. So much so that last year they launched a new off-road ready wilderness version of their outback. Well, it was such a big hit, that a sequel was in order. Stay tuned for Wilderness Part 2: Into the Forest...er!
The Subaru Forester is the brand’s best seller, almost single handedly responsible for Subaru’s multi-year stretch of month-over-month sales increases. For 2022, this fifth gen Forester gets some upgrades, as well as joins the Outback with new adventure-ready Wilderness trim.
All Foresters sport new faces for 2022, but with distinctive elements for each trim level. The fresh out of the box Wilderness distinguishes itself with a more aggressive grille and skid plate down low; as well as unique fender flares, special fog lights, and an anti-glare treatment for the hood. There are beefed-up roof rails too, but they’re actually applied to all Foresters for ’22.
EyeSight Driver Assist Technology is standard on all Foresters too, but buyers can now add a new Automatic Emergency Steering system to it. Similar to the Outback Wilderness, the Forester gets upgraded X-mode all-wheel-drive, and lifted suspension with longer coil springs and taller shocks, providing 9.2-inches of ground clearance, a ½-inch more than standard. 17-inch matte black wheels wear Yokohama all-terrain tires. And it all proved plenty capable off-pavement; the tires gripping grass and gravel with ease; as well as working with the torque-distributing all-wheel-drive system to get us up some steep muddy trails. Hill Descent Control made downhill sections equally stress free.
The Forester has always been a “right-sized” vehicle; plenty of room for people and cargo. But, not so big that it’s a chore to drive in traffic or in the city. The additional suspension travel only helps the cause, as it seems to smooth things out a bit more. We will say the seats are still not the most comfortable for the long haul, but they handle commuting duty just fine. We’ll also say that based on our experience with other Subarus, we know that the standard StarTex seat material is as durable as it is great looking. Same great 26.9 cubic-ft. of cargo space, expanding to 69.1 with the rear seatbacks folded, but there are more tie-downs, as well as brighter LED lighting to increase usability.
All Foresters feature a 2.5-liter boxer-4 with 182-horsepower and 176 lb-ft. of torque, so no turbo upgrade as found in the Outback Wilderness. But it does get an additional simulated gear integrated into its Lineartronic CVT to provide a little additional grunt for getting over obstacles... and potentially off the line a little quicker as well. And indeed, that was the case, hitting 60 in just 8.2–seconds; almost half a second quicker than the last Forester we tested, but still well shy of the smaller and mightier Forester turbos of the early 2000s.
Power is still delivered in a manner that’s more leisurely than exciting, and this is a lot of vehicle to move for a naturally-aspirated 4-banger. Even with the simulated gears providing pseudo shifts in the continuously variable transmission, engine noise remains high throughout the 16.5–second ¼-mile ending at 85 miles-per-hour.
Lots of body roll, but plenty of grip has been our experience with Foresters past; and not much is different here. The half inch of additional ground clearance isn’t enough to drastically alter the experience, but the tire’s added sidewall flex and blockier tread pattern were more noticeable. That also added a little length to the stopping distances as well; 112-feet from 60 is a bit longer than before, but brakes were still strong and consistent.
With the taller tires and revised gearing, Government Fuel Economy Ratings do suffer a bit too, down to 25-City, 28-Highway, and 26-Combined.
As in the Outback, we applaud Subaru for slotting the Wilderness beneath top Touring trim, starting at $34,195, and not forcing a bunch of luxury features onto the rugged types who probably don’t want them.
And you don’t have to be a hard-core off-roader to appreciate that the 2022 Subaru Forester Wilderness is the most off-road capable Forester ever, as it’s also the best Forester ever! No Wilderness required.
Engine: 2.5L Boxer-4
Torque: 176 lb-ft
0-60 mph: 8.2 seconds
1/4 Mile: 16.5 seconds at 85 mph
60-0 Stopping Distance: 112 feet
EPA: 25 City / 28 Highway / 26 Combined