The Subaru Forester gains an off-road-worthy Wilderness edition.
The Subaru Forester is a compact utility vehicle, one of four such models sold by this niche Japanese brand. Niche may not be a fair assessment, however as Subaru has a strong following in the U.S. market.
The Forester was last fully redesigned in 2019. For 2022, the Forester sees light tweaks to the exterior. It also gains a Wilderness edition, a more capable off-road toiler. The new trim was also our test model.
2022 Subaru Forester Wilderness Overview
Subaru offers the 2022 Forester in six trims. The trim walk comprises the Forester ($25,195), Premium ($28,195), Sport ($29,765), the all-new Wilderness ($32,820), Limited ($31,875), and Touring ($35,295) editions. Add $1,125 for the destination charge. All models come with a four-cylinder engine, a continuously variable transmission, and standard all-wheel drive.
Highlights of the 2022 Subaru Forester Wilderness
Few Subaru models outside of the BRZ offer a “wow” factor. At least in terms of styling. Subaru walks the conservative route and that has not hurt the company one bit. There is no hiding the wagon persona and that’s alright. This year, the grille is new and the front end is more distinctive. The always present thin roof pillars are a fitting contrast to the big blocks on some competing models. Overall, the lines aren’t imaginative and the remaining touchpoints are underwhelming.
One of the other changes this year involves the introduction of the Wilderness trim. This one includes a slight boost in ground clearance to 9.2 inches and all-terrain tires. Wilderness is, in fact, a sub-brand for Subaru. Just as GMC has Denali and AT4, the Wilderness represents the ultimate in off-road prowess. Other design features include reworked and redesigned bumpers for improved approach and departure angles. Further, the roof rails are upgraded to hold more cargo weight.
The list of standard features includes LED steering responsive headlights with high beam assist and 17-inch steel wheels. Make your move to the Premium trim and this one comes with halogen fog lights, a panoramic moonroof, raised roof rails, and 17-inch alloy wheels. LED fog lights accompany the Sport trim. Most trims have 18-inch alloy wheels in a variety of designs.
The 2022 Forester seats five (four is ideal) and holds up to 75 cubic feet of cargo room with the rear seat folded. That places the Forester at the top of its class. All trims come with a 1,500-pound tow rating except for the Wilderness. The new trim doubles that capacity to a robust 3,000 pounds, placing the Forester in the thick of things class-wise.
Just as Forester’s exterior is understated, the same can be said for the interior. But we will give the Forester props for exceptional headroom, comfortable front seats, and a versatile interior. Although the interior is simple, the features pop with the Wilderness trim. Here, you will find seatback embossing, contrasting orange highlights on the steering wheel, shifter, and terrain mode selector, and contrast stitching. The metal pedals add a sporty flair. The available soft-touch materials and metallic trim are attractive pieces of note.
Cloth seats are standard and the front seats are manually operated. A 60/40 split fold-down rear seat is included. Take a walk through the trim range and a 10-way power driver’s seat appears with lumbar support. An 8-way power front passenger seat is exclusive to the top trim. Further, features such as leather seats, a heated steering wheel, and heated front seats are available.
Key Safety Features
Subaru offers a strong list of standard safety equipment with the 2022 Forester. All trims come with forward automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, lane centering assist, and adaptive cruise control.
Move to the Sport trim and reverse automatic braking is bundled with an options package. It is at this trim level where lane change assist, rear cross-traffic alert, and blind-spot monitoring are added. These features are available on the Premium trim for a $1,165 upgrade.
At the Wilderness level, rear automatic emergency braking is included. Drowsy driving monitoring is exclusive to the top trim.
Subaru equips the 2022 Forester with a 6.5-inch touch-screen display, a four-speaker audio system, Bluetooth, two USB ports, HD Radio, and satellite radio. Furthermore, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone compatibility are standard.
Ascending the trim range brings in additional features, including a 6-speaker audio system and a Wi-Fi hotspot with the Premium trim. The Sport trim brings in a 9-speaker Harman Kardon audio system and an 8-inch touch-screen display. Also, navigation appears with the Wilderness trim.
The Subaru Forester operates in the compact utility vehicle segment, one of the most competitive in all of autodom. Models in this segment offer standard front-wheel drive and available all-wheel drive. Only the Forester offers standard all-wheel drive.
Among the top models in this segment are the Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue, and the Toyota RAV4. The Ford Escape, Chevrolet Equinox, GMC Terrain, Jeep Cherokee, and Buick Envision are from the domestics. Other models include the Mitsubishi Outlander, Hyundai Tucson, Volkswagen Tiguan, Mazda CX-30, and the Kia Sportage.
Auto Trends is a fan of flat-four (boxer) engines. This design features horizontally opposed cylinders, which offer improved vibration control over inline engines. The engine also sits lower and closer to the firewall. Thus, it amplifies improved handling characteristics, especially on sporty models such as the BRZ.
The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine powering every Forester model, though, is not turbocharged as it is with some models, including the BRZ. In this format, it delivers 182 horsepower and 176 pound-feet of torque. Power routes to all four wheels utilizing a continuously variable transmission.
No, we weren’t impressed by Forester’s powertrain. The engine isn’t weak, but it isn’t strong either. Moreover, the pairing with the CVT seals its fate as a middling powerplant.
And we can understand the transmission choice as the CVT enables the Forester to earn a combined 33 mpg. Thus, Subaru’s emphasis is on efficiency over performance.
There are some props worth dispensing, however. To begin, the ride is quite comfortable and drama-free. Further, the light steering and spot-on handling give this utility vehicle a more sophisticated vibe.
If you’re an off-road enthusiast, the four-wheel-drive Jeeps, trucks, and utility vehicles are familiar conveyances. On occasion, you’ll spot a Subaru driver successfully negotiating mud ruts and sandpits, one of the few all-wheel-drive vehicles with that capability. That said, an Outback is a usual choice, not a Forester. But we think the Forester Wilderness will become more commonly seen as drivers attempt to push it to its limits. Beefier tires, a burly suspension system, and an extra measure of ground clearance help. As does an off-road mode. We certainly don’t recommend heavy-duty off-roading, but light to medium-duty seems entirely reasonable.
The Forester has a cult-like following and no wonder: it offers a terrific blend of technology, safety, and utility. It won’t win styling accolades, although the Wilderness supplies a more aggressive and nuanced appearance with its trim and badging.
With a more wagon-like visage, the Forester eschews the typical crossover look. Even so, it supplies ample cargo space and has decent off-road chops to go with it. That’s a combination that shouldn’t be overlooked by anyone needing such an advantage.
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