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Auto review: Subaru's Wilderness goes one better in the wild

Barry Spyker, Tribune News Service on

Published in Automotive News

Subaru has gone to great lengths to entice outdoor enthusiasts with its well-touted symmetrical all-wheel-drive, and model names like Forester, Outback and Crosstrek.

But nothing says rugged better than the new Wilderness trim, actually a new sub-brand for Subaru. It's already affixed to the Outback and now joins the Forester lineup for 2022 and beyond. It's more than a rugged appearance package and badges; the compact SUV has greater ground clearance, upgraded suspension and off-road drive modes like deep snow/mud.

It also is equipped with a strengthened tent-ready roof rack that can accommodate 800 pounds of campers and gear when parked. Better to stay off the wet ground and away from whatever lurks in the wilderness.

Approach and departure angles have been increased to 23.5 and 25.4 degrees, respectively, and two skid plates protect the engine and rear differential (aluminum up front, steel in the rear). A set of Yokohama Geolandar all-terrain tires handle the rough trails and choppy ascents. So, yeah, the Wilderness means business.

All Foresters get a styling refresh this year with tweaked grille and LED fog lights, but the Wildnerness gets an exclusive grille. It also adds larger wheel arches with black body cladding to fend off mud and branches, black bumpers front and rear, and a matte-black hood decal to reduce sun glare. Copper-finish accents and badging add a special look and attitude.

All Foresters get power from a 2.4-liter flat four-cylinder engine that puts out 182 horsepower and 176 pound-feet of torque. A CVT (continuously variable transmission) with eight-speed manual shift mode sends power to all four wheels.

 

The powertrain is less punchy than most rivals. It delivers the SUV to 60 mph in around 8 seconds, which lags against foes from Honda, Toyota, Mazda and Kia. But it's fine for practical daily driving, commutes and such.

The ride is firmer than its brethren in the Subaru lineup but compliant and comfortable enough around town. The off-road tuned suspension subdues the asphalt imperfections, too, and keeps it stable on corners. Steering is accurate and braking is firm.

In traffic, a handy alert tells the driver when the car in front is moving again — so you won't get beeped from behind while checking last night's hockey scores.

But it really shines on broken dirt and gravel trails, combing over them like a personal watercraft on rippled waters. Forester's dual-function X-Mode applies the proper gearing for conditions: Normal, Snow/Dirt or Deep Snow/Mud modes optimize the traction control and power delivery.

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