A little time off the grid is good for all of us. My destination of choice to escape the insanity was the expansive and pristine scenery of the Pacific Northwest, starting in Seattle and driving down to the Oregon Coast. I packed a few jackets, my boyfriend, a camera, and not much else, really. Our tour guide was none other than the 2022 Subaru Forester Wilderness, a car that I thought would be perfect for the job. Turns out I was right.
While I would love to bore you with the snacks we consumed and the Taylor Swift songs I forced on my co-pilot along the way, your time is likely better spent hearing just how brilliant the Wilderness was driving in the very landscape that’s so similar to the badge that it wears. This is my favorite Subaru product for quite some time, and there’s good reason for that.
Gallery: 2022 Subaru Forester Wilderness In The PNW
Things That Just Make Sense
Any car-aware person who’s visited the PNW can tell you just how popular Subarus are. It’s actually hard to go more than 30 seconds without seeing one on the road. So it meant something that during our trip several people asked “What’s that cool new Subaru?”
Indeed, the Forester Wilderness stands apart from the Subie pack with lively bronze accents and possibly too much body cladding, though the matte hood accent is fantastic. My tester wore handsome and muted Autumn Green Metallic paint that made both the bronze and the cladding pop a bit more. Another stylish addition (standard on the Wilderness) was the set of powder black 17-inch wheels wrapped in Yokohama Geolandar tires with sweet white lettering. Taken as a whole, the Wilderness is fresh and unique, but not over-the-top in that it’s trying too hard.
Subaru didn’t stop at more aggressive rubber, either. The Wilderness has increased ride height – up half an inch to 9.2 inches – thanks to taller coil springs. This improves approach and departure angles by roughly three degrees each over the standard Forester, and there’s a standard skid plate (in addition to an optional, dealer-installed guard to provide more protection) just in case you misjudge the improved ability. For those who care to overland their Wilderness, the tow rating doubles to 3,000 pounds and the roof rack is upgraded to hold 220 dynamic pounds or 800 static pounds (roughly enough for three people to sleep in a tent).
The cabin also has an outdoorsy trick or two up its sleeve. Every major material choice feels durable and like it will shake off the PNW’s frequent rain-induced mud baths without issue. I love that the same bronze touches grace sections of the interior, like on the steering wheel and in the stitching. And it may have just been our California brittle bones, but both the heated seats and heated steering wheel made our time gathering miles much more pleasant.
The 2.5-liter four-cylinder underhood is unchanged from the standard Forester, putting out 182 horsepower and 176 pound-feet and feeling buzzy and a bit unrefined when floored. Subaru added new engine mount pieces to dampen some of the noise, but having driven multiple Forester models I can’t tell a difference. Over the course of a long trip like this, the engine’s unrelentingly grainy noise became a bother. And even though it’s come a long way over the years, the Forester’s CVT feels less refined than a genuine automatic, like the eight-speed in the Ford Bronco Sport.
If Subaru offered the Forester Wilderness with a smarter transmission it would be even better. But until that day comes, at least the four-cylinder put in a good showing with fuel economy. In driving almost 1,000 miles, I observed 26 miles per gallon combined, which is exactly what Subaru claims.
While there is some compromise with the powertrain’s refinement, the Forester is otherwise a fantastic road trip car. Thanks to the longer-travel suspension, bumps and bruises on the road cause little issue. The aforementioned off-road tires do a great job of staying quiet, too. And best of all, Subaru’s EyeSight driver assistance suite is incredibly easy to use and worked consistently – even in the heaviest of Seattle rainfall.
When it comes to raw off-roading ability the Forester is a step or two behind the Bronco Sport, but as a daily driver for the landscape in the Pacific Northwest, I found it to be nearly perfect for the job.
Subaru is pushing hard to make the Wilderness trim more pronounced across its lineup, a plan that I think will pay off in big ways. We may be sacrificing products like the WRX STI in the process, but the shift to SUVs (and electrified SUVs) makes sense. The Forester Wilderness is among the first models to get the Wilderness treatment, but I have no doubt that it won’t be the last.