The 2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness is the thinking driver’s passport to comfortably get out, get it, and get home
Table of Contents
5 Cool Things
Outback Wilderness Upgrades
Symmetrical All Wheel Drive
Performance and Fuel Economy
Ride and Handling
Back Seats and Cargo
2023 Outback Updates
Why Buy the 2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness?
Subaru has pushed farther afield with its new-for-2022 Outback Wilderness model. It marks the eighth trim level for the sixth generation of this raised all-wheel-drive wagon.
Subaru has long worn a burnished badge for all-wheel-drive back-to-nature rambling. The brand’s vehicles are family-oriented, steeped in safety, small(er), and efficient. Such capable vehicles have been an answer to the pandemic-induced call for “Don’t tread on me, let me tread lightly on a dirt trail.”
Breathe deep the independence of an all-wheel-drive escape vehicle.
Many traditional carmakers have come to market with specialized off-road-themed models to capitalize on adventure travel. To cut through some of that noise, the 2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness stakes out newfound capability. The Wilderness model is not a rock crawler, nor will it steal the thunder from a Jeep Wrangler, but it is the thinking driver’s passport to comfortably get out, get it, and get home.
5 Cool Things About the Outback Wilderness
- 17-inch Yokohama Geolandar A/T raised white letter tires, and matte black-finish alloy wheels have a 48mm offset for a wider track.
- Full-size spare wheel and tire — a requirement for off-roading safety.
- StarTex upholstery with copper-color stitching. It is more supple than leather and water resistant.
- 180-degree front view monitor, an asset for trail riding or parking in the city.
- Ladder-type roof rack. This rack system will support up to 700 pounds; most roof racks are rated 125 to 250 pounds. And the Subaru rack is strong enough to support a roof-top tent.
Assets of the 2022 Outback
Among the nine carlines by Subaru, the Outback is usually its top monthly seller. The compact-class Crosstrek SUV is usually a few thousand sales behind in second place.
A test drive of the Outback is compelling. It greets the driver with a flannel-warm sense of security and all-wheel-drive confidence. The steering weight has a light and steady touch. Four-wheel-disc braking engages with absolute refinement. And the suspension is the great equalizer of smoothness over the fractured pavement of the city or washboard-rippled dirt tracks.
As a midsize vehicle, the interior is roomy with good elbow room and a long stretch of back-seat legroom. Cargo space is generous, with length for car camping when the back seat is folded. The cabin feels snug, the doors close with satisfying security. Sightlines are unhindered. And its small turning circle of 36.1 feet is enabling on the trail or in the parking lot.
The finisher might be Subaru’s reputation for safety. The Outback earns a top five star overall ranking by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. But there have been growing pains for the Outback as documented at NHTSA.gov, but more on that below.
2022 Subaru Outback Pricing
There are eight trim levels of Subaru Outback, with two engine choices, one automatic Lineartronic CVT and standard all-wheel drive.
The entry-level engine is a 182-hp, 2.5-liter nonturbocharged “flat” four-cylinder. This engine has fuel economy ratings of 26 mpg city, 33 highway and 29 mpg combined.
Upper Outback trim levels get the 260-hp, 2.4-liter turbocharged engine, also a “flat” four-cylinder. It has mileage ratings of 22/26/25 mpg. Regular unleaded fuel is recommended for both engines.
Starting prices range from $28,820 for the Base model with entry engine to $41,820 for the Touring XT with the turbo engine. Pricing includes the $1,175 freight charge from Lafayette, Ind.
Today’s tester is the 2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness with the 260-hp engine. It starts at $38,870 and finished at $40,715. It had the only factory option package offered, the Subaru Starlink 11.6-inch Multimedia Plus system, $1,845, and includes a power moonroof and reverse automatic braking system.
The Wilderness is well equipped with such standard features as smart-key entry and push-button ignition, StarTex water-repellent upholstery, 11.6-inch Starlink infotainment system (with a free 3-year subscription), 180-degree front view monitor, and a rearview camera with guidance lines, 10-way power-adjustable driver seat and an eight-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, all-weather floor mats with the Wilderness logo. The front and rear (window) seats are heated.
Find current Subaru Outback pricing here. And check for special offers here.
Outback Wilderness Upgrades
The Subaru Wilderness has some unique styling treatments. Among them:
Yokohama Geolandar A/T 225/65 17-inch all-season, raised white letter tires. Matte black-finish alloy wheels have a 48mm offset for wider track. Included is a full-size matching spare wheel and tire.
Wilderness-spec suspension. The ride is raised about an inch for 9.5-inches of ground clearance and increased approach, departure and breakover angles.
Anodized copper finish accent elements. These identify contact points for tow hook anchor points and roof rail tie-down points.
Hexagon-pattern LED fog lights, with and covers.
- Anodized copper front bumper tow points.
- All-weather floor mats with Wilderness logo on front mats.
- PVC rear seatback material, waterproof and durable.
- 8-way power front passenger seat.
- Black inner headlight bezel and black inner extension.
- LED rear gate light.
Subaru Outback Safety Features
Subaru packs an electronic brain trust of safety features and driver-assist technologies into all Outback models. Not the least are eight air bags, including a driver’s knee bag and front passenger seat cushion bags.
Standard across the lineup is Subaru’s EyeSight Driver Assist Technology, which includes advanced adaptive cruise control with lane centering. The system will provide steering assist when the vehicle veers outside its lane.
Subaru’s semi-autonomous driver-assist system keeps the Outback well centered and gives more fluid steering corrections than some. Drivers, however, should always use two hands on the wheel. Variable daylight and road conditions can cause random but brief shutdowns, in my experience. The Subaru system dutifully informs the driver of approaching or passing vehicles with chirps and chimes.
DriverFocus Distraction Mitigation System uses an infrared camera and facial recognition technology to monitor driver fatigue or distraction signs. You’ll know it is working when you hear the pings and see a warning light on the driver info screen.
The warning sounds can sometimes seem like too much input in heavy traffic. In my first few days of driving, the tones had me checking the mirrors and driver-info screen to determine the cause of concern; some of my head and eye movement might have triggered more pings. But the added electronic eyes in heavy traffic are when EyeSight is at its best.
The EyeSight system is comprised of:
AEB: Automatic emergency braking;
LDW: Lane departure and sway warning;
BSD: Blind-spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert;
VDC: Vehicle dynamics control with electronic traction control; and
- Active torque vectoring (using brakes);
- Auto vehicle hold;
- Hill descent control;
- Brake-force distribution, brake assist, and brake override.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration — NHTSA.gov — gives the Subaru Outback a top five-star overall safety rating, as expected. The government website also documents other safety-related topics relating to recalls: owner Complaints, Investigations, and Manufacturer Communications.
What I did not expect to learn from the NHTSA ranking are the many official complaints from Outback owners. Most of the issues were severe windshield cracking, with no known impacts, and numerous battery-drain issues. Learn more about the Subaru Outback (or your current vehicle) here.
Symmetrical All Wheel Drive
The fortified Outback Wilderness is a pinnacle of simplicity and usability. The foundation of its traction is Subaru’s full-time symmetrical all-wheel-drive. All the wheels are turning all the time, unlike an on-demand AWD system.
Subaru’s AWD system is usually a 60/40 power split between the front and rear axles. When sensors in the Subaru system detect a slipping wheel (in less than a revolution of that wheel, Subaru says), the power is redirected from the slipping wheel to wheels that still have traction. It is an invisible action and requires no driver action.
The Outback Wilderness model builds on that traction foundation with revised lower gear ratios, an active torque split to the AWD system, and an Advanced X-Mode for terrain control.
Advanced X-Mode is a unique control logic in the vehicle dynamics control system. It reduces individual wheel spin for more control on slippery road surfaces and inclines.
The system has driver-selectable modes of :
- Deep Snow/Mud under 25 mph,
- Deep Snow/Mud above 25 mph.
- Low Speed/Low Ratio Gradient Control. This mode seems to replicate 4WD low-range gearing. It automatically detects travel on steep grades and shifts the CVT to a lower gear ratio and lower first ratio.
Outback Wilderness Performance
The 260-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder is a sophisticated design with horizontally opposed pistons, a twin-scroll turbocharger, and direct injection.
But the Outback Wilderness has a full-bodied curb weight of 3,929 pounds. Add travel gear and a partner, and the engine is hefting 4,200 pounds or more.
Turbocharged power is welcome, but acceleration force can range from relaxed to aggressive, all in a mile of driving.
The engine’s 277 foot-pounds of torque dig into its peak power from 2,000-4,800 rpm. Off-the-line acceleration is not brisk as the continuously variable transmission hooks up and the turbo spools boost. But bury the pedal and the engine rallies and the transmission clicks off a downshift or two for a rush of power.
Because of the lower gear ratios and the curb weight, fuel mileage is challenged. The best I achieved was an average of 21.8 mpg. The 18.5-gallon tank is a benefit for travel, however, off-road or on.
Outback Wilderness Ride and Handling
Built on Subaru’s global platform, the Outback feels robust and solid. Its ride quality is comfortably compliant but capable enough for tooling through backcountry curves. The four-wheel independent (steel-spring) suspension performs better ride control than pricier electronic systems.
There’s also a cushioning effect from the substantial sidewall of the Yokohama Geolandar tires, which is an asset on pavement or off. And the Wilderness model has a full-size spare wheel and tire — a requirement for off-roading safety.
Braking is by power-assisted and ventilated four-wheel discs. The 12.4-inch front rotors have dual-piston calipers, and the rear 11.8-inch rotors have single-piston calipers.
The Outback has a hefty tow capacity of 3,500 pounds with a 350-pound trailer tongue weight.
Outback Interior Function
Inside, the Outback cabin is well soundproofed with a sound-insulated windshield and side glass. But the raised ride height, substantial roof rack, and off-road tires generate noise at highway speeds.
The driver area is smartly arranged with unobstructed sightlines at the side mirrors and over the shoulder. The white-on-black, dual-gauge array has a driver-info panel between the dials for the digital speedometer, radio-media, fuel economy, etc.
The step-in height is hip-high and easy to maneuver. The seats are not over-bolstered at the sides or bottoms to slide across, and there is long thigh support.
The two-tone gray-black interior treatment is appealing with reserved use of satin metallic and chrome trim.
Base models have fabric upholstery while the upper trims have leather. But the Wilderness model has Subaru’s water-repellent StarTex upholstery. The synthetic plastic material is softer than leather and is supposed to be water resistant and easy to clean. (StarTex is made without polyvinyl chloride (PVC), Subaru says.)
The shifter console is compact and has an e-bin and two 2.1-amp charging USBs. Oddly wireless charging is not included on the Wilderness but is available for $341. Sliding visors have covered and well-lighted mirrors.
One of my favorite features was the front-view camera. It is very handy for trail views or when steering into a parking slot.
The big 11.6-inch vertical tablet seems like a great idea, but the tablet’s width limits the display of camera images.
Except for stand-alone knobs for radio volume and station selection, the remainder of the controls are accessed by a two-tap touch-screen process. This action will take eyes from the road until the format is mastered.
Back Seat and Cargo Space
There is sedanlike comfort in the back-seat area with adult-size seating and long legroom. The low transmission tunnel eases three-across footroom. And there are a couple inches of seatback recline, which parents value for sleeping youngsters.
Conveniences include the broad fold-down armrest with a pair of can holders and two more 2.1-amp charging USBs.
The square cargo area has eight tie-downs, upper and lower, rather than just four floor-mounted anchor points. The deep space has seatback releases, corner nooks, a 12-volt plug, and bag hooks. The spare tire and tools are stowed below, and there is space for the roller cover when not needed.
The liftgate opening is 44 inches wide by 29 inches tall at the entry opening. Fold the seatbacks for up to almost 7 feet of length.
2023 Subaru Outback Updates
The 2023 Subaru Outback lineup (except the Wilderness) will debut a new front fascia, more prominent grille, redesigned LED headlights and fog lights, and a more rugged front bumper cover. On the sides, there is expanded wheel-arch cladding for bolder styling and added protection from ice and gravel scouring.
The latest version of EyeSight Driver Assist Technology will have a wider field of view and updated control software. Also added is an electric brake booster.
The top-level Touring trim adds a wide-angle mono camera, which works with the dual-camera EyeSight system. The added camera is intended to recognize pedestrians and bicycles sooner as the vehicle enters an intersection at low speed. When necessary, the new EyeSight system will brake to avoid intersection collisions with bicycles and pedestrians.
Also new for the Touring model is a full LCD smart rearview mirror with auto-dimming, compass, and Homelink garage-gate-lighting system.
EyeSight models with Blind-Spot Detection with Lane Change Assist and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert will add Automatic Emergency Steering. The new feature works with the Pre-Collision Braking System to help avoid a collision at speeds less than 50 mph.
Why Buy the 2022 Outback Wilderness?
The Subaru Outback Wilderness makes an almost irresistible first impression. It looks good, feels secure on the road, and would be a faithful road-trip companion. It has all the good bones for long-term ownership. If the Outback was offered as a hybrid or plug-in hybrid, it would be on my short list to buy.
The NHTSA owner complaints cannot be ignored, however. If you are among the Subaru faithful, and a new Outback is on your short list, consider the extended warranty “Gold Plus Plan.” The dealership can provide pricing.
2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness Specifications
Body style: midsize, 5-seat, 5-door AWD crossover SUV
Engine: 260-hp, twin-scroll turbocharged with direct-injected 2.4-liter flat 4-cylinder; 277 lb.-ft. torque from 2,000-4,800 rpm; auto stop-start at idle
Transmission: high-torque Lineartronic CVT with 8-speed manual function and steering wheel paddle shifters; revised lower ratios exclusive to Wilderness model
Symmetrical AWD: Active Torque Split AWD with electronic variable hydraulic transfer clutch
Fuel economy: 22/26/24 mpg city/hwy/combined; 87 octane
Ground clearance: 9.5 inches
Towing capacity: 3,500 pounds with 350-lb. trailer tongue weight
BY THE NUMBERS
Fuel tank: 18.5 gallons
Cargo space: 32.5-75.7 cubic feet
Front head/leg room: *37.7/42.8 inches *40.1 inches without sunroof
Rear head/leg room: 39.1/39.5 inches
Length/wheelbase: 191.3/108.1 inches
Curb weight: 3,929 pounds, including option package of navigation, moonroof and reverse automatic braking
Turning circle: 36.1 feet
Standard equipment includes: smart-key entry and push-button ignition, advanced adaptive cruise control with lane centering, StarTex water-repellent upholstery, 11.6-inch Starlink infotainment system (3-year free subscription), Apple CarPlay and Android Auto 180-degree front view monitor and rearview camera with guidance lines, 10-way power-adjustable driver and 8-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, all-weather floor mats with Wilderness logo, heated front and rear seats
Wilderness treatment: 17-inch Yokohama Geolandar A/T 225/65 all-season raised white letter tires on matte-black finish alloy wheels, LED headlights and fog lights, ladder-type roof rails with 700-lb. capacity, anti-glare hood graphic, front skid plate, LED rear light
Safety features include: 8 air bags (including driver knee bag and front passenger cushion bag), EyeSight driver-assist system with automatic emergency braking; lane departure and sway warning; blind-spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert; vehicle dynamics control with electronic traction control; active torque vectoring (using brakes); auto vehicle hold; hill descent control; brake-force distribution, brake assist, brake override
Base price: $38,870, including $1,175 freight charge; price as tested $40,715
Options on test vehicle: Subaru Starlink 11.6-inch Multimedia Plus system, $1,845, includes power moonroof and reverse automatic braking system
Where assembled: Lafayette, Ind.
Warranties: 3-years/36,000-miles bumper to bumper with roadside assistance; 5-years/60,000-miles powertrainRead more