CHATHAM, Mass. – Sport-utility vehicles are styled to look like they can conquer the great outdoors; the new 2022 Subaru Forester Wilderness has been engineered to do just that or at least take you over roads and trailed less traveled.

Refreshed for the 2022 model year, Subaru’s most popular range of vehicles in the U.S. market added the Wilderness version with both unique styling and functional elements, including a revised suspension system.

Carried over from previous Forester iterations are standard all-wheel drive (AWD) and EyeSight Driver Assist Technology (Subaru’s ADAS system).

This Forester engineered to go the extra off-road mile

Ground clearance is a key factor when leaving the pavement behind and thanks to longer springs and a revised suspension system, including larger shock absorbers, the Forester Wilderness sits 9.2-inches above the earth’s potential hazards.

The suspension revisions also created increased approach, departure and breakover angles for enhanced trail driving capability.

Punctured tires are much more common when driving on unpaved trails, so the Wilderness – unlike most vehicles on the road today – comes with a full-size spare tire. This fifth tire, like the other four Yokohama GEOLANDAR® P225/60R17all-terrain ones, is mounted on a 17-inch matte-black alloy wheel. And, unlike some SUVs which mount the spare under the vehicle, this one is mounted inside the Forester, under the cargo floor, where it does not collect road dirt and grime.

A platform to get you through all types of conditions

Wilderness models get a revised powertrain. Like all Foresters, it begins with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder double-overhead cam engine producing 182 horsepower and 178 pounds-feet of torque.

The continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) features paddle shifters for manual activation of simulated gear ratios selected for optimum off-road capability. The transmission is coupled to a revised Subaru Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive with a Forester exclusive dual-function X- MODE® drive system.

To deal with whatever surface conditions a driver might face, the Forester Wilderness Dual-Mode X-MODE drive control settings cover Snow/Dirt mode; Deep Snow/Mud mode (under 25 mph); Deep Snow/Mud mode (above 25 mph); Low Speed/Low Ratio Gradient Control which can automatically detect vehicle travel on steep gradients and shift to a CVT low ratio comprised of a lower transfer gear ratio and lower first ratio.

The basic four-wheel independent suspension pieces include MacPherson-type struts, lower L-arms, coil springs, stabilizer bar, hydraulic engine mounts up front and double wishbone, coil springs, stabilizer bar in the rear.

The braking system includes electronically controlled power-assisted, dual diagonal four-wheel disc brake system with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and four-channel/four-sensor ABS with brake assist and brake override safety systems; active torque vectoring; auto-vehicle hold and electronic parking brake.

The front rotors are 12.4 inches, while the rears are 11.2; all four are ventilated.

Our weather was clear and warm during my week in the Forester Wilderness, so I had no chance to experience the various X-Mode settings under duress. Gravel and dirt roads were no challenge for the Subaru, but I did not think they would be, especially with the 9.2-inches of ground clearance.

On road activity was as advertised. The ride was comfortable, not punishing at all; handling did not seem compromised by the added ride height. In sum, a very capable every-day driver.

Bringing extensive ADAS to the Wilderness

The Forester Wilderness features a very long list of advanced driver-assist systems (ADAS) as standard. It starts with the new fourth generation of Subaru’s EyeSight ADAS equipped with the new Automatic Emergency Steering and new stereo camera with significantly enhanced performance.

The ADAS roster includes:

Advanced Adaptive Cruise Control with Lane Centering

  • Pre-Collision Braking
  • Pre-Collision Throttle Management
  • Lane Departure and Sway Warning
  • Lead Vehicle Start Alert (Vehicle In Front)
  • Lane Departure Prevention
  • Blind-Spot Detection with Lane Change Assist and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert
  • Advanced Adaptive Cruise Control

Styling cues inside and out

Copper and black accents inside and out, along with blacked-out wheel wells (along with the higher roofline), help distinguish the Wilderness from the other members of the Forester family.

In addition to the copper trim on the dash, doors and steering wheel and aluminum-alloy pedals, the Wilderness interior offers differentiating water-resistant StarTex® seating surfaces, so no worries about jumping in after dealing with a day on and in the water or battling a snowstorm or rain shower.

Other interior amenities include a dual-zone automatic climate-control system; 10-way electrically adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar-support; heated front seats; tilt/telescoping/heated leather-wrapped steering wheel and USB outlets front and rear.

The review Forester Wilderness came with the lone available option package ($1,850) consisting of the SUBARU STARLINK® 8.0-inch Multimedia Navigation System with Harman Kardon® premium nine-speaker audio system infotainment system and a power liftgate.

Living with the Forester Wilderness

It has been about 30 years since Subaru took its four-wheel drive Legacy station wagon, added ground clearance with a revised suspension system and joined the nascent sport-utility onslaught with the Legacy Outback.

Its robust platforms have subsequently been developed, refined and modernized to provide the underpinnings for some of the most successful subcompact (Crosstrek), compact (Forester) and mid-size (Outback, Ascent) SUVs in the market, making the Japanese brand a major player in the U.S. market.

Reasonable size, ease of driving, solid SUV fuel economy (I saw 29.2 miles per gallon during my week, better than the EPA rating of 26 mpg), reliability and quality, along with very competitive pricing (Forester Wilderness, as reviewed, $35,795 including options and $1,125 for destination and delivery) have made Subaru’s Forester a best seller. It is a terrific vehicle.

Next week TBR Drives the 2022 Chevrolet Bolt EUV electric vehicle.