Opinionated at any Speed . . . Silvio Calabi

Subaru Forester Wilderness

Tue, 08/30/2022 - 12:45pm

The Forester is a compact crossover SUV—that is, it has two rows of seats, a liftgate and all-wheel drive in a boxy unit-body chassis—and it is powered (at least for now) by a 2.5-liter ICE, an internal-combustion engine. As you may know if you’ve tried to buy one recently, cute-utes are the automotive equivalent of Justin Bieber tickets. Everybody wants one.

The Forester has been a Subaru staple for 25 years—with the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, it helped create the compact SUV niche—and by then Subaru had already been a New England staple for 20 years. In a region characterized by bad weather, potholes, twisty roads, poor sightlines, rocks, mountains, forests and relatively short driving distances—and where people are leery of flash and change—a smallish, nimble, reliable, long-lived, slightly dowdy and value-priced utility vehicle that changes at a geologic pace is right at home.

This 2022 Forester shows how well Subaru has learned to read the New England market. The big news for 2022 is this relatively refreshing “Wilderness” trim package and, gasp, an eighth speed in its automatic transmission. The former provides some much-needed color accents and cladding to the Forester and, on the functional side, lifts the body—by a half-inch—to a ground clearance of 9.2 inches while tucking in the bumpers slightly for shorter front and rear overhangs. The roof rack has been strengthened, too.

To go with the extra off-road cred, Wilderness buyers also get gnarly tires and there’s a camera in the nose that lets drivers inspect the surface of whatever trail they may be picking their way along. But visibility over the hood is already excellent, and of course all Subarus have Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive with each wheel independently sprung to do its thing without being hindered by the others. This new flavor of Forester is likely to be competent even on washed-out trails.

The new eighth “gear” really isn’t one, as this is a CVT, a continuously variable transmission; it just feels like one. However, compared to standard Foresters, the Wilderness variant is capable of lugging down to lower speeds, also for better trail- and rock-crawling. It even has hill-descent control automatically managed by something called X-Mode logic.  

On pavement, where nearly all off-road vehicles accrue most of their mileage, the Wilderness Forester is, if no track star, comfortable and competent in every way save acceleration. A mere 182 horsepower and 176 torques simply can’t do much more than keep up with general traffic. Probably because of the shorter gearing, we averaged just 24 miles per gallon—but this Forester is also rated to tow 3,000 pounds.

Like all new Foresters, the Wilderness comes with the fourth generation of Subaru’s excellent EyeSight safety system, which uses binocular vision (two cameras at the top of the windshield) to peer down the road and gauge what traffic ahead is up to, and then manage its cruise control and emergency braking assistance accordingly.

The starting price of our wild-child Forester is $32,820. With one add-on—Option Package 22, the Starlink Multimedia Navigation System—plus destination and delivery charges, the sticker comes to $35,796. Especially today, this seems like tremendous value.