opinionated at any speed

Subaru Outback Wilderness 

Sat, 12/04/2021 - 8:00pm

A new trim package for Subaru’s all-wheel-drive Outback wagon, called Wilderness, is available for 2022 and it’s not just cosmetics. This variant stands taller (9.5 inches of ground clearance) on longer-travel shock absorbers and springs and the bumpers have been tucked in. For off-roaders, this means 20.0 degrees of approach angle (up from 18.6º), a “breakover angle” of 21.2 degrees (up from 19.4º), and the departure angle—how steep a surface the new Outback can descend from without dragging its tail—rises from 21.7 to 23.6 degrees. 

These are hardly Jeep or Land Rover numbers, but there’s more: For off-roading, the Wilderness Outback’s rear differential gets a lower gear ratio and the automatic CVT, continuously variable transmission, delivers the same drive ratio to the front wheels. (Power comes from a 260HP/277 lb-ft Four.) The Wilderness Outback is rated for 3,500 pounds of towing capacity and Subaru says it can climb a 40-percent grade on gravel.

There’s X-Mode too—different drivetrain setups for snow/dirt and deep snow/mud. X-Mode can shift automatically from dirt-crawler settings to road speeds without interruption. 

All this plus all-terrain tires on 17-inch wheels should make tip-toeing across the rough stuff that much easier.

And drivers who do venture off the pavement, where tires and wheels are at risk, will also appreciate the new Outback’s full-size spare.


Otherwise, the Wilderness Subie is a family car with all of today’s active and passive safety systems, from lane-centering to Subaru’s excellent EyeSight Drive Assistance, which can “read” not only the car in front but also traffic farther ahead. There’s a more advanced computer system too, that controls or monitors everything (multimedia , HVAC, drive modes, vehicle settings) through the largest touchscreen I’ve seen in a Subaru. 

Other Wilderness goodies include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as Bluetooth and audio streaming with over-the-air updates. There’s also a front-view camera, a hands-free power liftgate and a waterproof cargo mat. An upgrade adds a separate GPS system, a power moonroof and automatic reverse braking, which takes over if it seems we’re going to back into something. 

Altogether, the Wilderness Outback is a capable, hospitable and comfortable car, but there are a few hiccups: The fuel-saving automatic stop-start is crude, sending a great shudder through the vehicle each time the engine re-starts. Adjusting the front seat heaters requires first activating the computer screen and then poking at a touchy interface. And, as always, Subaru styling remains a bit dowdy. But such flaws mean little to true Subaristas, who appreciate their brand’s attention to rugged function over mere form. 

They appreciate value, too. A base Outback, surprisingly well equipped, starts at $26,945. Then come Premium, Onyx, Limited and Touring versions, and their XT upgrades; these start prices top out at $39,945, the same or very slightly more than last year. The new Wilderness model slots inbetween the Onyx and Limited, at $36,995; the upgrade mentioned earlier will tack on another $1,845. 

Note the Wilderness Outback’s tall stance, large fender cutouts, blacked-out trim and wheels, tucked-in bumpers, “non-glare” hood and heavy-duty roof rails. The new color is Geyser Blue—“inspired by Subaru’s rally heritage and the scenery only found in the U.S. National Parks.”


Silvio Calabi has been reviewing cars since Ronald Reagan removed the solar panels from the White House. He lives in Camden.