This summer, we give you a 6-part review of the all-new Wilderness variant of the 2022 Subaru Outback. Today, part two, in which we look at the Wilderness beneath the badging.
The launch of the 2022 Wilderness edition coincided with the removal from the lineup of the Outdoor XT trim, conveniently leaving the Outback model range with the same impressive number of variants: seven. These range from the Convenience ($33,380) to the Premier XT ($46,383); the Wilderness sits nearer the top than the bottom of the ladder, with its MSRP of $44,583 (transport and prep included, taxes not).
So that’s that for the official hierarchy within the Outback clan. But how do you tell this version apart from the others. Well, I m…
“Hey! That’s the new car you’re test-driving?”
Let me re-introduce you to Emiliano, my precocious, underage, automotive expert of a neighbour, who you may remember from our long-term review of the Niro EV. Soon to turn 12. And because he knows what I do for a living, he’s a regular appearance in and around my home, more particularly the entrance to my garage, to sniff out the flavour of the week in there.
“Yup,” I say. “A Subaru...”
“Outback Wilderness!” interrupts the boy. “Hard not to figure that out with all the badges everywhere!”
And yes, those badges are big and carry the name of the model, accompanied by pointy mountain peaks. Subaru stuck some on the back and on the doors. You can’t miss ‘em.
The connoisseur at work
Emiliano approaches the car, looks at me and at my notebook, and at what’s written on it. “I have one of those too”, he says. Sure enough, out from his pocket comes a well-worn notebook. He flips over the pages until he reaches the current one under construction. His notes are neatly written, in tidy detached lettering just like he learned in grade school.
I look at my incomprehensible jottings and feel a hint of shame. It looks like shorthand, even if it isn’t. I know myself, I always have to transcribe notes like these quickly to my computer, lest I forget what I wrote and can’t decipher them.
“What have you got written there?”, I ask my friend the expert.
“Well, after I passed by the car yesterday, I did some research. The Outback has always stood out for its high ground clearance. Because it’s supposed to be used for off-roading. But actually, all Subarus have the same ground clearance, or…”
He leafs through his notes.”220 mm. Or 8.7 inches if you prefer.” My friend likes to treat me like I’m a dinosaur. He continues, “The Wilderness version has 100 mm (0.3 inches) more ground clearance. This is because Subaru lengthened the springs in the suspension.”
“Well done, Sherlock!”, I say. “And what else do you notice about the exterior?
“Plenty! First of all, the black moldings above the wheels. The Outback has always had those. It’s like a pretend armour. The Wilderness takes the idea further.”
Emiliano runs his hand over a black plastic ornament. “Look how wide that is, and the odd angles. It looks like the armour of a Transformer.”
"Yeah, well I'd written Gundam but it's the same,” I tell him.
“Gunwhat?” asks Emiliano.
“Never mind.” I continue the inspection. “I like the warrior look of the matte black wheels and the 17-inch Yokohama Geolandar tires. The bumpers have had a taste of Wilderness medicine, too. They're bigger, more intense than usual.”
“And they incorporate these funny gold-coloured squares," Emiliano adds. “I checked on the Subaru website. You can pick a Wilderness in six different colours, but no matter what you choose, these things are always gold.”
I explain that it’s "a fantasy, as you can see, that is repeated elsewhere on the vehicle: here (I point to the roof rails); and here (I open the driver's side door to show him the steering wheel and the transmission lever knob where the same gold glitters); and here (a piece of fabric hanging from the stitching - also gold - that reminds us of a clothing label telling us how to wash it). And did you know, my friend, that these coloured plates - Subaru calls them “anodized copper” - are not just decorative?”
" .... "
"The ones on the bumpers can be removed to access the tow hooks, and the ones on the roof hide the tie-down anchors for various Thule mounts (bike, kayak, etc.).”
Not to be outdone, Emiliano kneels in front of the grille - also unique to this version, he points out - and bangs under the frame with his fist. It sounds not-empty. “They've put on skid plates,” he says. He stands up and points to the wide black strip taped to the hood. “And this, do you know what it's for?”
I know, but I don't want to spoil his fun. I give him the floor. “It's to prevent the sun from blinding the driver. Like when football players smear black shoe polish under their eyes.”
Inside the Wilderness, besides the aforementioned gold accents, the differences from other Outbacks are mostly aesthetic. Once again, the designers made sure that the model's name will simply not be forgotten. It can be found on the front seat headrests and floor mats.
“Touch the seat,” I say to Emiliano.
He does so. "It's soft and a little weird at the same time. It feels like the rubber of a wetsuit."
The idea is to make the seat upholstery easy to wash if you come back from an expedition to the top of the Himalayas... or your nearby ant hill. In the same spirit, the floor mats aren’t of wool but of another type of easy-care rubber.
Otherwise, the interior is pretty much the same as other Outbacks, except that some of the trim is finished in gunmetal grey (instead of black or silver). Rear-seat occupants don't get any more legroom, although it's plentiful, since the wheelbase remains the same (2,745 mm). However, the Wilderness' height has increased by 20 mm.
"Well, I think we've covered the basics. Anything else, Emiliano?"
"Just to tell you that I think your Wilderness is cool. Not sure I would have chosen white, though. I would have preferred blue."
“Pearly Abyss Blue,” I clarify. Which you saw in our first chapter of our review.
My young assistant shrugs and looks me straight in the eye: “Well, can we drive it now?”
Absolutely. Just in time for our next chapter...