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2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness Long-Term Review, Part 4

2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness | Photo: M.Crépault
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Michel Crépault
Hey I know! Let’s go out into the woods!

This summer, we give you a 6-part review of the all-new Wilderness variant of the 2022 Subaru Outback. Today, part four, in which we decide to go out into the woods. Without a compass.

See also: 2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness Long-Term Review, Part 1: A Wild Idea That Wasn't Actually So Nuts

See also: 2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness Long-Term Review, Part 2: The Wilderness Beneath the Badging

See also: 2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness Long-Term Review, Part 3: On the Road Again! (Or, How about a little Willie Nelson with your Wilderness?)

There is a term for the maximum angle of the slope you can climb without catching the nose of your vehicle on the ground.

This is called the angle of approach (or attack).

Similarly, there is a maximum angle you can descend without the rear bumper rubbing against the ground.

That's the angle of departure (or of escape, or of exit).

Finally, there is a maximum angle of the obstacle the vehicle can cross without the middle of its floor scraping the obstacle. That’s the ventral (or break or crest) angle.

These specifications (ramp angles) don’t come up when talking about a car, whether it's compact, mid-size or a big limo. Why? Because no one cares. You’re not going to try to take a hill in your Mercedes S-Class.

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2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness, profile
2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness, profile | Photo: M.Crépault

Looking down our noses
It's a different story when it comes to SUVs designed specifically for tackling winding, bumpy trails. Take the Jeep Wrangler, for example. In its Unlimited version, it’s rated for the following angle degrees: 38.4 (approach), 31.4 (departure) and 20.8 (crest), thanks in large part to its 254-mm (10-inch) ground clearance.

The higher a vehicle is on its legs (and the shorter its overhangs, i.e. the part of the body suspended in front of the front axle, and behind the rear axle), the more it will be able to handle large angles.

This truth is at the heart of what the Subaru Outback Wilderness is all about.

It's not a Jeep, and it's not an SUV; it's a wagon. A station wagon. Though without the fake wood on the sides.

But wagon or no, we went climbing with it.

As we know, this is a thing most all Subarus do well. Most members of the family boast a ground clearance of 220 mm, except for the WRX (135) and BRZ (130). The Outback Wilderness, meanwhile, gets 230 mm (I’ve encountered references made by colleagues to 241 mm; to be clear, that's true in the U.S., where the Outback Wilderness comes without the underfloor skid plates, a standard feature here).

This 230-mm clearance results in interesting ramp angles: 19.6 degrees for approach (compared to 18.4 for the regular-but-still-able Outback), 23.6 for departure (21.7) and 21.2 degrees for ventral (otherwise 19.4).

To help us navigate, the Wilderness’ handsome 11.6-inch centre screen displays the inclination of the slope the vehicle is about to conquer. However, while it's helpful to know the topography of the terrain, I found that this Subaru doesn't mind fending for itself. It knows instinctively what to do.

The 2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness  before the descent
The 2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness before the descent | Photo: M.Crépault

This way for the tour!
A visit to some friends in St-Hippolyte, in the Laurentians north of Montreal, was my opportunity to test all of that out. Élizabeth and Alain's house is perched atop a knob of vegetation overlooking Lake Connelly. Their fortress of holy peace!

They park their Bolt in a gravelly, rather steep driveway where Alain has MacGyver-ed a charging plug. Then it's a steep climb, almost as steep as the steps up to St. Joseph's Oratory in Montreal, to get to their fortress.

On the outskirts of that fortress, there is a summer-only vehicle trail that leads to the top of a hill, a few steps from the house. Very tempting when you want to avoid struggling up the staircase of penitence with your arms full. But you still have to be able to climb there with your vehicle.

As it had rained heavily over the previous two days, the dirt and crushed stone path had become as loose as a lump of butter left on the counter. Ruts and gullies crisscrossed its surface.

Seeing this, I said to Alain, "We've got to get the Wilderness here!"

Which we did with the enthusiasm of two teens up to no good. If it weren't for the mosquitoes, we'd still be riding up and down that hill like professional stuntmen.

The 2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness, during the descent
The 2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness, during the descent | Photo: M.Crépault

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Michel Crépault
Michel Crépault
Automotive expert
  • More than 45 years of experience as an automotive journalist
  • More than 12 test drives last year
  • Attended more than 190 new vehicle launches in the presence of the brand's technical specialists