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2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness Long-Term Review, Part 6

2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness | Photo: D.Boshouwers
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Michel Crépault
It’s report card time
2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness, profile
2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness, profile | Photo: D.Boshouwers

This summer, we give you a 6-part review of the all-new Wilderness variant of the 2022 Subaru Outback. Today, part six, in which we wrap ‘er up with the handing out of the report card.

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?)

See also: 2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness Long-Term Review, Part 4: Hey I know! Let’s go out into the woods!

See also: 2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness Long-Term Review, Part 5: Say, Who’s In Charge Here Anyways?

Three months already.

Three months of getting to know the Subaru Outback Wilderness, from this angle and that.

It's time for a conclusion, for a final verdict on this car that, all things considered, is in a class of its own.

Because its direct competitors are few and far between.

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Ford Explorer Timberline / Honda Passport Timberline
Ford Explorer Timberline / Honda Passport Timberline | Photo: Ford / D.Boshouwers

The competition
“Oh yeah?” you say. “Well what about the Honda Passport TrailSport, or the Ford Explorer Timberline?." I'll answer that, yes well, those are urban vehicles, versions of which were developed to take on roads less traveled, but also they are SUVs. In order to compare apples with apples, we have to stick to the wagon, which is what the Wilderness is.

When you stick to this rule, the first thing that comes to mind is the Allroad Quattro, a station wagon (or Avant in Audi parlance) derived from the A6, which has a higher ground clearance, a protected body and the German automaker’s famous all-wheel drive system. It's the same formula as the Outback, but the Wilderness variant takes it a step further.

Also, the Allroad, which survives today as the A4 Allroad ($52,300) and the A6 Allroad ($79,800), was born in 1999, five years after the Outback.

Two years before that, up in Sweden they launched the Volvo V70 Cross Country, or V70XC, which became the XC70, and which is now available as the V60 Cross Country ($56,429) and V90 Cross Country ($72,229) wagons.

Finally, the newest rival to the Wilderness is the Meridian edition of Mazda's CX-50. Starting at $49,800, it aims to emulate the Subaru's off-road prowess, but in a format more akin to that of a crossover.

In short, the Wilderness faces a handful of rivals, but it can proudly claim as its own the Outback's longer lineage (since 1994), its famous origins (Crocodile Dundee, after all!) and a starting price of $45,503 that undercuts everyone else.

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

Minor brickbats...
Ok, for the annoyances accumulated over the past three months, I retained the following:

  • Alerts and preventive measures that are too intrusive and that you often want to deactivate (which is easily done);
  • A semi-autonomous driving system that sometimes hesitates, especially in turns, to decide where the center of the lane is, so that I had to look like an impaired driver more than once;
  • A multitude of icons and controls on the central screen that are not always easy to untangle;
  • A sound system that could have been better.

As you can see, my constructive criticisms mainly concern electronic weaknesses that could use tweaking.

... and major bouquets!
Because for the rest, that is to say, when living with this car daily, traveling from mall to mark or driving to a trailhead, the Subaru Outback Wilderness gave me only satisfaction.

That satisfaction would have been even greater if I had been able to take advantage of the maximum towing capacity of 1,588 kg (3,500 lb), which is better, by the way, than what the 2.5L naturally-aspirated Outback can do (1,225 kg/2,700 lb).

Or if I had had occasion to use the standard roof rails with four anchor points (locations of which are strategically highlighted by the "anodized copper" – just say gold already! - which gives the car a very original look). That can support a tent and its occupants (as long as their total weight does not exceed 318 kg/700 lb).

2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness, roof rails
2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness, roof rails | Photo: M.Crépault
2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness, trunk
2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness, trunk | Photo: M.Crépault

By the way, if you don't have a tent, you can always settle in the back of the Outback. Just flip two levers in the cargo area and the 60/40 rear seatbacks fold down. They then form a very inviting flat floor. I know, I tried it and enjoyed a well-deserved nap.

If you'd rather cram in some luggage, the 920-litre (seatbacks up) and 2,144-litre (seatbacks down) volume accommodates quite a lot of it. More, inf act, than rivals (e.g., less than 1,700 litres for both Allroads).

If you happen upon rough on-road or off-road conditions, the Wilderness has Vehicle Dynamic Control, or VDC. Know that even with the Subaru's symmetrical AWD system in place, there are times when one wheel slips too much or when understeer/oversteer is felt. The VDC system will correct the situation, for example by braking the loose wheel or reducing the fuel supply. Those kinds of details count.

Like the rear differential, which has been calibrated to make these traction modulations even more sensitive, depending on the lack of grip encountered.

The 2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness, descending
The 2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness, descending | Photo: M.Crépault

The last word
Between you and me, I'm not sure there are that many of us who want to challenge the woods with a $50,000 vehicle (fees and taxes). Getting to the cottage, yes. But risking my body or my mechanics by getting into fights with sharp rocks as big as giant melons and crossing water beds deep enough for a mini Loch Ness monster? Not sure.

In any case, the real mud and climbing enthusiasts turn to Jeep or Land Rover.

That said, I do believe that the Wilderness serves an interesting purpose.

First of all, let's say it again, it's a wagon. And a wagon means family. If you fall into this category, you are already an adventurer in your own way, because starting and raising a family these days is quite a feat. It's as challenging and risky as crossing the Rubicon.

So why not do it behind the wheel of a tough-looking, almost-armored station wagon that can handle kids and the smears, spilled slush and forgotten smarties that come with them without flinching?

Certainly, the van remains,  for me - and for my oldest son, his wife, three daughters and two dogs - the family vehicle par excellence. But it does limit exuberant driving. With the Wilderness, on the other hand, you can fulfill your family obligations while preserving your wilderness instincts. That's no small feat...

And then, the day you absent-mindedly drive onto the curb of a median and land on the pavement without seeing or knowing anything, without scraping anything under the floor (which is protected anyway), you'll congratulate yourself on your purchase. Yes, it happened to me too.

The day your friend, inviting you to his house, warns you about the speed bump spreading terror among neighborhood suspensions, you will calmly and confidently reply, “Don't worry about me, I drive a Subaru Outback Wilderness.”

2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness, Outback badging
2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness, Outback badging | Photo: D.Boshouwers
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