Engine: 2.4-liter DOHC 4-cylinder turbocharged boxer
Transmission: High-torque Lineartronic CVT with 8-speed manual mode
Torque: 277 lb.-ft.
EPA rating: 22/city, 26/highway, 24/combined
Base price: $30,905
As tested: $38,120
Overview: Subaru is affectionately known as the “Official Car of the Pacific Northwest” for lots of good reasons — like standard all-wheel drive on all models. The Outback, which comes in eight models, is probably the bestselling vehicle of the Subaru lineup. Our test driver was the new Wilderness model, and this review will focus on that vehicle.
Walkaround: Styling isn’t ground-breaking, but has seemingly evolved over the years. No matter what year it is, you immediately recognize it as an Outback. The evolution includes such details as discreet body cladding and trim LED headlights. The front end is clean and simple, as are the flowing lines down the side. It has been suggested the Outback’s profile resembles a hiking boot — perhaps on purpose? The new Wilderness model features copper-colored trim and flat black fender flares protecting big all-terrain tires, plus black roof rails that will hold 700 pounds — making it look rugged, sporty and fun, which it is. The Wilderness also boasts 9.5 inches of ground clearance.
Interior: The interior has evolved as well, with continual improvements in refinement and comfort from its bare-bones origins. The instrumentation features digital displays in the center for an updated look. The Wilderness has an 11.6-inch vertical screen that’s the main attraction in a simple wall of controls. The Outback can carry five passengers in comfort over long distances, with good headroom and 32.5 cubic feet of cargo space for outdoor gear that expands to 75 with the seats folded. The load floor is flat, with tie-down points. The bucket seats have great bolstering with a manual adjustment. There’re power adjustments for the driver seat, heating and cooling, and nappa leather upholstery. The Wilderness features brushed aluminum pedals, front headrests and all-weather floormats with the Wilderness logo embossed.
Behind the Wheel: Our test driver was equipped with the 260-horse, 2.4-liter turbo-4 — which is standard on the Wilderness. Acceleration is strong enough for passing on two-lane roads. With simulated gear changes, the transmission avoids that whiny CVT feel. The handling is sharper than we imagined, and the Outback corners without much body lean. However, steering is light and somewhat numb. The ride is firm without being punishing like some SUVs. The suspension is softened, giving the Wilderness a gentler ride on its all-terrain tires, but works well on all kinds of roads, including muddy trails and dirt roads. Our test rotation was during a snowstorm and the Wilderness conducted itself quite well on snow, too.
Bottom Line: The 2022 Wilderness stretches the Outback and moves it closer to more rugged off-roaders like the Toyota 4Runner and Jeep Wrangler. But it’s a better daily compromise than either of those rivals — and less money.