MALIBU, CA – Standing atop a mountain near Malibu, we’re buffeted by cold gusts of wind accompanying lumpy gray skies threatening stormy weather.
In the distance, a blue vehicle trailing a plume of dust appears, powering up a steep gravel-strewn grade, its turbocharged engine churning all four of the vehicle’s matte-black 17-in. aluminum wheels.
It approaches the crest, takes a momentary pause and climbs atop a pile of rocks fronted by a Subaru Wilderness sign. Witness the arrival of the new 2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness.
Inspired by customers who are already modifying their vehicles, Wilderness is a new Subaru sub-brand indicating a higher level of off-roading capabilities.
The automaker plans to introduce a whole family of these more capable, Wilderness-badged Subarus. Each will have factory-backed modifications that include warranty coverage and won’t ruin the vehicles’ EyeSight driving assistance technology calibration, as can happen with aftermarket outfitter and do-it-yourself overlanding projects.
Applied to the ’22 Outback, the Wilderness treatment includes a mix of cosmetic and functional changes that will appeal to the most active of Subaru owners.
Styling modifications include a new hexagonal-design grille insert, reworked front and rear bumpers that help improve approach and departure angles and thicker cladding around the wheel wells and along the bottom of the midsize CUV.
Anodized copper accents decorate the tow-hook anchor points and roof-rail tie-downs, and Subaru claims the matte black hood decal cuts down on glare. The Outback Wilderness’s roof rack holds up to 700 lbs. (318 kg), enough to easily support a rooftop tent. The exclusive wheels wear new Yokohama Geolander all-terrain tires with raised white-outline lettering, and Subaru stows a fullsize spare underneath the cargo floor.
Inside (pictured below), the Outback Wilderness features Subaru’s water-repellent StarTex upholstery in black, all-weather floor mats, and a waterproof cargo mat. Even the rear seatbacks are covered with water-resistant material, in anticipation of how owners will enjoy the great outdoors, rain or shine. Copper accents and contrast stitching match those found on the outside of the vehicle.
A member of the Outback XT lineup, the ’22 Outback Wilderness uses Subaru’s 2.4L turbo-4. It makes 260 hp at 5,600 rpm and 277 lb.-ft. (376 Nm) of torque between 2,000 rpm and 4,800 rpm.
A continuously variable transmission is standard, channeling power to Subaru’s Active Torque Split all-wheel-drive system. The Wilderness tows up to 3,500 lbs. (1,588 kg) and Subaru predicts it will get 24 mpg (9.8 L/100 km) in combined driving.
Thanks to revised final drive ratios, Subaru says the CVT supplies more low-end torque to each wheel. In turn, this helps the midsize CUV scramble up a 40% grade when its X-Mode off-road traction-assist technology automatically activates its low-speed low-gradient setting.
X-Mode provides driver-selected settings, too. They include Snow/Dirt and Deep Snow/Mud, and the technology behaves differently below 25 mph (40 km/h) than it does above that speed. Automatic vehicle hold, hill descent control and brake-induced torque vectoring carry over from the standard Outback models, but a new roll-angle indicator in the X-Mode display is exclusive to the Outback Wilderness.
Subaru lifts the ’22 Outback Wilderness’s suspension, improving maximum ground clearance from 8.7 ins. (221 mm) to 9.5 ins. (241 mm).
New shocks supply added wheel travel, and the approach, breakover and departure angles increase 1.4 degrees, 1.8 degrees and 1.9 degrees, respectively. A sturdy front skid plate is standard. As an accessory upgrade, a skid plate package protecting the engine, transmission and fuel tank will cost approximately $600, plus dealer installation costs.
Geyser Blue is the new exterior paint color seen in the photos, and it’s exclusive to the ’22 Outback Wilderness. The new model also is available in any standard Outback color except for Abyss Blue and Crimson Red.
According to Subaru spokesperson Dominick Infante, the ’22 Outback Wilderness will arrive in dealership showrooms just in time for summer adventures. Prices will be announced closer to the on-sale date.