2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness Preview

FAST FACTS
  • New and improved off-roading recipe
  • Part of the turbocharged Outback XT family
  • Lifted suspension, all-terrain tires, upgraded X-Mode technology
  • Functional styling and interior modifications
  • Standard EyeSight and StarLink technologies
  • The Subaru Outback Wilderness release date is late spring of 2021

Designed to capitalize on the current overlanding trend, the 2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness brings factory-backed modifications to the company’s popular midsize 5-passenger crossover SUV. Chief among them is a raised suspension for added ground clearance and improved approach, breakover, and departure angles. But the Wilderness treatment amounts to more than just added distance between the Outback and the terrain it is traversing.

2022 Subaru Outback WIlderness Geyser Blue Front Quarter View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

Subaru says the new 2022 Outback Wilderness will slot into the lineup between the Onyx Edition XT and the Touring XT, suggesting a base price of less than $40,000. It will offer a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, standard all-wheel drive, and an upgraded version of Subaru’s X-Mode traction assist technology.

The Outback Wilderness will come in the standard Outback paint colors except for Abyss Blue and Crimson Red Pearl, paired with a black interior with a black headliner. The Blue Geyser paint shown on the debut vehicle is exclusive to the Wilderness model. Subaru says America’s National Parks and the company’s rally racing heritage inspired the color.

Numerous accessories will help buyers to customize the Outback Wilderness to specific preferences and purposes.

Exterior Features - Find the best Subaru deals!

For the 1996 model year, Subaru added a lifted suspension, white-outline lettered tires, and big fog lights to a Legacy Outback station wagon, and the rest is history. The Subaru Outback was born, one of the first modern crossover SUVs, going on sale the same year as the original Toyota RAV4.

2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness Geyser Blue Side View Parked on Rocks

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

And you thought you wouldn’t learn anything new today.

Now, with the 2022 Outback Wilderness, Subaru hopes this same approach will help it capitalize on the current overlanding trend. A suspension lift, all-terrain tires with white-outline lettering, bolder wheel arch and lower sill trim, a rugged roof rack rated to hold 700 pounds, a front skid plate, and reworked front and rear bumpers bring real purpose to the Outback Wilderness.

Overall, compared to a standard Subaru Outback, the Wilderness version is 0.8-inch taller, 1.6 inches wider, and sits on a slightly wider track due to its exclusive matte-black 17-inch wheels. Anodized copper accents and Subaru Wilderness badges help identify the model with no more than a glance. Additionally, the model gets hexagonal grille and taillight patterns, blacked-out window surrounds, and a matte-black hood decal that Subaru says will cut down on sun glare.

Interior Features - Find the best Subaru deals!

Subaru outfits the Outback Wilderness’s cabin for weather and adventure. As such, it includes water-resistant StarTex simulated leather, all-weather rubber floor liners, and a waterproof cargo area mat. Subaru also lines the rear seatbacks with waterproof material.

2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness Interior Dashboard Seats

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

The anodized copper exterior accents carry into the vehicle, accenting the steering wheel, gauges, and transmission shifter. The contrast stitching is the same color. Subaru also installs a dark headliner and swaps the standard Outback’s chrome detailing for a Gunmetal Gray finish. Brushed aluminum pedals complete the modifications.

Under the Hood - Find the best Subaru deals!

Subaru says the Outback Wilderness slots into the lineup between the Onyx Edition XT and the Touring XT. Naturally, then, it has the same turbocharged 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine as these models, cranking out 260 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 277 lb.-ft. of torque between 2,000 rpm and 4,800 rpm.

A continuously variable transmission (CVT) delivers the power to all four of the Outback Wilderness’s wheels through Subaru’s Active Torque Split all-wheel-drive system. Modifications to the CVT improve low-end torque at the wheels, allowing the Wilderness model to power up a 40-degree grade.

Of course, an improved version of the Outback’s dual-function X-Mode traction assist technology also plays a role here. It includes a Low-Speed Gradient function that automatically engages to maximize traction and offers driver-selectable Snow/Dirt and Deep Snow/Mud driving modes. 

In the Outback Wilderness, X-Mode’s transition between operation at speeds under and over 25 mph is smoother, and the X-Mode display adds a new roll-angle indicator. Carrying over from the existing Outback, automatic vehicle hold, hill descent control, and brake-based active torque vectoring are standard.

Thanks to its suspension lift and new, long-travel shock absorbers, the Outback Wilderness supplies 9.5 inches of ground clearance. That’s 0.8-inch more than the standard Outback. The restyled front and rear bumpers contribute to improved approach (+1.4 degrees) and departure (+1.9 degrees) angles, and the breakover angle improves by 1.8 degrees.

A front skid plate is standard, and Subaru will offer additional skid plates to protect the engine, transmission, fuel tank, and rear differential. A full-size spare is tucked beneath the cargo area, which is mighty helpful when you’ve got tough terrain to traverse in order to get home.

Safety Systems - Find the best Subaru deals!

One reason Subaru created the Outback Wilderness is that its existing owners are already modifying their cars in a similar fashion. And when they make those modifications, they throw the calibration of the standard EyeSight collection of advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS) off-kilter. So, Subaru figures a factory-built overlanding-style Outback will preserve EyeSight’s effectiveness while also providing warranty coverage for the mechanical modifications.

EyeSight includes a long list of driving aids, including a Level 2 adaptive cruise control system with lane-centering technology. It uses dual color cameras mounted high behind the windshield to operate its numerous safety systems, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says EyeSight reduces the rate of rear-end crashes resulting in injuries by 85%.

So yes, it’s vital to preserve EyeSight’s effectiveness by calibrating the technology for suspension modifications.

Due to the Outback Wilderness’s increased ride height, Subaru says the IIHS and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will need to re-test the vehicle for crashworthiness ratings. The standard Outback is an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ and gets an overall NHTSA safety rating of five out of five stars.

Infotainment and Technology - Find the best Subaru deals!

Subaru will equip every 2022 Outback Wilderness with its StarLink infotainment system. It includes an 11.6-inch touchscreen display mounted portrait-style on the dashboard, benefits from over-the-air update capability, and integrates the climate controls into its interface.

Highlights of the system include near-field communication Bluetooth pairing, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, HD Radio, and SiriusXM All Access satellite radio (free 4-month subscription). Wireless smartphone charging, a premium sound system, and a navigation system are available as upgrades, and Subaru offers both Wi-Fi connectivity and an Entertainment Anywhere package with two iPads and sets of wireless headphones.

The infotainment system also offers StarLink connected services. The Safety Plus plan is free for three years, and it includes automatic collision notification, an SOS emergency assistance button, and more. The Security Plus plan is free for six months, providing remote engine starting with climate control functionality, a vehicle locator, alerts promoting safe teen driving practices, and other functions. When the free subscriptions expire, you’ll need to pay for these features on a monthly or annual basis.

2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness Competitors - Find the best Subaru deals!

Conceptually, among crossover SUVs, the Subaru Outback Wilderness competes most closely with the Ford Bronco Sport Badlands, Kia Sorento SX Prestige X-Line, Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk, and Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road.

Arguably, depending on the competitive model, the Outback Wilderness offers more passenger room, more cargo room, more flexibility, and more capability than these vehicles. 

For the most part, alternatives to the Wilderness are on par with the standard Outback’s capabilities, not those of this upgraded new model. That puts the new Outback Wilderness in a class of its own. For now.

Subaru says the new 2022 Outback Wilderness will arrive in dealer showrooms by the summer of 2021. 

Subaru is the source of information in this article. It was accurate as of March 30, 2021, but it may have changed since that date. Always confirm product details and availability with the automaker’s website or your local dealership.