The 2019 model year ushered in a fifth-generation, global platform effort for Forester, one of Subaru’s longest serving five-door crossovers here in the states. Consider ’22 a mid-cycle update of this versatile five-door compact, underpinnings and engine components remain unchanged, with cosmetic changes a-plenty.
The most noteworthy addition in ’22 revolves around an all-new trim promising the most off-road capable Forester to date; ‘Wilderness’. It joins returning opportunities including Base, Premium, Sport, Limited and Touring. Pricing enters at $25,195 for Base, competitive especially when considering all-wheel drive comes standard, an option adding anywhere between $1,400 and $2,000 with other rivals.
The rough-terrain Wilderness label and technology joins other Subaru products in 2022 including the mid-size Outback crossover. It’s the go-to choice for Subaru backers desiring to venture a little further off pavement.
All Forester trims welcome aboard a new headlight and grille design upfront, easily defining 2022 offerings with Wilderness adding its own specific/unique front and rear bumpers.
All-wheel drive comes standard in just about every Subaru, save for its two-seat rear driver BRZ, a low-volume treat sharing underpinnings with Toyota’s GR 86. However, not every all-wheel drive systems are created equal, as Subaru delivers extra gripping nuances.
Subaru’s ‘permanent’ all-wheel drive creates an environment where all four wheels are driven all the time. Many other rivals retain front drive solely (by disconnecting power to the rear axle) until detecting slippage, then power gets reconnected creating a version of all-wheel drive (coyly referred to as slip and grip).
An all-new X-Mode, exclusive to Wilderness, brings aboard another finesse level to permanent all-wheel drive. Two varieties are offered: single mode X-Mode and slightly more advanced dual mode X-Mode.
Essentially, both dial down throttle response to mitigate excessive wheel spin for better grip while restricting the CVT transmission to a lower level, delivering relevant torque in a predictable manner. Built-in hill decent control automatically monitors brake and throttle response at speeds below 12 mph so pilots may focus maximum efforts to downhill steering. Dual mode X-mode adds extra wheel spin capacity; some situations necessitate optimal rotation to ensure continued forward momentum, such as encounters with deep mud or snow.
While no off-roading was ventured with the 2022 Forester, dual-mode X-Mode got put to an off-road test within a 2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness during a recent Midwest Automotive Media Association road rally. The mud-splattered Outback looked the part and had little trouble keeping up with bigger names in the off-road community (Jeep, Ram, Ford trucks) while spinning in at one of the most attainable price points.
All Subaru’s include horizontally-opposed, longitudinally-mounted four-cylinder ‘Boxer’ engines, also known as a ‘flat four.’ Pistons situate flat at 180 degrees, riding shallower in the upfront engine compartment translating into a lower center of gravity enhancing handling and agility. A direct-injected 2.5-liter internal combustion four cylinder returns unchanged from 2021 delivering 182 horses and 33 miles per gallon highway, a very respectable return for an all-wheel drive product.
Some may find this engine opportunity a bit underwhelming, desiring a turbo-charge four option which Subaru markets in other models. Maybe someday, turbo becomes an option. Wilderness trims include the highest tow rating of any Forester at 3,000 pounds, double most other trims.
The symmetrical all-wheel drive couples with a CVT automatic transmission to continually power all four wheels and automatically transfer torque to the wheels with the best grip. The torque split gets based upon feedback from acceleration, deceleration and available traction.
The CVT transmission differs from conventional automatic transmissions with an infinite number for forward gear ratios instead of a set number of mechanical numbers (say seven or eight). Wilderness includes steering wheel manual shift modes accessing eight points along the spectrum for a more controlled atmosphere. The CVT generally prioritizes fuel economy and smoothness rather than high-speed performance.
Our new-for-2022, nicely attired Wilderness started at $32,820 and included the dual-function X-Mode. The only stand-alone option, a $220 engine under guard, brought the bottom line to $34,165 after $1,125 destination charge.
Inside, Wilderness trims feature golden stitching on doors, seats and dashboard contrasting with black hues. Gold plating accented the six-o’clock portion of the three-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel, the shift lever cap and X-Mode twist dial located between front buckets.
It’s marketed as a compact, but provides decent leg and head room. Conventional Foresters enjoy a healthy 8.7 inches of ground clearance. Wilderness up the ante a half inch or so to 9.2 inches thanks to coil spring adjustments and longer damper lengths, providing excellent road visibility.
True to its off-road pedigree, a cargo region rubber mat easily slips out for convenient spray cleaning with a garden hose. Front area floor mats construct from the same easy-clean materials.
Exterior wise, expect bolder, more prominent protective cladding alongside door bottoms and larger wells along with a golden Wilderness logo on front fenders and back hatch. Gold brick-like blocks locate on top connecting upgraded-for-2022 vertical luggage racks to the roof.
Wilderness’s power hatch lifts high enough providing ample head clearance, including a convenient under-lip power button when closing time approaches. The 60/40 split second row seats include one-touch fold buttons accessible from the rear. However, folding these seats back upward requires old-school manual oomph.
Upper-trim Foresters, as with many other Subaru’s, includes two center information. A smaller rectangular screen, with long sun-shading brim high atop the center dash with an extra long front runway, includes an animated time face, outside/inside temperatures and toggles through tutorials via a ‘info’ button on the steering wheel face. This window serves double duty as a front-view live action camera feed via a button right of the transmission shifter; a Wilderness exclusive. Other camera perspectives broadcast in the mid-size, touch-sensitive 8.0-inch in-dash screen (a 6.5 version is available in lower trims) in addition to full-time navigation and sound system duties.
Subaru’s Starlink infotainment system brings along sharp graphics and large animated screen icons visually indicating FM, AM and Satellite radio easy enough for a 60-something tech buffoon to digest with relative ease. Old school dials monitoring sound/station select are present as are rectangular tactile quick select buttons below screen. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto Smartphone interplays conveniently come standard with a plug-in design (wireless charging not yet available).
Three easy-grab circular dials and a push-button monitoring fan direction reside below the large screen to tackle HVAC duties.
An electronic push/start button locates on the dash, just right of the steering column. The simplistic instrument panel includes two circular analog gauges with white needles flanking a vertical digital message center with an illuminated bar-type horizontal fuel gauge along the bottom.
Subaru planted Midwest roots back in 1989 at an assembly facility in Lafayette, Indiana about a two-hour drive from downtown Chicago. It’s the automakers only assembly port outside its home country. While Forester assembles in Japan, Ascent, Impresa, Legacy and Outback call the Hoosier State home. 2022 Subaru Forester
Price as tested: $34,165
Engine: 2.5-liter four cylinder
Wheelbase: 105.1 inches
Overall length: 182.1 inches
Overall width: 81.3 inches
Overall height: 68.1inches
Powertrain warranty: Five years/60,000 miles
Fuel economy: 26 mpg city 33 mpg highway