This is shaping up to be the year for new factory-capable off-road vehicles. Ford now has the Bronco Sport, and soon the larger Bronco will be in showrooms. Land Rover brought back the rugged Defender model, and Jeep's been tweaking its Wrangler with new power options like a Hemi V8 engine.
Now, scrappy Subaru - long known for a lineup of mostly all-wheel drive vehicles - is getting in on the four-wheeling act with the new 2022 Outback Wilderness.
"The Subaru Outback is a great vehicle, it's totally capable. But we know that our owners are always trying to push boundaries and do more, and so we wanted to have a vehicle that can help them do that," said Nikkie Riedel, a product planner with Subaru of America.
The Outback has been very popular for years, but the Wilderness treatment puts it into a different category. Not just a raised suspension and more aggressive all-terrain tires, but changes to things like software for the transmission and the traction management. It also comes standard with the turbo engine. Base price for the new model (there is only one trim level) is $38,120 including destination charge.
There are visual touches too, like more durable body pieces which offer both form and function. And an interesting visual in the form of copper-colored accents around both the exterior and interior. A nod to the outdoor lifestyle.
"We were looking at design trending in the outdoor recreation space, and we saw things like carabiners and rock climbing tools that have this great anodized copper finish. And it was an excellent complement to our 'hero' color Geyser Blue," Riedel noted.
Can the Wilderness model handle the actual wilderness? You bet. Subaru let me run one around some pretty challenging trails in the hills of Malibu and it never set a tire wrong. The increased ground clearance, knobby rubber and electronic "X-mode" turn this thing into a bit of a four-wheeled mountain goat. On a steep descent, the system applies the brakes automatically when needed. The driver just needs to steer, while keeping both feet off the pedals.
The Outback is the first Subaru to wear the Wilderness sub-brand. But it won't be the last, as the company has other models that will be a good fit for it, too. Basically, any of its all-wheel drive SUV models.
"This is the first of a family of Subaru's sub-brand called Wilderness," confirmed Riedel, without naming which model will get the Wilderness treatment next.
Sure, some people will buy this just for its looks and never leave the pavement. But for those who want to get out and spend time in some actual wilderness, Subaru's now got you covered.