|Positives: The trim bits give it more visual appeal, improved ground clearance for more capability, tremendous amounts of interior space, excellent safety scores.|
|Negatives: Still down on power compared to the competition, CVT hampers the driving experience, looks a bit top-heavy,|
|Bottom Line: The Wilderness version of the Forester is a compelling choice that actually makes the crossover more rugged, as well as more attractive. Just don't expect a great on-road driving experience to go with the superb room, excellent safety ratings, and solid reliability.|
It's clear that Subaru meant for the Wilderness Edition to go where most drivers won't actually go. That's kind of a joke. Kind of. We didn't take it off-road, but we're guessing that even the Wilderness Edition will actually stay on the pavement. What it does is remain a comfortable family car that can manage more than its regular stablemates.
Ride Quality: The ride quality is comfortable, smooth, and easy. The AT tires don't make things any worse.
Acceleration: The Forester remains dog slow, and we're used that. 0-60 comes in about eight and a half seconds, likely reduced by the lower gearing when compared to the standard Forester.
Braking: The brakes are easy to modulate and nicely progressive. We had no trouble bringing it to a stop smoothly.
Steering: Steering is light and absent of feedback, but turn-in is decent as is the Forester Wilderness's on center feel.
Handling: The taller ride height (by a whole 2.0 inches) doesn't do it any favor in the turns, so don't be too aggressive when trying to execute and nail that apex.
Most of the impressive technology in the Forester has to do with its driving tech, which is robust and includes an improved low-speed crawl with Dual-mode X-Mode that also goes into standby mode above 25 mph and re-engages at 22 mph, and Hill Descent Control resumes even after throttle is added briefly. Finally, there's a front camera to see the terrain ahead. In terms of in-car tech, the infotainment remains overly colorful and not especially easy to use. Visually, it's a lot to handle.
Infotainment System: The 8" touchscreen is very glossy and the icons are too colorful to decipher quickly. We're not big fans of the look or the responsiveness. It also juts out from the center stack a bit too much for our liking, making the appearance bulky and obtrustive.
Controls: Subaru controls are not our favorite, but at least this smaller screen doesn't make you do the climate controls through the touchscreen like the larger screen found in the Ascent premium trims. At least there are knobs and buttons for climate and audio, as well as good steering wheel buttons.
The Forester is not an attractive vehicle. It's overstyled and looks top-heavy with its small wheels and tires. The black trim and more prominent fenderwells help matters in the Wilderness Edition, but it looks like it's trying a bit too hard. The Outback Wilderness Edition pulls it off better.
Front: Although the front end looks better than the stock Forester, the unique bumpers and black grille are overdone. There's just a lot of bulkiness going on.
Rear: The addition of the matte black trim is a nice touch, but we've never liked the overdone taillights that look like molars resting on their sides.
Profile: The larger black fender trim pieces help balance out the look of the Forester, and in Wilderness Edition guise, the car looks less top-heavy than its stock counterparts. The gold trim bits and badge look great from this angle.
Cabin: Although Subaru interiors have matured, the Forester being one of them, we still think they're a bit overstyled and bulky looking. There's too much piano black and shiny surfaces that gather dust and fingerprints. The Wilderness trim does add nice gold bits and fancy seats, at least.
The Forester is a roomy vehicle that should provide plenty of comfort for families. There's a ton of headroom throughout the vehicle, and the visibility is excellent. Other than some hard surfaces, it's a very good vehicle in which to pass time and miles.
Front Seats: The seats have the right balance when it comes to cushioning and bolstering. The seating position is also very good.
Rear Seats: 39.4 inches of legroom in the back is very good, and it feels like there's enough headroom for me to wear a motorcycle helmet in the back. Even the middle position is good because the cushion and backrest don't protrude as much as some of the competition.
NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): There is some road noise from the more aggressively treaded tires, and the engine gets noisy when the Forester is pushed.
Visibility: Visibility in all directions is excellent thanks to the large greenhouse and sizeable glass. Pillar size is also very good.
Climate: The climate system works very well, and we had no trouble firing up the AC. One aspect that bugged us were the front center vents that are thin and beveled back. We struggle to position them well. It seems they suffer due to the design and the functionality could be much better.
The Forester is a very safe vehicle that ranks at the top of the segment and comes with plenty of safety tech that includes its excellent and comprehensive Eyesight system.
IIHS Rating: The Forester gets the Top Safety Pick+ rating, scoring the highest possible overall award. A more specific test for 2022 shows that in side crash testing, the rear passenger impacted the C-pillar hard through the curtain airbag, giving it an "acceptable" in this category. Otherwise, it did very well.
NHTSA Rating: It attained the five star rating from the federal government.
Standard Tech: The Wilderness comes with EyeSight Driver Assist Technology with Advanced Adaptive Cruise Control, Rear vision camera, Tire Pressure Monitoring System, Blind Spot Detection with Lane Change Assist, and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert.
Optional Tech: Our tester came with Reverse Automatic Braking.
The Forester isn't the most utilitarian when it comes to interior small storage space in the first row, but it does provide a significant amount of cargo space in the back for the segment.
Storage Space: We like the open cubby at the base of the center stack. The medium-sized armrest compartment keeps small gear out of sight well, but the door pockets aren't long or deep enough for a vehicle like this.
Cargo Room: The Forester has 28.9 cubic feet behind row two and a substantial 74.2 cubes with the seats folded flat. That last number is more than the Toyota RAV4 and the Mazda CX-5.
The Wilderness Edition is a bit heavier than the stock Forester, and it shows in terms of efficiency. It's a couple of hundred pounds more, although it's by no means corpulent. Our mixed driving conditions provided less than the EPA estimates. We imagine the wider gear ratios also affected the mileage.
Observed: 21.4 mpg.
Distance Driven: 223 miles.
Our tester was outfitted with the optional premium Harman Kardon sound system that churned out solid music quality with no distortion at higher volumes. It could use more bass, but the overall delivery was very good. We're not sure it's worth the extra expense compared to the base system.