|Positives: Truly dramatic ground clearance, styling actually makes the Outback look badass, capable of more than the regular Outback when things get rough.
|Negatives: Even worse to drive/heavier/less efficient than the standard Outback, infotainment system is overly busy, boring CVT, overstyled fender trim, can look like a poser SUV.
|Bottom Line: The Outback Wilderness is a much-welcomed trim level that adds some ruggedness and a more masculine look to an otherwise boring station wagon. This is the Outback we would get.
The regular Outback isn't a rubber roaster, nor can it be relied on to take corners well. It's just a comfortable riding wagon, really, even though acceleration is actually pretty good. There's not much spirit or verve going on in the driving experience, and the Wilderness only makes the Outback dowdier to drive. Where it shines is off-road.
Ride Quality: The ride is cushy and comfortable. The taller ride height allows it to manage bumps even better.
Acceleration: 0-60 happens in about 5.8 seconds, which is decent for the segment. The CVT, however, removes any excitement from the experience.
Braking: Braking distances are longer than average, and the pedal doesn't inspire confidence. There's some mild mushiness, but progression is decent.
Steering: The Outback Wilderness's steering doesn't provide much effort or feedback. It's about what we expect from the Outback. We're not sure how this bodes for off-roading confidence, but we imagine it's not great in terms of understanding the terrain.
Handling: The Outback Wilderness is taller and, therefore, floatier in the turns. You can't push this one hard when it comes to entering a turn and trying to hit an apex.
The in-car tech in the Outback Wilderness is decent. It's a bit busy looking for our tastes. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard. There's also onboard 4G LTE onboard Wi-Fi on all trims, It's a solid set of tech features, and the infotainment system works well, though it's not the easiest to use.
Infotainment System: The big 11.6" color screen is crisp and easy to read, but we think there are too many colors, and the menus take some getting used to. The big screen has a lot going on that the driver has to look at while in motion, and most of the vehicle's operations have to be performed via touchscreen and that's not beneficial compared to good physical controls.
Controls: Physical audio knobs and infotainment buttons are well-placed and well-sized. The steering wheel controls are also situated for easy operation while driving. HVAC control knobs are large and easy to read and to use.
We would never call the Outback Wilderness an attractive vehicle from a design perspective, but there's something about the tough look that transforms the otherwise boring wagon. The absence of chrome with black trim bits adds to the suburban menace.
Front: The corners of the lower front fascia have been abbreviated for an improved approach angle. The huge, blocky black bumper actually manages to look good when mated with the matte hood decal and the black mesh grille. The gold highlights punctuate well by way of contrast against the mostly dark finishes.
Rear: The rear end is pretty chunky with a bumper that matches the front and the gold accents that indicate towing points. The reflectors sit a bit too high for our liking, but we do think the taillights on the Outback are less "toothy" than the ugly versions on the Forester.
Profile: From the side view, the Outback Wilderness looks seriously tall with the elevated ride height. While it mostly looks pretty good from here, we think the fender well trim is a bit overstyled with unnecessary cut-lines and shaping at the trailing edge.
Cabin: The interior is utilitarian and decent looking with black synthetic leather (StarTex) and gold highlights throughout. The embossed Wildnerness logo shows up in the headrests, a nice touch. We don't love Subaru interiors, but at least it's not trying too hard to be different.
There's a lot to love about the interior of the Outback. There's ample room for all occupants, and its generally a nice place to spend time. Subaru did a good job of creating a family-friendly interior where passengers will likely spend a lot of seat time.
Front Seats: The front seats are on the firm side, but they're not overwhelmingly so. There's some bolstering. The StarTex leather is pretty convincing and quite supple for fake leather.
Rear Seats: 39.5 inches of rear legroom is pretty spacious for tall adults, and a six-footer can sit behind another similarly tall front occupant.
NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The car is rattle-free, and the exterior keeps wind noise at bay, even with the roof rack. If you push the turbo four hard, you can hear it, but that's not much different from other, similarly powered vehicles.
Visibility: The outside views are very good all around, with some minor obstructions via the D-pillar. Compared to most crossovers, the Outback Wilderness fares very well in this department.
Climate: The climate system fires up quickly, and HVAC duties are performed well with well-sized vents. The front and rear seats are also heated, a standard feature on the Wilderness trim.
The Subaru Outback model attains the highest ratings across the board for the 2021 model year, and the Outback remains unchanged for 2022. We're not sure if the added weight of the Wilderness trim affects this, but the results are very good,
IIHS Rating: The Outback attained the Top Safety Pick+ rating from the IIHS with top scores all around, including ones for crashes, accident avoidance tech, headlights, and LATCH ease of use.
NHTSA Rating: It earned a full five stars in crash testing with only minor demerits in the side crash test and rollover risk.
Standard Tech: The Outback Wilderness comes with EyeSight Driver-Assist System w/ Automatic Emergency Braking, Advanced Adaptive Cruise Control w/ Lane Centering, Lane Departure Warning, 180-Degree Front View Monitor, Rear Vision Camera w/ Guidelines, and Blind Spot Detection w/ Rear Cross-Traffic Alert.
Optional Tech: Our tester came with optional Reverse Automatic Braking.
The lifted station wagon has a ton of cargo space that rivals larger vehicles. The front row, however, lacks some small cubby storage options that should be present on a vehicle like this.
Storage Space: Aside from good door pockets, and a well-sized center console armrest compartment, there's really only cupholder and a small tray at the bottom of the center stack.
Cargo Room: The Outback Wilderness has 32.5 cubic feet behind row two (more than most crossovers) and 75.7 cubes with the seats folded flat. That's more than the Mazda CX-5 and the Ford Escape.
Due to the added poundage, increased height, and the increased rolling resistance in the tires, the Wilderness suffers when it comes to gas mileage compared to its tamer siblings. The EPA ratings are also lower for this trim level, and we weren't able to match the estimates.
Observed: 18.5 mpg.
Distance Driven: 84 miles.
Our tester did not have the premium Harman Kardon audio upgrade. The stock system is good enough with decent clarity and bass. It just seems to fall off a bit when it comes to full sound throughout the cabin.