Review: The Subaru Forester Wilderness – A Closer Look

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Review: The Subaru Forester Wilderness – A Closer Look
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Video subaru forester wilderness review

I’ve always been a staunch Subaru supporter. From my first car, a 2014 Impreza Sport 5-Door, to experiencing the Outback and Legacy, and even riding shotgun in my friend’s sought-after WRX STI wagon, I’ve had my fair share of encounters with this esteemed Japanese automaker. Now, Subaru is stepping up its game with the Wilderness edition of two of its best-selling models, the Outback and Forester. As a car enthusiast, I was eager to explore these vehicles’ enhanced capabilities and see how they fared in both urban and off-road environments.

Rough and Tumble

The Subaru Forester Wilderness, like its Outback counterpart, caters to the demands of Subaru’s “active lifestyle” buyers who enjoy activities like hiking, biking, kayaking, and camping. To meet this need, Subaru has made several modifications to the Wilderness edition. These include revised gear ratios, beefier tires and suspension, and a slight lift compared to the standard models. The reinforced roof rack can handle up to 800 pounds, making it ideal for adventurers with rooftop tents or additional gear.

Slow Off the Start

While the Forester Wilderness is designed to excel in challenging terrains, it falls short in terms of sportiness. The engine feels sluggish, requiring the full force of its 182 horsepower Boxer engine to get moving. Additionally, Subaru’s engine start/stop system could use some improvement, delivering an uncomfortable jolt when restarting after a full stop. Other automakers have refined this feature to be smoother, making Subaru’s version feel outdated.

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Capability Comes Through

Fortunately, the Forester Wilderness shines when taken off-road. It performs exactly as one would expect from a Subaru with the Wilderness badge. The X-Mode feature, which automatically adjusts the drive mode based on the terrain and tire grip, seamlessly transitions between Snow/Dirt and Deep Snow/Mud modes. This adaptability ensures a confident, surefooted drive on challenging surfaces. However, it’s worth noting that my $36,000 tester didn’t come with a trailer hitch, which is an additional cost for those who require it.

Plastic, Plastic Everywhere

While the Forester Wilderness impresses with its off-road capabilities, its overall feel disappoints. The excessive use of plastic both inside and outside the vehicle gives it a cheaper aesthetic compared to competitors like the Ford Bronco Sport and Toyota RAV4. The outdated infotainment system further adds to this feeling of lacking sophistication. At a price point of over $36,000, the Forester Wilderness may not justify its premium compared to the base model, unless you truly require its elevated off-road capabilities and protective cladding.


The Subaru Forester Wilderness is a mixed bag. While it delivers on its promise of enhanced off-road performance, the overall package falls short in terms of refinement and value for money. If you’re willing to invest the extra funds, this ready-made Subaru may be convenient, but you could achieve a similar result by customizing a standard Forester at a lower cost. It seems that Subaru’s commitment to this particular model hasn’t brought the excitement that one would hope for. The Wilderness edition still embodies the essence of a Subaru, but it’s starting to show signs of lagging behind in other aspects.

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Q: Does the Subaru Forester Wilderness come with a trailer hitch?
A: No, the Forester Wilderness does not come with a trailer hitch as standard. It is an additional cost.

Q: Is the engine start/stop system smooth in the Forester Wilderness?
A: No, the engine start/stop system in the Forester Wilderness can be jolting and lacks the smoothness found in some other vehicles.

Q: How does the Forester Wilderness perform off-road?
A: The Forester Wilderness demonstrates excellent off-road capabilities, thanks to its X-Mode feature that adjusts the drive mode based on the terrain. It provides a confident and stable drive on challenging surfaces.

Q: Is the Forester Wilderness worth the premium over the base model?
A: The value of the Forester Wilderness depends on whether you require its elevated off-road capabilities and protective cladding. If not, customizing a standard Forester may be a more cost-effective option.

Q: Does the Forester Wilderness offer a luxurious feel?
A: The Forester Wilderness falls short in terms of refinement, with excessive use of plastic both inside and outside the vehicle. Other competitors may offer a more upscale experience.

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