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The new edition of the popular crossover SUV is the most off-road capable yet.

PMG PHOTO: JEF ZURSCHMEIDE - The 2021 Subaru Outback Wilderness includes roof rails that can hold 700 when parked, enough for a roof-mounted tent for camping. The Subaru Outback is one of the most capable crossover SUVs available on the market. Whether you choose the most basic model or the top luxury trim, every Outback offers Subaru's symmetrical all-wheel-drive with X-Mode for slippery conditions and steep hill descents. The fact is, any Outback can get you to places that will surprise the traditional 4X4 crowd.

However, Subaru drivers always want more, and that has led to owners and dealers making aftermarket modifications to the Outback, sometimes before it leaves the dealer showroom. People have been lifting the suspension, putting on underbody skid plates for rock protection, and of course choosing more aggressive off-road tires.

PMG PHOTO: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - The 2021 Subaru Outback Wilderness edition comes from the factory with a turbocharged 2.4-liter engine, symmetrical all-wheel-drive with X-Mode for slippery conditions and steep hill descents, increased ride height, underbody protection, and all-terrain wheels and tires.

In a modern vehicle, this kind of modification could potentially cause system performance changes. For example, Subaru equips every Outback with the EyeSight package of adaptive cruise control, lane keeping and centering, and automatic pre-collision emergency braking. The system uses cameras that scan the road ahead, and those cameras are precisely aimed based on the stock ride height of the vehicle. When the ride height is changed, the performance of the EyeSight system could be affected.

Subaru's answer to this was to create the Outback Wilderness edition, which comes from the factory with increased ride height, underbody protection, and all-terrain wheels and tires. The company also upgraded the roof rails and gave the Wilderness some snazzy looks to fit its adventurous role.

PMG PHOTO: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - The 2021 Subaryu Outback Wilderness includes an available 11.6-inch multimedia touchscreen infotainment system with GPS navigation and an off-road inclinometer display that shows the angle of the hill you're climbing or descending.

The 2022 Outback Wilderness starts with all the features of a high-trim Outback, including the 2.4-liter turbocharged engine, and then adds an upgraded suspension, Yokohama Geolandar all-terrain tires, StarTex water-resistant upholstery, skid plates, and an advanced version of the X-Mode driver assist system that allows you to drive at road speeds with enhanced traction and stability controls working for you. The Outback Wilderness increases ground clearance from 8.7 inches to 9.5, with better approach, breakover, and departure angles.

There's also a forward-facing 180-degree camera to help you find your way around obstacles without getting out of the car, and a full-size spare tire so you can really keep going in the event of a flat. Finally, the Wilderness edition comes with extra body cladding for paint protection when you're in the woods.

PMG PHOTO: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - The 2021 Subaru Outback Wilderness features StarTex water-resistant upholstery that cleans up easily after off-road adventures.

Among all the new features, one that should not be overlooked is the uprated roof rails. The standard Outback has a really convenient swing-away system, while the Wilderness has a more traditional set of cross bars. These bars will support more weight, up to 700 pounds when the car is parked. This means the Wilderness can support a roof-mounted tent camping system. The rails will support up to 220 pounds while driving. One last thing: the Outback Wilderness will tow up to 3,500 pounds, so your trailer can go with you if you want something more than a tent.

Of course, the Outback Wilderness also has a completely up-to-date interior, including an available 11.6-inch multimedia touchscreen infotainment system with GPS navigation and a nifty off-road inclinometer display that shows the angle of the hill you're climbing or descending. On our off-road test, we saw up to 23 degrees of incline as the Wilderness scrambled up a loose hillside trail. Whether the challenge was limited traction climbing ability or controlled hill descent, the Outback Wilderness was more than up to the task.

PMG PHOTO: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - The 2021 Subaru Outback Wilderness has ample cargo space and will tow up to 3,500 pounds,

On the road, the Outback Wilderness feels a little more "off-roady" than a standard Outback, but this is still a car you can drive to work and the grocery store every day. In fact, the extra compliance of the off-road suspension makes the Outback Wilderness very comfortable on rough roads. The StarTex upholstery could easily be mistaken for leather, and the overall impression is both luxurious and adventurous.

If you check all the option boxes, the 2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness still comes in around $40,000. The price walk from the most basic 2022 Outback at $26,945 to the top Wilderness and Touring XT trims offers eight steps, so there's an Outback for every budget. The Outback Wilderness will arrive at our area Subaru dealers this summer.

PMG PHOTO: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - The 2021 Subaru Outback Wilderness increases ground clearance from 8.7 inches to 9.5, with better approach, breakover, and departure angles.

2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness

Base price: $36,995

Price as tested: $39,965

Type: Midsize crossover

Engine: 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder (260 hp, 277 lbs-ft)

Transmission: Continuously Variable Transmission

EPA estimated mileage: 22/26

Overall length: 191.3 inches

Curb weight: 3,896 pounds

Final assembly: Lafayette, Indiana


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