It’s hard not to love a Subaru, even if they have flaws. The 2022 Subaru Forester offers a lot of what we love and even offers the off-road-hungry Wilderness trim.
Big, tough SUVs like the Jeep Wrangler and Ford Bronco get all of the attention when it comes to off-roading. Head to a trailhead or backcountry campsite, though, and you’re far more likely to see a swath of Subarus, like this 2022 Subaru Forester.
Subaru isn’t a big fan of change. Even all-new models get bodywork close enough to the vehicles it replaces that you could probably swap body panels. So, what does it do when it’s time for a midcycle refresh? Small changes. Little tweaks inside and out to make the 2022 Subaru Forester a little bit nicer and a bit more functional.
I spent a full day on dirt roads and trails in frozen rural Quebec along with a full week of on- and off-road — plus the year’s biggest snowfall — at home to put the Subaru Forester’s go-anywhere image to the test.
2022 Subaru Forester Review
The Changes You Won’t Notice
The bumpers, front and rear, along with the grille and headlights are all different from 2021.
That’s the claim, at least. Premier models get changes that might actually get noticed, gaining new LED fog lights with chrome bars, helping make sure you notice them, and to set off the chrome door handles and silver mirror caps.
There’s a silver roof rack, and the window trim is shiny black instead of matte black.
Subaru Softens New Forester
Catching my attention on the list of changes was the retuned suspension. Subarus, BRZ excluded, have a very special ride quality. Lots of suspension travel and soft springs let the wheels move when you hit a bump, so instead of a jarring blow rattling the cabin, you feel, well, almost nothing.
Before 2022, this generation of Forester didn’t do this. Instead of the Subaru soft ride, it felt stiff and poorly damped at the same time, which made it feel like every other crossover. Making the Forester ride like a Toyota RAV4 seemed to be an odd choice, but it was the choice Subaru engineers made.
The 2022 Subaru Forester fixes that. It’s not exactly the ride of an Outback or Crosstrek, but it’s a lot closer. That makes it much better over potholes and frost heaves, making it a great pavement runner.
There was plenty of body roll in corners, enough that it wasn’t exactly encouraging me to throw it into corners, but the Forester is great in a straight line. Even better, it’s as happy as the rest of the Subaru lineup when you decide to throw it down a logging road at speeds Jeep and Bronco owners could only dream of.
It’s not full-on rally car-style fun, though. For that, you’ll need the Forester Wilderness.
Heading Into the Wilderness
Forester is the second Subaru to get a Wilderness trim, with the intent of making it more capable when you’re headed down a particularly gnarly back road.
A taller suspension doesn’t offer any real extra ground clearance but does offer more wheel travel. The 2022 Forester Wilderness also gets even cushier shocks and springs. That suspension makes the Forester Wilderness as comfortable in the woods as the best 1970s American land barge on pavement, with just a bit of extra softness on the highway.
Wilderness also features some more useful off-road kit, like a front-facing camera that lets you see the trail directly in front of you, to help place the tires around big rocks and logs and see over hill crests. The Forester Wilderness has 17-inch wheels with winter-rated all-terrain Yokohama Geolandar tires. This means that rocks and branches on the trail are less of a worry than they are with the all-season tires most crossovers wear.
Hit the Skids?
In a bit of an odd move, Canadian-spec Forester Wilderness models, like the ones I took up some ATV trails in rural Quebec, come with skid plates for the engine and rear differential. Stateside, there’s a smaller plate in front of the engine, and the other plates are an accessory option.
The upside is that you should be able to add the skid plates to non-Wilderness models for extra peace of mind. They’re also not expensive.
X-Mode: Better Than Most Drive Modes
Subaru has tweaked its X-Mode off-road drive modes for 2022. The system goes beyond just a change in throttle response and actually locks up the center diff more quickly and more aggressively to turn all of the wheels. Wilderness and higher trims have a dual-mode version, letting you pick from light snow/dirt and heavy snow/mud modes.
The most useful tweak is that when the system shuts itself off at speed, it doesn’t stay off. Hit 25 mph and X-Mode shuts off. Drop back below 25 and it comes back on.
That little change is a great solution for mixed-terrain routes when you spend some of the time creeping along hills but get to drop the hammer on longer and straighter stretches of dirt.
Flat-Four Fails to Inspire
Carrying over from last year is Subaru’s 2.5L boxer-four, making 182 horsepower. It’s just about average power for the segment, and it feels just about average. Not overly noisy, not noticeably quiet, the engine is just there, doing its job. Goldilocks would approve.
Would I like the 2.4L turbo offered in the Outback and Ascent? Of course, but Subaru seems perfectly happy selling plenty of understressed, slightly underpowered vehicles.
Quick to rev when asked, the engine partners well with Subaru’s CVT. The torque converter-equipped box says goodbye to typical CVT rubber-banding from a stop. It’s also programmed to avoid CVT drone, thanks to adding a couple of simulated gear shifts on the run to highway speeds.
The ratio swap at around 40 mph, though, arrived with a neck-snapping thud no matter how much or how little throttle I tried. It’s the only real disappointment in an otherwise unobtrusive driveline.
The EPA rates the 2022 Subaru Forester at 26 mpg city, 33 highway, though the chunkier tires and revised gear ratios of the Wilderness bring ratings down to 25 and 28. My own mixed driving — in freezing temperatures and with dedicated snow tires — returned 29 mpg, better than I’ve seen in most of its competitors.
Heading off-road, with heavy throttle and deep snow, brought consumption into the low 20s, which still impressed me given the terrain and the way the Forester was being driven.
Safety System Upgrades
Subaru’s EyeSight driver assistance system is all-new for 2022. The twin-camera system’s camera unit gets smaller, taking up less windshield space, and gets a new generation of software plus new cameras that double the view width.
The system can better spot pedestrians and cyclists, Subaru says, though fortunately, we didn’t have to test that detection and its emergency braking or the all-new evasive steering assist meant to steer you around an object when you’re too close to brake.
EyeSight’s operation has gotten smoother as well. It still beeps at you for nearly everything, like a car entering the radar cruise control system’s sensors and a car leaving the system’s sensors. However, it does feel smoother and less obtrusive when slowing you down or speeding you back up. It copes better with being cut off, too. The lane departure systems are less grabby and more natural as well.
Somebody’s Always Watching
Then there’s the party trick, a camera that faces the driver. DriverFocus watches your eyes to make sure you’re watching the road. If you’re not, it beeps at you and displays an alert on the dash. The system was annoyingly good at its job, even when I was wearing polarized sunglasses. Subaru uses the cameras to recognize multiple drivers for driver profiles. It also has a new hand gesture control system that lets you raise or lower cabin temperatures without touching a button.
Subaru has long been big on safety, but DriverFocus might be its best innovation yet. Making sure you’re actually watching where you’re going instead of futzing with your phone beats fancy cruise control and lane warnings every day of the week as far as avoiding a crash. It’s a shame it’s only on Touring and Premier trims.
The two-tone leather seats in this Premier trim Forester are the biggest differences for the new model year. They’re supportive and comfortable, though the seat bottom is a touch small for my well above-average frame. Wilderness has synthetic-clad seats meant to be water-resistant and make for easy cleanup from mud.
They’re also soft to the touch, and I liked them more than the Premier’s leather.
Making your trip home from your outdoor activities a bit more pleasant – and potentially a bit less stinky – new garment hooks have been added to the ceiling in the cargo area.
These lightweight hooks are ideal for hanging a jacket, wetsuit, or even boots, letting them air out and dry. Don’t leave the boots hanging when you drive away, though; they’re going to bang around all over the hatch.
Enjoy the Views
Against anything else in the class, Forester offers an absolutely massive greenhouse. A very tall roof and a very low dashboard work with the square styling and large windows to give this crossover exceptional visibility. Ideal for trail maneuvers, the bright cabin — accentuated with the light gray fabric in this Premier trim — is a great place to look out at the scenery.
The large panoramic roof is an oddity in the Forester. Not because of the glass, which opens up to let in plenty of fresh air, but because Subaru has made the odd choice of using a manual sliding shade.
It probably helps conserve headroom, but unless you’re tall with above-average arm lengths, you’ll probably need to climb in the back to close the shade. You’ll want to close that shade, too, because it cuts a noticeable amount of wind noise.
Subaru Does In-Car Controls Right
Subaru’s controls are some of the best laid-out in the business. A big paddle on the steering wheel to turn on the heat, toggle switches for the heated seats that stay on even when you’ve turned the car off, and a good mix of touchscreen and physical controls for key features.
The HVAC and audio controls are all big and chunky, easy to use even if your frozen hands are in bulky gloves or mitts.
2022 Forester Pricing
Starting from $25,195, with all-wheel drive across the board, EyeSight standard, and LED headlights that turn with the steering, Forester offers strong value. You’re not going to find much else with this capability for that price.
From $32,820, Wilderness is well equipped including the driveline changes and mud-friendly interior, especially when compared with Toyota’s less capable and less comfortable RAV4 TRD Off-Road at $36,465.
From $35,295, the Touring model is the only Forester with DriverFocus, a feature we wish was available across the line.
2022 Subaru Forester Summarized
Plenty of crossovers, SUVs, and even pickup trucks talk a big game about being rugged, tough, and ready to go anywhere. Stickers, bright paint on suspension components, and aggressive bumpers are all great until you spend 5 minutes on a gravel road and your kidneys decide they’ve had enough.
Subaru talks the rugged talk, but more softly. Even Wilderness trim is subdued by off-roader standards. Get it in any color other than blue and it blends into the background. Take it down a trail, though, and it feels as at home there as I do sitting on the couch on a Saturday night.
The same attributes that make the 2022 Forester Wilderness great on the trail make it a quiet and composed highway cruiser, even if your local highways look like the surface of the moon.
Subaru might not make big changes, but it’s hard to find fault with the automaker warming up an already delicious recipe. For more details on the 2022 Subaru Forester, check out Subaru.com.