2022 Subaru Forester (Wilderness vs Premier)
Following the great feedback we got from an earlier post about two variants of the same model, we wanted to repeat the exercise. This time, we will discuss the 2022 Subaru Forester, especially the new Wilderness trim and Premier. Both models are assembled at the Ōta plant in Japan and have an MSRP of $38,995 and $40,595, respectively.
Subaru debuted the new generation of the Forester for the 2019 model year. For the 2022 model, they facelifted the model to keep it as fresh as possible. That Japanese automaker also added a new variant on two of its most popular models: the Outback and the Forester. The Premier remains the range-topping trim of the model. The Wilderness model is more rugged, with unique wheels and reinforced roof racks. Appearance-wise, the orange accents, inside and out, are familiar cues that tell you this is a special edition of this midsize SUV.
On the other hand, the Premier model is more conventional-looking, with chrome around the window frame and mirrors, for example. The combination of blue and orange accents is excellent. It distinguishes itself from other vehicles on the road, so the exterior look win has to go to the Wilderness.
Inside, both Foresters felt completely different, even though only about $1,500 separated the trims. The Wilderness also has orange accents throughout the cabin, although more subtle than outside. There are some tags here and there with the logo but nothing much. The Premier only comes with brown leather, so you ought to step down to the Limited trim if you want a black or white interior; feels warm and cozy. As you can imagine in the pictures, it was cold and windy when we tested both vehicles but even when we parked the car outside for the night; it still felt warmer and more welcoming than the outdoor-focused trim. We liked that the tachometer had a little Wilderness badge integrated into it. The overall interior look was more appealing with the brown leather found on the Premier trim. As for the resemblances, both versions have a large sunroof spanning to the second row, which is excellent for a vehicle at this price point. Also, the interior room is still pretty great; headroom is good enough, and trunk space too, while legroom may be a little tight for adults or tall teens. You can pull down the seats directly from the back, which is always a neat feature when picking home decor or organization at a Swedish store. Finally, kudos to Subaru for using leather straps to cover the ISOFIX ports as they are identified on the seats and apparent as soon as you open the rear doors; car seats can be quickly tied down with the rear anchors on the backrest.
The view behind the wheel is almost identical on both Forester trims. Except for the Subaru Wilderness in the gauge cluster and the orange trim on the lower part of the steering wheel, they look pretty much the same. They both get the 4.2-inch screen placed between the gauges; this small screen shows the basics like the speed and the trip odometer. You will find more information on the 6.3-inch screen mounted close to the windshield, which acts as a heads-up display for all the passengers rather than just the driver. It displays all kinds of information like the time, the temperature, and even the vehicle's inclination or the fuel consumption for different trips. In a world of increasingly more digital gauge clusters, the fact that all this kind of info isn't displayed directly in front of the driver is a little dated. Both vehicles come with an 8-inch infotainment system, with the Premier having an integrated navigation system, but the difference here is the sound system. The top-of-the-line model had the premium Harman Kardon 9-speaker sound system, while the lesser trim had a 6-speaker setup, which made a big difference in the sound experience inside both vehicles. Subaru's audio unit falls short. For this reason alone, we would personally opt for the Premier trim since the sound in the Wilderness is so subpar.
The Wilderness has most of the safety features found on the Premier trim, such as EyeSight driver assistance which is adaptive cruise control, Rear/Side Vehicle Detection and Reverse Automatic Braking. The main upgrade the Premier has is the DriverFocus® – Distraction Mitigation System which, as the name describes, monitors the driver's attention to ensure they are paying attention ahead. It is a series of cameras placed in the vicinity of the driver's area and will beep at you, after about 5 seconds in our experience, when you are not focused. We found that this system worked correctly. It is a helpful safety feature but is it worth the extra money? Keep reading, and you will get your answer soon.
Under the hood, these two vehicles from the Japanese automaker are powered by the same 2.5L 4-cylinder BOXER engine coupled to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that produces 182hp and 176lb-ft of torque. The paddle shifters mounted on the steering wheel don't enhance accelerations a whole lot; the Forester achieves a 0-100kph time in around 9,0 seconds, so we're not in supercar territory. All Foresters come standard with all-wheel drive, one of the best in the industry and the reason many buyers opt for a Subaru in the first place. The Wilderness adds 0,5 inches of ground clearance compared to the Premier, exclusive all-terrain tires, and a tweaked X-Mode to face harsher conditions. The fact remains that these are two trims from the same model and brand, so besides cosmetic changes, they are pretty similar, although once on the road, they felt quite different. The Premier is less bouncy on the road and feels more stable in corners than the Wilderness. The latter also tended to not correctly compensate for the plunging movement on braking, which was exaggerated compared to regular off-roaders like Jeeps. It didn't feel natural; we prefer the driving dynamics of the top-of-the-line model. Both models are easy to maneuver and park with a light steering wheel. Both models worked great in the snow when we tested the two vehicles.
All in all, the Subaru Forester is a practical SUV that can get to and from the cabin, regardless of which trim catches your eye. On the one hand, the Wilderness aces the outdoorsy look with the orange accents all over the vehicle, while the Premier feels luxurious with its brown interior. We would choose the Premier version because of the better sound system, the latest safety features and a more comfortable driving experience. No matter which version you pick, it will go wherever you need to, especially with the symmetrical All-Wheel-drive.
Subaru has lent us this vehicle for one week as a press vehicle. We have no affiliation with Subaru Canada. The above reflects our personal opinion of the car referred above.
All photos of the Subaru Forester Premier were done by Vince P. Szigeti
All photos of Subaru Forester Wilderness were done by Yoan Dubord