Sharing its engineering with the Legacy sedan, the 2022 Subaru Outback is a midsize, 5-passenger crossover SUV equipped with four-cylinder engines, standard all-wheel drive (AWD), and available turbocharging. Back in the mid-1990s, the Outback was among the first modern crossovers available in the U.S.
What’s New for the 2022 Subaru Outback?
The big news for the 2022 Outback lineup is the new Wilderness trim level. Taking its cues from modified customer vehicles, the Wilderness addresses the current “overlanding” trend with factory design and engineering changes that improve the Outback’s capability off-road while ensuring that all safety systems continue to operate as they should.
In addition to the new Outback Wilderness trim level, Subaru adds standard LED fog lights to all versions of the SUV while all but the base trim include new rear-seat air vents for improved comfort.
How Much is a Subaru Outback?
This year, 2022 Subaru Outback prices range from the high $20,000s to the low $40,000s, including the destination charge for shipping the SUV from the automaker’s Lafayette, Indiana factory to your local dealership.
2022 Subaru Outback Trim Levels and Configurations
There are two kinds of Outbacks. The first has a 2.5L four-cylinder engine without turbocharging, while the second has a turbocharged 2.4L four-cylinder engine. All in, the 2022 Outback comes in eight trim levels, half of which are turbocharged:
Subaru Outback — Equipped with standard all-wheel drive and Subaru’s X-Mode off-road traction system, the base Outback features 17-inch alloy wheels, raised roof rails, cloth seats, and automatic climate control. The infotainment system includes a 7-inch touchscreen display, smartphone mirroring, satellite radio, and connected services technology. The company’s EyeSight collection of driving assistance and collision avoidance systems is also standard
Subaru Outback Premium — Premium trim adds dual-zone automatic climate control with rear-seat air vents, a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats, and rear USB charging ports. The Outback Premium also has an 11.6-inch infotainment system and an available Wi-Fi connection
Subaru Outback Onyx Edition XT — With black 18-inch alloy wheels, blacked-out trim, and a turbocharged engine, the Onyx Edition XT is the sporty version of the Outback. It builds on Premium trim with water-resistant StarTex simulated leather upholstery, a power rear liftgate, a 180-degree front camera view, and a blind-spot warning system with rear cross-traffic warning. Subaru also stows a full-size spare tire under the cargo floor, and the Onyx Edition includes an enhanced version of X-Mode
Subaru Outback Wilderness — New for 2022, Outback Wilderness models build on the Onyx Edition XT with copper exterior and interior accents, a suspension lift to provide 9.5 inches of ground clearance, a front skid plate, all-terrain tires, and a further upgraded version of X-Mode. In addition, an exclusive roof rack supports roof-top camping, and Subaru includes measures to waterproof the cargo area
Subaru Outback Limited — Leather upholstery is standard in the Outback Limited, which builds on Premium trim with passive keyless entry, heated rear seats, a hands-free power liftgate, and automatic rear braking
Subaru Outback Limited XT — This version of the Outback adds a turbocharged engine to the Limited, plus a heated steering wheel, power sunroof, navigation system, and premium sound system. The Limited XT also features Subaru DriverFocus, a facial recognition technology that serves as a driver monitoring system and can store up to five different driver profiles for seat position, radio stations, and other settings
Subaru Outback Touring — Touring trim includes Limited and Limited XT features, except for the turbocharged engine. It also has the 180-degree front camera view found in the Onyx Edition XT and the Wilderness, along with power-folding side mirrors and ventilated front seats. A Java Brown premium leather is exclusive to this trim level
Subaru Outback Touring XT — The Touring XT has Touring trim plus a turbocharged engine
2022 Subaru Outback and Test Drive
Since its inception, the Subaru Outback has charted its own course. Initially developed in the mid-90s as a trim package for the Legacy station wagon, adding nothing more than cosmetic flourishes and accessories, within a couple of years, the Outback transformed into a vehicle as capable as its mud flaps and roof rails suggested.
Subaru raised the suspension and roof to provide more functionality, added body cladding to minimize damage during off-road adventures, and marketed the result as the world’s first utility wagon with the help of Crocodile Dundee himself, Australian actor Paul Hogan. And it worked because the Outback has been a top-selling Subaru ever since.
For 2022, the Outback is largely a carry-over model but becomes the first Subaru vehicle equipped with the all-new Wilderness trim. Similar to how Subaru originally transformed the Legacy wagon into the original high-riding Outback, the Outback Wilderness offers additional ground clearance, even more off-road capability, rugged features, and a more outdoorsy attitude than any Outback to come before it.
Subaru provided the 2022 Outback Wilderness test vehicle for this review. Reasonably well-equipped, the Wilderness trim is positioned in the middle of the Outback lineup and is available with only one options package ($1,845) that includes an 11.6-inch touchscreen Starlink infotainment system with navigation, a power moonroof, and reverse automatic braking. The test vehicle had that upgrade, and including a $1,175 destination fee, the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) came to $40,215.
2022 Subaru Outback Review: The Design
With just a glance at the styling, you realize there is something different about the Subaru Outback Wilderness. My test vehicle wore a trim-exclusive Geyser Blue paint finish. Neither too dark nor too bright, the new color offers a calming lake visual effect. It also pays homage to two important tenets of Subaru’s identity: its rally racing heritage and the U.S. national parks system. The Wilderness badge itself showcases a treelined road leading to a mountain range — standard scenery at a national park.
In addition to the new blue hue, “Anodized Copper” accents provide bold but tasteful color contrast to the predominantly black exterior trim. Subaru applies the bright color on the Wilderness badge, for the Outback name on rear-door cladding, and to call out helpful contact points like tow hook anchors and roof rail tie-downs.
Subaru festoons the rest of the Outback exterior in black, from the 17-inch matte-finished wheels to the plastic cladding that surrounds the vehicle’s lower half. However, unlike the Forester Wilderness, the treatment seems less extravagant and more purposefully placed on the Outback Wilderness. Still, if the Wilderness doesn’t have enough scratch-resistant cladding for your tastes, you can add more (yes, really) for another $199.
The final touch is Yokohama Geolander all-terrain tires that feature raised white lettering for an added pop of color. The Outback Wilderness offers 9.5 inches of ground clearance, almost an inch more than the standard Outback. But thanks to all the black exterior cladding, the wheel gap doesn’t appear as excessive.
The interior is equally dark, an occasional splash of bright copper breaking through the black chasm. Copper garnishes accent the steering wheel, shift knob, stitching, and Subaru Wilderness tags. A Gunmetal Gray weave finish decorates the dashboard panels and door inserts, offering a slightly textured feel and adding some personality to the otherwise drab cabin.
Subaru’s water-repellant synthetic leather, called StarTex, wraps the seats. The front chairs are comfortable on long commutes, but the Subaru Wilderness-embossed headrests feel like super extra firm decorative pillows (if you can even call them pillows). If you like resting your head against a brick wall, these headrests are for you.
Dimensionally, despite the increased ground clearance and overall height, Outback Wilderness models offer the same interior capacities as other Outbacks. That means you can carry five people in a cabin that measures on the smaller side of the midsize SUV segment. But with every seat taken, there’s still plenty of room in the rear for gear.
Cargo space measures 32.5 cu. ft. with the rear seatbacks raised. When you fold the back seat flat, this space expands to more than double at 75.7 cu. ft. Due to its lifted suspension, Outback Wilderness models have a 0.8-inch increase in minimum load height versus the standard Outback.
Of course, not everything will fit in the vehicle. That’s where the standard ladder-type roof rails offer extra flexibility for all kinds of roof rack accessories. The Outback Wilderness also has a static roof load limit of 700 lbs for campers with roof-top tents. The dynamic rating is 220 lbs.
2022 Subaru Outback Review: The Technology
All 2022 Subaru Outbacks include an 11.6-inch Starlink infotainment touchscreen except for the base model. A navigation system is an option. Positioned horizontally, the large tablet-like display replaces most of the buttons and knobs that would typically appear on the dashboard. Subaru retains control knobs for audio volume and tuning and buttons for temperature control. However, you’ll have to dive into the touchscreen to manage other simple functions like adjusting the dual-zone automatic climate control system’s fan speed or changing the audio source.
To be fair, the on-screen icons are large and legible, but the display itself offers no haptic feedback, only a touchpoint beep. But if you’re like me and feel that modern vehicles have more than enough beeping thanks to safety system alerts, touchscreen taps, rear-seat reminders, etc., then the touchscreen ding is the first noise you turn off.
With such a massive screen commanding that much interior real estate, I would have liked a dedicated section of customizable shortcuts. The top portion of the display offers quick access and views to vehicle status and the X-Mode system. Why not add a bottom section for features owners can personalize, like music, navigation, or phone history?
Yes, voice commands are an alternative to (silent) screen jabs, but for features such as navigation, the prompts require particular wording. There is on-screen menu guidance, but this is hardly an efficient way to request directions, especially while driving. Even though the infotainment display is much bigger than a smartphone, you’re still taking your eyes off the road. To avoid all of that, I would manually input destinations or handle settings that required more involvement while still parked.
More intuitive are the steering wheel-mounted controls for the adaptive cruise control (ACC). Part of Subaru EyeSight, the automaker’s umbrella term for advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS), the ACC allows drivers to choose between standard and adaptive cruise control and, with the latter, a lane-centering assistance function.
The ACC and other ADAS worked great, even in the rainy weather that I experienced during my vehicle loan period. However, the lane-centering feature proved to be less sure of itself in reading lane markings. Although the vehicle did maintain its position and speed within the highway lanes, it did so with a noticeable ping pong effect. I found myself doing more steering with the driving assistance feature turned on. I eventually turned it off and, go figure, enjoyed a more pleasant drive. Thankfully, there was no ping pong effect when testing the system again after the rainstorm cleared.
Other standard safety features on the 2022 Subaru Outback are blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, a rearview camera, a 180-degree front-view camera, daytime running lights, brake assist, a lane-departure warning system with sway warning, and a lane-keep assist system.
Subaru prides itself in the high safety standards of its vehicles, regularly earning top safety ratings. The Outback is no exception. For 2022, the Subaru Outback has received the highest safety scores from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). In crashworthiness tests, the Outback earns a Five-Star NHTSA rating and a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the IIHS.
2022 Subaru Outback Review: The Drive
Under the hood, the 2020 Subaru Outback has a standard 2.5L four-cylinder or an available 2.4L turbo-four. The former produces 182 hp and 176 lb.-ft. of torque, while the latter offers a notable 260 hp and 277 lb.-ft. of torque. The Outback Wilderness features the more powerful engine of the two. As is standard for the Outback lineup, the Wilderness model comes with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). In addition, there is an eight-speed manual mode option that drivers control via paddle shifters.
The turbocharged 2.4L is the smart engine choice for the Outback Wilderness, but its turbo lag does not strike the most confidence when accelerating from a complete stop. Even at speed, there’s a delay between what your right foot is telling the vehicle to do and what the vehicle is doing. Or thinking about doing. And it thinks a lot. For example, there was a discernible pause when I wanted to increase speed from 50 mph to 65 mph. You might want to plan ahead in merging and passing situations, since acceleration will feel like you’re doing so uphill. In a mudslide.
Though it is modified for use in the Wilderness, don’t count on the CVT to express any sort of dynamic driving sensations either. Instead, the CVT does the job, but in a rather unimpressive fashion. Utilizing the paddle shifters for manual gear changes is fun for a short stint, but its intention seems more like a gimmick for when long commutes get boring.
The Outback Wilderness does not have drive modes such as Eco, Normal, or Sport, which appear to be the norm in everything from half-pint sedans to long-wheel-based SUVs. However, what is exclusive to the Outback Wilderness is a dual-function X-Mode off-road traction system that bolsters the AWD system with Snow/Dirt and Deep Snow/Mud modes. Snow/Dirt minimizes wheelspin for added traction on wet or slippery roads, while Deep Snow/Mud maximizes wheelspin to prevent the vehicle from getting stuck in the slush.
Combined with a revised rear differential and tweaked CVT, these driving modes mean the Outback Wilderness has more available low-end torque at the wheels to offer more traction and grip for all sorts of road conditions and surfaces. Subaru says the Wilderness can climb grades of up to 40 percent, even on loose gravel surfaces. A newly added pressure sensor provides additional low-speed control accuracy, and a new X-Mode feature allows the vehicle to automatically switch from low speeds to more than 25 mph without an interruption in power.
Also, the 9.5 inches of ground clearance plus differently designed front and rear bumpers give the Outback Wilderness improved approach and departure angles compared to the standard Outback. The Outback Wilderness has a 20.0-degree approach angle, 21.2-degree ramp breakover angle, and 23.6-degree departure angle. On a non-Wilderness Outback, these figures are 18.6, 19.4, and 21.7 degrees, respectively. Subaru also tuned the suspension and increased the length of shock absorbers and springs for added all-terrain stability.
The Outback Wilderness is definitely ready for the rough and tumble of uneven terrain. On smoother surfaces like city streets and state byways, the ride is compliant enough but not necessarily quiet. On my evaluation loop, the vehicle did absorb road bumps well, especially on a long stretch of roadway surface that’s as smooth as a rippling wave. However, plenty of road noise did permeate into the cabin. That could relate as much to the meaty all-terrain tires as the vehicle’s sound absorption qualities. The road noise wasn’t necessarily intrusive enough to become a nuisance; just don’t expect luxury-level quietness. And if that is what you’re expecting, you’re shopping in the wrong vehicle category.
For all its off-road prowess, the Subaru Outback Wilderness is also the heaviest and least fuel-efficient Outback model, weighing almost 300 lbs more than the base trim. According to EPA fuel economy ratings, the Outback Wilderness should get 22 mpg in the city, 26 mpg on the highway and 24 mpg in combined driving. On my test loop, the vehicle returned the as-advertised 24 combined mpg.
Other Outback models equipped with the same turbocharged 2.4L four-cylinder are rated 23 mpg city, 30 mpg highway, and 26 mpg combined. With less power, an Outback sporting the standard non-turbocharged engine uses even less fuel with EPA estimates of 26 mpg city, 33 mpg highway, and 29 mpg.
Those preferring towing strength over fuel economy will appreciate the 3,500-lb towing capacity and 350-lb trailer tongue weight of the Wilderness trim. These are the same capacities offered on similar XT models, which also use the turbo-four powertrain. Outback models with the base engine are rated at 2,700 lbs with a 270-lb tongue weight.
Is the 2022 Subaru Outback a Good SUV?
The Subaru Outback remains an enjoyable and reliable on- and off-road travel buddy. When those roads venture over the deeper rivers and through the darkest woods, the Outback Wilderness is the most capable version in the lineup for your most off-the-grid adventures. With its rally-winning DNA, raised suspension, added traction systems, purposeful design, and top safety features, the Outback Wilderness is equipped to compete on all types of terrain — smoothly paved or otherwise.
Subaru Outback Competitors for 2022
With seating for five, up to 75.7 cu. ft. of cargo space, and as much as 3,500 lbs of towing capacity, the 2022 Subaru Outback is positioned to compete with other midsize two-row crossover SUVs. The Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk best matches the Outback in terms of capability and intent, while the GMC Acadia AT4 and Kia Sorento X-Line are more tentative about their off-roading aspirations. The Honda Passport TrailSport and Hyundai Santa Fe XRT are mainly cosmetic in nature, rugged-looking but without any added capability when the going gets tough.
Subaru Outback Features
Ready to battle any blizzard and more capable off-road than most crossover SUVs, the Subaru Outback is legendary for its practicality, utility, dependability, and safety. People who frequently travel in the mountains will want the turbocharged engine, which works well in the thinner air found at higher elevations.
2022 Subaru Outback Safety Features
- EyeSight — Standard collection of driving assistance and collision avoidance systems
- Starlink Safety and Security — Available connected services plan including automatic collision notification and SOS emergency assistance*
- Blind Spot Detection — Available feature that warns the driver when other vehicles are in the Outback’s blind spots*
- Rear Cross-Traffic Alert — Available feature warns the driver when other vehicles are approaching from the sides as the Outback reverses*
- DriverFocus Distraction Mitigation System — Available facial recognition technology that identifies a drowsy or distracted driver*
2022 Subaru Outback Technology
- Touchscreen infotainment system — Includes an 11.6-inch touchscreen in all but the base trim level*
- Smartphone mirroring — Standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
- Starlink connected services — Available technology offering remote engine starting, remote climate control operation, and more*
- Navigation system — Available feature*
- X-Mode — Available off-road traction control with different capabilities depending on the trim level*
2022 Subaru Outback Specs
- 2.5L four-cylinder engine, 182hp*
- 2.4L turbocharged four-cylinder engine, 260hp*
- Continuously variable transmission
- Standard all-wheel drive
- EPA fuel economy ratings: 29 mpg (2.5L), 26 mpg (2.4L turbo), and 24 mpg (Wilderness) in combined driving
2022 Subaru Outback Interior
- StarTex — Available water-resistant simulated leather*
- Leather — Available, with special premium-grade on Touring trim*
- Heated front and rear seats, and steering wheel — Available features*
- Ventilated front seats — Available feature*
- Premium sound system — Available 12-speaker Harman Kardon audio system*
*Availability is subject to specific trim level selections