2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness, features, specs, pricing
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New Subaru Outback Wilderness Is Shut Out At Mudfest Competition

Is the 2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness the best off-road midsize SUV? According to the NWAPA, it doesn’t rate high enough to get an award at Mudfest.

Did the new Subaru Wilderness sub-brand move the automaker up in the eyes of the media? According to the Northwest Automotive Press Association (NWAPA), at this year’s Mudfest 2021 held at The Ridge Motorsports Park, the 2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness did not impress journalists from the Northwest, where Subaru is a popular brand.

Which SUV took home the trophy in the midsize SUV category? NWAPA voted for the 2022 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon 392, and the runner-up was the 2021 Ford Bronco 2-Door Advanced Badlands 4X4 trim. We are surprised the lifted, and rugged Outback Wilderness did not at least get a runner-up nod.

2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness, features, specs, pricing

The Outback in Wilderness trim was not considered wild enough either. For extreme capability, the 2022 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon 392, and the runner-up was the 2021 Ford Bronco 2-Door Advanced Badlands 4X4 also won that award at Mudfest 2021.

Eighteen auto journalists from the NWAPA evaluated 19 different 4WD/all-wheel-drive Crossovers, SUVs, and trucks over two days at The Ridge Motorsports Park in Shelton, Washington. In a surprise vote, the NW Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year is a luxury SUV, the 2022 Genesis GV70 AWD 3.5T Sport Prestige.

2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness, features, specs, pricing
2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness near Telluride, Colorado

The first day was spent taking luxury and mainstream-brand vehicles on pavement and the next day off-road. Evaluations took place on the property’s go-kart track and off-road course. Every journalist drove every vehicle on both test courses and had the opportunity to spend additional time with the Crossovers, SUVs, and trucks on the local roads.

The best off and on-road vehicles at Mudfest 2021

Subcompact and Compact vehicles: 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE AWD
Runner-up: 2022 Hyundai Tucson Limited AWD

Mid-and Full-Size vehicles: 2022 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon 392
Runner-up: 2021 Ford Bronco 2-Door Advanced Badlands 4X4

Compact and Midsize Luxury: 2022 Genesis GV70 AWD 3.5T Sport Prestige
Runner-up: 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLB250 4MATIC

Full-Size Luxury: 2022 Jeep Wagoneer Series II 4X4
Runner-up: 2021 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Sport Platinum

Pickup Trucks: 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz Limited AWD
Runner-up: 2021 Ram 1500 TRX Crew Cab 4X4

Extreme Capability: 2022 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon 392
Runner-up: 2021 Ford Bronco 2-Door Advanced Badlands 4X4

NW Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year: 2022 Genesis GV70 AWD 3.5T Sport Prestige
Runner-up: 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz Limited AWD

Is Subaru Outback Wilderness all-wheel-drive different than the standard Outback?

The more rugged 2022 Outback Wilderness comes with a new advanced X-Mode that allows the midsize SUV to switch automatically from low-speed managed driving to speeds over 25 mph without interruption of power or performance. The X-Mode display also features a new roll-angle indicator to help the driver navigate off-road terrain.

The 2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness didn’t impress NWAPA journalists enough to win the midsize SUV trophy, but its all-wheel-drive system is set apart from the pack and will get you deep off-road. Check out why in the two links below.

You Might Also Like: Is Subaru's Wilderness AWD The Best? Here's Why It Stands Out From The Pack

And also check out: Subaru Forester Wilderness Vs Outback Wilderness - There’s A Clear Winner

Denis Flierl has invested over 30 years in the automotive industry in a consulting role working with every major car brand. He is an accredited member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press. Check out Subaru Report where he covers all of the Japanese automaker's models. More stories can be found on the Torque News Subaru page. Follow Denis on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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Photo credit: Subaru USA

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A critical fault of Subaru is they continue to bank on old methodology and a couple proven metrics. But they don't attempt to excel or innovate. Compared to other brands, Subaru will still be better than Mazda for AWD, but the system hasn't advanced enough to compete more seriously. They have a great package, but it's locked to only the STI. It's the only vehicle in their lineup that actually has any mechanic diffs. Every other vehicle is open diff with just ABS wheel control. Subarus ABS is not as fast as some other brands and makes stability and tradition management messy. Every system outside of the STI feels dates. This is especially true when compared to other good systems like Honda's SHAWD. Honda's system feels generations newer, significantly faster, and better controls power delivery, handling balance, and movent of the vehicle towards a driver intended line. It's a system that makes Subarus systems feel ancient by comparison. Subaru needs a faster and more precise ABS system, needs to go to an e-diff system at least for the rear door better torque vectoring than what the ABS based approach offers, and they really could use mechanical diffs (if not e-diff). For example, a helical front and rear diff in the wilderness trim would make worlds difference in how planted, responsive, and how well it delivers traction, and the ABS would recognize a lifted tire and catch that tire to make sure the helical keeps working. Along with ABS based torque vectoring, this is basically what the STI has. Subaru does have one major benefit. They hold up to abuse. While many brand "overheat" and disable AWD, Subaru just takes all the abuse you can give it. It's a rugged system. However, that's the single thing that reality stands out. Otherwise they just stick to dated stuff and don't go far enough for what should be a more competent off road package. They need to be willing to do more.
I love the Outback (and I drive an Onyx Edition) but the Wilderness doesn't hold a candle to the Rubicon 392 or Bronco Badlands. Let's be realistic, here. The Wilderness can go up some nasty roads but it isn't nearly as capable. The CVT in my Outback still holds it back, despite the tweaks that Subaru has done to it over the years.