My wife and I have had our OBW for a bit over a month now and I wanted to share our impressions so far to help buyers looking at the Wilderness or Outbacks in general. Overall, we're very happy with the car. My prior vehicles were a Land Rover D2 and 4Runner, so I'm coming from old school body-on-frame SUVs. The 4Runner is on its way out to pasture, and I wanted something more nimble and comfortable to replace it with, while retaining some of the spirit of the other two. After taking a look at a dozen SUVs out there, the Wilderness had the goods I was looking for. For TLDR sake, I'll put it into bulletpoints:
-The OBW is great fun to drive. It's quick and nimble, and noticeably peppier than the XT I tested due to its lower gearing. It's responsive on the road, almost surprisingly for its near 4000lb curb weight.
-The 2.4T has more power to give at any speed. You can be going 50 climbing a mountain at 9500ft and with a little peddle it'll happily zip to 70 if you're not careful. The Disco was an absolute dog, and the 4Runner wasn't much better, especially at altitude. Thanks little turbo! It's also so smooth--boxer smooth.
-Full-Time AWD really helps makes the car feel balanced when cornering, and traction loss is far less noticeable (or simply occurs less often) in snow compared to the part-time AWD systems in our other cars.
-The OBW's ride height is just little more comfortable for me to get in and out of than the other trims. That extra almost-inch means I can scoot right into the drivers seat rather than ducking in. When on the road you just get a little higher view, and can see a little more, which makes more of difference than you might think.
-The CVT is loads better than the 4Runner's slush box. If you didn't let it settle at the speed and gear it wanted the 4R would hunt and hunt, upshifting and downshifting, while driving me crazy. The fake shifting of the OBW's CVT, while odd if I think of it, actually does a decent job of replicating the expectation of gears in the back of my mind. More importantly though, it can hold the speed you want comfortably with no wobble or shifting. I was skeptical of a CVT, but after this experience I have nothing but praise to give Subaru. Mind you, I'm not flogging it, but for daily driving I've no complaints.
-The Eyesight-driven cruise control is incredible. Unlike radar-driven cruise control that I've used where the sensors are down the bumper and get disabled with road gunk constantly, the Subaru has them placed high and the windshield wipers can keep the OBW's cameras clean. Already that's a leg up, but the system works surprisingly well. I hate when cruise control surges up to and over your desired speed, and to control this Subaru provides behavior levels that can be adjusted. Eco mode is exactly the aggressiveness I want out of my cruise control: none. It gradually changes speeds, brakes down to 0mph in traffic while keeping a comfortable distance so I have time to take control if needed. I really love the system and it's saving my foot on my long commute.
-The isolation. The cabin is quiet, the electric steering is isolated, and the OBW rides over Colorado potholes and road debris like it's hardly there. This is a personal preference, but after years of being tumbled around in trucks I wanted a couch on wheels and boy did I get it. The OBW responds quickly for a boat, but if you're coming from something low and stiff it'll feel boat like. I'm mostly coming from lifted bounce houses so it feels downright sporty!
-Roomy cabin & great visibility. In the post-Hummer 2 era, some vehicle still have armored-vehicle like viewing slits they call windows. Others have massive A and B pillars or other crap that creates a ton of blind spots. The OBW has none of that. Instead, it has a lot of glass and incredible visibility. The cabin has tons of space and second row adult passengers have plenty of room.
-Blindspot warning mirror lights, and backup traffic warning. The blindspot warning lights are bright and located in a position unlike any other car I've seen. Instead of having a light on the mirror which you can barely see, Subaru has put them on the inside of the mirror pods, so it's bright yellow on black. They're very visible and useful, and I welcome tech that augments already good visibility for additional situational awareness. Combine that with an excellent backup traffic warning system that notifies me when a car is approaching while trying to backup, makes me really wish I had these features in all my past vehicles.
-I love StarTex. I can see how it's a love/hate thing for some folks, but I'm a huge fan. I've read the OBW has a different variant of StarTex that's softer and more supple. Compared to the old stiff leather seats of the 4Runner, it's pure luxury. That and knowing I won't have to condition it and baby it like leather, especially in a dry climate, makes me happy. It's not sweaty for me, but I'm also not one of those guys who gets drenched standing still in 70 degrees. Also, the seats are comfy and have good bolstering.
-The materials feel great, and quality. Yes, they're mostly plastic, but plastics have a wide range of quality and feel. GM and Chrysler are the poster children for crap plastics that feel poppy and cheap, like the whole dash and doors were formed from a single mold and snapped off it with tin snips like a scale car model. The OBW isn't that. The use of a variety of materials and textures forms a good look and feel across the cabin. There is some use of piano black shiny plastic around the shifter and display that I'm not a fan of, but the rest are matte materials and quality plastics.
-The tires are pretty decent in snow; better than most all-seasons. While not the best AT, they're a step up from an all-season tire, enough that I don't feel like I need snow tires on the OBW. I'll probably opt for something else when it comes time to replace them, but for the starter tire I'm happy.
-The infotainment sucks, bigtime. It's the biggest drawback of the vehicle. Voice control is so awful it's useless--it thinks and thinks and then still gets it wrong. Android Auto support is a joke. I'm not one of those people complaining about lack of physical buttons, but if you remove the buttons you need good UX in UI design, and Subaru's UI is garbage. If SOA is reading this, please implement my crappy UI doodle below to save me from having to dive into menus upon menus for simple tasks...like adjusting the seat heaters. It's beyond stupid, almost feeling intentionally bad.
-The OBW lacks a heated steering wheel, audio upgrade, and memory seats. What the **** Subaru? Canada gets the wheel and upgraded audio, what gives? Seems like a major misstep for the Wilderness package as a whole. Also, you gotta be kidding me on not including such a "premium" feature as memory seats. That's base model **** for most brands. At least allow me to add it as an upgrade, sheesh.
-The backup and forward camera quality is terrible. My potato phone from 2010 had a better image. Subaru literally could have spent a couple more bucks, like $2, and sourced better sensors. This is purely being cheap. Worst cameras of the 10 or so vehicles I test drove.
-The basic speaker package is meh. It's only saving grace is that since the vehicle cabin is so quiet, I might get more detail out of it than the HK system that was droned out in the Rover. On the other hand, you can clearly hear how not-great it is. It's a well documented after market upgrade, so no biggie.
-Rarely Eyesight can spot false positives and think I'm about to collide with something. A few times now it's put the car into brace mode, disabling the throttle, and preparing for impact, audio cues wailing. The whole event is maybe a second long, but it's enough to startle me each time. Hopefully Subaru erring on the side of false positives, means it'll actually work during the real deal.
-The turbo lag is real. Coming from NA vehicles that respond immediately when asked, the 2.4T is almost a 3-count between petal down and power kicking in when starting from a stop, and when power comes on it's a punch. This is less about the OBW and more just getting used to a non-linear throttle. If given the choice between this an an NA engine, I'd still lean turbo because **** does it perform at altitude.
-Gas mileage is mediocre. It can do 28 mpg on the freeway if you're gentle, but in mixed driving it's more like 23. That beats the **** out of the 4Runner, but since it needs 87 octane (midgrade here in CO) the running cost is about the same. When you factor in the OBW weighing almost 1000lbs less than the 4Runner, but costing the same to fuel, the price of a full-time AWD system becomes apparent, especially when paired with a less efficient boxer engine.
-Two days after picking up the OBW from the dealer the combination meter's speaker started to fail, causing all audio chimes and turn signal sounds to squeak loudly. The dealership took it in and told us we'd be out a vehicle for a month, giving us a base-model Ascent. Not-great, made worse that the loaner car was an Ascent. They had it fixed and returned to us only a week later, but scratched up the instrument column and dash around the meter to the extent that I had to get a manager involved to order replacement trim. SOA called apologizing for the whole debacle and helped soften the blow with a $750 credit towards accessories/parts/labor, but having a new car break and then be further damaged by the dealer trying to repair it isn't a good look. No other issues have cropped up yet, so I guess time will tell whether this was a fluke or bad omen. I expected less than perfection in these rough times where the factories are being stopped and restarted, and vendors might be changing for part availability, so if that's the only problem for a while I'll consider myself fortunate.
Modifications to Date:
-Autostop Eliminator. Boy, is this one a must. Not having to hit a stupid button to disable ASS each time is a relief. After the cost of a new car, what's another $100 for a QoL improvement like this? If ASS bothers you, buy the AE. The install is easy as pie and the results are no more ASS toggling for life.
-Diode Dynamics SS3 Pods - White, Max DOT Fog. A massive
upgrade to the otherwise "accent lights" Subaru calls fog lamps. $500, but possibly the most functional upgrade you can get, and major added safety on backroads and poorly lit highways. 10/10. You would have done it if it was a dealer option, so just do it. The install is easy, just plug and play. Note: Only the OBW is compatible with its round fog light housings; other 2022 trims won't fit the pods.
-Nameless Shock Strut. Adds just a hint of tighter turn in on corners. Not a huge difference, but it looks cool as ****. It's 20% function, 80% aesthetics, but it's an 8/10 for a fun add. Unlike others, mine installed in a breeze. 15 mins tops.
-Cargo net. I bought a cargo net off Amazon for a Toyota Highlander that fits perfectly in the back. Was far less than the OEM net and does the trick to bag groceries. Highly recommend.
-Thule roof rack bars, OEM. With my $750 SOA credit, I grabbed the roof rails. Way overpriced, and I'd recommend not buying through Subaru unless they're free like mine were. Now I can carry kayaks and stuff for that twice I year when we do that thing. They'll go mostly unused, and I'm leaving them off so I don't take the gas MPG hit.
-OEM aluminum engine guard. I actually dig this one. It overlaps the tiny piece of 0.5mm aluminum crap guard that comes stock, so it actually somewhat protects the front-underside of the bumper along with the engine. I've run over plenty of debris in the road that it's only a matter of time before this thicker aluminum plate saves me. Easy enough to install, and like $150 ish. Aftermarket might be a better option for this, but again I had that $750 credit to spend.