Weekend Wheels: Subaru’s Forester Wilderness is born to be wild

weekend-wheels-logo-300x136

The go-anywhere, all-wheel-drive Forester Wilderness was built to tackle — and survive — the urban jungle.

Beware, there can be some pretty scary potholes on the way to Trader Joe’s. That towering curb coming out of Bonefish Grill? Positively Everest-like for any regular sedan.

And don’t forget that grassy parking lot at the Little League game after a Florida gulley-washer? Lewis and Clark never faced such insurmountable challenges

Which is why Subaru has created the go-anywhere, all-wheel-drive Forester Wilderness to tackle — and survive — the urban jungle.

Based on the much-loved, tall-roofed Forester Sport, this newly minted Wilderness version is designed to take adventure-seekers, the young at heart, and Bear Grylls wannabes off the grid, and off the beaten path. 

And taking the road less traveled courtesy of a Forester Wilderness won’t break the bank. Pricing kicks off at $32,820, or around $36,000 nicely loaded. 

It ain’t pretty. But then ruggedness, strength and capability never needed a pretty face. Nick Nolte, we’re talking about you.

Glued to its body is a multitude of black plastic appendages designed to fend off jagged rocks, gnarly tree stumps, river-bed boulders and careening, runaway shopping carts. 

I’m thinking Subaru designers must have seen a rerun of Mad Max: Fury Road and said to themselves “Yup, we need a Forester that looks just like one of those bad boys.”

Of course there’s function — and lots of it — behind all this six-pack-ab form. The suspension has been levitated to deliver an impressive 9.2 inches of ground clearance. Perfect for wading through the raging Nantahala River, or crossing Bayshore Boulevard after a downpour. 

It also comes with a set of knobbly Yokohama Geolandar all-terrain tires to ensure the Forester never becomes a stick in the mud.

And my favorite feature; the beefed-up roof rack that can now carry an 800-pound load. Which makes it perfect to accommodate the very cool, Subaru-approved $2-grand Thule Tepui Explorer Kukenam three-person tent. 

Right there could be a solution to affordable housing.

Inside, the no-nonsense, no-glam features continue. I love the new StarTex water-resistant material covering the seats, dash and doors. Like cockroaches and sharks, this stuff will still be around long after the Apocalypse. 

But the black-hole look is softened by fancy copper-colored stitching and some interesting anodized copper-colored design flourishes. Like around the gear selector, on the steering wheel and on a few random center console buttons. 

This is a nicely spacious cabin, courtesy of that tall roof. The raised-up suspension gives it an SUV feel behind the wheel with that “command-style” driving position we all love. 

In the back, there’s space for three across, and the fold-down seat-backs let you throw in all that camping/adventure/mountain gear. Or a mountain of mulch from The Home Depot.

Powering this new Forester Wilderness is Subaru’s quirky, 2.5-liter go-to “Flat-4” four-cylinder. It packs a slightly underwhelming 182-horsepower and 176 torques. Sadly the 260-hp turbo version from Outback Wilderness sibling isn’t on offer.

But coupled to Subaru’s latest CVT continuously variable transmission, the Forester has decent giddy-up, with lively low-speed acceleration and refined cruising. Passing maneuvers, however, need advanced planning.

The suspension changes have done a nice job of reducing body roll compared to a regular Forester, and through the curves it always feels confident and composed. Nice steering, too, that’s precise and full of feel, despite those groovy Yokohama tires. 

Of course, the Forester Wilderness is really all about off-road capability, even though only 16 per cent of owners, according to Subaru, will ever venture off the pavement. 

Sadly, with no rain-soaked logging roads or rocky mountain trails to enjoy here in the Sunshine State, my off-roading experiences were restricted to the sandy beaches by the Gandy Bridge. Here it did what it says on the box and refused to get stuck.

Competition in this adventure wagon class include Ford’s new Bronco Sport Badlands, Toyota’s RAV4 TRD and the over-competent Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk.

But this new Subaru Forester Wilderness is a fun ride with head-turning style and an appealing sticker. And as we all know, everyone loves a Subaru.