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The 2020 Outback Wilderness – 3 Words … BOLD, BRASH, and CAPABLE!

For those who want more of what the Outback already offers, Subaru has enhanced the Outback.

  • Subaru has let loose a new subbrand – Wilderness – for the outdoorsy type.
  • Subtle changes should improve the Outback’s off-road ability, but not drastically.
  • Roof racks matter, and the Wilderness package includes a 700-pound-rated monster.

The subbrand is what it’s all about. During the early 1990s, when Subaru was busy creating its 1995 models, it redesigned the Legacy station wagon with additional body cladding and two-tone effects in order to create the Outback.  This was the new subbrand of the Legacy.  The Outback, long after the Legacy part of its name has faded away, is just not Outback enough for overlanders, boondockers, and KOA type campers.

Despite the fact we were forbidden from driving the Wilderness model, Subaru displayed it on a pile of rocks revealing it for automotive journalists in California.

The package includes many modifications already made by overlanding Outback owners, but it does it in a way that’s factory-like and comes with the assurance of some crash testing.  As a result, the suspension is lifted 0.8 inches to accomplish a total ground clearance of 9.5 inches.  When compared with the standard Outback, the front approach angle climbs from 18.6 degrees to a total 20.0, the ramp break-over angle increases from 19.4 to 21.2 degrees, and the departure angle leaps from 21.7 to 23.6 degrees.

Those are outstanding figures for what is still a unibody automobile with a raised suspension.  On standard tires, the Jeep Wrangler Sport comes with a 9.5-inch width, not far off from the 9.7-inch Jeep Wrangler Sport.  But the Wrangler Sport four-door’s 41.4-degree approach, 20.3-degree break-over, and 36.1-degree departure angles should help put that in perspective.  You can traverse muddy trails, cross meadows, and conquer random stone outcroppings in the Outback Wilderness, but serious rock climbing is still best left to serious off-roaders.

The Indiana assembly facility will still be releasing all Outback Wilderness models with model-specific wheels that come in a 225/65R-17 Yokohama Geolandar A/T rubber.  Off-road, this tire is more aggressive than what you’ll find on other Outbacks, but shouldn’t compromise on-road civility.

Mechanically, little has changed. Subaru’s turbocharged 2.4-liter flat-four, rated at 260 horsepower with 277 pound-feet of torque, powers the Wilderness.  The Wilderness is still powered by Suburau’s turbocharged 2.4-litre flat-four, rated at 260 hp with 277 pound-feet of torque, so little has been altered mechanically.  The gearbox stays a continuously variable automatic capable of simulating a stepped-gear trans when choosing the manual mode.  The boxer-four still feeds Subaru’s renowned all-wheel-drive system.  Subaru shortened the final-drive ratio from the standard Outback’s 4.11:1 to 4.44:1.

Visually, the Wilderness is differentiated by angled-for-clearance front and rear bumper covers, copper-colored accents, a distinctive grille, fancy schmancy hexagonal fog lights, near-Pontiac-spec side cladding, and a front skid plate.  There’s also an “anti-glare” flat-black hood decal. We’re a tad skeptical of its usefulness, given the decal is centered on the hood and doesn’t span the whole width of the nose. But we’ll investigate this when we get an opportunity to review the beastie.

The interior is finished in Subaru’s water repelling StarTex fabric. The floor mats are logo-embossed, a dark-colored headliner, and gunmetal accents (as opposed to chrome in the standard Outback) distinguish the Wilderness further. And quite brilliantly, Subaru installed a waterproof material to the back of the second row so that when you folded forward, the new load surface can adequately deal with mud and anything else that shouldn’t be there.

Additionally, we can report that the presence of a full-size spare under the cargo-hold floor is also great news. So what that means is when the going is tough, throwing that spare on will not result in any compromised performance.

With everything we’ve mentioned thus far on the all new Wilderness, quite possibly the most handy might be the roof rack, which is rated to carry 700-lb loads. So, for everyone that hits the road with 600 pounds of Bush’s Baked Beans when we boondock, this is fantastic news indeed.

Subbrands are always incremental improvements on existing products. Will Subaru extend its new Wilderness moniker to the Forester? Ascent? Crosstrek? Is it too much to hope for the ultimate conglomeration of Subaru subbrands: a WRX STI Wilderness?

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