When first I drove the Subaru Outback Wilderness, I had a quick on-road drive with a ton of fun off-road driving up in Michigan. I really liked it. After a longer test that included several hours on the highway in the driver’s seat, I still liked it.
But. I noticed a couple things that could grate on your nerves overtime. So, let’s check out a few plusses and minuses that cropped up during the longer drive.
As a Wilderness model, the Outback tester had 17-inch all-terrain tires, which tend to be a bit knobbier than regular all-season tires. So, you might expect some extra tire noise to creep into the cabin. It does, but not so much that you’d notice it unless you were listening for it.
Plus, with the ladder-style roof rails and extra cladding, which is not super aerodynamic, your might also expect wind noise. That I didn’t really notice as much.
Overall, the sound-deadening materials in the Outback Wilderness do their job, and the cabin is a relatively quiet space to enjoy your music or a conversation with your passengers.
Next to Volvo and Nissan, Subaru has some of the more comfortable seats in the industry. The padding and bolsters seem to hit you in all the right places right out of the gate. I’ve previously compared Outback seats specifically to your favorite pair of old jean – a comfortable and perfect fit.
Those of you who know me are probably thinking, yeah, but you’re 5-ft tall and weigh 95 pounds. OK, there’s that. But my husband, who’s 5-foot, 9-inches and weighs almost 200 pounds also found them super comfy – he even went out of his way to tell me how much he liked them without me asking.
I generally hate auto stop/start systems that turn your engine off when you come to a complete stop. In addition to creating lag when the engine starts back up, the heating-and-cooling system gets muted while the engine is off – which is less than ideal on a super-hot or cold day.
But the system in the Outback Wilderness is particularly awful. Every time the engine shuts off, the vehicle visibly shudders. It does the same when it comes back on, and that combined with the lag time can create a potentially dangerous situation if you’re looking for a quick turn into a small window of open traffic.
The saving grace here is you can turn it off, and it’s no longer hidden in the infotainment screen. You have a very visible hard button just below the info screen. However, you do have to turn it off every time you turn the vehicle on, and that’s also annoying.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives Subaru high marks for its EyeSight safety system, and it really is a good system. But clearly whoever designed and rated the system has never driven in Chicago.
There is a special kind of aggression in city driving that includes quick maneuvers on the highway and fast stops on surface streets. More than once, the automatic emergency braking system scared the bejesus out of me.
The first time it happened, I was on surface streets coming up on a changing stoplight when the person in front of me decided to stop rather than go through the yellow. First off, who does that in a city? Second, though I was already paying attention and slowing down, the vehicle didn’t think I was slowing down fast enough. In addition to loud audible beeping and red flashing “BRAKE” alerts behind the wheel, the vehicle started to apply brakes itself. All of that combined had me slamming on the brakes instead of a more natural brake pattern, which in turn scared the bejesus out of the person behind me and nearly got me rear ended.
The second time was even scarier as I was on the highway, and the person in front of me decided to brake for no reason (there wasn’t a car in front of him), I had an open traffic window on my right and put on my blinker to change lanes. Before I could do that, the vehicle got all squawky and brakey again, bejesus left the building, and I almost missed my window to change lanes because I paused to see if there was something I was missing in front of me.
A lot of safety systems these days have sensitively levels that help you avoid situations like this. I searched through the safety settings on the Outback Wilderness and couldn’t find a way to control the alerts or braking. If I missed it, Subaru owners or PR peeps reading this, please comment below. I know I’ll be driving this vehicle again and want to avoid this situation in the future. If there isn’t a way to adjust these settings, Subaru, we need to have a conversation.
In most instances the overall comfort and general versatility of the Subaru Outback Wilderness will outweigh the annoying stop/start and sensitive safety systems – especially if you don’t live in a city or are a more sedate driver.
This is a great vehicle from the off-road capability to the dark-lined ceiling material to all the washable surfaces. But I strongly recommend a longer test in your normal driving environment to get a gauge on whether the stop/start or Eyesight would annoy you.