It feels good to be right all along. Specifically, we’re talking about correctly predicting that the next Subaru model to adopt a Wilderness trim will in fact be the 2022 Forester.
How do we know this for certain sans confirmation from Subaru and before the car is even out? Because the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) just released fuel economy data for the upcoming Forester Wilderness, spoiling whatever mystery there was left around the newest Wilderness’s identity.
Still doubtful? Well, Subaru Canada’s got you covered, because the Japanese brand’s Canadian arm accidentally leaked an image of the vehicle on its consumer site, a screengrab of which leads this piece.
It’s not actually that much of a surprise though. After looking at the first teaser shot of the upcoming Wilderness and doing a little sleuthing of our own, it became pretty clear the Forester was next up for Wilderness treatment.
We aren’t sure exactly what that entails yet, but the above image seems to confirm the more off-road-ready Forester model following in the tire tracks of the Outback Wilderness.
That means more ground clearance, some extra body cladding, new paint, special wheels, off-road-centric tires, and a rework of some of the Forester’s off-road software. We also know that Subaru’s 2.5-liter boxer four-cylinder engine is going to slot under the hood of the Forrester Wilderness. It currently makes 182 hp and 176 lb-ft of torque in the 2021 Forester.
According to the EPA, the Forester Wilderness will get 25 mpg in the city, 28 mpg highway, and 26 mpg combined. Just as the Outback Wilderness fuel economy compares poorly to that of regular Outbacks, the Forester’s EPA estimates are notably worse than the regular Forester’s 26/33/29 mpg.
A different final drive ratio, a taller ride height, and more aggressive tires are likely all contributing factors to the worse fuel economy. Will the upgrades to the Forester Wilderness make it worth taking the hit to your gas mileage? We’ll find out soon enough when the rest of the new Subie’s info drops.
This piece was originally published on August 12, 2021, and has been updated to include new imagery and text related to a picture of the vehicle, which appeared on Subaru Canada’s consumer site.
Land Rover Defender at Car of the Year 2021
In the history of daunting tasks, reinventing the Land Rover Defender is surely only just behind repainting the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling and re-recording Abbey Road.
But the fact is, for fording rivers and climbing mountains, any number of 4x4s matched the curmudgeonly English off-roader icon decades ago. Here, the challenge was recapturing the essence of the old charmer, which ceased production in 2016 after 68 years.
Yet looking back was not the way forward for the new Defender, and for that, fans past, present and future ought to be grateful, because the outcome is a vehicle of astounding and unexpected bandwidth.
Essentials first. Based on the D7 architecture as per the existing Discovery, Range Rover and RR Sport, though actually 95 percent new, the new Defender employs an aluminium monocoque, double wishbones up front and an integral link rear end. No separate chassis shenanigans here.
Land Rover reckons it’s never undertaken a more punishing durability testing regime. Larger than before, the short-wheelbase 90 wears coils while air suspension of brow-raising height adjustability is standard on the 110; 3500kg towing capacity is possible, the roof can support 300kg and extraordinary off-road prowess is promised thanks to permanent 4WD, dual-range transmissions, centre differential, optional locking rear diffs, extreme approach/ramp-over/departure angles and ground clearances ranging from 216mm to 291mm.
Nothing less would do. New Defender can shadow the old one, and then some, if you pick the right off-road options. Which is a great feat for something not built like a truck.
But where it also shines are in the areas the old 4×4 couldn’t hope to succeed. Like proper safety tech, decent on-road dynamics (the steering’s light but the handling, roadholding and ride comfort levels are remarkably civilised) and luxury crossover-style refinement and isolation.
Additionally, thoroughly modern engines – strident in six-cylinder petrol form yet frugal enough if you go diesel – are as efficient as the toughest legislation demands. Hybrids are also at the ready, should Australia ever wake up to itself.
Most of all, however – and this is central to the new Defender’s success – is its innate appeal as a 21st Century SUV. Aesthetically its presence is born out of proper functionality – short overhangs, boxy proportions, clean surfacing. And the vast, airy interior architecture is just as fresh and invigorating, from the robust symmetry of the dash to the plethora of unique, purpose-built amenities – including an optional front bench and beautiful rubber flooring.
Conversely, shared with other Jaguar Land Rover models, the multimedia system is arguably one of the world’s best right now. Tech meets trad with rad results…
But it isn’t all Rule Britannia.
Such concerns ultimately hold the L663 back in our final assessment, even though – given its capabilities and obvious charm – the Land Rover Defender represents unique value against rivals like the Toyota LandCruiser or the familiar parade of German luxury SUVs.
Credit where credit is due. Unfettered by retro design and archaic engineering, the Defender goes from Blackadder to Bladerunner. Mission accomplished.