If you are looking into buying a Subaru Forester or Outback, then you might hear the salesperson talking about something called “X Mode.”
No, it’s not something from the comic-book world, this is a real drive feature that is optional on the Forester, but on the Subaru Outback X Mode is a standard feature.
What is Subaru X Mode?
The Subaru X Mode is a suite of drive features designed especially for when you are taking your Subaru Forester or Outback off-road. It is meant to work to enhance the already impressive symmetrical full-time AWD drivetrain, which allows you to more easily and successfully traverse trickier ground with such as gravel, mud, rocks, snow and more.
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Subaru X Mode works on 3 key principles, namely:
- Increase potential of electronically controlled Limited Slip Differential (LSD)
- Apply SI-Drive technology to the engine, transmission and other areas to deliver the best-possible control on tricky terrain
- Give drivers additional peace of mind by making activation as simple as possible, which we will discuss in the next paragraph
A standard feature on the Outback, Subaru Outback X Mode can be activated with the push of one button. Once activated, it brings a suite of 5 special drive controls that are especially useful for boosting traction when riding off-road.
Subaru SUV models are known for their symmetrical full-time AWD drivetrains, of course, but X Mode is meant to be just an extra boost to give a stronger performance dynamic.
Features of X Mode: Drive Controls
Below is an introduction to the 5 drive controls that the push-button X Mode activates:
X Mode keeps your Outback or Forester in a lower gear to maximize torque and increase engine power. It will allow you as the drier to make better use of the power to overcome whatever terrain is beneath you.
All Wheel Drive
X Mode does a lot to improve AWD control. It raises the front/rear coupling force which equalizes the power between the four wheels. The result of this is far better traction.
When you’re in X Mode, your throttle will open more slowly than usual. Therefore, as you press down more on the accelerator, a greater amount of torque builds up in a shorter time. X Mode will deliver this torque slowly at first, but then bring it on more quickly as it is needed.
When you are driving your Subaru Outback or Forester at speeds under 12mph, the Hill Descent Control feature (always active in X Mode) will help maintain that slow speed, which in turn means you can maneuver your SUV more safely. In fact, your Forester or Outback X Mode will control your throttle and braking entirely, and all you have to do is steer the car safely down the slope.
Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC) System
While this system can always be active, it has some additional features in X Mode. When active, X Mode will turn on a special wheel control system known as “Enhanced LSD Control.” This applies the brakes a lot earlier and only to wheels that are showing signs of slippage. The more timely activation of the brakes in this situation allows the LSD Control feature to work more effectively.
Dual X Mode - What Is It?
Dual X Mode arrived back in 2019 and is applied to the Forester, Outback and Crosstrek models. This version of X Mode does all of the things we have described further above, with the added benefit of an additional setting: Deep Snow/Mud.
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This function is designed as an extension of the already given Snow/Dirt mode that is part of the Subaru symmetrical AWD system. Deep Snow/Mud mode adds further traction to help you get out of the worst snow- or mud-related jams.
By adding attraction and allowing some wheelspin to happen --- because it’s necessary in those situations --- you can pull your Forester, Outback or Crosstrek from even those most apparently deep and sticky situations you find yourself in.
X Mode - “The Conductor”
In their own explanation and introduction of X Mode, Subaru likened the software system to the conductor of an orchestra. Just as a conductor keeps all of the instruments in the orchestra in tandem and in harmony, so too does X Mode channel the various functions of the Subaru’s AWD system to bring out the maximum potential of the Forester or Outback.
When Can I Use Subaru Outback X Mode?
As with the Forester and the Crosstrek, Subaru Outback X Mode works only in low-speed driving situations. It won’t work when you’re trying to fly up a slope at 50mph. Regular Subaru X Mode kicks in when you are at 18mph or below. If you go over that speed threshold, then the mode will deactivate. As we mentioned further above, the hill descent control feature only works when travelling at 12mph or less.
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Therefore, you would use Subaru X Mode when you encounter a steep hill gradient that you either have to climb or descend with maximum control and stability. Alternatively, it could be to traverse an area of very uneven terrain with patches of mud, snow, water or other unpredictable obstacles that such ground could mire any regular vehicle in.
Benefits of Subaru X Mode - Is It Worth It?
When you account for the suite of features Subaru X Mode offers you on the Outback, Forester and Crosstrek models, there are measurable safety and utility benefits to avid off-road drivers who cover challenging terrain. It may be more useful for a novice but regardless of skill level, it provides a smoother ride.
Even for those who don’t drive off-road, the system will aid them when dealing with snow, mud, ice or wet roads.
Subaru already has a strong reputation and 40-year heritage in manufacturing quality AWD systems that are ideal for off-road adventure. X Mode is a worthwhile feature for those who want the chance to push their Subaru even further and achieve the same difficult ground that the regular symmetrical AWD system handles, but even more smoothly and capably.
Therefore, in our assessment, the X Mode is a worthy additional feature to those who know that they will face any kind of tough driving situation that calls for more traction and more stability.
If there’s even a chance of it arising, then having X Mode there is a ticket to lasting confidence that you in your Subaru can always face it.