Subaru X-Mode in everyday use

One may think that Subaru’s X-Mode is a gimmick. In my opinion it has a place even for everyday use. At least during a winter season. Finland was recently hit by a Toini winter storm. Two years we waited to have some snow, at least in our capital area at Helsinki. Now we got it. So much that even my kid said that we have it too much now. I silently thought that we could have it even more. Subaru loves snow!

Intention with the X-Mode is that you would use it typically when offroading. X-Mode helps you to tackle most demanding terrains. However I have used X-Mode now almost daily. Let me explain how to use it. But first some basics.

X-Mode button / dial

Fifth generation Forester has dual X-Mode, version 2.0 Snow/mud mode and deep snow and mud. Original X-Mode was on or off. Now it has two operating mode. Difference with the modes is that the “deep” version allows more wheel spin. Basically you could achieve the same on the original X-Mode by disabling VDC – Vehicle Dynamics Control (Subaru’s naming for the traction control) but according to Subaru deep mode does more. However there is very little information available, what this “more” means exactly. And it is also a little difficult for me to comment on it too. But based on my snow and ice experience, it just works. I am happy to have this dual X-mode and it seems to be very effective indeed!

Dial to the left and you’re in mode 1 (snow/mud) and dial to the right to activate mode 2 (deep snow/mud). To return to normal mode press dial. One mode is not better than other. There are certain situations where mode 1 is actually more effective than mode 2. In though conditions, start with the mode 1 unless you’re not absolutely sure which mode to use. E.g. for unplowed road I would take mode 2 for a start.

X-Mode speed limit

There are two speed limits on the X-Mode. Maximum speed is 40km/h when using it. Another speed limit is that you’re not able to engage it if your speed is over 20km/h. I noticed it personally when I tried to activate it and I was driving too fast. Car gave me 3 short beeps to inform me that X-Mode is not activated. So make sure to check your speed if X-Mode won’t turn on.

X-Mode indicators

When X-Mode is operating, the car displays it in two places. One place is between gauges and the second place is the Multifunction Display (MFD). X-Mode logo disappears after a while from the small display between gauges. Small green car icon is a hill descent indicator. When ready to assist the driver, car icon stays green. When activated it starts flashing. Blinking icon is visible on both displays.

Does manual transmission Subarus have X-Mode?

No they do not. It is only available in those cars which have a CVT transmission. In fact all Symmetrical AWDs are not the same. Manual transmission Subarus might be even better in really tough terrain as these cars typically have limited-slip differential (LSD) implemented.

How to use X-Mode in everyday situations

If you’re not offroading is this mode good at all? Maybe it is not needed during summer times that much, if not offroading. But at least during winter time I have used it quite a many times already. I live in an area with many deep hills. Forester shows 7-8 % grades often. Hills can be extremely slippery from time to time. Especially when there is a lot of ice. I do not use it only for hill climbing purposes but also because it has so good hill descent mode too. I like it maybe more on the downhills, because of the hill descent function. It maintains the same speed what you had when approaching downhill. If you’re going too fast, slow down with the brake pedal. Otherwise you don’t need to brake at all. X-Mode does it for you by braking tires individually, so the driver can concentrate to steering the car.

Wish I had a hill descent feature

Many modern SUV’s actually do not have a hill descent mode at all. E.g. RAV4 does not have it (at least not in the European hybrid model). So if you find this feature useful, it might limit your bucket list what car to shop.

Few years ago, when I was driving my previous car, a Toyota Prius. There was a fire truck stuck in one corner with deep descent on the hill. Obviously it was winter time and very slippery. Firemen stopped me and advised me to turn around. But that was a no go too since there was a car crash on the other end of the road. So I was not able to drive there either. I explained this to firemen and they allowed me to drive past their truck. Slowly they said many times.

Toyota’s brake feeling is its own of a kind. As it first slows down with the electric motor and if it is not enough, it will use physical brakes too. When I was trying to maneuver at the slowest possible speed past the firetruck, suddenly I lost feeling to brakes totally and slided towards their firetruck. For some reason ABS did not help me at all. One theory was that there was packed snow between tires and icy road surface. So I was on top of the “snow mattress”. I managed to rescue the situation actually then accelerating a little bit and making needed steering corrections.

It was really close to having an accident with the firetruck. After that I wished to have a hill descent feature in my car. Prius did not have it but Forester has and since this incident I have used hill descent feature with very little barrier.

In my opinion X-Mode is really worth it!

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