What is Subaru X-Mode, and How Does It Work?

Thom Blackett | Mar 12, 2021

For car buyers on the hunt for a vehicle that excels in almost any weather, Subaru is sure to be at or near the top of their shopping list. Except for the sporty BRZ sports car, all Subaru models feature standard all-wheel-drive (AWD), and most provide extra ground clearance. The result? Drivers have the capability and confidence to tackle road conditions they might otherwise avoid.

2021 Subaru Outback X-Mode

Unfortunately, standard AWD does have its limitations when travel becomes especially difficult. For those instances, Subaru’s available X-Mode technology delivers the added traction to keep things moving safely ahead.

What is Subaru X-Mode? - Find the best Subaru deals!

To understand what Subaru X-Mode is, you must understand the basics of AWD. Simply put, when sensors detect a loss of traction, power from the engine – which typically flows to just two of a vehicle’s wheels – is redistributed to whichever of the vehicle’s four wheels have the most grip.

So, instead of frantically spinning the tires and going nowhere, as is common with 2-wheel drive, an AWD system redirects power to a wheel or wheels with traction.

That’s certainly an advantage, though it still may not be enough to get a driver out of a sticky situation. That’s where Subaru’s X-Mode comes in. Essentially, X-Mode is an enhanced AWD system, automatically adjusting several vehicle components to maximize traction.

Subaru offers two versions of X-Mode. For 2021, the single-mode X-Mode system, with a Snow/Dirt setting, is available on all Ascent, Crosstrek, Forester, and Outback models equipped with a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

Dual-mode X-mode, including Snow/Dirt and Deep Snow/Mud settings, is available on the Crosstrek Sport, Forester Sport, and Outback Onyx Edition XT.

How Does Subaru X-Mode Work? - Find the best Subaru deals!

Depending on which Subaru model you have, you activate X-Mode by pressing a button on the center console or tapping the infotainment touchscreen.

Single-mode X-Mode

For the single-mode version of X-Mode, activation will cut back immediate throttle response to prevent excessive wheel spin and allow for better grip. Then, the technology releases more engine torque to maintain forward momentum. Furthermore, X-Mode restricts the transmission to a lower gear ratio, and the limited-slip differential reacts much sooner.

These automated actions restrict wheel speed and deliver the most available torque in a controlled manner. It’s a lot like starting from a dead stop on a dirt road. Put the accelerator pedal to the floor, and the wheels will spin, but apply a slow and measured application of the gas pedal, and the wheels will quickly gain traction.

Hill descent control is another part of X-Mode. Most commonly found on four-wheel-drive (4WD) vehicles, this feature is effective at speeds up to 12 mph and allows the driver to focus on steering while the vehicle automatically controls throttle and brake response.

Dual-mode X-Mode

Choose one of the Subaru models equipped with dual-mode X-Mode, and you will get all of the technology we’ve just detailed, as well as the Deep Snow/Mud setting. This setting is for use in situations where extra wheel spin is actually preferred. Here, X-Mode’s mission is to maintain forward momentum by keeping the wheels spinning.

When Do I Use Subaru X-Mode? - Find the best Subaru deals!

Since X-Mode deactivates at speeds above 18 mph, use of the system is limited to low-speed driving situations. It’s most beneficial when climbing or descending a steep grade on a low-traction surface or traveling on icy surfaces where every bit of traction is critical.

The dual-mode version of X-Mode is equally helpful but with an added benefit when you need extra wheel speed to charge your way through some sloppy snow or mud, or risk stopping and getting stuck.

Summary - Find the best Subaru deals!

Subaru is no stranger to challenging driving conditions and has built its reputation on getting people where they need to go no matter the weather or situation. The company’s X-Mode technology enhances this capability, making the company’s crossover SUVs more appealing to anyone who deals with rain, snow, ice, and mud on a regular basis.

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