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All About X Mode: Subaru’s Trick to Making its CUVs Punch Above Their Weight Off-Road

In the last several years, we’ve seen an increasing number of car-based crossovers delivering off-road capability far beyond what was once expected for a CUV.

While many different companies have gotten in on the action recently, it’s Subaru that’s been building these off-road capable CUVs (and lifted station wagons) longer than anyone.

Subaru Outback on Nitto Nomad Grappler tires

And in addition to their signature symmetrical AWD systems, newer Subarus also come equipped with something called X-Mode that further improves their off-road moves.

Subaru Crosstrek LCD Screen

But what exactly is X-Mode? Is it just a gimmick or an integral part of the modern Subaru? Let’s dig in.

What is X-Mode?

To put it most simply, X-Mode is software that allows a driver to make the most of Subaru’s AWD system for maximum off-road capability.

Subaru Outback Wilderness Blue

With a couple of exceptions, it comes standard on Subaru’s most popular vehicles, and some models even have a “dual-function” X-Mode where the driver can select between snow/dirt mode and a more aggressive deep snow/mud mode.

Subaru Outback on Nitto Nomad Grappler

How does it work?

X-Mode modulates control of the AWD system itself, the brakes and traction and stability control systems to bring ideal performance in off-road situations, be it mud, snow, inclines or other obstacles you may encounter.

Subaru X-Mode Knob

Real-world testing has shown that engaging X-Mode provides a noticeable improvement in getting over and around obstacles off-road, and it also includes a hill descent control mode, something that used to only be seen on body-on-frame 4x4s.

Subaru Crosstrek on Dirt Trail

Gimmick or Game-Changer?

Is X-Mode a must-have feature that helps make Subaru the ultimate soft-roader? Or is it just a gimmicky button that doesn’t add much?

Subaru Outback on Nitto Nomad Grappler

Plenty of other crossovers these days have trail mode, GOAT modes or other equivalents that use the stability and traction control systems to improve capability but that doesn’t mean X-Mode isn’t a welcome addition.

Subaru Forester Wilderness on Trail

Like any CUV, a Subaru is going to be limited in ultimate capability when compared to a “real 4x4,” but they’ve always punched above their weight off-road, and X-mode only makes things that much better.

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