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2018 Subaru Outback, Forester and Crosstrek: Off Road, On Point

The Car Guide logoThe Car Guide 2017-10-06 Alain Morin
Alain Morin

Last week, Subaru invited us to the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (formerly known as Mosport) development track to test drive the 2018 lineup.


The brand behind the six-star logo had scheduled some track time for an exercise that turned out to be completely pointless with the Legacy, Impreza, Crosstrek and Outback, but very interesting with the BRZ, WRX and—the ultimate joy—the WRX STI. Subaru had also created a skidpad where we could test drive the same vehicles with and without stability control. The exercise was a lot of fun with the BRZ, WRX and WRX STI; with the others, not so much.

Subaru in its natural element

The most relevant part of the day was definitely when we brought the Subarus on difficult off-road trails. Sure, a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon would laugh in the face of these routes, but to see an Outback negotiate a series of ruts is quite impressive. It’s here, not on the racetrack, where you really get a sense of the rigidity of the chassis. In fact, our off-road experience wasn't marred by even the slightest cracking noise.

Symmetrical all-wheel drive

Almost everyone knows about Subaru's full-time symmetrical all-wheel drive, which sends 60% of torque to the front wheels and the rest to the rear wheels regardless of the road conditions. This system is offered on all Subarus equipped with a CVT gearbox. The WRX and WRX STI have a more sport-oriented all-wheel drive system, while the BRZ is rear-wheel drive only.

Symmetrical all-wheel drive + X-Mode

Subaru adds X-Mode to the all-wheel drivetrain on the Outback, Forester and Crosstrek. This system influences the engine, gearbox, all-wheel drive and brakes. When climbing, it uses lower gears to avoid over-revving and increases the AWD's clutch pressure up to 25% to better control the front and rear wheels’ rotation differences. On slippery surfaces, it reduces the time required for a wheel to regain grip and momentum.

However, X-Mode is most impressive on downhills where it applies the brakes to control speed (less than 20 km/h) without locking the wheels, even on very loose surfaces. When engaged, the antilock system is a bit noisy—make that very noisy on the Crosstrek. X-Mode is easy to engage (just press a button on the console) and, once the vehicle begins its descent, you just have to muster the courage to release the brakes. However, your survival instinct will probably make you keep your foot close to the pedal. Misgivings notwithstanding, X-Mode takes care of everything. The driver can slow the vehicle down or accelerate as needed.

Subaru owners will probably never go trail driving, but it's good to know that the cars are capable of it—just in case.


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