The 2016 Subaru Forester’s traction-related X-Mode has a curious button arrangement. The “X-Mode” displayed on the center console is just a placard with an arrow pointing to the actual button, which is just to the left of the graphic. Subaru’s setup reminds me of two houses in my hometown during the holidays: One is decorated lawn to chimney with an extravagant lighting display, while the next-door neighbor simply hangs a lighted arrow in the front yard pointing at the neighboring Griswold-esque house. Like those neighbors, follow the arrow for the good stuff in the 2016 Subaru Forester.
Related: 2014 Subaru Forester Expert Review
Subaru X-Mode first made an appearance in the redesigned 2014 Forester equipped with continuously variable automatic transmissions as a mode to maximize traction on slippery surfaces and steep inclines. For better grip, the feature can be activated below 13 mph to adjust engine, all-wheel-drive, transmission and stability control behavior. It’s deactivated once the car reaches 25 mph.
X-Mode’s traction distribution is managed by balancing power between the front and rear wheels for optimum traction, sending more torque to the Subaru Forester’s rear wheels, while accelerator response slows for more controlled throttle usage. The automatic CVT runs a lower gear ratio to mimic the effect of a low-range gear you’d find in models like a heavy-duty truck or SUV for higher engine speed and increased power at lower vehicle speeds to get the AWD Forester through sticky situations. Subaru X-Mode also turns off the lock-up clutch on the CVT, allowing it to direct power to any slipping wheels.