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2016 Outback 2.5i Premium w/ Eyesight
284 Posts
Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I've never had a vehicle with off-road capabilities before. So over the last few months I researched this forum and used searches to find how to use the Outback X-Mode correctly. Below is the result. The below comes to 2 pages in a Word document and I printed 2 pages per side of the sheet. (warning: becomes small print but was fine for me) After folding in half, I now have a small sheet (front and back) I can put in my glove box. I used clear packing tape to "laminate" it for safe keeping. Hope it helps someone. References are at the bottom. Thanks all for posting this information. I hope this consolidation helps others.

Recommended PSI's
28 for dirt road
25-30 for moderate off-roading
20-22 bush/mud
15-18 for sand (lower if you're in trouble; but not less than 10 PSI though)

  • x-mode on, traction control off
  • For over sand, you will want to air down your tires to about 15-18 psi.
  • start in 2nd gear with as little gas as possible. RPM around 2k for maintaining momentum.
  • Avoid hard braking or hard turns when driving over sand.
  • No sharp braking - this will bog you; just let the car roll to a stop
  • No heavy acceleration from a standstill
  • Never transverse a dune or hill; always straight up or down.
  • Better to stop when level or facing downhill; restarting uphill can be difficult
  • Keep an eye on your temp gauge - stop if necessary to cool down
  • Have a sump guard or take the plastic guard off.
  • If stuck uphill, drive the vehicle down in reverse; as little braking as possible.
  • Most important thing about sand driving is keeping the revs up and not losing momentum. The more power on tap to play with in the soft stuff, the less you will get stuck (or shouldn't get stuck if there's clearance).
  • Make sure your vehicle is in excellent condition as sand can be the hardest strain your vehicle may face
  • steady on the gas and try not to stop in the real soft stuff
  • x-mode, traction control off
  • deep mud/sand: x-mode on, traction control off, collision avoidance off
  • Air down slightly to 28psi
  • if stuck and unable to get moving.... sliding the shifter in to "manual" mode also reprograms the AWD system to distribute the torque to the wheels to help get unstuck.
  • for mud - a slower approach, but still with some momentum
  • wheel placement
  • Picking the right line, especially in an AWD, is the best way to get past a challenging track without damage.
  • Take your time.
  • get out and determine how deep
  • check surface underneath use a stick as a dipstick or walking through it.
  • Maintaining momentum is critical, not too fast water goes everywhere but not too slow you get stuck
  • make sure the water is not flowing too quickly
  • do not wrap your thumbs around the steering wheel
  • Lower tire pressures produce a smoother ride on any rough surface
  • the main idea behind lowering PSI is that you create a longer foot print longer foot print = better flotation = traction = further along the track or beach
  • Do not forget that, if stuck and unable to get moving.... sliding the shifter in to "manual" mode also reprograms the AWD system to distribute the torque to the wheels to help get unstuck.
  • Don't go alone when wheeling, and always let someone know where you're going and when you're expecting to be back
  • Don't go unprepared, even if the trip is supposed to be a short one - Stuff happens even in your own driveway
  • Wheel placement is crucial as is knowing the vehicle's weak points (capabilities too, but it's more important to know what the vehicle can't do
Leaving Open the hatch
Open hatch normally, then once fully open look for lock on hatch and manually (with you finger) moving the lock to the lock position, it will simulate the shutting of the hatch and the car thinks the hatch is closed. I have done this when transporting large items that prevented me from closing the hatch and without closing the hatch the car beeps annoyingly while you are driving with the hatch open. The car does think its closed when you get this done right.
Also to have the hatch function normally again, you must manually push the hatch down to almost closed (it wont unlock and close) and the push the button on the hatch on outside and it will then reset itself and open up, to which you can then close it normally

In addition to a shovel that you also have a tow strap and a shackle that fits on the tow hook that comes with the car. This way, if you need someone to pull you out, your ready.
x1 long handle shovel (1 with a telescopic handle are easy to pack)
x4 rated bow shakels (3.4t - 4.5t breaking load is best)
x2 snatch straps (in case one breaks)
x1 tool box with as many tool as you can carry without being too heavy
x2 1st aid kits
x1 vehicle fire extinguisher
warm clothing
sleeping bag (incase you get stuck over night)
enough food for 24 hours (if out with family take enough food)
plenty of water
camp chairs
uhf hand helds in case 1 in vehicle is inoperable due to failed electronics of vehicle
a few good quality wind up flashlight (much better than a battery operated)
flat block of wood for a jack base in case you need to lift the car on sand/mud.
Firewood to build ramps/ get unstuck

Soft shackle recommendation
Things to carry

2019, Subaru Outback Limited 3.6R
1,017 Posts
Very cool.
Thanks for this.

5,499 Posts
I have seen this repeated on the forum, but never seen it documented anywhere (although I haven't really looked for it).
"if stuck and unable to get moving.... sliding the shifter in to "manual" mode also reprograms the AWD system to distribute the torque to the wheels to help get unstuck. "​

Maybe something with vehicles not equipped with X-mode? (X-mode is relatively new, it first appeared on the Forester in 2014). With X-mode, it's handling this already.. here is some more information from Subaru.

X-Mode performs the following functions :

Engine Control Module​

Dedicated torque map setting (control improvement)
  • Low load range: Late throttle opening characteristics. Prevents abrupt changes in torque to improve driving on slippery roads.
  • High load range: Early throttle opening characteristics. Provides maximum torque quickly to improve driving on rough road surfaces.

Transmission Control Module

Dedicated AWD control (traction improvement)
  • AWD clutch engagement force is increased by approx. 25%.
  • Suppresses differences in rotational speed between the front and rear wheels to improve traction.
Dedicated shift control (control improvement)
  • When compared with regular control, the gear ratio is lower and lock-up is turned off.
  • This dedicated shift control maximizes the use of driving power to improve vehicle control

Vehicle Dynamics Control

Strengthened Limited Slip Differential control (traction improvement)
  • To improve traction on slippery road surfaces, when there is a difference in the rotational speed between the left and right wheels this dedicated control:
    • Makes the brake boost speed faster
    • Slows down the timing of brake pressure decrease when the rotational speed difference returns to normal.
Hill descent control (20 km/h or less) (Control Improvement)
  • To maintain a constant vehicle speed when accelerating or releasing the brake when driving down a steep hill, this controls the brakes to provide the driver with safety and security by allowing them to concentrate on steering without having to worry about braking.

Turning off the Traction Control System in deep snow/gravel/mud

Traction Control System (TCS)

The Traction Control System (TCS) is designed to prevent spinning of the drive wheels on slippery road surfaces in order to maintain traction and directional control. TCS operates similar to Limited Slip Differentials (LSD) in that torque is reduced from a slipping wheel and applied to a wheel with traction. The VDCCM may use any combination of the pressure increase, decrease, or hold modes and request AWD control from the TCM to obtain a desirable coefficient of friction between the wheels and road surface.

Note: Turning the VDC system to the OFF position will disable the “Torque Down Request” control from the VDCCM to the Engine Control Module (ECM). This may be effective when attempting to drive out of deep snow or gravel.

36 Posts
Bringing an old post back to the top.

I just want to emphasize the past about not wrapping your thumbs around the steering wheel driving Off-Road.

I used to work for a land surveyor in the hills of Eastern Kentucky, in the foothills of the Appalachians. Off-Roading was a near daily experience.

Ruts and rocks can catch when you least expect it and swing the steering wheel around. I've seen a few sprained thumbs from people keeping there thumbs wrapped around. I don't think the electric power steering is as bad for it, but it's still an easily avoidable injury. Take it from someone who knows, driving with injured thumbs the rest of the day is no fun.
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