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One Feature Helps The New Forester And Outback Perform Like They Have A Manual Transmission

The new 2020 Subaru Forester, Outback, and Ascent only come with a CVT automatic. There’s one feature that helps the SUVs perform like they have a manual gearbox.

Many customers were upset when Subaru dropped the manual transmission in the new-generation Forester and Outback models. You couldn’t get a manual transmission in the compact Forester SUV after the 2018 model year and in the Outback wagon after 2015. The Japanese automaker did it for two reasons.

Subaru is using the Lineartronic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) automatic exclusively in all its SUVs because of improved fuel mileage, and the manual gearbox is not compatible with the brand’s EyeSight driver assist technology. The manual transmission does offer the driver greater control, but Subaru came up with a solution. It’s called Hill Descent Control.

2020 Subaru Outback, 2020 Subaru Forester, 2020 Subaru AscentX-Mode works in concert with the CVT automatic for improved traction

The 2020 Subaru Forester, Outback, and Ascent comes with Hill Decent Control (HDC) but what is it and when do you use it? HDC works in concert with the X-Mode system. The X-Mode also works in concert with the CVT automatic and keeps the transmission in a lower gear for more wheel torque. It also distributes power between the front and rear axles for optimal traction in wet, slippery conditions.

The new 2020 Forester, Outback, and Ascent SUVs come with Hill Descent Control and it is used when descending a hill. It ensures the SUV’s speed doesn’t increase, managing the braking to provide a controlled, smooth, and safe descent down a steep hill or trail. It’s like using a manual gearbox when you shift to the lowest gear and let the transmission hold the vehicle back.

2020 Subaru Outback, 2020 Subaru Forester, 2020 Subaru AscentHill Descent Control gives the driver improved control of the vehicle

The new for 2019 Dual-Function X-Mode in some Forester and Outback models is controlled by a knob on the console allowing you to switch from Snow and Dirt mode to the new Deep Snow and Deep Mud Mode. This mode allows the SUV to maintain momentum when you get off the beaten path in more extreme deep snow and mud situations.

For adventure enthusiasts who want to get farther off the beaten path for hiking, rock climbing, fishing or camping trips, the 2020 Subaru Forester, Outback, and Ascent SUVs come with Hill Decent Control for improved off-road ability when you are descending a steep hill or trail.

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Denis Flierl has invested over 30 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. All of his reports are archived on our Subaru page. Follow Denis on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Subaru Report. Check back tomorrow for more Subaru news and updates at Torque News!

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Photo credit: Subaru


John Goreham    April 29, 2020 - 9:54AM

Although I have tested vehicles for a decade, I was very skeptical of Hill Descent Control in vehicles. Then I bought a cabin with the only access being a very steep, rarely plowed dirt road. My Forester with Blizzaks had no trouble. I had a chance to take a Range Rover to the cabin in winter, but it had only all-season tires (performance tires). We began the descent and the Rover quickly began to descend out of control. The ABS pulsed and there was no stopping or steering grip. I then tapped the HDC button and the vehicle immediately returned to control and made a safe, slow, descent. Amazing technology. As a 4-time and current Subaru owner, I'm thrilled to see this added to the lineup. I would look for that feature in my next vehicle for sure. Glad you covered this topic Denis.

HW (not verified)    April 29, 2020 - 1:10PM

Can only get the hill descent control on x-mode equipped Subarus. Other makes have their version of hill descent control available on awd vehicles without any other traction modes.