Tasmania test drive
On an expedition across Tasmania, journalists had the opportunity to drive the award-winning Subaru SUV range – Outback, Forester and XV – and test out key Subaru features including EyeSight, X-Mode and Driver Monitoring System (DMS).
Subaru’s third-generation EyeSight is like an extra pair of eyes with dual CMOS cameras watching the surroundings when you’re driving and producing images in colour, enabling recognition of even low-contrast objects.
The Eyesight technology integrates seamlessly with everyday features on your Subaru including; Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keep Assist and Lane Departure Warning. It recognises brake lights from the car in front and activates the Pre Collision Braking system to avoid or minimise the impact.
It will tell you if the car in front has moved away at lights if you are shamefully looking at your phone and will reduce the throttle response if you mistakenly hit the accelerator and there is an object detected in front of you. A key feature is the availability of EyeSight status and warnings being displayed on the windscreen.
The Subaru all-wheel-drive systems are primarily designed for normal road conditions, not rough trails, steep hills, ice and snow. So what makes these SUVs stand out from its competitors? Subaru X-Mode. This is a feature in the Outback, Forester and XV to assist drivers in not so normal conditions when the roads are bad, slippery and inclines with confidence by constantly monitoring the traction available to each wheel and centralising control of the engine, transmission, brakes and other components.
X-Mode can be engaged at any speed under 40km/h when you press the X Mode button near the gear shifter and will disengage above this speed. This engages up to three different controls:
- Engine Control Unit (ECU): On gravel or slippery surfaces the ECU will slowly provide acceleration to avoid sudden torque changes which help avoid wheel slip and improve driveability.
- Traction Control Unit (TCU): The increases the AWD clutch pressure by around 25 percent, to help the front and rear wheels work together to improve traction.
- Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC): This enhances the limited-slip differential control and improves traction by counteracting the differential rotation between the right and left wheels, particularly when turning.
VDC also uses Hill Descent Control (HDC) to control brakes when coming down steep hills. This only intervenes below 20km/h and maintains a slow speed down the hill without you having to touch the brakes or accelerator, allowing you to focus on steering.
Whichcar tested this feature coming down Tasmania’s infamous Jacob’s Ladder, a steep, twisty and slippery road at Ben Lomond (above), one of the state’s highest mountains. The Outback they drove felt remarkably composed as it made its way down the hill at about 20km/h with absolutely no brake or accelerator input from the driver.
Driver Monitoring System (DMS).
This feature is still fairly new, having been introduced in the new Forester release in 2018. The infrared camera-based system continuously scans the driver for signs of drowsiness or distraction. If the camera, located under the binnacle of the Foresters centre-mounted multi-function display unit (MFD), detects signs of fatigue or sees the driver’s eyes facing away from the road for too long, a warning sounds and illuminates in both the instrument cluster and the MFD to refocus the driver’s attention.
The top of the range Forester 2.5i-S, the Driver Monitoring System (DMS) is also used to recognise the faces of different drivers and automatically set predetermined preferences such as seating position, door-mirror angles, air-conditioning settings, and trip computer info. It even greets you once it has completed its facial scan.
Subaru Australia engineer Hiep Bui told WhichCar the system gets used to the driver’s blinking pattern and can recognise when they’re starting to close their eyes more frequently or for longer periods. The DMS can also detect when your eyes are veering away from looking straight at the road and analyse erratic steering to send a warning to the driver.