There’s a hill by my house that is a little daunting.
It’s about 20 miles away, and the cool thing about this road is that it leads up to a park at the top. You can drive up a single-lane road to reach it, and I won’t spoil the fun for those of us in my area who know where it is and how to get there.
Going up is a blast because you can see where you are going and you know the destination is obvious. Driving back down the road? Not so much. Because you are angling down, it feels like you need to press the brake because you can’t quite see the end of the road.
If you have visited an auto-show in the last few years, you might know what this is like. Usually, Jeep does an “off-road” course inside the show, a somewhat staged spectacle meant to give you a taste of what real off-roading is like. There’s often a ramp that has a sharp incline. For me, I was on a real dirt road, and I wasn’t in a Jeep — it was a 2021 Subaru Forester Sport.
Now, I should mention this was not like that Jeep track. It’s still a bit steep, and a great place to test a feature called X-MODE with Hill Descent Control. Subaru includes an easy-to-find dial right in the middle console. The way it works is that you activate hill descent, and then the Forester maintains a safe speed without having to break. It takes some of the uncertainty out of off-roading or driving down a steep hill when you can’t see the bottom.
The Forester Sport has 8.7-inches of ground clearance, which is more than competing models like the Honda CR-V. X-MODE lets you select a mode for dirt, mud, snow, and other surfaces to maintain good traction. All of this combined means, when you drive down a steep hill like the one by my house, you can be assured you’ll stay firmly planted on the road.
I didn’t realize the Forester Sport was so rugged looking. It has cool accents inside and out, making it stand out on the road. “Is that a Forester?” asked one friend. It looks more like an off-roading machine than almost any previous Subaru, although if I could afford the Subaru Outback Wilderness version I’d snap one up. Here’s a video of what that one looks like:
So will people drive up steep hills with the Forester Sport? They might, actually. Advances in off-roading tech like hill descent control do help because they take the worry about feeling like you have to stomp on the brake, which can then cause you to start sliding. I loved testing it out. “Just one more try to make sure it all works,” I told a passenger.