Hill Descent Control

Whether you’re off-roading en route to your favorite camping site or simply commuting through the neighborhood, you’ve likely found yourself at the top or foot of a steep hill at one time or another. Navigating steep slopes and rugged terrain in a car or SUV can be a tall task – especially when inclement weather strikes. Maintaining steady, careful speed is crucial in these situations, but even the most skilled and responsible drivers can lose control, particularly if their vehicles are not properly equipped.  

Fortunately, many Subaru vehicles are outfitted with a powerful tool called Hill Descent Control (HDC) to help in these very scenarios. HDC is a useful performance feature that supports drivers’ safety and stability when driving up and down steep hills.

What is Hill Descent Control?

Hill Descent Control is a sophisticated system designed to assist drivers in safely ascending or descending a steep slope or incline. When activated, HDC moderates the vehicle’s internal systems – including the drivetrain, traction control, and anti-lock braking systems (ABS) – to limit speed and gear shifting during steep downhill travel. It simultaneously delivers extra power for traction. When engaged, HDC can help prevent skidding, sliding, or otherwise losing control on an incline, giving motorists added peace of mind to drive through any conditions with confidence.

How Does Hill Descent Control Work?

Using intelligent sensors to monitor wheel rotation and traction, HDC works as part of the larger drivetrain system to perform several key functions that help a vehicle safely ascend and descend steep inclines, including:

  • Maintaining a constant speed of 12 MPH or lower
  • Automatically applying necessary brake pressure to each wheel independently
  • Reducing throttle response to decrease wheel spin, maximizing grip
  • Forcing limited slip differential for faster response

Manually braking when descending a steep hill can cause skidding, particularly if the hill is slick. Some braking systems can even lock up, creating a potentially hazardous situation. However, with Hill Descent Control activated, the system assumes control of the braking, greatly reducing risk of slipping or locking, and allowing the driver to focus on the road ahead.

Benefits of Hill Descent Control

Beyond overall safety enhancements, Hill Descent Control offers drivers several valuable benefits any time they engage the system: 

  • Reducing human error: Errors in downhill braking can lead to locking and other failures. With HDC controlling the brakes and pedals, drivers can fully concentrate on steering without having to worry about precise braking technique.
  • Capability across varied terrain: HDC isn’t just for steep roads. The system excels in off-road settings where driving surfaces may be steep, uneven, and littered with debris that could compromise traction.
  • Comfortable ride: HDC facilitates a steady and controlled descent down sharp slopes and inclines, making the drive smoother and more pleasant for passengers.
  • Weather-ready: HDC is built to work in even the toughest weather conditions like snow, ice, mud, and high winds.

Hill Descent in Subaru Vehicles

In Subaru vehicles, Hill Descent Control is fully integrated into our X-MODE® system – an enhancement to our standard Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive drivetrain. With X-MODE activated, HDC is automatically engaged when it detects a descent. 

Activating and Using Hill Descent Control

Activating X-MODE with Hill Descent Control on a Subaru is as simple and straightforward as touching a button. Turn on X-MODE using the designated dial, switch, or button typically located near the center console of the vehicle or on the dashboard. On some models, X-MODE is activated by an icon on your infotainment screen. X-MODE is designed to be intentionally easy to activate so that drivers can access its valuable safety features quickly and easily. 

After enabling the X-MODE system, Hill Descent Control will work automatically at speeds up to 12 MPH when a steep decline is detected. HDC will discontinue if the driver exceeds 12 MPH or if they begin controlling the brake on their own. Drivers can also manually shut off the entire X-MODE system including HDC by once again using the designated button, switch, or dial.

Subaru Vehicles with Hill Descent Control

Hill Descent Control comes standard on all Subaru SUV models equipped with X-MODE: 

Explore Our Selection of Vehicles Equipped with Hill Descent Control for Enhanced Safety and Confidence on Steep Roads.

Sometimes, the road throws unexpected challenges in your path. The right vehicle can help you confidently – and safely – navigate them. X-MODE with Hill Descent gives you added peace of mind, safety, and support as you drive toward adventure in your Subaru. 

Explore our lineup of vehicles to learn more about this useful feature today!