Text: Martin Aguilar / Photos: Kelvin Christian Go | posted October 08, 2015 07:47
Improving car safety without compromising performance
We've come a long way since the days of lap seatbelts. Back then, the only thing that will stop you from smashing your head against the dashboard was a strip of webbed polymer holding your hips (but not your torso) in place.
These days, auto manufacturers are introducing vehicles that are integrated with a variety of safety devices such as blind spot assist, lane keep assist, and parking assist among others. You may perhaps agree to the idea that technology has improved the overall safety of modern cars.
It’s evident that auto manufacturers have prioritized driver and occupant protection over the years. Among the brands in the local auto industry, Subaru takes pride in their safety record and technologies. To find out what makes a Subaru such a safe car, we drove the Forester XT onto the back roads of Tagaytay.
In a nutshell, Subaru technology aims to give you an enjoyable and safe driving experience. Technologies such as the boxer engine and Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive enable Subaru vehicles to combine safety and driving performance.
At the heart of every Subaru is a boxer engine. Compared to other engines, where the cylinders are arranged vertically, the pistons of the boxer engine lie flat. To put things in perspective, Subaru’s engine works much like boxers throwing punches.
The logic behind the boxer is to deliver less vibration and smoother engine response. The boxer engine provides less vibration due to the horizontally-opposed pistons — they move away from each other and cancel out each other’s vibration. Because of the layout, the engine block can be positioned lower in the body, which creates a lower center of gravity as opposed to the conventional layout. This has an added benefit of increases the overall balance and stability of the vehicle when turning. We were able to feel its benefits as we drove the Forester XT into sharp corners and winding roads.
Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system
Combined with the boxer engine, Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive (AWD) system enables its vehicles to be more stable and dynamic. The Symmetrical AWD distributes power between all four wheels through axles of equal (symmetric) length, which is beneficial when you find yourself driving on slippery roads.
The system works best when driving through foul weather or low traction situations. On a rain-soaked highway, Subaru’s Symmetrical AWD comes into play if or when one wheel loses grip. The system then distributes the power to the other wheels to compensate for the lost grip in one wheel. As a result, the Symmetrical AWD system keeps you moving forward safely.
Lineartronic is Subaru’s continuously variable transmission and maintains an ideal power range for optimal fuel efficiency. Because Lineartronic is a continuously variable transmission, it uses a belt rather than cogs, which elimitates the “shift shock” found in conventional automatic transmissions. While driving the Forester XT along SLEX, we noticed that Subaru’s Lineartronic shifts smoothly and efficiently. Because this transmission can provide an infinite number of gears, it can shift to an ideal gear that will suit any driving style. The Lineartronic transmission also allows the Forester XT to accelerate or slow down smoothly, without the jerky motion conventional transmissions return. Through this, Subaru vehicles give you a smooth and relaxed driving experience without compromising performance.
Vehicle Dynamics Control System
Subaru's take on stability control is called Vehicle Dynamics Control System (VDCS). Also called lateral slip prevention, this technology constantly monitors vehicle data gathered from the steering angle, engine speed and braking condition. Once VDCS detects an over- or understeer situation, it takes corrective action with the help of the Symmetrical AWD system. VDCS prevents further stability loss by adjusting power distribution and applying small brake inputs on individual wheels to steer the car in the direction the driver desires. With VDCS, it keeps the car planted and helps the car be more stable when tackling tight turns.
The SI-Drive or the Subaru Intelligent Drive is a system that modifies the way the engine performs. It offers three driving modes: Intelligent (I), Sport (S), and Sport Sharp (S#).
Ideal for city or town driving, the Intelligent mode is normally used for casual driving. Under the Intelligent mode, the engine shifts around the 2000 revolutions per minute (RPM) mark, giving you better fuel efficiency for your daily drive in the metro. It reads throttle input and determines the most efficient way to accelerate or change gear.
The Sport mode, on the other hand, gives you improved engine response. In other words, the vehicle will deliver more power, quicker, and shift at a higher RPM. This mode is ideal for long highway stretches, giving you more confidence in making overtaking maneuvers.
For those looking for a much more stirring drive, Subaru offers the Sport Sharp mode. Perhaps the sportiest mode in SI-Drive, the vehicle becomes more sprightly than in Sport mode and shifts at a higher RPM. The engine reacts more quickly to pedal input and accelerates just as quickly as you step on the throttle. In other words, Sport Sharp mode is designed to suit spirited driving, allowing the engine to perform at its maximum potential.
Thanks to all-wheel-drive on majority of their models, Subarus allow you to take on the road less traveled. Through the brand’s X-Mode drive system, you can go and have an off-road adventure. With a push of a button, the X-Mode takes control of the engine, transmission, AWD system, brakes and other components so that you can safely navigate through rough terrain, slippery surfaces and steep hills.
Hill Descent Control (HDC) is automatically switched on when the X-Mode is activated. HDC automatically helps maintain a safe and constant speed as the vehicle drives through steep inclines, regulating the brakes to maintain a safe descent speed.
Besides HDC, X-mode automatically adjusts the ABS, traction control, and VDCS to be more tolerant of the frequent wheel spin and slip that is typically encountered when driving through tough terrain. Having these systems on, after all, can inhibit off-road performance, particularly in mud and sand, where constant motion of the wheel is required to overcome such obstacles. In short, X-Mode is a simplified traction and stability program specifically designed for use off-road. Through various sensors in the vehicle, it reads the terrain and makes the necessary adjustments so that the driver need only focus on the road ahead.
Overall, each Subaru is geared to offer technologies that can keep us safer while we are on the road, or off it. Other than the brand’s driving performance, Subaru paid a lot of attention in improving the all-around safety of its vehicles. Through the brand’s technology, driving a Subaru can keep you safe on the road, without compromising performance.