About the “VDC”

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The Subaru Outback VDC (limited production run) is set apart by it’s namesake “VDC” vehicle stability and traction control system. The system uses quite a large array of sensors, including g-force, throttle, wheel speed, transmission speed, and steer angle, to determine if the vehicle is still “under driver control”. If it detects wheel spin or sliding, it will adapt by doing any number of things. Some of these are fairly commonplace in today’s cars, such as traction control; reducing engine power to cut down on wheel spin, and ABS (anti-lock brake system) to prevent wheel lockup. A few features also put this car in a category all it’s own. These are what sets the VDC system apart from all other “standard” traction control systems. If the system senses wheel spin or lockup, it will react like any other system. However, if its additional sensors detect that the vehicle is, for example, moving more laterally than forward, it will calculate which wheels it needs to apply braking force to or let receive more power in an attempt to straighten the vehicle.

Another thing that sets the VDC apart is the very high-end McIntosh designed stereo system, which includes coaxial (2-way) speakers, front and back, additional high-centered tweeters in the front doors, and a 6″ x 9″ subwoofer in the cargo area, all driven by an external amplifier underneath the passenger seat. The McIntosh source unit is a combination CD/Tape/AM/FM/Wx (weather band) unit with very impressive radio reception and an incredibly clean CD player. The unit keeps an older style, with two large shaft-style knobs for volume and tuning. The weather band is a really nice touch, especially if you live in areas with unpredictable weather, like the great plains, or Wisconsin in the winter. Audio quality is on par with today’s Audi’s and BMW’s premium audio systems, quite a surprise for a car that is, at it’s youngest, 10 years old. The clarity and available headroom would be difficult to match, even with most of the typical aftermarket setups. If you dare to really stretch its legs, you can shake the mirrors and feel it in your seat. Even at that, it keeps the quality. Care should be taken however, as the amplifier is underneath the passenger’s seat, and is susceptible to damage if a drink is spilled.

The VDC also comes with a collection of creature comforts that make dealing with inclement weather so much easier, especially up here in Wisconsin. “Can it be heated? It shall be done” seems to have been the motto for this car. Heated driver and passenger seats, heated mirrors, even a heated wiper pad on the windshield to prevent ice build-up while driving. All of these take mere minutes to warm up to normal temperature. A few minutes later, ice and snow disappear from mirrors, ice melts and the windshield becomes incredibly easy to clear. Just pick a target temperature for the cabin from the climate control system, and it will match that, just as seen on most new cars now.

The powertrain is shared with the Outback L.L. Bean Edition, with the exception of the VDC system. So anyone familiar with that car will find themselves right at home in the VDC. The early models lacked the ability to disable the VDC system from inside the car, later models had a “VDC OFF” switch centrally located.

Forbes wrote a fairly interesting review of the Outback VDC:
http://www.forbes.com/2001/01/29/0129test.html