All-wheel drive systems are not all created equal. This is especially true of all-wheel drive systems used on passenger cars and crossover SUVs. Most modern crossover SUVs are front-wheel drive with a few extra steps added for the all-wheel drive variants and are unable to effectively move enough power to the rear wheels in many situations, especially off the beaten path. For real adventures in a crossover, one has to turn to their local Subaru Forester Dealer. The Forester is equipped with Subaru’s signature Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, a system that has proven itself superior to the competition time and time again.
How It Works
First thing first, we need to clear up the difference between all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive. Four-wheel drive systems lock the front and rear axles together when the system is engaged, while all-wheel drive systems shift power between the wheels as needed. Four-wheel drive is fine off-road, but grippy surfaces like pavement will put stress on the drivetrain. This is where all-wheel drive comes in, as it can allow some variance in wheel speed so a vehicle can handle just as well on-road as off.
The term Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive isn’t just marketing speak but is actually a succinct description of how Subaru’s system is so much better than the competition’s. Most all-wheel drive systems, especially those on crossover SUVs, are front-wheel drive systems with some extra parts bolted on. They rarely actually drive anything but the front wheels and thus have significant limitations on how they perform, especially in more trying conditions.
In stark contrast, Subaru went all-in on all-wheel drive, engineering a complete system that constantly powers all four wheels. That is the “Symmetrical” part of Subaru’s technology. This basic principle of giving the driver actual all-wheel drive, instead of a lowest-possible-effort facsimile, has come standard on every Subaru SUV of the past two decades. While other manufacturers need to install mismatched gear ratios front to rear and use other low rent tactics in an attempt to replicate Subaru all-wheel drive, there is nothing quite like the real McCoy.
What It Does
This ground-up full-capability all-wheel drive system imparts the best of both worlds to every Subaru that has it. Maximum traction on dry pavement, in inclement weather, off-road, and even in performance or emergency situations. Vehicles like the Forester can use the system to achieve better traction and handling than four-wheel drive trucks on the street and have better grip and capability than front-drive-based “all-wheel drive” crossovers when off-road. Not by any small margin, either.
Overall, there are many legends of little Subarus outperforming even full-size 4×4 pickups when out in tough terrain, and many of those legends have proof in the form of YouTube videos. A lot of that capability to scurry up dunes and descend slick trails with uncommon ease comes from the Forester’s relatively light weight when compared to other adventure-ready vehicles. That said, the other half of the reason the Forester, and so many other Subarus, punch above their class is because they are equipped with Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive.
Another significant feature Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive provides is a greater amount of interior space when compared to other bolt-on factory all-wheel drive systems. Because Subaru went ahead and bit the bullet in terms of developing the best all-wheel drive system they could, that system is extremely well optimized. No extra space or weight is wasted on the retrofitted systems other manufacturers put on their crossovers.
Finally, there is the unbeatable driving feel and maneuverability Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive grants. When attempting to corner quickly on power, other so-called all-wheel drive vehicles will push straight ahead, understeering so badly the driver might as well not even try. But because Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive supplies plenty of power to the rear wheels by nature, Subarus tend to rotate and sling around said corners like a yo-yo on a string. Instead of flying past them like a thrown rock.
The Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive Fleet
To make good on its investment and provide true all-wheel drive to as many people who may need it as possible, Subaru has made Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive a standard feature in almost every vehicle they have produced in the last twenty years. In fact, the only model that doesn’t have it is the rear-wheel drive BRZ sports coupe that Subaru jointly developed with Toyota.
The Forester was one of the first crossover SUVs decades ago and continues to be one of the very best by every measure. This is especially true in terms of its all-terrain capability, which Subaru has continued to improve upon even as most other brands have shifted the focus of their SUVs from the great outdoors to the mall parking lot.
Speaking of the great outdoors, that is what the appropriately named Outback specializes in. Subaru’s premier outdoor adventure vehicle is the most capable and refined it has ever been, in any trim level. All of that is especially true with the brand-new Outback Wilderness, a true off-road machine that proves big SUVs and pickups aren’t required to get out in nature.
Back on the road, the Impreza takes that high-end all-wheel drive system used in the Outback and Forester and puts it to work in an affordably priced compact car. The Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system is bordering on overkill for something not meant to take on the trails, but the comfortable and practical Impreza takes command of wet and snowy roads like nothing else in its class. Add to that a litany of high-tech infotainment options and chic styling, and the Impreza becomes the best in its segment.
The Legacy takes the Impreza’s surefootedness and adds cargo room and interior space. The Legacy stands out in the midsize sedan market, but not just because of its standard all-wheel drive system. While other company’s sedans are dying on the vine, the Legacy remains fresh with modern technology and gorgeously crisp bodywork.
Among the vehicles listed here, all of which come standard with Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, the WRX and WRX STI offer the highest performance. A compact pocket rocket with turbocharged power being channeled through a specially modified all-wheel drive system, the WRX has a history of leaving far more expensive performance cars in the dust. That is equally true on the road or on the rally stage. Adored by enthusiasts worldwide as a practical and easy to drive speed machine, the WRX is a moderately priced vehicle that can compete with European luxury sports cars, all while having a spacious backseat and four doors.
Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive Provides the Confidence You Require
Many Subaru cars have used the groundbreaking Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system over the years, and the system has gone through continuous upgrades in that time. Performance models have often acted as testbeds for experimental upgrades of the system, like the angular XT, sleek SVX, and of course, the legendary WRX STI that is still on sale today. Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive has always been a high-performance system, far ahead of any real competition. The likes of Porsche and Audi have developed systems that are occasionally as good but only come on vehicles with double the cost and half the practicality of a plucky Subaru.