Subaru was first introduced to the American automotive market in 1968. By the mid-1970s, the brand offered small, economical vehicles with four-wheel drive, unheard of in that segment at the time. It was the only vehicle of its kind, competing in a 4WD market dominated by trucks and Jeeps. Subaru quickly carved out a niche in America for making dependable cars capable enough to tackle adverse winter conditions that rendered other cars, and even some trucks, useless.
Today, Subaru Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive (AWD) has built a reputation for being the best performing all-wheel drive system at any price point. So how exactly does it work?
Although every automotive manufacturer has a different name for its all-wheel drive system, there are essentially four different types - part-time 4WD, full-time 4WD, full-time AWD and automatic AWD. Subaru uses a full-time AWD system, and it is designed for use on all surfaces including dry pavement. It can also be used in light-duty off-road situations, but Symmetrical AWD is primarily focused on delivering superior on-road stability, control and traction in all conditions.
The difference between traditional 4WD systems and Subaru Symmetrical AWD lies within the transfer case. With traditional 4WD systems, a transfer case controls whether the vehicle has power only to the rear wheels or power to all four. There is no differential inside the transfer case, so power is always distributed evenly between the front and rear differentials. This system is simple and reliable, but its inability to independently control power distribution to each wheel depending on slippage makes it unsuitable on paved surfaces where traction is higher.
Alternatively, Subaru Symmetrical AWD has a differential inside its transfer case, allowing dynamic slippage between all four wheels and enabling it to operate both on and off pavement. The system can immediately detect when a wheel loses traction and distribute power to the wheels where traction is highest, maintaining control in a seamless manner almost undetectable by the driver. Symmetrical AWD delivers all the off-road traction capabilities of a part- or full-time 4WD system with the added on-road smoothness and remarkable grip of an AWD system.
Other all-wheel drive systems are either primarily front-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive, and only engage all four wheels when a loss of traction is detected. However, by the time you lose traction, it’s already too late. Subaru Symmetrical AWD keeps power routed to all four wheels all the time, preventing slippage before it happens. Because of its simple and efficient design with minimal mechanical components, Symmetrical AWD responds more quickly than competitive systems and has less chance of breaking in extreme conditions.
This simple and efficient design has additional benefits. Because Subarus feature a horizontally opposed BOXER® engine, most of the engine’s mass is located much lower in the engine bay than a traditional engine, allowing a lower center of gravity, which aids in handling response. The engine’s longitudinal (front-to-rear) layout also simplifies mounting to the transmission and all-wheel drive system, reducing frictional losses when compared to the transverse engine layout in many competitors.
Those who have driven a Subaru with Symmetrical AWD know the difference superior traction can make. When you need a versatile vehicle that can deliver on all roads in all weather conditions, one that provides incredible agility and handling for spirited driving and accident avoidance, a Subaru with Symmetrical AWD should be at the top of your list.