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Another Subaru Milestone - Its AWD Turns 50 And 4 Reasons Why It's Still The Best

Subaru hit another significant milestone this month. The Japanese automaker is commemorating the 50th anniversary of its iconic symmetrical all-wheel-drive system. Check out four reasons why it's still the best.


Is Subaru's Symmetrical all-wheel-drive system the best? During the past 50 years, Subaru Corporation has been the leader in on-and-off-road all-wheel-drive cars and SUVs. Subaru hit a significant milestone for its iconic Symmetrical all-wheel-drive system, and the month of September marks the 50th anniversary of the debut of Subaru all-wheel-drive (AWD).

Subaru says since September 1972, its total all-wheel-drive vehicle production has reached approximately 21 million units. Today, all-wheel-drive vehicles account for 98 percent of Subaru's global sales volume and include the automaker's unique Symmetrical all-wheel-drive combined with horizontally opposed engines.

Subaru Symmetrical all-wheel-drive

What's next for its Symmetrical all-wheel-drive is that the technology continues to evolve in electric vehicles. The EV-specific all-wheel-drive system with "front and rear independent motor-driven all-wheel-drive "adopted in the global 2023 Solterra EV compact SUV incorporates the technology. Subaru says, "and knowledge accumulated through research on motor-driven all-wheel-drive control has continued since 2005. It realizes off-road performance and driving pleasure."

Tomomi Nakamura, President and CEO of Subaru Corporation said, "Subaru's all-wheel-drive system, which is the core technology that underpins Subaru's safety philosophy and driving enjoyment, has been continuously refined for half a century. Even in the era of electrification, motor drive, and all-wheel-drive control, we will further enhance all-wheel-drive performance through collaboration between the two and pursue the 'Subaru-ness' of driving stability, dynamic feel, and driving pleasure."

Subaru Symmetrical all-wheel-drive
Subaru launched the Leone Estate Van 4WD in Japan in 1972

No one knew where Subaru's Leone 4WD Estate vehicle would lead to fifty years ago. The 4WD Leone created a niche market today around the globe with the all-wheel-drive 2022 Forester SUV, Outback midsize SUV, Crosstrek subcompact SUV, Ascent 3-Row SUV, Legacy sedan, Impreza compact, and WRX and WRX STI performance models.

Since 2016, Subaru says all-wheel-drive models have accounted for 98 percent of its global sales. The only car in their lineup without an all-wheel-drive system is the rear-drive 2022 BRZ sports coupe.

What sets the Symmetrical all-wheel-drive apart?

Subaru's all-wheel-drive system provides traction effectively by distributing the engine power to all four wheels in a balanced manner. The transmission sits back from the front axle within the wheelbase. With a Symmetrical all-wheel-drive and Subaru's horizontally-opposed Boxer engine, the entire power train is mounted with side-to-side symmetry.

Subaru doesn't adapt all-wheel-drive components to a front- or rear-wheel drive vehicle; they develop multi-use cars around Symmetrical all-wheel drive. Many automakers adapt their AWD system to fit a front-drive configuration, and thus they function passively, transferring torque away from the main drive wheels only when they slip.

Subaru Symmetrical all-wheel-drive

The competition with such systems essentially operates in two-wheel drive when there is no slippage. They can be better than a front-drive car but don't provide the "full-time" benefits and road handling ability that an actual full-time all-wheel-drive system provides.

The layout optimizes longitudinal-transverse weight balance. Those characteristics bring stable traction on many road surfaces and driving conditions. Excellent stability at high speeds and superb cornering and responsiveness are also realized, making the all-wheel-drive system a core technology that underpins the Forester, Outback, Crosstrek, Ascent, and other models.

Four reasons why Subaru Symmetrical AWD is still the best

Subaru offers four different all-wheel-drive systems in their current stable of vehicles, which is why they still dominate all-wheel-drive sales around the globe. Subaru doesn't have a "one type fits all" approach with its multi-purpose vehicles. They all come standard with Symmetrical all-wheel drive, but each model gets a "tailored" version of the system to fit a particular powertrain or model. Check out the complete report below.

Subaru Corporation is commemorating the 50th anniversary of its iconic symmetrical all-wheel-drive system in September. The latest technology in the 2022 Forester, 2023 Outback, 2023 Crosstrek, 2023 Ascent, and other models includes four-wheel traction management for an all-wheel grip on all four wheels.

Check out the full report about Subaru's Symmetrical all-wheel-drive system below. Subaru says it will continue to pursue the evolution of its core technologies and work to fuse them with new technologies that respond to the changing times to provide customers worldwide with "enjoyment and peace of mind."

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Denis Flierl has invested over 30 years in the automotive industry in a consulting role working with every major car brand. He is an accredited member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press. Check out Subaru Report where he covers all of the Japanese automaker's models. More stories can be found on the Torque News Subaru page. Follow Denis on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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Photo credit: Subaru