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The Best AWD SUVs Are Still The New Subaru Outback, Forester, Crosstrek, And Ascent

The all-wheel-drive SUV segment is full of good vehicles. The 2020 Subaru Outback, Forester, Crosstrek, and Ascent are still the best AWD models in America.


Not many SUV owners take their vehicle off-road but there is a growing group of consumers who lead active lifestyles who do use their SUV for off-pavement pursuits. The all-new 2020 Subaru Outback, Forester, Crosstrek, And Ascent are still the best all-wheel-drive SUVs and crossovers for snow and those wanting to get away from civilization.

The other models in this category are many with the Honda CR-V, Honda Passport, Toyota RAV4 Adventure, Mazda CX-5, Nissan Rogue, Ford Escape, Hyundai Santa Fe, GMC Terrain, and Jeep Cherokee. What makes Subaru the go-to all-wheel-drive brand?

2020 Subaru Outback is one of the best -all-wheel-drive SUVsSubaru Outback (photo credit @stoutback)

Subaru created the compact all-wheel-drive segment decades ago and they still build the best all-around recreational-focused models in America. For affordability, utility, and fuel-efficiency, the Outback, Forester, Crosstrek, and all-new Ascent still offer the most off-road prowess for active SUV shoppers. And they come this way from the factory.

Why are Subaru vehicles the best AWD SUVs?

All Subaru SUVs come with 8.7-inches of ground clearance which no compact SUV competitor exceeds. They are family vehicles during the week and extreme recreational vehicles on the weekends. Subaru says 33 percent of Subaru Crosstrek owners use the compact SUV for off-pavement recreation.

2020 Subaru Crosstrek is built for customers with active lifestylesSubaru off-road prowess

The extra ground clearance gives the four Subaru SUVs the ability to go over rough terrain without scraping the bottom. The boxer engine sits low in the chassis and gives them a lower center of gravity giving the SUVs the ability to handle the steep 1:3 ratio “axle twisting” gully without tipping over. Subaru’s vehicles cock their wheels, transfers power to the opposite wheel and tackle the terrain.

Straight off the showroom floor, the newly-redesigned 2020 Outback and Forester are even more off-road capable with Dual-Function X-MODE on certain models that give the all-wheel-drive vehicles even more “go-anywhere” attitude and extreme off-road ability.

2020 Subaru Outback, Forester, Croosstrek, and Ascent with off-road accessories2020 Subaru Ascent by LP Aventure

The 2020 Subaru Outback, Forester, Crosstrek, and Ascent all come standard with the brand’s highly-capable Symmetrical AWD hardware that will take you just about anywhere. With their protected undercarriage, you can get through scrub brush, a river or a rocky trail without damaging your suspension. Subaru even offers customers off-road accessories and lift kits for more extreme adventures.

You Might Also Like: Here Is The Most Aggressive New Subaru Outback XT Trim You Won’t Find In Showrooms

Denis Flierl has invested nearly 30 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. All of his reports are archived on the Torque News Subaru page. Follow Denis on FacebookTwitterInstagramSubaru Report. Check back tomorrow for more Subaru news and updates!

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Photo credit: Team Mazda Subaru, via @stoutback, LP Aventure


Russell Stout (not verified)    December 30, 2019 - 3:42PM

You really think it compares with the trailhawk series of jeeps: cherokee, grand cherokee, it's almost funny you think so

Mark S (not verified)    December 30, 2019 - 10:55PM

In reply to by Russell Stout (not verified)

No Subaru owner (I've had 4) really believes their stock Subie is a more capable off roader than, for example, a Jeep Wrangler or Land Cruiser. But we do think Subies offer the best combination of capable off road and highway driving at an affordable price. They can handle easy to moderate off road conditions, drive snowy and icy urban and rural roads better than any other vehicles, and provide comfortable, safe and spacious family (and dog) hauling.

Dawn Garcia (not verified)    January 1, 2020 - 10:03AM

In reply to by Mark S (not verified)

I had the Honda CRV for a year needed good gas mpg. I was so dissatisfied with the car the comfort. After a year I traded in for the new 2020 Ascent I love this SUV my dog is a masitive and fits great the the back. It is nice and flat for her for those long drives! The comfort is also excellent. My only disappointment is the heated steering wheel it is not very warm and is not the complete steering wheel it is part of the sides. I have arthritis during long drives I like to have the heat on and put my hand on the bottom of the wheel there in no heat there. Also it shuts off after 15 minutes. Ecept for that small issue I love my SUV. This is a vehicle I will be keeping for a very long time.

Alan Sach (not verified)    December 31, 2019 - 11:18AM

In reply to by Russell Stout (not verified)

Comparing apples and oranges. The Subies competition is Honda CRV, Toyota Rav 4, Nissan Rogue. The symmetrical AWD blow away Slip and Grip systems found in these other vehicles. It is not intended to compete with 4WD vehicles that are designed for off road. As the article says, they are a family car during the week and a capable recreation vehicle able to handle muddy, off pavement and light to moderate off roading on the weekends, all at a very reasonable price. In their price range, and sticking with AWD, not 4WD, they have no competition.

Mark (not verified)    November 4, 2020 - 8:52AM

I just purchased a 2021 crosstrek premium. I have always had a 4 wheel drive pickup for the last 40 years.
I bought the subaru after researching the product. I made my purchase based on the strong durable powertrain.
I recently moved to up north michigan by the lake. The weather can be extreme and I wanted to look at awd systems.
I am a retired powertrain mechanic from general motors and proud of it. I spent 20 years testing both experimental and durability schedules across most of general motors platforms including diesels.
While I'm not going to pick out any particular favorite blend of powertrain configurations that I would go with, my experience has taught me that no powertrain is any stronger than its weakest link.
What I mean is that a durability schedule is a beast. Parts are tested under a grueling schedule. A weak part in a system will continue to break until it is certified or reengineered to not break.
That is what I looked for when I did my research. The subaru awd platform has been around for decades. They have been been perfecting this system through the decades.
I have been talking with several people and the subaru is well received in up north michigan.
I also spent some time looking at domestic content. While subaru is doing 50% domestic content, general motors is currently at 48%. Also, the subaru plant in Indiana is 100% no waste and everything is recycled. Our government has started to implement that particular system across several national parks with great success.
Some folks have told me about their subarus lasting 300- 500 hundred thousands miles. While I also know that mileage exists across other products, it's comforting to know subaru is in that company.
It's been a while since I've this excited about a new vehicle. I plan to keep reporting about my life with this SUV. I hope that all will be good.