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Is Subaru AWD The Best? - A New Crosstrek Sport Just Failed The "Slip Test"

Are 2021 Subaru Forester, Outback, and Crosstrek the best all-wheel-drive SUVs? Check out a 2021 Crosstrek Sport that failed the TFL slip test.


The 2021 Subaru Forester, Outback, Crosstrek, and Ascent SUVs all come standard with Symmetrical all-wheel-drive, but is it the best? The Fast Lane Car (TFL) puts the newly-refreshed 2021 Subaru Crosstrek Sport through a "slip test," and it doesn't do well.

What is a slip test?

TFL uses a slip test to put a car on a small section of an industrial conveyor roller to see if the car can pull itself off. This simulates having a wheel stuck in extremely slick conditions like ice or deep snow where there is minimal traction. TFL puts the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek through three tests.

2021 Subaru Crosstrek, 2021 Subaru Crosstrek Sport, pricing, specs, features
Photo credit: The Fast Lane Car

The first test puts both front wheels of the 2021 Crosstrek Sport in the rollers. The small SUV pulls itself off with no problem. Next, they do a diagonal slip test where the front left and rear right wheel is put in the rollers. The driver puts the Crosstrek in X-Mode, and it takes a bit more power, and the car drives off the two diagonal rollers.

Next is the three-wheel slip test. Both rear wheels are stuck along with the front left wheel. The Crosstrek does not get itself off the rollers in regular all-wheel-drive or X-Mode. When the driver puts it in deep snow and mud dual-function X-Mode, the small SUV gets off the three rollers.

2021 Subaru Crosstrek, 2021 Subaru Crosstrek Sport, pricing, specs, features
Photo credit: The Fast Lane Car

The last test puts both front wheels in the rollers along with the rear left wheel. In standard all-wheel-drive, the car sits on the rollers and the wheels spin. In dual-function X-Mode, the Crosstrek eventually makes it off the rollers. The driver says, "That was way too hard for a Subaru."

Does the TFL slip test prove the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek is not as effective in snow and ice as it should be? Torque News reached out to Subaru of America and asked for their response to the slip test. A Subaru spokesman said, "I had the opportunity to review the video. No comment on TFL's test."

What is our response to the TFL video? We live at 8300 feet elevation in the mountains west of Denver, Colorado, where the conditions are severe. We have owned many Subaru vehicles and have tested every model Subaru manufactures. In deep snow, ice, mud, and off-pavement conditions, we have never been stuck in a Subaru vehicle.

With the right winter tires, Subaru's Symmetrical all-wheel-drive offers the best traction of any small SUV. X-Mode will help in every day driving to capitalize on the traction available and provide sure-footedness over and above what is afforded by Subaru's full-time all-wheel-drive system.

We think TFL's slip test using industrial rollers to spin the wheels does not provide a real-world scenario of what happens when one, two, or three wheels begin to slip. It would be too hard for any small SUV.

Are the 2021 Subaru Forester, Outback, and Crosstrek the best all-wheel-drive SUVs? In our experience, in severe weather conditions, Subaru's Symmetrical all-wheel-drive system will get you home safely. X-Mode offers additional traction in challenging off-road conditions where there is deep snow, ice, and mud.

You Might Also Like: By The Numbers - Subaru's Worst-And-Best-Performing Cars May Surprise You

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: The Fast Lane Car


John (not verified)    February 2, 2021 - 8:54PM

In reply to by Rickyyy (not verified)

It's because at one point they damaged a review test loner from Subaru and after that Subaru has refused to work with them. They've been incredibly salty about it ever since.

I had to stop watching their channel when it became completely obvious that it's just a racket that gives positive coverage in exchange for kickbacks. Watching them try to downplay the Bronco to protect Jeep's image made that undeniably obvious.

Jeremy Moore (not verified)    February 2, 2021 - 10:03PM

I love my Forester. It would be nice if it could still pass these tests. They really should be simple to pass with a single wheel on pavement

CalculatedEvils (not verified)    February 3, 2021 - 4:00AM

UMMM...unless I read that wrong 6 made it off the rollers for every test. How is that a fail?

**Reporter Lies In Headline**

Brian (not verified)    February 3, 2021 - 5:09AM

As I've commented elsewhere - they also hamstrung the Subie in this video by being too light with the throttle. It can't shift power around when you keep getting off the gas!

Derek (not verified)    February 3, 2021 - 7:05AM

Meh. Did the Subie pass the test and get off the rollers? Yep. " That was way to hard for a Subaru" sounds like the local lady at my local city council meeting that stated it was way to hard for her to stop her bicycle at a stop sign and get moving again. Now we have a State law that bicyclist treat stop signs as yield signs. Whaaa.

Derek J Nelson (not verified)    February 3, 2021 - 7:14AM

Wait a minute, not only is that Subie set up on rollers it also looks like the it is set up an a pretty good incline. So fighting rollers and gravity. Still pulled itself off the rollers regardless of the driver (sucking in air) having to press button or turn a dial to XMode.

Byron (not verified)    February 3, 2021 - 8:17AM

this is a very misleading article. The Subaru passed every time. The people that wrote this should be ashamed.

ASC (not verified)    February 3, 2021 - 9:03AM

I took my '21 Outback Onyx with multi X-Mode for a drive in the Nor'Easter snowfall yesterday to familiarize myself with its capabilities and use.

Two observations.
One: The steep streets passable to the first or second vehicles became compressed white ice and vehicles were curbed all over the sloped streets, in messy clots at the bottom of steep ones. My car in the snow/dirt setting ascended and descended all pitches without wheelspin or skidding, including going at walking speed up the steepest hill past a CRV whose driver was unable to stand next to his shiny Honda that had just hard curbed itself after spinning down the hill.

Two: Other vehicles moving about on the lesser slopes include a RAV4, several undistinguishable midsize GM SUVs and a KIA that were all spinning and locking wheels alternately to my observation as I drove along with fully controlled all wheel drive.

I never needed the deep snow mode for up or down the big hills. The only folks on them had failed and parked or nearly wrecked and were stuck as a result of trying. These surfaces were so slick that standing or walking without handhold wasn't possible.

I'm going to say that TFL's results showed something, but the methodology is so far removed from what you need out of an "AWD" vehicle that it should be discredited by real world experiences compared to its testing outcomes.

Isaac Medrano (not verified)    February 3, 2021 - 9:41AM

They're full of shit... I have a 2002 Subaru Outback with 295,000 original miles. And I'll put my car up against any test they have anytime. These individuals that supposedly are the "experts"... WE'RE THE EXPERTS! THE CONSUMERS! WE DRIVE THEM EVERYDAY!

Sing (not verified)    February 3, 2021 - 10:35AM

That video does not prove anything. With any other manufacture CUV similar engines and powertrain have same result. Only proving that SUVs/CUVs can do all testes are equipped with more powerful engine. low range transfer case, lock diff.
Don't forget, those people in tfl aren't engineers, or with any technical expertise.

David (not verified)    February 3, 2021 - 11:14AM

Come on, your article says it passed once put into the appropriate mode. Click bate is one thing, outright lies are another. I expect better of you.

Jeff (not verified)    February 3, 2021 - 5:53PM

I'm pretty sure they have a viscous coupling differential, meaning the wheel HAS to slip for it to work. We've had 8 Subarus. I'll take their system over anyone elses. We've never had a failure or a breakage of any part of the AWD system. The proof is in the pudding!

Jamie X (not verified)    February 6, 2021 - 8:28PM

Lol. Subaru gomers being Subaru gomers. Love the "I'd take a subie over anything ever!" Have you actually driven any other AWD car?

Gary McIntosh (not verified)    February 9, 2021 - 11:07PM

Subaru is the worst. I love driving in the snow, everything from cars to tractor trailers. I headed out in a huge snowstorm looking for some sliding. No cars on the road, just me out having fun.

I purposely put my Forester into a low speed four wheel side slide. I turned my front wheels in the direction I wanted to go and hit the gas.

The Forester had other plans.

Sensing the spin on the wheels, it applied the brakes to my front wheels to transfer the power to the rear wheels, effectively shooting me across into the far curb with my front wheels cut hard to the right.

Three thousand dollars of damage. It wasn't until I dug deep into the "Symmetrical" system and found out that it is a 80% front and 20% rear and the way it transfers power in the event of front wheels spinning is to apply the brakes, even in the middle of a turn. The traction control off button doesn't do anything.

It is only safety for people who don't know how to drive.

kenneth raine (not verified)    May 29, 2021 - 10:49AM

Many can't accept Subaru's obviously superior traction system. Imagine a naked super model, some of these critics might say, " OK but there's too much skin."