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Subaru's Iconic Symmetrical AWD Turns 50 - 4 Reasons Why It's Still The Best

Subaru just hit a significant milestone. The automaker is commemorating the 50th anniversary of its iconic symmetrical all-wheel-drive system this year. Check out four reasons why it’s still 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 this year marks the 50th anniversary of the debut of Subaru all-wheel-drive (AWD).

No one knew what Subaru's Leone 4WD Estate vehicle would lead to. The 4WD Leone created a niche market that continues 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.

2022 Subaru Forester, 2022 Subaru Crosstrek, 2022 Subaru Outback
photo credit: Subaru -they first introduced the Leone Estate Van 4WD in Japan in 1972

Since 2016, Subaru says all-wheel-drive models have accounted for 98 percent of its sales around the globe. The only car in their lineup without all-wheel-drive 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, and with the combination of Symmetrical all-wheel-drive and Subaru's horizontally-opposed Boxer engine, the entire power train is mounted with side-to-side symmetry.

2022 Subaru Forester, 2022 Subaru Crosstrek, 2022 Subaru Outback

Subaru doesn't adapt all-wheel-drive components to a front- or rear-wheel drive vehicle; they develop multi-use vehicles 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.

The competition equipped 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 their multi-purpose vehicles. They all come standard with Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, but each vehicle gets a "tailored" version of Subaru's Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive 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 this year. The latest technology in the 2022 Forester SUV, Outback midsize SUV, Crosstrek subcompact SUV, Ascent 3-Row SUV, and other models includes four-wheel traction management for an all-wheel grip on all four wheels.

You can read the full report about Subaru's Symmetrical system below.

You Might Also Like: The Four Subaru AWD Versions That Set Subaru SUVs Apart From the Competition

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 USA


Marty Russo (not verified)    April 5, 2022 - 10:24PM

Congratulations Subaru corporation, 50 years that is hard to believe.

Here’s looking forward to the next 50 years and the innovations that Subaru will incorporate in their lineup! Keep making great on/off road fun and safe!

Don Wright (not verified)    April 6, 2022 - 4:09PM

We love Subaru we have owned 5, 2 Impreza,2 foresters, and now drive and love our 2020 outback. Had 1 Chevy, and was not happy with it,

Gregg E Davis (not verified)    April 7, 2022 - 10:40AM

way to go subaru. not only have you saved lives with your symmetrical all wheel drive system you made driving a subaru the funnest, safest, most reliable vehicle on the market today. i am on my third subaru. i love the fact that i can go any where i want, whether it be camping off the grid or living it up at the beach i know that my subaru will get me and my family there safely and making the drive enjoyable with the all the luxuary features subaru has to offer and number one being the safety rating that subaru has i know my family is safe thank you subaru for the 50 years of all wheel drive and thank you for keeping safety and reliability your number one priority