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USAC tests AWD capabilities of most popular mid-size SUVs [video]

The United States Auto Club conducted a test of the AWD capabilities of the 2014 Subaru Forester, Ford Escape, Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V. See who climbs to the top.

Not all mid-size SUVs are created equal when it comes to a challenging test of their all-wheel-drive systems. The United States Auto Club conducted an independent test of the most popular SUVs and found out which one is the best when it comes to coping with extreme conditions. USAC took the 2014 Subaru Forester, Ford Escape, Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V to see which one comes out on top.

All the vehicles were unmodified, factory-spec, all-wheel-drive vehicles from the various manufacturers and put through the exact same conditions for the test. The Auto Club set up a challenging test and independently certified the results. They set up a “compromised traction hill climb test” that was created by setting up a ramp with a 30.5 degree grade. It was lined with polyethylene and wet down with water. Each vehicle was challenged to climb to the top and go over the slick ramp.

The Ford Escape, Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V were all unsuccessful in climbing the ramp. The Subaru Forester was the only small SUV that was able to make it to the top of the ramp and down the other side. The tester commented that all he had to do was keep his foot on the gas, and the Forester didn’t lose traction. The Subaru outperformed its main competition in this segment of small SUVs.

Will most people who buy these SUVs be putting them under these challenging conditions in real life? Most likely they would not. The majority of SUV buyers will use their vehicle for commuting, hauling the kids to soccer games and trips to the grocery store. They would never subject their SUV to these extreme conditions and the AWD systems on the Ford, Mazda, Toyota and Honda would work fine for their needs.

But Subaru owners are a different breed. Subaru has attracted, and is attracting a new buyer to the brand who lead active lifestyles. They use their SUV during the week for practical things, and then use it on weekends for sporting activities. They’ll use it for taking trips to the mountains for hiking, biking and skiing, or to the beach for water sports. Many Forester buyers will never take it to these extremes, but many will take their vehicles off-road.

Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive comes standard on the new 2014 Forester and on all their vehicles except for the rear-drive Subaru BRZ sports coupe. Subaru has carved out a unique niche in the market with their multi-use vehicles. There is a reason Subaru is so dedicated to all-wheel-drive.

This test shows that if you are looking for a vehicle that will go beyond the normal range of on-and off-road activities, the Subaru brand is worth taking a look at. The all-new 2014 Forester is a true off-roader that has been put through other challenging tests before this one, and is proven to be the best in the field and beats the competition. It’s designed for those who want to have extreme fun in the dirt, snow and sand.

Watch Crossover Challenge- “The Ramp” video.


Jose (not verified)    November 27, 2014 - 10:55PM

I would like to know which model Forester was used in the test and if it was equipped with limited slip differentials, why was not included a Mitsubishi product? the video we can see that some models the 4 wheel are spinning @ the same rate so should be able to move up the difference would be tires (unless in the video cannot be seen the whole picture). was traction control on or off, I would like to know what causes Subaru to climb. thanks

Noah (not verified)    April 8, 2015 - 5:57PM

So.... Not a fan of any of these SUVs... However, someone should point out that this was a test of the tires, not the AWD systems themselves. All tires being the same, I am sure the other vehicles would have fared better. Also, where is the Jeep?