Does Subaru Outback Have 4 Wheel Drive?

The Subaru name has always gone hand-in-hand with the concept of safety in any driving conditions. So, it's a well-known fact that Subaru vehicles like the Outback do well in rain and snow - but how do they do it? Does the Outback have 4 wheel drive? With so many new technologies in driver safety on the market, it's difficult to tell what exactly makes a Subaru so good in bad conditions. We have looked into the Outback and have the answer for you here in this post. 

The Subaru Outback does not have a 4-wheel drive system but something else altogether. All Subaru vehicles have a standard all-wheel-drive system that manages both weight distribution and traction. The Subaru AWD is different from 4x4 systems because it is always on and reacts to driving conditions in real-time. 

That's the tip of the iceberg for the all-wheel-drive capabilities of the Subaru Outback. Please continue reading this post to find out more information about the Subaru AWD system. We will also discuss how the AWD system handles various weather conditions and how it stacks up against the competition.

A Subaru Outback Legacy fifth generation on a highway, Does Subaru Outback Have 4 Wheel Drive?

The All-Wheel-Drive Subaru Outback

The best way to start any discussion on drivetrains is to define the differences between them. Many cars on the market have simple drivetrain systems like front-wheel-drive or rear-wheel-drive where only two of the tires are propelling the car forward at any time.

Next, four-wheel-drive vehicles, also called 4x4s, have power going to all four tires simultaneously. Those tires work equally to help propel vehicles through difficult terrain, usually in an off-road setting. This type of drivetrain is not designed to be used all the time. 

Lastly is the all-wheel-drive system. The all-wheel-drive system is similar to the 4x4 system, but AWD is used all the time instead of only being used situationally. Additionally, AWD systems are smarter than traditional 4x4 systems. These more advanced drivetrains have the ability to react to roadway conditions in real-time, making adjustments to power some wheels more than others. The AWD on Subaru models is no different. 

The Subaru Symmetrical AWD System

Subaru Outback parked outside a building ready for test drive

The AWD system on the Subaru Outback is top-of-the-line. The system is called the Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive, and Subaru's design section of their webpage explains their Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive in great detail. While the system mainly focuses on traction control, it also provides a great deal of balance and stability due to its placement within the vehicle's frame. Its simple design concerning the engine gives a great efficiency level to the AWD. 

This Subaru system constantly monitors the traction level of each wheel while moving. If there is a loss of traction in one tire, the system will shift power to the other wheels to compensate. This prevents wheel spin and burnouts and gives the driver more control in bad conditions. 

The Subaru AWD system also provides benefits in good conditions like dry roads. The AWD system's responsiveness helps prevent accidents caused by oversteering or understeering while taking a turn on a curvy road. 

Is Subaru Outback AWD Always on?

As with other AWD systems, the Subaru version remains on at all times. It is not like a four-wheel-drive system that you switch on to give yourself a little extra traction while off-roading. In fact, many AWD systems only shift power to the non-active wheels if there is a loss of traction. This means that most of the time, those vehicles are simple front-wheel or rear-wheel-drive cars. 

The Subaru AWD that is found on the Outback is an active all-wheel drive, meaning that the system is constantly measuring and readjusting power to each of the four wheels. Additionally, all four wheels propel the vehicle forward at all times and on all terrains. This makes the vehicle feel quick and glued to the road. 

Is AWD Standard on the Subaru Outback? 

Since the Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive system is one of Subaru's best selling points, they make it available throughout their line. In fact, the AWD system is a standard feature on the entire Subaru line, except for the BRZ sports car. This means that the AWD is standard on every trim of the Subaru Outback as well. Not many car manufacturers pride themselves on the benefits of all-wheel-drive more than Subaru, and they are the only brand to make it standard across their whole line. 

How Good is the Subaru Outback on Snow?

Subaru Outback in the snow

The Subaru Outback will handle snowy conditions very well due to the control given by the Symmetrical AWD system. In another video on the Subaru Versus the Competition web page, professional first-responder driving instructors once again put a suite of Outback-sized cars to the test. This time, the setting is a snow-covered mountain road. 

Out of the five small SUVs that attempt to climb the snowy path, the Subaru is the only successful one. The AWD system, the Outback's low center of gravity, and the Subaru X-mode torque control all combine to make climbing and descending hills in the snow a breeze. 

Do I Need Snow Tires on my Subaru Outback?

To get the absolute best performance out of your Subaru Outback in snowy conditions, you should put snow tires on your vehicle in the winter, especially if you live in a climate where there's a snow season and not just a random snowy day every couple of weeks. 

The reason you need a set of snow tires to get the best performance out of your Outback doesn't really have anything to do with the Subaru systems but more with the nature of tires. Snow tires are designed to function normally in temperatures below freezing. This is something that regular tires can't do as they tend to harden in colder temperatures.

Having a set of snow tires that remain soft below freezing is crucial. Combining that with the Subaru AWD and other traction systems will give you the best chance at having a safe and uneventful drive in the snow. 

Is Subaru AWD Better?

So, after all of that discussion on the Subaru AWD system that comes standard on the Outback, let's make some comparisons. How good is the Subaru all-wheel-drive anyway? The Subaru AWD is a point of pride for the automaker. So much so that they have a dedicated webpage with videos of tests and experiments that showcase how Subaru AWD vehicles perform versus the competition. 

The USAC conducted the experiments and pitted the Subaru against vehicles made by Mazda, Ford, Honda, and Toyota. On a slick uphill traction test, the Subaru was the only vehicle to climb and descend the hill successfully. This was all thanks to the AWD traction control. 

It's also worth noting that the AWD on the Subaru Outback and other Subaru vehicles works in harmony with other safety features. The vehicle dynamic control system and automatic braking combine to give the driver ultimate control over their Subaru. 

In Closing

Subaru Outback Legacy fifth generation on a highway, Does Subaru Outback Have 4 Wheel Drive?

The Subaru Outback doesn't have a traditional four-wheel-drive but a smart and responsive all-wheel-drive system. That system is always on and making sure that the tires that need power get power, giving you the best traction and responsiveness possible for a vehicle. In the winter, combine your Subaru AWD with a good set of snow tires to get an unrivaled winter driving experience. 

If you found the information in this post helpful, please check out a few of our others:

Can You Flat Tow A Subaru? [Everything You Need To Know]

Where Are Subaru Cars Made?

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