Subaru Produces 15 Million All-wheel Drive Vehicle

This news story is for the Canadian market only

Subaru produces 15-millionth all-wheel drive vehicle
Symmetrical AWD provides arguably better traction

After producing its 15-millionth "Boxer" engine in February of last year, Subaru once again deserves congratulations for building its 15-millionth all-wheel drive equipped vehicle just one year later.

This milestone model rolled off the line almost 44 years after Subaru introduced its first all-wheel drive equipped vehicle, the Subaru Leone 4WD Estate Van in September of 1972. Soon after, the brand was well regarded for its lineup of unique compact all-wheel drive models, most notably the GL AWD Wagon, which arrived on our market in 1979, the unusual Brat compact pickup based on the back of that GL, and the '94 Outback that's now legend for launching the modern-day crossover era.

Truly, when asked what makes Subaru unique, all-wheel drive comes to the minds of most consumers more often than not. Motorsport fans might bring up the Japanese brand's once dominant world rally championship history, whereas the mechanically-minded will often point to Subaru's adherence to the horizontally opposed "flat" four- and six-cylinder "Boxer" engines already noted, but offering standard all-wheel drive in six of its seven Canadian models and 98 percent of Subaru vehicles sold worldwide, is unheard of within the mainstream volume auto sector, while Subaru's Symmetrical Full-Time All-Wheel Drive is in and of itself a step ahead of most competitors' AWD systems.

The "Symmetrical" name comes from the use of two equal-length half shafts at the front and rear of each AWD-equipped Subaru model (the rear-wheel drive BRZ sports coupe, co-developed with Toyota, is the only Subaru model powered by just two wheels). Subaru uses a variety of AWD systems depending on the application, but they are all full-time systems that don't experience any delay in responding to slippery conditions when compared to slower reacting part-time AWD systems.

You'll need to look way back to 1985 for the first Subaru equipped with Symmetrical Full-Time All-Wheel Drive. That was the very advanced, wedge-like 1986 XT Coupe in non-turbocharged, automatic trim, a model that was followed up with an electronic torque split version of the same AWD system in 1987. At the time its front/rear torque distribution was set to 60/40 by default, with the ability to distribute an even 50/50 when required. A similar active torque split AWD system is still in use by automatic-equipped Subarus today, whether incorporating conventional or continuously variable transmissions.

Subaru introduced its variable torque distribution AWD in the stunning Giorgetto Giugiaro-designed 1992 Alcyone SVX (known just as the SVX here) produced between 1991 and 1996. Notably, this advanced model was successor to the aforementioned XT Coupe, and along with daring styling that pushed status quo boundaries into concept car territory, performance that lived up to its provocative good looks, and a luxurious interior, the AWD system hidden below was set to a front/rear default 36/64 percent torque-split (changed to 45/55 in later versions). A modernized version of this setup is now exclusive to Subaru's legendary WRX when equipped with its optional Lineartronic CVT.

Alternatively if you purchase one of today's manual-equipped Subarus, except for the WRX STI, you'll get Symmetrical AWD with a viscous-coupling centre differential, this limited-slip design set up with a permanent 50/50 front/rear torque-split.

The WRX STI utilizes a more sophisticated Driver Controlled Centre Differential with a helical-type front differential and a TORSEN (torque-sensing) rear differential, resulting in a triple-differential design and the unique ability for real-time driver adjustment from a 41/59 front/rear torque-split to 50/50 via a lower console-mounted dial.

As you can see there are many ways to arrive at Symmetrical Full-Time All-Wheel Drive, but one thing remains the same no matter which version chosen or the powertrain mated to it, total reliability. The Subaru name has long been synonymous with dependability, common knowledge that was recently backed up by a best overall score amongst mainstream volume brands in Consumer Reports' 2016 report card on reliability.

Symmetrical Full-Time All-Wheel Drive is currently standard in the 2016 Impreza 4-Door and 5-Door compact models, the 2016 Crosstrek and Crosstrek Hybrid compact crossover, 2016 Forester compact SUV, 2016 Legacy mid-size sedan, 2016 Outback mid-size crossover, and the 2016 WRX and WRX STI.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press
Photo credits: Subaru
Copyright: Canadian Auto Press Inc.

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