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What Is Subaru Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive?

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How Subaru Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive works to provide better control and traction

Subaru Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive
Subaru Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive is the brand’s core technology

One of the biggest selling points for six out of seven of Subaru’s current models is that they come standard with the brand’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive (AWD). The Forester, Outback, Legacy, WRX, Impreza, and Crosstrek are all built on the Symmetrical AWD platform; only the BRZ is offered with rear-wheel drive (RWD). But what is Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, and how does it differ from other AWD platforms out there?

What Subaru Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive Is

Before you can begin to understand what Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive is, you’ll need a basic understanding of the difference between AWD and 4WD (four-wheel drive). In a nutshell, 4WD provides power to all four wheels equally, while AWD works to send varying amounts of power to all four wheels for optimal performance. Learn more here.

According to Subaru, its Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive platform is a core technology of the brand and serves to optimize traction and balance. Subaru calls its technology proactive, not reactive, and promises confidence in handling, even in difficult driving situations such as rain, snow, or hairpin curves.

subaru symmetrical all-wheel drive
While Subaru Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive sends power to all four wheels simultaneously, competitors either send it to the front wheels or rear wheels first, then feed it into the others after; Subaru’s system is also balanced evenly, while competitors’ systems are heavier one side

How Subaru Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive Works

The technology is called “Symmetrical” for a reason. If you cut your Subaru in half (though we don’t recommend that), each side would weigh the same. The way the AWD system is built, you get a balanced distribution of power to all wheels at the same time. Other AWD systems from competing automakers aren’t so simple, often because the AWD systems are built onto existing platforms, such as FWD (front-wheel drive), meaning power first goes to the front wheels and then the rear wheels. These systems are typically reactive, adjusting only after a loss of traction is detected. Similarly, other automakers have built AWD systems based on RWD platforms, meaning power is first sent to the rear wheels and then fed to the front wheels.

2016 Subaru Forester - Subaru Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive
Performance improves all-around with Symmetrical AWD

Why Subaru Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive Is Better

So why is it important to have power going to all four wheels at the same time? Simply put, you’ll get better balance and control on the road. While FWD vehicles suffer from understeer and RWD vehicles suffer from oversteer, Subaru’s Symmetrical AWD vehicles avoid these dangers and deliver stronger performance.

Other automakers often claim to have AWD systems that are competitive with Subaru Symmetrical AWD—Honda’s Real Time 4WD and Nissan’s Intuitive AWD, for instance. But these systems do not send power to all four wheels at the same time and thus can’t provide the same level of control and traction on the road.

Some final, smaller benefits to consider with Subaru Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive:

  • More even wear on tires, which increases their longevity
  • Better control during acceleration, and faster acceleration
  • Strong fuel economy—it’s true that AWD vehicles do see a decline in fuel economy, but compared to competing AWD vehicles, Subaru’s AWD models deliver better results