SubaruHow Does Subaru All Wheel Drive Work?

Every car manufacturer has little touches that make them unique and set them apart from the competition. In the case of Subaru, they have developed more than a touch of uniqueness. Their vehicles are set apart from the rest by the inclusion of a unique all-wheel-drive system, which is found in no other kind of vehicle. Of course, there are many vehicles that offer all-wheel drive, but Subaru’s system is unique and patented. Its main purpose is to provide superior power and torque while maintaining good handling.

Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive: What Is It?

Symmetrical all-wheel-drive, hereafter referred to as SAWD, is a system that is meant to provide the best of all worlds. These systems use a longitudinally-mounted engine over a long axis. This lower axis is divided into two axles of equal length. They call it “symmetrical” because The entire system is meant to distribute the weight of the vehicle more evenly. By doing this, a lot of handling issues can be prevented. Also, the drivetrain is literally symmetrical because its two halves are identical.

Advantages Of All-Wheel-Drive

Most auto manufacturers do not include AWD as a standard option. Most cars on the road today are made to use the rear wheels or the front wheel as the primary movers. The other two are just spinning on an axle. With an AWD system, all four wheels are exerting power. Subaru includes this feature with nearly all of their vehicles, which is a very nice little perk. Considering that most of these cars are on the lower end of the price spectrum, that’s a great thing to have.

The best thing about AWD is the fact that it will give you superior handling in the ice and snow. If you live in an area that regularly sees snowfalls and ice storms, this is an advantage that could save your life. In fact, it goes a lot farther than winter driving. AWD will give you much better control of your vehicle in general. Whether the conditions are dry or wet, you will have an easier time with those sharp turns and sudden stops.

Most AWD systems are “smart” in the fact that they are regulated by your car’s computer (technically called an “engine control unit” or ECU). If a particular tire is hydroplaning or if it suffers a blowout, the lack of resistance will be detected, and the computer will pull power away from that wheel. The SAWD is particularly adept at this kind of thing because it is naturally more balanced than the others. Thus, there are fewer irregularities for which the system would normally have to compensate.

AWD and SAWD also offer some benefits in terms of tire longevity. You see, the drivetrain of your vehicle has a lot to do with the stress placed on the tires. With front-wheel-drive vehicles, the front wheels will take a lot more stress and wear than the back tires. Obviously, a rear-wheel-drive vehicle is the opposite. An AWD or SAWD system, on the other hand, will distribute the stress equally. This means less wear and tear on each tire.

Finally, an AWD or SAWD vehicle offers much better acceleration. If you do a lot of highway driving, that can be a very handy thing. The reason for this advantage is obvious since all four wheels are being turned by the engine. Subaru’s system has a distinct advantage that normal AWD systems often lack, and that advantage is automatic control. You don’t have to worry about doing anything to control the working of this drivetrain, as it is completely self-regulating.

Disadvantages of All-Wheel-Drive

In spite of its benefits, AWD and SAWD drivetrains have two disadvantages, neither of which is particularly harsh. For one thing, an AWD or SAWD vehicle will always use more gasoline. When modern vehicles are designed with two-wheel-drive, they are basically sacrificing control for an increase in fuel economy. When using an AWD vehicle, you are doing the opposite. This decrease in fuel economy is partly fueled by the extra weight of the AWD drivetrain. It will add about 150 pounds to the total weight of the car, making the engine work harder to pull that extra weight.

As we mentioned earlier, an AWD or SAWD vehicle will experience more or less equal amounts of wear on all four tires. Thus, they should last longer. However, there can be a little bit of a problem when those tires finally fail. With an AWD or SAWD system, you are more likely to experience multiple blowouts at the same time due to the equal wear. Also, when it comes time to replace those tires, you will need to replace all four. A full set of tires is never cheap, so you should make sure you are prepared for this expense beforehand.

When Did Subaru Invent The SAWD Drivetrain?

Subaru first brought out their distinctive drivetrain system in 1972, with the release of the Subaru Leone. The SAWD drivetrain was originally just an optional perk, but it turned out to be very popular. From 1986 to 1987, the company worked to improve the design. They introduced a computer-controlled version to replace the old supercharger-driven system. Since then, the SAWD system has been improved several more times.


When you are thinking about your next car, it pays to look at the most distinctive qualities of each brand. When you buy a Subaru, you know that you are getting something with an all-wheel-drive system (unless you buy the BRZ, of course). This is the kind of information that has to be weighed when choosing a new vehicle. There is no doubt that SAWD is a distinct advantage, but you have to decide how important that advantage is for you. If this article has given you a good start on that process, please feel free to fill out the contact form below.

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