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Subaru snow drive

What is Subaru Symmetrical AWD and Why Do You Want it in Australia’s Snow Regions?


I’m stating the obvious here, but it doesn’t snow much in Australia. Sadly, while Aussies love adventure sports and the great outdoors, we miss out on the powdery stuff with a ski season that lasts days, not months.

While those fortunate enough to ski overseas are accustomed to several hundred inches of snowfall every season, most Australian ski resorts are lucky to see 80 inches. Still, that doesn’t stop us from making the most of the season because of our love for the outdoors and adventure spots.

This season, like so many, I packed my bags to head to the snow for a week, and even though the report looked a little lacklustre, this year would be different. Subaru was putting together a Snow Drive where we’d get to test the vehicles in their natural habitat. Short of flying to a proving ground near Queenstown, New Zealand, as we did for the next-gen Ford Ranger, this would be the only chance to try out the Dual-function X-MODE available on a select group of Subaru vehicles.

Rather fittingly, the brand has again partnered with Perisher, Hotham, and Falls Creek, where we stayed for our trip. Unlike so many partnerships in the automotive industry these days, this is a natural fit for a brand that exudes adventure and, for many, acts as a vector for accessing the great outdoors. I could hardly count the number of Subaru’s we passed on our way to our accommodation in St. Falls Resort, Falls Creek.

RELATED: Subaru WRX Sport Wagon review.

Subaru outback on the snow with lights on
Subaru Snow Drive | Image: Aimee Hyde / Subaru Australia

Subaru Symmetrical AWD is the Engineering Hardware

The brand’s key competitive advantage is the Subaru Symmetrical AWD system. This system is designed to bring stability, safety, and on- and off-road performance to every Subaru in the line-up, except the BRZ sports car, which uses a rear-wheel-drive layout. Given the number of Subarus we saw driving around the mountains around Falls Creek, you don’t need to take my word for it. This system works.

The best way to describe its advantages is to drive one of these cars. However, technically speaking, the entire drive system, from the engine to the rear differential, is mounted in a straight, “symmetrical” line.

This, combined with half-shafts of equal length and a low-mounted, low-centre-of-gravity longitudinally mounted horizontally opposed engine, maximises performance and traction in all environments. It’s entirely unique to Subaru, and you won’t find it anywhere else.

Of course, plenty of trick software is at play here, too, and X-MODE is an equally impressive system in its own right. However, what Subaru gets right from the start is the engineering underneath the cars.

I mentioned this at the start, but it doesn’t snow much in Australia. Unfortunately, it didn’t snow very much during our time in Falls Creek, which meant only a light dusting of snow on the trails around our accommodation and no deep snow testing for this trip.

We still managed to squeeze in some forest driving, and there was plenty of wet road driving involved, which was a good reminder of the capabilities of the Symmetrical AWD system, but no snow driving. Bugger.

Subaru outback on the snow
Subaru Snow Drive | Image: Aimee Hyde / Subaru Australia

Dual-Function X-MODE is the Software Brain

While we didn’t get a chance to test the full capabilities of the Dual-Function X-MODE system on this trip, I’ve tested Deep Snow/Mud Mode on both the Subaru Crosstrek and Subaru Outback XT in the past.

This system uses the Symmetrical AWD system and controls the torque split and traction between the front and rear axles, but unlike the standard X-MODE system, it has dual functions, one specifically designed for deep snow.

The Dual-Function X-MODE system is just that, a system with two functions:

  • Snow/Dirt Mode: This controls engine output and throttle response to limit wheel slip by altering the Symmetrical AWD system’s torque split to direct power to the wheels with the most grip. This is best designed for technical terrain when traction is available but needs more precision.
  • You also get Hill Descent Control, which keeps the vehicle at a slow, controlled speed without applying the brake in steep downhill situations. This lets you focus on steering and picking the perfect line.
  • Deep Snow/Mud Mode: This mode optimises wheelspin to get you unstuck. Rather than finding every last ounce of traction, this mode allows some wheelspin, when needed, to prevent the vehicle from becoming stuck.

Of course, you’ll rarely find yourself in these sticky situations, and we never needed to use the Dual-Function X-MODE system on our trip. However, there’s an added peace of mind knowing your Subaru has the equipment and pedigree to get you unstuck if needed.

That’s probably the best way to sum up the Subaru driving experience, especially after tackling these alpine roads. Every model in the line-up feels planted and connected to the road, and you never question whether or not you’re going to run out of traction on slippery roads, dirt trails, or roads with a light dusting of snow.

The cherry on top would’ve been testing the Deep Snow mode in its natural environment, but I have no doubt that the Subaru would’ve tackled nearly anything we could’ve thrown at it.

Subaru forester on the mountain at falls creek 3
Subaru Snow Drive | Image: Aimee Hyde / Subaru Australia

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