How Does Subaru All Wheel Drive Work?

Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive. Control the road. 

You need balance and an even distribution of power for maximum traction, instead of the slip-then-grip alternative. Almost every Subaru comes standard with Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive for better stability, efficiency and a quicker response to slippery conditions.

Efficiency and Durability

Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive has the engine mounted in-line with the drivetrain, helping provide a seamless transfer of power to all four wheels.

Other AWD systems need additional drivetrain components to route the same power to the wheels, often using complex designs. More components tend to reduce vehicle efficiency and could add to higher maintenance costs.

Stability and Control

The balanced design of Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive helps add control through uniform stability. With power being distributed to the wheels with the best traction, it helps you hold true to the path.

Front-wheel drive vehicles generally understeer or push in a turn, while rear-wheel drive vehicles can often oversteer in a turn.

Power and Traction

Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive sends power to all wheels simultaneously for maximum traction and acceleration. In slippery conditions, that power instinctively flows to the wheels with the best traction. 

The United States Auto Club tested the top five All Wheel Drive crossovers in a pretty extreme traction challenge. No surprise, the Subaru's Symmetrical AWD performed beautifully.

See the Power and Traction video  at the bottom of this page to see more of the AWD in action.


This 2012 Model Year Subaru Symmetrical All Wheel Drive chart describes the difference between the All Wheel Drive options available to you.

Subaru Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive Systems


Continuous All Wheel Drive is standard on Subaru vehicles equipped with a manual transmission. (Except BRZ and Impreza WRX STI)

How It Works:

  • Three differentials--front, center, and rear--can transfer power to all four wheels and allow all four wheels to turn at different speeds when cornering.
  • Under most conditions, power to the front and rear axles is split evenly-50/50.
  • Should loss of traction control occur at either the front or rear wheels, more power is progressively transferred to the axle with the wheels that have the most grip to help maintain the 50/50 power distribution.


Active All Wheel Drive is either standard or optional on Subaru vehicles equipped with a four- or five-speed electronic automatic transmission as well as the Lineartronic Continuously Variable Transmission.

How It Works:

  • The system is designed to send most of the power to the front wheels.  However, there is always some power going to all four wheels.
  • An electronically controlled clutch pack within the transmission (acting as a center differential) allows the front and rear axles to turn at different speeds when cornering.
  • Since the clutch pack also varies the amount of power sent to the front and rear axles, it acts as both a slip-limiting device and a center differential.
  • Should traction loss occur at either the front or rear wheels, more power is progressively transferred to the axle with the wheels that have the most grip.
  • Power split varies based on electronic inputs measuring different driving conditions.

Variable Torque Distribution (VTD) All Wheel Drive

Variable Torque Distribution All Wheel Drive is a performance-oriented system with more of a rear-wheel bias.  It is standard on all Subaru models equipped with a five-speed electronic automatic transmission.

How It Works:

  • This sophisticated AWD system combines the hardware of both an electronically controlled clutch pack and a planetary gear set center differential.
  • Any changes in vehicle dynamics (such as weight transfer) can affect the front-to-rear power split which is varied via the Transmission Control Module which controls the multi-plate clutch pack.
  • This system works automatically, providing the optimal distribution of engine power for dry, wet and slippery road performance.
  • It provides a 45/55 front-to-rear performance bias.

Variable Torque Distribution (VTD) All Wheel Drive with Driver Controlled Center Differential (DCCD)

VTD All Wheel Drive with Driver Controlled Center Differential (DCCD) is standard only on the Impreza WRX STI. It is an ultra-high-performance system that adds both automatic control (based on multiple vehicle inputs) and manual control (based on driver input) of the center differential.

How It Works:

  • This system starts with a 41/59 front-to-rear power split and has the capability to allow the driver to tailor the system's operation to a particular driving situation.
  • DCCD has two operation modes--automatic and manual.  In the automatic mode, based on electronic input, the computer controls the optimum front-to-rear power split. In manual mode, the driver can progressively vary the power split or even lock the system into a 50/50 split for specific driving conditions.


These All Wheel Drive Systems are available on display in our showroom here at Stanley Subaru. We have examples of each system in 3-D form so that further understanding of the complicated systems can be understood. For more information on the different types of All Wheel Drive systems , ask any one of our highly knowledgeable sales consultants!

The above information, including text and video is courtesy Subaru of America, Inc . The above information is for educational purposes only. For more technical information, please see one of Stanley Subaru's sales consultants, service advisors, or the general manager.

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