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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I was browsing around for an older (and smaller than my Ascent) Subaru so I can use as a daily driver. When I say older, I mean something that’s within the 2010’s to current... maybe even as far as 2005.

AWD has always been standard to Subaru. I asked myself and thought about getting a new (different brand) car without AWD for the same price range as a used Subie... like a Honda Fit

Now this had me thinking. I know Subaru has made a name for itself because of its AWD, but how does an older Subaru AWD (2010 or earlier) compare to a newer 2019+ AWD vehicle?
 

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2010 upwards use similar systems to today. They are all at "worst" 60/40 power split, up to 45/55 power split in normal driving, and the automatic transmission versions (geared or CVT) are capable of shifting an unprecedented 100% power in either direction. The mechanical systems, such as in my former 2010 Subaru Outback Premium 6MT (six speed manual) could shift up to 80% in either direction, which still trounced the competition in the same class. Most other systems can only shift a very limited amount of power to the rear.

The following applies to all 2010 upwards vehicles, but doesn't get into improvements in control systems, ABS, VDC, etc.


The current four systems in use...

ATS (such as in Outback, Ascent Foz, Leggy, etc with CVTs): 60/40 (slightly front biased)

Standard VTD (WRX manual I think): 45/55 (slightly rear biased)

VTD with DCCD (STI): 41/59 (slightly rear biased)

Mechanical Viscous Coupling: 50/50 (as mated to 6MTs/5MTs in older Outbacks or Crosstreks, etc)



Subarus come with the following default normal driving F/R split:

Mechanical Viscous Coupling 50/50: all "regular" manuals with the viscous coupling (eg: Crosstrek, Outbacks before they dropped the manual).

Standard VTD 45/55 (slightly rear biased)

VTD with DCCD: 41/59 (slightly rear biased) or 50/50. These are settable to be slightly biased to the rear, or 50/50. It also has a controllable slip/locking center differential. That's what the DCCD is for. DCCD stands for Driver Controlled Center Differential.

Ascent ATS and all other non-performance CVT Subies: 60/40 (slightly front biased)

Antiquity...
Before 2010, the starting power ratio was 80/20 in the Foz, etc, (and really early in in the ages of antiquity, 90/10), etc, and 50/50 in the mechanicals and 4WD systems or a DCCD system that I think was 35/65 default.

All of the systems could transfer power either direction.

One of the key things about the Subaru systems is that they are designed to transfer power anywhere. Some other brands have toasted their rear ends trying to push a fraction of the power to the rear that a Subie can. That limits capabilities under extreme use (whether weather or off roading).
 

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To add to Robert's detailed response on the AWD systems, you will find more of a difference in the engine / transmission designs as well as overall vehicle size in older Subarus.

Pre-2010 Subarus did not have CVT transmissions, but rather normal torque converter automatics (assuming that you aren't looking at a manual transmission vehicle). The majority of those automatic transmission vehicles use the 4EAT 4 speed transmission. That transmission has proven to be a very reliable unit, but obviously having only 4 speeds, has differences over the modern CVT units.

Engine wise, pre-2010, all Subarus were still using the EJ series engine. Today, all Subarus (sans the STI) use versions of the newer FA or FB series engine designs. The older EJ engines are well liked by many, but use timing belts instead of timing chains, have oil filters on bottom instead of on top, and can have more issues with head gaskets at higher mileages. The 2.5L EJ engine used in the majority of pre-2010 Subarus is a good performing engine, but it is also less efficient than the modern Subaru engines.

Pre-2010, in general, the overall vehicle size of Subaru vehicles was also smaller than you see today. Many people actually prefer the tidier dimensions of the older Subarus, but the most apparent trade off to their smaller size is reduced rear seat legroom. Modern Subaru vehicles are often near the head of the class in rear seat legroom, but that was not always the case.

All in all, do research on the specific vehicle you are interested in, and you will likely be pleased. Maintenance records on an older Subaru (records of timing belt changes, head gasket replacement, etc.) are important if you don't want to spend time and money on repairs. Otherwise, enjoy looking at the previous generations of Subaru vehicles that are still loved by many!
 
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Conceptually, the drive-train of "2005" models to today are designed exactly the same. The variations in the detail designs are stated from the two persons above are simply a technological progressions. Subaru always had one main platform, symmetrical AWD, while other companies like VW/Audi would have 4-5 different conceptual designs.

In order to give a good answer on the difference of 2005 model to 2019 model, we would have to break down the design components and assess them individually.
 

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To add to Robert's detailed response on the AWD systems, you will find more of a difference in the engine / transmission designs as well as overall vehicle size in older Subarus.

..... but use timing belts instead of timing chains....
I haven't done any googling yet but that reminded me of a question. Do they use interference type engines? In other words if your timing belt/chain breaks is your engine toast?
 

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I haven't done any googling yet but that reminded me of a question. Do they use interference type engines? In other words if your timing belt/chain breaks is your engine toast?
Yes, the majority of the EJ series engines are interference type engines...which is why the timing belt service is important. There are some older variations of the 1.8 L and 2.2L EJ that aren't interference engines, but those were produced in the early 90's.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thank you to everyone with the very detailed response.... Haha, I didn’t even mean to get into it this deep.

I guess I was hoping for more of a simple answer. My question was more of a comparison between an older Subaru (no specific years/generations) vs a newer car, for example like a 2019 Honda CRV

Is the old Subaru still far more superior compared to another competitor’s new AWD model? Yes, we can break it down to every mechanical part and get real detailed but I didn’t want to get that deep.
 

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Is the old Subaru still far more superior compared to another competitor’s new AWD model? Yes, we can break it down to every mechanical part and get real detailed but I didn’t want to get that deep.
I would think so. Honda has had to reprogram their computers to limit even more power to the rear end in the last half decade to prevent destroying the rear ends.

They're just not designed to be always on AWD, and, of course, they're not symmetrical.

(note, Honda interchangeably uses 4x4, 4WD and AWD whenever they think they can get away with it, or in other markets)



This has actually been a problem since the mid 2000's, as some searching will reveal.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thank you Robert and every one for the info. I’m more confident in buying a used Subaru with this info.

I have a 2014 CRV AWD and now that video makes me question how good my Honda is now. Haha.
 

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Thank you Robert and every one for the info. I’m more confident in buying a used Subaru with this info.

I have a 2014 CRV AWD and now that video makes me question how good my Honda is now. Haha.
LOL! It's not so much that Hondas (or anything else) are bad... it's just that Subaru has an amazing AWD that trounces virtually everyone else.

Me playing in the sand and ocean tidal pools with my 2010 Outback Premium 6MT (this is about 6 adventures edited together)

2010-2012 Subies playing in the snow:

Subies towing all sorts of insanely large things in the snow:

More Subies and Snow vids of many models and years:

Subaru Forester towing a Mazda CX-9 (8 minute mark):


And then there's plenty of off road vids of Subies of all ages.

Such as this insanity with this older Forester

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Nothing against Honda or Nissan, but while all you need to do is stick a set of decent tires on a Subie (and maybe add an inch or two for mudding) to do all that stuff, the Nissans and Hondas and rest of the pack just aren't designed for that. Heck, Hyundai had to disconnect suspension pieces and do other work for their Palisade beach video - and then still got every single one of the Palisades stuck. I've taken my 2010 Outback on the beach on stock street tires with zero mods, zero lifts, zero disconnected suspension pieces. ;)

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These adventures were on my Continental Pro Contact street tires, from before I got my first set of all terrains.
1555

1556
 

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Older XV (Crosstrek) taking on a Land Rover on a test track. Especially watch the 3m30s mark on to see just how good a Subie is at putting power anywhere, instantly.

 

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@Prawatyotin, we purchased a 2009 Forester for my daughter a year ago, around 96,000 on it when we bought it. We purchased this for her just before she got her drivers permit. We wanted to make sure that the vehicle she would be driving, she learned to drive in. My wife has had a 2014 & 2017 Outback and have been pleased with the winter performance of the AWD here in MN. Last year when approaching 30000 on her car, she started to have some challenges in the late winter driving, all due to tire wear, the 1st 2 winters she had no complaints. Because of our experience with my wife's Outbacks, when we went shopping for our kid, we didn't even consider anything other than a Subaru. it was between an Impreza and an Forester due to the length (or shortness) of the garage stall the car would be in. We felt the Forester would be better due to the ride height. It is funny, because we did not involve our daughter in the car shopping and just the other night, she commented how much she likes the way her car feels compared to riding in friends "normal cars".

Because we wanted out daughter to be comfortable when she hit the road driving, we spent a lot of time in the 2009 Forester as a family from Aug 2018 - Aug 2019. We looked long and hard to find a really clean one, we wanted leather and heated seats. The one we found was in great running condition but needed tires. After purchasing it, before our daughter ever saw it, we took it to our mechanic and had the following completed:
-Replaced the timing belt
-Replaced the water pump
-Replaced all of the timing belt pulleys/idlers (specified Japan manufactured Dayco kit - they have different part numbers for Japan and China made)
-Flushed out and replaced the coolant
-Replaced coolant hoses
-New tires installed
-They did a full inspection and there was ZERO sign of the head gaskets leaking. When doing the timing belt, it made sense to replace the pulleys/idlers and water pump since the front of the motor was opened up. More on parts, but would save labor in the future.

After a couple thousand miles, we noticed some leaking, the oil cooler lines were leaking, had them replaced. Aside from that, we have had no issues. The little thing was fantastic in the winter, granted the tires are new. Winter tires would be unbelievable. I may put winters on for her in a few years. My wife is currently driving on thin rubber, trying to get to colder weather as we are going to put winter tires on her Outback this year, I put winters on my Ford Flex last winter and cannot believe the difference. I have to admit, I am very impressed with my Ford Flex AWD (had a 2010 and now a 2015), but the feel of the Subaru AWD, even on the 2009 builds much more confidence in the winter for me...possibly a bit too much :)

I realize this really doesn't answer your question, but it is some real world observation that I have and thought might be worth sharing. Find a clean, well maintained unit, put a few extra dollars into making sure it is ready to roll and enjoy the heck out of it. Oh, and if you get an older Subaru, make sure to upgrade the headlights, put some Sylvania SilverStars in the Forester and what a difference!

Good Luck
 

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As old as the 4eat is now it is still a great transmission and has a couple neat features, shifting down to 1 or 2 locks the transfer clutch into a 50/50 split and having the shifter in the 2 position locks the transmission into 2nd gear only. Very useful in loose terrain or for having fun offroad. I had an 03 forester for 7 years and it was an absolute blast to drive. Very light on its feet and taught handling, and for the time fuel economy was pretty good. Foresters up to 2012 still had this transmission, as well as some Imprezas.
 
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