What is All-Wheel Drive (AWD)?

All-wheel drive (AWD) is a vehicle drivetrain system in which all four wheels receive optimal power as needed. AWD informs how a vehicle’s wheels receive power, particularly in the face of harsh weather, challenging terrains, and a variety of road conditions. It allows for greater control and stability, even in conditions that might otherwise create slippage or loss of traction. 

The Subaru commitment to safety is evident in innovative performance features like our Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive (AWD) system – the drivetrain setup on nearly every Subaru vehicle. When paired with X-MODE® on available models, drivers have even more control over their Subaru, providing added peace of mind.

How does AWD Work?

All-wheel drive vehicles utilize front, rear, and center differentials to deliver constant, varying amounts of power directly to each wheel. The differential is what allows wheels on the same axle to spin at different rates, particularly in moments of slippage. 

AWD systems detect power needs via smart sensors that monitor traction and grip at all times. If a wheel begins to lose traction, AWD responds quickly and seamlessly to give wheels the extra boost needed without the driver having to take action. 

AWD systems can be broken down into two categories: full-time AWD and part-time AWD. 

Full-time AWD systems deliver power and torque to all four wheels at all times, with sensors continuously monitoring traction to ensure wheels receive the proper, proportional amount of power. Most Subaru vehicles are equipped with full-time AWD. 

On the flipside, part-time AWD systems switch between operating as either a front-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive system. Under optimum road conditions, a part-time AWD system only delivers power and torque to either the front or rear axle. With a part-time AWD system, power is only delivered to the other axle when sensors detect a need for added traction.

Advantages and Considerations of All Wheel Drive


AWD vehicles are renowned for their all-weather performance and ability to help drivers stay in control, maintaining traction and stability even when traversing slick roads. For many drivers, having an AWD system and knowing it’s always working provides greater peace of mind and confidence behind the wheel. AWD vehicles also tend to provide impressive versatility, capable of performing just as well on off-road adventures as they do on the daily commute.

Before choosing just any AWD car or SUV for yourself or your family, there are factors to consider. For instance, some all-wheel drive vehicles may have a higher sticker price and higher maintenance costs than their non-AWD counterparts due to their enhanced and complex features. Luckily, many Subaru models have racked up an impressive array of accolades and awards for longevity, retention of value over time, and resale value, making a vehicle equipped with Subaru Symmetrical AWD a smart investment.

All Wheel Drive FAQs

Can You Turn All-Wheel Drive Off?

Most AWD systems are always engaged and are not designed to be turned off and on. However, some vehicles across a variety of manufacturers are equipped with different variations of AWD such as part-time (also known as “on-demand”) all-wheel drive. These vehicles essentially operate as either front- or rear-wheel drive under normal conditions, and only (automatically) engage AWD functionality when sensors detect a need for extra traction or power.

The Symmetrical Subaru AWD system is considered full-time AWD, meaning that it is always on and consistently delivering variable power based on sensor detection.

What is the Purpose of All Wheel Drive?

The overall purpose of AWD is to create a safe, stable driving experience that gives drivers greater control of their vehicle, particularly when confronted with challenging weather conditions or terrain.

Does AWD Use More Gas?

Some AWD vehicles can tend to use more gas, especially if used for travel under conditions that constantly require extra power or torque – such as driving on steep inclines, towing, or driving at faster speeds. Conversely, driving an AWD vehicle in everyday (i.e. dry surfaces, even terrain, etc.) conditions should have little impact on fuel consumption. 

While traditional, gas-powered AWD vehicles are less fuel-efficient than front-wheel drive (FWD) and rear-wheel drive (RWD) vehicles, they are more efficient than four-wheel drive (4WD) vehicles. Regardless of which system, it should not impact your fuel consumption during daily driving. Rather, you’ll only see an increase in fuel consumption in situations where you’ll need added torque or power.

Shop Subaru All Wheel Drive Vehicles Today!

With a wide range of cars and SUVs available standard with our Symmetrical AWD, Subaru has something for everyone.

Check out our impressive lineup today!