- Helping you drive happy

Winter is tough enough as it is…

I don’t know if it’s me or my marginally advancing age, but winter 2014-‘15 has been a freakin’ cold one so far. Despite this, I for one love winter, but I don’t really care for winter sports.

No, all I care about in winter are heated seats, AWD, and lots of snow -- lots and lots of snow. And when the going gets tough, I become excited at the challenge but only if I’m well heeled. I figured long ago that to be prepared in Canada and northern US states, AWD is a constant must and as such, the last three cars I’ve purchased were equipped with four-wheel-drive. One of them is my 2003 Impreza WRX wagon. 

Although it too is getting on in age, it continues to mock snow accumulations and icy, dicey slippery surfaces thanks in part to decent winter rubber. Now, as we all know, everything evolves; be it technology, processes or humans. In the car business, evolution is a must. 

Subaru’s terribly kept secret: AWD
Evolution takes place at different rates, and I swear that I’m going somewhere with this. You might be thinking that Subaru doesn’t seem to develop at the same rate as other carmakers and, depending on perspective, you could be right. However, there’s a simple explanation for this: they’ve been ahead of the curve for decades. It’s the others playing catch-up that appear to be progressing more… 

Subaru’s offered AWD as part of their DNA for decades and it’s been standard fare on all their products (save for the BRZ) for nearly 20 years. Their symmetrical AWD system has become synonymous with conquering the worst driving conditions, and it went mainstream when Subie launched the uber-popular Outback in 1995. 

Evolution of the species
It is this car that can (and will) be credited with creating the crossover genre. This car spawned the Forester and XV Crosstrek (was Outback Sport) and countless other SUV-cum-wagon-with-AWD-kinda-robust-looking-car-truck things. 

Today, these “things” are part of the fastest growing segments in the car business in North America and other parts of the world. Subaru’s got a few for you, if you’re interested.

A reminder of what Subarus can do
Subaru organized a day of driving their Forester, XV Crosstrek and Outback in excellent winter driving conditions to demonstrate each car’s abilities. Although the driving and mild off-road course did exactly that, one thing went terribly wrong: the cars -- sorry, Sport Utility Vehicles were too good and made the entire exercise almost mundane. 

Where 95% of their competitors would have failed, got stuck, broken or worse, these three super-winter-troopers made light of sketchy road surfaces and made fun of a predetermined course that was supposed to challenge the cars. Oops, sorry, SUVs. 

What makes a Subaru a Subaru?
The first element is clear: AWD. Subie has two versions of the setup and they’re as follows: 50/50 split with a manual box and 60/40 (fr/rr) split with the CVT. Depending on trim and CVT, X-Mode adds hill-decent electronic wizardry that makes best of available traction. 

The next item is ground clearance. How much ground clearance? 220mm (8.7”) to be exact or the equivalent of many actual SUVs currently on the market is featured on the three aforementioned vehicles. 

Tack on the array of available BOXER or horizontally opposed engines; some rated as PZEV (or partially zero emissions) and the recipe for safe, effective all-weather navigating is complete. 

So, do yourself a favour
The most affordable winter-fighting tool here is the XV with a starting price of $24,995 or, more or less, the equivalent of a properly spec’d out compact car. As an FYI, heated seats and AWD are included in the price. 

The Forester rings in at $25,995 while the Outback starts at $27,995. Any way, you’ll likely never regret your purchase especially at this time of year. Best of all, you’ll not regret your AWD back-up plan as fuel economy numbers are on par with most of these car’s respective competitors.