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Subaru sensation: seriously capable 4×4 fun

Subaru couldn’t have picked a better week to demonstrate the all-terrain skills of three of its cars – the Forester, Outback and XV.

The off-road course created in the heart of Lincolnshire was challenging enough before Storm Angus battered Britain.

Farm tracks were quickly transformed into foot-deep muddy ruts, streams were swollen into rivers and steep hills and descents suddenly became rather more hazardous.

Subaru mud

However, it’s a testament of Subaru’s faith in its famed Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive that the event went ahead – and the vehicles were left to do their stuff.

First introduced in 1971, Subaru’s 4×4 system is at the heart of all of its cars (except the BRZ sports coupe).

Since then, Subaru has continuously developed and enhanced its AWD technology. In 2015, AWD-equipped models accounted for 98% of Subaru’s global sales.

In March 2016, Subaru announced that total production of vehicles equipped with its 4×4 system had reached 15 million.

Subaru Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive

The entire drive system, from the longitudinally-mounted horizontally-opposed Boxer engine to the rear differential, is mounted in a straight, symmetrical line.

Subaru says the advantage of this combination over a traditional 4WD set-up is that the weight of the engine and gearbox are spread across the front axle, “resulting in perfect weight distribution across the chassis” and “outstanding traction”. There’s also less rolling and pitching, for maximum stability.

Having driven a Forester, Outback and XV, I have no reason to question the logic of the above – all three cars were shod with regular road tyres, yet took the extensive off-road course in their stride.

subaru forester

Priced from £25,495, the Forester was launched in 1997 and is the biggest-selling Subaru in the UK. Practical, reliable and good to drive, it’s the most out-and-out SUV of the trio and made mincemeat of the off-road course.

I’d recommend opting for the Lineartronic Continuously Variable Transmission option for each of the cars – it’s smoother than most CVT systems I’ve tried from other manufacturers and makes life a lot simpler in the wilds.

Subaru Outback

Next, the very good looking Outback. Priced from £30,995 and originally launched in the UK in 1995, Subaru claims the Outback is the “world’s first crossover, successfully combining the benefits of a passenger estate car with the all-road capabilities of an SUV”.

Frankly, the Outback blew me away, Yes, it looks like an estate, yet it’s also a revelation off-road. Like the Forester, the Outback is fitted with an X-Mode button with hill descent. Just take your foot off the gas in tricky downhill sections and let the car control the speed, leaving you to concentrate on the steering.

Finally we drove the XV compact SUV. Priced from £21,995 is’ still very capable, though there’s no X-Mode button which means that you have to accelerate and brake manually, rather than just engage hill descent.

Like all Subarus (except the WRX STI), it’s covered by a 5-year/ 100,000 mile warranty (whichever is sooner).

Subaru XV

In short, the three Subaru cars I drove were a revelation off-road. Some critics rightly have issues with Subaru interiors which are more practical and durable than flash, but that aside, I couldn’t think of a better value range of genuine 4x4s.

And if that hasn’t convinced you that you should consider a Subaru if you’re looking for a genuine all-terrain vehicle, here’s one more fact – Subaru claims that 99.3% of Subarus in the UK are still on the road after 10 years.

About Gareth Herincx

Gareth is a versatile journalist, copywriter and digital editor who's worked across the media in newspapers, magazines, TV, teletext, radio and online. After long stints at the BBC, GMTV and ITV, he now specialises in motoring.

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