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Subaru Has A Inherent Misinformation Problem

Subaru has a history of conveying erroneous, incomplete, or misleading product information. In the best-case scenario, this fails its clients since it prevents them from learning how their automobiles function and then getting the most out of them. In the worst-case scenario, this endangers its clients' lives by pushing them to rely on their automobiles in inappropriate conditions.

I'm sorry I have to be the one to say this. As a long time advocate of Subaru and frequently recommending models like the Crosstrek, Forester, Outback, and Ascent to our followers. Subaru, in our opinion, manufactures extremely outstanding cars that blend a lot of value with just enough poor weather and dirt road capabilities to provide drivers with a really welcome measure of variety. But, with the introduction of Subaru's new Wilderness line of vehicles, which ostensibly adds additional off-road capability, I believe it's also important noting the ways in which Subaru disseminates misinformation about its products.

Roof Rack Load Capacity

"The Outback Wilderness also employs a more utilitarian fixed ladder-type roof rack system, with an extraordinary static load capacity of 700 lbs, allowing travelers to securely use a roof-top tent on the trail," according to a press statement following the new Outback Wilderness's introduction. "The ladder-style roof rails give versatility to accommodate a broader range of roof racking accessories and contribute to the daring attitude."

The term "static" is the key barrier here. The new rack is only meant to handle 700 pounds of weight when the car is stationary. How much weight can the roof support when the automobile is moving? To find out, we went to the Subaru website, scoured Google, and read a slew of news pieces on auto websites like MotorTrend, but the dynamic load rating statistic was nowhere to be found. According to Jessica, who manages the company's public relations. What is the solution? The weight is 200 pounds.

A dynamic load rating of 200 pounds is really rather outstanding. Most standard automobiles and SUVs, including Subaru's, are only rated for 150 pounds or less. Given that the unattractive mounds of fabric that make up most rooftop tents weigh roughly 150 pounds or more, Subaru's assertion that this new trim level can "safely employ a roof-top tent on the trail" is totally accurate.

The problem is that 200 pounds is a lot less than 700, and that dynamic load rating was nowhere to be found in any literature created in the run-up to the publication of Outback Wilderness. Attempting to carry more than 200 pounds (or, God forbid, 700 pounds) on the roof of that car while it's in motion will almost certainly result in a disaster during an emergency avoidance maneuver, will cause premature wear to the vehicle if done on a regular basis, and could contribute to an off-road rollover.

So why is Subaru promoting the static, rather than the dynamic number?

Ground Clearance

"The 2022 Outback Wilderness has a class-leading 9.5-inch ground clearance, up nearly one inch from the already excellent regular version," according to the press announcement. "The suspension has been optimized for increased stability on uneven terrain while keeping ride comfort and handling performance on the wide road. To give extra ground clearance and suspension travel, the front and rear shock absorbers and springs were lengthened. The additional ground clearance, as well as modified front and rear bumpers, help the vehicle handle rugged or uneven terrain."

When it comes to ground clearance, 9.5 inches is a massive deal. When compared to a Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro, which has only 9.4 inches of ground clearance, you could be forgiven for believing that the Subaru is capable of keeping up with the Taco through difficult off-road terrain. The problem is, you'd be wrong.

Subaru's have such high ground clearance because they employ an independent suspension in the front and rear. That's a great setup for ride quality and on-road handling. In contrast, most body-on-frame trucks and SUVs, such as the Tacoma, have a rear solid axle. This provides better off-road movement and can typically carry higher weight. However, unlike independent rear suspension, which mounts the rear differential to the frame, high and out of the way, solid axles store their differentials in massive casings within the axle itself. The bottom of that differential housing will be the lowest point on the center line of Tacoma's and comparable vehicles (the place where ground clearance is agreeably measured).

As a result, the ground clearance of trucks and SUVs is totally dictated by tire size. A Tacoma TRD Pro comes standard with 30.5-inch tires. If you put 33s on that Taco, its ground clearance will rise to 10.65 inches.

However, this is unimportant because ground clearance is a basically meaningless statistic. The approach, breakover, and departure angles of a vehicle influence its capacity to clear major obstructions off road, not how tucked up the components along its center line are.

So, with 9.5 inches of ground clearance, can an Outback Wilderness cross bigger obstacles than a Taco TRD Pro? Obviously not. Whereas the Subie has approach, breakover, and departure angles of 20, 21.2, and 23.6 degrees, the Tacoma (which has unusually bad angles in stock form) has angles of 29, 23.5, and 23 degrees. Again, a 33-inch tire will vastly enhance those figures. The Outback Wilderness' tires measure 28.6 inches in diameter. Even a 30-inch TV is unlikely to fit.

All-Wheel Drive

Its been written at length about the differences between four-wheel and all-wheel drive on numerous occasions. So forgive us if we’re brief, and draw heavily on the work of others.

The short recap is that when four-wheel drive is activated, it matches the speeds of the front and rear axles. In the absence of alternative technologies, all-wheel drive sends all of its power to the wheel with the least traction. That makes 4WD a capability enhancer, as it improves your ability to accelerate in slippery circumstances, and AWD a safety enhancer, as all power is lost to the wheel with the least traction, leaving the other three free to maintain grip.

To compensate for AWD's inherent lack of capabilities, Subaru equips CVT-equipped cars (excluding the WRX) with a multi-plate clutch that functions in continuous slip and distributes power 60/40 front/rear. If your front wheels lose traction, the clutch can send extra power to the back axle. It's unknown how much apportionment this approach can achieve, and I've checked everywhere for those figures.

The software that controls this system appears to have a "active" character in that it may, in a limited fashion, analyze driving circumstances and allocate power proactively before wheel slippage occurs. I can only think of one use for this function: acceleration from a complete halt. When watching side-on vids of an Outback or similar vehicle advancing from a stop on a slick surface, all of its wheels appear to spin at the same rate. There is no specific information accessible anywhere on the software logic that determines this determination, or on additional situations in which it may be used.

What differentials, couplings, clutches, and other similar devices that uniformly distribute torque front-to-rear on 4WD cars and give some apportionment on AWD vehicles cannot accomplish is match wheel speeds across axles. Limited-slip or locking axle diffs have typically done this. Both have limits, and even the most proficient 4x4s, such as Land Cruisers and Land Rovers, have replaced them in recent decades with electronic, ABS-based equivalents. All the traction, with no loss of steering or CVs exploding.

Subaru, too, employs this technology! Subarus are able to reintroduce some of the wheel speed matching capabilities of true-4WD, as well as locking axle diffs, by utilizing the ABS system's capacity to individually monitor and modify wheel speeds. It's remarkable that this feature is accessible on budget crossovers, but Subaru, once again, fails to describe the system's operation to its customers.

Take, for example, these two videos from The Fast Lane, which we recommend you watch in their entirety. While the Subaru is capable of providing considerable wheel speed matching and so climbing off rollers even when three wheels lack grip, that capacity only appears to exist when the wheel with the greatest traction has enough to revolve without spinning. When you place the identical wheel on a slick surface, the Subaru appears to refuse to power it.

This limitation contrasts with not just mechanical 4WD and locking diffs, but even ABS-based systems seen on more purpose-built off-road vehicles. Why was the Subaru unable to proportion power under identical conditions? That is something neither I nor the TFL video presenters can tell you since Subaru will not tell us or you. Given that AWD is practically associated with the Subaru emblem, this is a major issue. We already know that the technology is much less competent than genuine 4WD and even other AWD systems seen on competing vehicles. But we don't know how much.


In a similar manner, the TFL hosts struggle to explain what Subaru's X-Mode performs beyond hazy marketing promises. There's no information on how it works from any source, except from vague statements that it improves traction, hill-climbing, and hill-descent capacity.

After using it, the anecdotal belief that pressing the X-Mode button activates the ABS-based wheel speed matching (how and to what extent? ), allows hill descent control, and instructs the CVT to stay in a lower gear ratio. But, oh, we'd want to know more about those functions.

Active Torque Vectoring

Subaru’s press release reads: “In addition to the increased off-road capability, the Outback Wilderness delivers the optimal blend of SUV capability and car-like ride and handling that the legendary SUV is known for with help from standard features including Active Torque Vectoring…”

It is described elsewhere that this technology works by independently applying the inner, rear brake on corner entrance to improve turn-in speed and road sensation. This is another interesting invention that is actually quite effective but is misrepresented.

Torque vectoring, on the other hand, is a completely separate technique that employs clutches within a differential to actively direct power to the wheel with the highest grip, increasing a vehicle's capacity to accelerate. The torque vectoring differential on a rear-diff on a high-performance car like a Lexus RC-F transfers power to the outer rear wheel as the driver pushes throttle to exit a curve. Because the outer rear tire has the highest grip, this prevents power from being squandered by spinning up the inside rear wheel, which would also break traction. As a result, the RC-F can accelerate harder, earlier in the turn, and with more control.

You're not mistaken if that doesn't sound like adjusting the rear inside brake caliper on turn-in. This is symptomatic of another issue that emerges throughout Subaru's communication on the capabilities of their automobiles. There is a lot of discussion about directing torque to the wheels with the highest traction. However, this is not achievable on any CVT-equipped Subaru. Individual brake caliper actuation is used instead to handle certain wheel speed matching. It is just untrue to claim that a Crosstrek, Forester, Outback, or Ascent actively channels torque or directs power in any way other than front-to-rear.

What This Means In The Real World

Why is this a problem? Let us return to the first paragraph: In the best-case scenario, this fails its clients since it prevents them from learning how their automobiles function and then getting the most out of them. In the worst-case scenario, this endangers its clients' lives by pushing them to rely on their automobiles in improper conditions.

All automakers are guilty of emphasizing favorable news about their products while concealing negative news. But this isn't a case of someone building a Toyota Tacoma to get 23 MPG in the EPA's highway test cycle (where speeds don't exceed 60 MPH) and then saddling buyers with insufficient gearing for the real world. This just costs Taco drivers money and causes the truck they drive to perform poorly. Subaru's troubled history of deceiving customers about off-road capabilities, on the other hand, could be endangering lives.

Roof loads that are dynamic vs those that are static. Ground clearance statistics are inflated in favor of actually beneficial angles. An all-wheel drive system with no data on its traction capability. Software that reportedly increases traction but appears to rely primarily on the power of the imagination. Fake recovery points that do not provide the data required to use them securely. Torque Active Vectoring that isn't... any of these things on their own would be erroneous, incomplete, or deceptive. They soon add up to what appears to be a purposeful attempt to mislead customers. Subarus are excellent automobiles. But they'd be great automobiles if this misinformation effort didn't exist.

How can Subaru address this?

Educating customers to enable them to make better educated purchasing decisions is always the best solution. With its new Wilderness crossover lineup, we sincerely hope that the company not only changes its language to be more factual, but also finds a method to intercept purchasers with empowering knowledge or experiences about utilizing its vehicles to achieve the things they see those cars doing in advertising. This should be the job of sales people but in our broad and long experience in that industry itself, most car sales people are not gear heads; they know how to sell usually, and that is most often a sales technique on the recollection of specific features and benefits known as - sell what you see.

Thankfully we're here to offer the additional trail aids like Maxtrax, air compressors, tire repair kits, and rated recovery points to the accessories inventory as well better tire choices. Other functional options such as racks or performance options regard to customer empowerment as an important component of our marketing approach. It's past time Subaru followed suit.


The Fast Lane - YouTube

Subaru USA - Images


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