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2009 Outback - AWD systems



  • Thanks.

    So the automatic provides reasonable engine braking when descending - good! And I know exactly what you mean about feeling more in control with a manual transmission at times like this and "playing" the clutch and brake - been there! When your knuckles are white, you do what you have to do . . .
  • Thanks for that, Wes.

    I know what a difference tires can make and will take a hard look at the OEM tires (I think they are rated M&S rather than all-season but I haven't been to the dealer yet to look at the tread). I have been quick to upgrade in the past when the "newness" has worn off and they stop performing well.

    Please explain the last paragraph about stalling - I'm not sure I know what you mean. Are you saying that during emergency maneuvers - like when VDC takes away your control of the throttle, the driver with a manual transmission can stall the engine (even though he may be very experienced)?
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,269
    Oh, sorry, Jim. No, what I am saying is that if the driver, in the heat of the moment, forgets to keep the car in a gear that is appropriate for the speed of the tires, the engine can bog down and stall out. For example, say the car is moving at 50 mph, and the transmission is in 5th gear, just cruising down the highway. Suddenly, an oncoming car loses control and starts skidding into the path of my car. I initially hit the brakes hard, then swerve to the shoulder. I forget to press the clutch pedal during my braking, however, and the engine stalls because now I am only going 25-30 mph... too slow for the engine to run in 5th gear. So, i swerved to the shoulder, but suddenly I lose power steering and brakes, so instead of maneuvering a car, I am maneuvering a lead sled. I just lost most of my options in terms of evasive maneuvers because I can no longer brake as quickly, steer as sharply, or accelerate. If the oncoming vehicle continues toward my shoulder, it could get ugly quick.

    Had I the presence of mind to re-gear the car for the situation, I could jet past the oncoming car before it had a chance to reach the shoulder, move further off or on the roadway to avoid its path, or brake more decisively.

    With an automatic, it will do the re-gearing itself, I just have to work the wheel and pedals.

    Now, that is my example scenario with a classic manual or auto, and the effects are strictly the result of the driver's actions. I am not sure what affect VDC would have on a manual. Boy, it would sure unsettle me if the scenario you presented were the case, but I suspect there must be some sort of fail-safe in that situation otherwise I doubt the NHTSA would allow the technology on MT vehicles. Sure gets me to wondering, though!

    In my opinion, the whole point to a manual transmission is driver input/control. The VDC should work with that constraint, not attempt to subvert it. In other words, it should be a co-pilot, not a replacement. :D

    Okay, so tires. Take my word on this, if the car has Bridgestone Pontenza RE-92A tires, don't even bother taking a hard look when it comes to winter driving conditions. Newness or no, they are worthless in snow and mediocre on ice at best. I drove my '07 on these tires in snow/ice right off the lot, and it was... interesting. I had always before used all-seasons (the last tires on my '96 were Goodyear TripleTreads), and these were downright awful tires. On my '08, I encountered snow for the first time at about 3500 miles, and while I did fine for the 4000 miles I drove on snow/ice, it sure was tricky at times. There were a couple times I could not make it up my driveway after a light snowfall (4-5"), and that NEVER happened in my '96 Subaru (again, with more effective all-season tires), even with a foot or more of snowfall.

    The one good thing about them? It was easy and rewarding to toss the car around an icy surface. Not sure that is a very good reason to keep them, though. They are okay on dry or wet surfaces, at least to my budget-conscious mind. ;)
  • Bridgestone Pontenza's, eh? I'll be sure to take notice because I believe in good tires - and I'll take your word on it. Maybe I can negotiate with the dealer when I'm buying my Outback if he has something better he can offer. Otherwise I'd be inclined to sell them rather than buy snows and switch 'em over twice a year.

    The Outback I buy will be used mostly for around town errands and short excursions - except in the winter when I average about 700 miles/week - just going skiing. The jeep I'm replacing has M&S tires that I leave on all year round. It works for me because I do most of my driving in the winter and really need them for the places I go. The rest of the year the tread is a little too aggressive and they could ride quieter, but I don't drive enough miles when I'm staying close to home to wear them out prematurely. I've had these Michelins for two years and they still have more tread on them than most new tires.

    And thanks for clearing that up about the stalling; I see what you mean.

    I'm getting lots of input from people with Outbacks that will help me decide whether to buy a manual or an automatic. I'm still leaning towards getting the manual but my wife prefers an automatic. She has her own car so she won't drive the Outback much - just once in an while (and probably NEVER if I get the manual!). She's already told me that if I hurt my leg skiing I ought to consider how I'm going to get home with my manual transmission. This has actually happened before so maybe she has a point . . .

    A lot of people have said that both transmissions and AWD systems are great in the snow and I know that dealers sell many more automatics than manuals so I'm keeping an open mind. Going to test drive one of each next week and make up my mind.

    Thanks for your help.
  • krzysskrzyss Posts: 843
    There are good ones and bad ones.
    RE960 AS are the good ones.
    RE92s are the other flavour (I bet they give nice milage for the car manufacturer).

    Summer RE050A PolePosition is another good one.

  • Thanks Krzys,

    Do you know if any of these are standard equipment on the '09 Outbacks? Or even better - does anyone know what tires are standard equipment for '09 Outbacks? - Anybody just buy one?

    - Jim
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,269
    Krzys - thanks for clarifying. Yes, I am speaking specifically of the RE92A, which was standard equipment on both the 07 and 08. Bridgestone does have an entire line of Potenza-labeled tires.

    I have some close friends who just purchased an '09 Impreza, and it has these same tires. I am willing to bet that the Outback does as well, unless they differ by region.
  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    I've heard that some of the 09s are getting Yokos? Vaguely remember hearing that.

    Motorsports and Modifications Host
  • This has been a great thread to read through.
    The main reason I opted for the 09 instead of saving some Money on an 08 was because the 09 Limited is basically the 08 L,L,Bean edition with a nicer Stereo, 2.5i Engine and the VDC is standard on all models.
    It's funny because I read how allot of People are weary of the VDC and afraid it might make the Outback behave in odd ways.
    It does have an off switch so if this is a concern you can always turn it off.

    I'd have loved a manual but due to a work injury I can't drive a Stick anymore but let me tell you this Car is superb in handling.
    I have the 17" Bridgestone Potenza's on mine and when I opened the Manual Packet there was warranty packets on Good Year and Yokohama Tires so I guess it depends on where you purchase the Car and how the Dealer specs their Vehicles out when ordering them.
    I haven't driven on Snow yet but so far the Potenza's seem to be a very grippy Tire.
    If they prove to be as bad as People are saying they'll be off the Car before the next Snow storm, LOL!

    A story about the VDC.
    The other Day I was taking my Daughter to School, it was raining and the Outback was doing an excellent job.
    I remembered that the Dollar Store close to my House had just sprayed Blacktop sealant about a Week ago and anyone who knows about Blacktop sealant knows how slippery it gets when it's wet.
    I stopped off on my way Home and did a quick Road test in the empty Parking Lot.
    From a standing stop I stomped the Accelerator to the Floor and took off like the Pavement was dry, not so much as a squeak from the Tires.
    I then proceeded to do figure 8's and tight cornering.
    I threw this Car all over the place trying to make it lose control but it never broke traction, not even close.
    Then I did the Circle test and up until the Tires themselves couldn't hold on and the Car slid sideways, I never lost control, kept a tight Circle and never broke traction.

    Then I turned the VDC off...
    The standing stop test went well, the Car took off but I had to keep things going while the Tires kept slipping here and there.
    It wasn't bad but it wasn't as in control as before.
    The same goes for all the figure 8's and slalom's I was doing.
    It was easy to keep the Car under control but I had to be more on top of things and the Tires kept slipping here and there.
    At higher speeds the back end kept trying to break out from under me a bit but it wasn't horrible like the Car was at any moment going to spin around on me, I just had to be more aware of what was going on and how I was driving to keep control.

    The Circle test really showed me I made the right decision because with VDC off the Tires would spin and I'd lose the Circle pretty fast before completely breaking traction.
    That might have allot to do with the Potenza's and something I'm really going to have to watch out for when the Roads get really bad.
    I've never been a big fan of Bridgestone Tires but these look like they have a pretty aggressive Tread design, only the future will tell.

    I'd say the only difference between the Auto and Manual Transmissions in the 09 Outback is cost savings and how well you understand the dynamics of driving a Manual Transmission.
    Other than that it's just a personal choice, I wish I could have got the Manual myself... :O(

    I wish I could have had someone with a video Camera, it would have made a good Youtbe video, LOL!
    The only other Person to see it was a guy unloading a Truck for the store and he was giving me some pretty odd looks... ;O)

    One last thing, this Car is averaging over 28MPG and it hasn't been broken in yet.
  • jim2345jim2345 Posts: 40
    Hi Ranger!

    WOW!! I wish I could get a test drive like you just described. I'm so glad you took the time to write all that. I was really interested in what you had to say about losing traction in the circles and figure eights with the VDC turned off because this is where I would expect to find a big difference between a manual transmission and an automatic.

    If you read my earlier post about this the manual transmission has essentially full time 4WD since the center differential normally splits the torque 50/50 front to rear. A viscous coupling will then adjust this split when slippage occurs. In contrast, the automatic is essentially FWD since the center differential normally splits the torque 90/10 front to rear. A variable transfer clutch controlled by electronic sensors then adjusts this split when slippage occurs. So what?

    Here's what. Based on what I have read, the manual transmission should behave like a rear wheel drive car when it breaks traction (because the 50/50 split means the front end grips better - more weight - so it's the the back wheels with 50% of the torque that will start spinning first, slipping out of the turn and creating an oversteer situation. The automatic with the 90/10 split should behave like a FWD car and it will be the front tires that let go in the turn creating an understeer situation. You didn't say whether it was the front end or the back end that was slipping away in your maneuvers. Which was it??

    I'm dying to find out - please reply at the earliest.

    - Jim
  • From my reaserch I thoght I'd read where the 08 Outback with auto had a 60/40 split in power, now you have me doubting so I'm going to be checking back to make sure I was correct.

    That was one of the problems with the 08 was the back end got loose in tight cornering on slipery roads because of the more aggresive power split.
    During my testing with the VDC off it was the rear that kept trying to lose traction first.
    Another very good feature with the auto that helps keep control of the vehicle on slick roads is the sport shift.
    In sport shift mode you get to chose the gear that best suits your need and it keeps it there unless the computer senses you're about to over rev the Engine and only then will it shift.
    It brings the control of a manual transmission very close to the automatic and really makes a big difference in low traction situations.

    When the VDC is on the rear end slippage goes away.
    Also, Subaru's VDC is allot more advanced than the traction control on other manufacturers Vehicles so there really is no way to compare them because it reacts allot differently than the others.
    When it reacts it not only applies the brake to the wheel losing traction but it also adjusts throttle responce as well when wheel spin becomes too extream.
    I used to have a 96 Saturn with traction control and it really pails in comparason to VDC.
    Like I said about full throttle from a standing stop, it felt like I was on dry pavement and acceleration wasn't adversly affected.
    VDC is so fast and intuitive there's no need to worry about poor performance when it's turned on in low traction conditions.
    If you've ever driven a Car with traction control please forget the experiance and don't compair it to VDC, instead keep an open mind and give this system a chance to prove itself.
    The best way to test it out is make sure to take a test drive on a crappy rainy day so you can see for yourself just how awesome this system really is.
  • jim2345jim2345 Posts: 40
    Thanks for posting back so soon. In your circles without VDC turned on, it sounds like the front wheels never lost traction and rear end was wagging a little. This is what happens with FWD until the front wheels suddenly let go, creating the understeer situation I described - but this never happened to you. Does that sound right?

    The 5-speed automatics (turbos and 6-cyl) have yet another AWD system with a planetary gear and variable transfer clutch in the center differential. This is the one which normally splits torque 45/55 front to rear (confused? - me too!).

    - Jim
  • Exactly, with VDC off the rear end was the one to lose traction first which is something I wanted anyway.
    I never lost traction on the front end with VDC off.

    After driving FWD Cars for so many Years I really like the traction but hate the fact that in a power or torque spin situation you lose control of steering.
    I'd rather lose it in the rear end and keep the ability to steer.
    This is the one thing about FWD that makes it so dangerous, especially if you're not prepared for it.
    I've seen so many accidents out on the road over the Years where the only reason the car wrecked was due to the loss of steering due to a loss of traction in the front Wheels due to the fact it was a FWD Car.

    In my research of AWD Cars I found that Subaru had changed the power distribution on the 08 Outback and the Person doing the article made mention of the fact that the Car would lose traction in the rear and made it sound like a bad thing, he must not be familiar with defensive driving techniques or basic physics because in the mind of this 22+ Year veteran of driving every conceivable combination of Vehicle, this effect is what's desirable, not a bad thing.

    I'd have to say if you really don't want the VDC then save your money and go with an 08 because right now you can get one heck of a deal on one where as the 09's price Tag isn't as negotiable. Basically, With the VDC turned off on the 09, you're driving an 08.
    They where offering VDC as an option on late 08 models but it's pretty pricey and this late in the season with the 09's out I seriously doubt you can custom order an 08 anymore.

    I wrote a Blog about my Car:

    This should give you some more insight on why I went with the 09 and help with some other info.

    It's funny because I really concentrated my research on Outbacks but never knew Subaru had so may different versions of their AWD system.
    I'd say a 45/55 split would be good on something like the Tribeca because of the Weight distribution but like I said before, anyone who knows what's going on and understands Vehicle dynamics wants the Rear end to be the first to go, not the other way around.
    That's why in Rally racing and drifting the most important Tool in the Car is the emergency Brake, especially on an AWD Vehicle.
    This stuff can be very confusing but there is a method to Subaru's madness; Somewhere... ;)

    It's funny how these so called educated reviewers, and I'm not slamming them, they really know allot more than I do about automotive technology.
    But they're so deep into the Numbers and technical crap they forget and lose sight of the simplest things, like what makes a Car safer to handle.
    I've read so many articles where they tout the 08 Outbacks lose rear end like it's something bad when in fact it's exactly what Subaru was shooting for... :shades:
  • jim2345jim2345 Posts: 40
    Hi again Ranger,

    I think you're comments are right on and I believe the engineers did a good job at Subaru with AWD. My only problem remains the tires. I'm going to do what I can to get the dealer to do something about them before we have a deal - we'll see . .

    Thanks for your replies.

    - Jim
  • The Tires where a bit of a concern because I just don't like Bridgestone.
    I purchased a set of Potenza's Years ago for a 90 Ford Escort GT and they where so bad I took the Car back to Pep Boys and had them replaced with BF Goodrich.
    Thank God they had a 30 Day test drive deal because they really sucked in the Snow when I lived in Utah.
    These new Tires look like they have a better Tread design and they seem to have good grip.
    Like I said before, if they don't perform well in the first Snow they won't be on there to see the second and I'll let everyone know it.
  • noey8noey8 Posts: 16
    (Regarding AWD torque splits with manual or auto tranny)

    I'm from Canada and I was just researching the Subaru Canada site. Hit the link and scroll down to the transmission section...

    2009 Forester: - WebSiteID=282

    2009 Outback: - ebSiteID=282

    The info for the 4EAT in the Forester shows a 60/40 spit in normal conditions changing to 50/50 as conditions warrant (also I hear 50/50 spit if gear selector is placed in 1st and 2nd).

    The info for the 4EAT in the Outback (we know the 5EAT used in the XT Ltd. or the 3.0R Ltd. has the VTD AWD 45/55 split) is not explained on the link but I think it's safe to assume that the AWD is the same as the Forester.

    The auto trannies are apparently very advanced such that with all the various sensors working with the computer, it is constantly varying the torque splits depending what the vehicle is doing (slowing down in a turn, up hill climb, stopping, wide open throttle, swirving, etc) making it a proactive system.

    We all know the 5 speed manual is a 50/50 split with the centre viscous coupling diff making it a reactive sysytem.

    Lastly, I don't think Canada gets a different type of AWD system than USA with the 4EAT right?
  • noey8noey8 Posts: 16
    (RE: winter tires)

    Nothing is safer than running 4 true winter tires when the temperature falls below freezing. For the past 8 years I have been using the Nokian Hakkapeliitta (from Finland) family of winter tires. Currently I use the Nokian Hakkapeliitta "2" tire mounted on separate steel wheels (save the nice alloys from the road salt and possible curb ding) and they are awesome in deep snow, hard packed snow, and ice. I have no affiliation with Nokian, just a happy customer.

    I saw a report on my local news last winter where some manufacturers were claiming that their tires were true winters when in fact they were not. They say if the price is too cheap chances are "you get what you pay for". Safety is top priorty, no doubt, and a set of good winter tires are a small investment for that. Look for the mountain with the snowflake emblem on the sidewall to distinguish that it is a severe sevice winter tire, not just M+S.

  • jim2345jim2345 Posts: 40
    Hi Noey,

    I don't think Canada and the US have different AWD systems but the info you cite is for the Forester; I could find no description of the torque split in the link you provided for the Outback. I have a link with fresh info for the 2009 Outback - please take a look:

    Thanks for your reply.

    - Jim
  • Those are great sites and why after my research I decided on the 09 Outback 2.5i Ltd.
    I guess I got the 60/40 split mixed up with a Forester Data Sheet I'd been reading but with the 09 Outback you are correct, the power split changes depending on what the sensors are telling the Computer but for average dry road conditions it's 90/10 which I think is why it gets such good Gas Millage in optimum conditions.

    Another reason I went with the Ltd is the limited slip rear end, another big plus in 4X4 setups as well as high performance Cars.
    Even with all this technology, the Car is only going to perform well if the Tires are matched to what driving conditions you'll be setting it up for.
    I had a 96 Thunderbird with a limited slip Diff and loved the Car, untill the Snow came.
    With those "All Season" Good Years it was a disaster. I put 400Lbs of Sand in the Trunk and it still would just spin the Wheels, until I got Studded Snow Tires.
    After that I could go anywhere.
    That Year Kentucky had it's worst Snow storm in Years and with 2' of Snow on the Ground that Thunderbird never got stuck. (Yes, I took the Sand out) :P

    I'd say the 09 Outback with the limited slip Diff, VDC and right set of Tires will be hard to beat in any weather or Road condition, just don't expect to go up a Muddy Trail on the stock Bridgestone Tires.

    The best all Season Tires I ever had where made by Firestone, the Blizzak all season was actually a Snow Tire that was designed to wear down to an all season Tire after the Winter Months.
    They are very expensive but if I still lived in a Wintry Climate I'd have them because they are that good.
    I had a set of them on a 93 Ford Probe GT. I had to because the Good Year Tires that came on it where worthless in the Snow.
    I had an 80Mi commute once a Week and I had to be there, no excuses.
    When I was younger I wanted sporty, not Jeepy.
    With the Blizzak's on that Probe I was a little 4 Wheel Snowmobile.

    If anyone reading this has ever put a set of Blizzak's on a Subaru I'd love to hear how it went.
    If I was living farther North I'd get a set for my Outback but I just can't justify the expense because they are expensive and, because of the design, they wear down fast in warm weather and dry conditions.
    If you check them out, get ready for some serious Sticker shock.
    Noey's idea of having a complete separate set is a very good idea, that's what I did on my Probe.
  • I think everyone's getting VDC (Vehicle Dynamics Control) confused with TCS (Traction Control System)
    I had a Saturn with TCS and have been driving my 09 Outback with VDC for a little while now and I can tell you there's a huge difference in the 2 systems.

    When the Wheels start spinning on a Vehicle equipped with TCS, the Computer cuts the Throttle to stop the spinning.

    When the Wheels start to spin on a Vehicle equipped with VDC, the Computer applies the Brakes to the Wheel that's spinning and only cuts the Throttle when it can no longer control Wheel spin witht he Brakes.

    When it would get seriously slick out, I'd have to turn off the TCS on the Saturn because of what your Friend went through.
    The Saturn would just die on me when the Wheels would spin and it almost got me in a couple of accidents.
    (Thank God There's an off Switch)

    If you read my Blog:

    I took my Outback to a Parking Lot where sealant had been sprayed and it was raining.
    This system reacts VERY differently than TCS on very slick Pavement.
    It has to be the most intuitive system I've ever seen or experienced on a Car.
    Now if you're trying to traverse Icy Roads with either bad Tires or Tires not recommended for Winter driving then you're going to drive the VDC crazy trying to keep your Car under control.

    I think the only other 2 manufacturers that come close to this system is Mercedes and Audi and it's based on the system they use on their La'mans Race Cars.
    (Not to mention they cost around $80k)
This discussion has been closed.