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2009 Outback - AWD systems

jim2345jim2345 Member Posts: 45
edited April 2014 in Subaru
I have heard that all new Outbacks for 2009 will feature VDC (traction/stability control) as standard equipment. I'm wondering if this will make a difference to the AWD systems offered - does anyone know?

I have read that for 2008 and earlier, manual transmission models were mated to a "continuous AWD" system in which torque is normally distributed 50/50 (front/rear) through a viscous center differential that changes this distribution if slipping occurs. This appears to be a purely mechanical system without electronic controls.

In contrast, automatic transmissions were mated to an "active AWD" system which is essentially a front-wheel drive system since the torque is normally distributed 90/10 (front/rear). An electronically controlled transfer clutch then changes this ratio depending on feedback from electronic sensors that monitor wheel slippage, braking, throttle, and who knows what all else?

It sounds like the sensors used for "active AWD" may be the same as those used for VDC. So I'm wondering if I can still get a manual transmission with "continuous AWD" for 2009. It seems more likely that placing sensors everywhere for VDC would enable "active AWD" on all models.

The official Subaru websites don't have any product info out there yet for the 2009 Outbacks so I can't find out. Does anyone know??


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    jim2345jim2345 Member Posts: 45
    I just got an email reply from Subaru customer service, so I can answer my own question. They say that for 2009, the 2.5i Outbacks with manual transmission will still have the same "continuous AWD" system as before - even though they now have VDC as standard equipment.
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    ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    The reason for the confusion is that the early "VDC Outback" as they called it came with VTD AWD, so VDC sort of became synonymous with that AWD system.

    Later, VDC was used as a seperate label for their traction and stability control system only. So it's now stand-alone, basically.
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    jim2345jim2345 Member Posts: 45
    In my earlier post I described what I had just discovered by reading the 2008 Subaru Outback product info - that the manual and automatic transmissions are mated to entirely different AWD systems. The manual transmission comes with a "continuous AWD" system that normally splits torque 50/50 front/rear. A viscous center differential will adjust this split should slipping occur. This appears to be a purely mechanical system without electronic controls. The automatics are mated to an "active AWD" system in which torque is normally split 90/10 front/rear. A variable transfer clutch adjusts this split based on feedback from electronic sensors that measure wheel slippage, braking, steering, etc, etc.

    Now that Subaru has confirmed that the same AWD systems will be offered for 2009 in the 2.5i Outbacks, I have a choice to make and would like some help from people who know something about these AWD systems.

    I feel I need AWD because my 200 foot driveway is steep and anything more than an inch of snow keeps my wife's FWD Sable at the bottom (sometimes she slips backwards toward the street and gets stuck sideways). I am also a skier and do most of my driving in the winter months up in the mountains in NH. I drive in snow a lot - both on highways and winding mountain access roads. I don't go off-road (on purpose).

    I like a manual transmission for performance reasons and for driving fun (not to mention it will cost $1000 less than the automatic). But what about this difference in AWD systems? Does anyone have an opinion about which will work better for my needs?
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    ratbert1ratbert1 Member Posts: 72
    I much prefer the 50/50 manual system. It's a subtle difference and probably not noticeable for normal driving, but I find better control with the 50/50 split. I have a 300 foot steep driveway that slopes away from the sun and in my mother's 90/10 I can feel the front wheels spin and the rear wheels engage. I don't like that, and by then you're already losing momentum. Also, I like to have fun in the snow. With the 50/50 I enjoy my driving so much more. I have a better feel for how far I can push the car. The 90/10 feels more like a FWD, especially when turning and the wheels begin to slip, but then the rear wheels engage.

    I'm sure other opinions will differ. In the end, either AWD system will far outperform a FWD Sable.
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    ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    I had a 5 speed 98 Forester and it was great in the snow. If you break traction you're probably playing around and did it intentionally.

    I would take turns and hit the gas, and the rear end would break loose, rally style. The AWD should shift power to the front and it would pull me out of the skid.

    If I did it juuuuuust right, I would get it to wag the tail 2 or 3 times.

    Very controllable, very safe.

    Towards the end I had snow tires on for a season, and it was virtually unstoppable.

    We have an 09 automatic now, but haven't had snow yet.
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    jim2345jim2345 Member Posts: 45
    Thanks for that reply which is a complete bulls-eye!

    What you said about losing momentum is right on. Momentum is everything for making it up my snow covered driveway. Also, from your description, it sounds like you can feel the system working on the "active" AWD system. It would drive me nuts to have the car constantly exceeding the limit of FWD adhesion before the system clunks in. I don't need any more white-knuckle thrill rides on snowy roads.

    I'm going to get the manual so I can have a better snow-beast, have more fun driving, and save $1000. Thanks again!!
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    xwesxxwesx Member Posts: 16,833
    Hey, Jim. I have somewhat of a unique perspective, in that I owned both a manual (07) and automatic (08) Outback from this generation. I enjoyed them both very much.

    Also, I live in Fairbanks, Alaska, so snow and ice is the rule for a solid 6 months per year. My driveway is about 50' of steep (maybe 10-12% grade?), before leveling out.

    While I never noticed the "lag" or "momentum loss" that was cited here with the automatic, it certainly lacked some of the fun-factor of the manual. The auto wins hands down in dealing with deep snow at slow (or no) speeds. The manual transmission's clutch is grabby, so getting it started under high resistance, low traction conditions either spins the tires or results in a nice odor. ;) Granted, it was new, so it probably would have mellowed out with some more use.

    But, which did I prefer? The manual - no contest. I enjoyed it for all the reasons cited by the rest of you. In winter conditions, though, I tossed the auto around just as easily and precisely as the manual. You will not regret your choice of manual if that is your natural preference, but that is the only reason that makes it the clear winner. :shades:

    In case you are wondering why I had both, I purchased the manual as a personal, long-term car (life had other plans), and the auto as a short-term investment (easier to resell and better resale value).
    2018 Subaru Crosstrek, 2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2013 Subaru Forester, 1969 Chevrolet C20, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250
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    jim2345jim2345 Member Posts: 45
    Thanks Wes(?),

    So you're basically saying the choice of AWD system doesn't matter - both are fine in the snow. More important to get the kind of transmission I prefer - right? This keeps me in the manual transmission camp.

    But I need to ask you - did either of your Outbacks have VDC? This could explain the difference between your experience and ratbert's. And of course, all the new Outbacks will have VDC - which I'm not completely sure I'm ready for.

    I was talking to a friend this morning who told me about a guy in Michigan he knows who had a BMW sport wagon (3-series) with BMW's X-drive. I think this system is similar to an outback with VDC. He said this guy was on a side street stopped at the intersection with a main truck route. It was snowing and he thought he could scoot out in front of an 18-wheeler that was far enough down the road but coming on pretty fast. When he stepped on the gas to get out and get going, his wheels began to spin. The next thing that happened was that the sophisticated X-drive system took over the controls, braking the spinning wheels and ignoring his repeated stomping of the accelerator pedal to accelerate out of there. He had just enough momentum to limp strainght across the intersection before the trruck (which couldn't stop) missed him by a foot or so. . .
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    ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    You almost have to let off the throttle and regain traction before hitting the gas again.

    My Sienna has an instrusive traction control system and my van struggled to get up my driveway with just 2" of snow. It got through eventually, but I may turn it off next time.
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    xwesxxwesx Member Posts: 16,833
    So you're basically saying the choice of AWD system doesn't matter - both are fine in the snow. More important to get the kind of transmission I prefer - right? This keeps me in the manual transmission camp.

    Yes, that is what I am saying.

    As for the VDC, no, neither had it, as in 07 an H6 was necessary to obtain VDC and in 08, a Limited. I do not prefer an invasive traction control system, because I know how to drive in adverse weather conditions and very much enjoy it. ;)

    I do not think VDC standard on all models will deter me from buying another Subaru, but I sure hope it is a feature with a toggle switch (like on AJ's van!).
    2018 Subaru Crosstrek, 2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2013 Subaru Forester, 1969 Chevrolet C20, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250
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    krzysskrzyss Member Posts: 849
    The guy with BMW saved money in wrong spot. Winter tires could have help but "scooting" when snowing is not very clever thing to do.
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    jim2345jim2345 Member Posts: 45
    No, scooting is not smart. My point is that having VDC probably means changing the way you drive. You always have to have in the back of your mind that the vehicle controls can be taken away from you at any time. . .
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    cptpltcptplt Member Posts: 1,075
    >I do not think VDC standard on all models will deter me from buying another Subaru, but I sure hope it is a feature with a toggle switch (like on AJ's van!).

    There is an off button on my 2.5 08, I think except for the first year or so when the VDC 3.0 standalone first came out, there has been an off button for the VDC.
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    jim2345jim2345 Member Posts: 45
    Thanks Dennis,

    That's good news for people like me who are unsure about using VDC. I was able to confirm yesterday that the 2009's will also have an on/off switch on the dash - whew!

    Maybe people like you who have VDC have some opinions about whether to use it all the time or to be selective - and if so, when do they use it?

    I think that I will leave it on most of the time but turn it off when road conditions are obviously bad and require extra care. I prefer not to give up control under these conditions and rely on my own skill from years of experience driving in snow. At these times I'm already driving cautiously and feel I only need VDC when apparently good conditions present a surprise I would not otherwise be ready for.

    How do others with VDC feel about this and how do you use it?
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    cptpltcptplt Member Posts: 1,075
    I leave it on all the time, I have VDC on my OB, also a Tribeca and Sienna, I also use snowtires in winter and to be honest I don't recall ever seeing the VDC kick in when I'm driving those vehicles in snow but my wife drives the Sienna primarily and my in law the Tribeca and I don't drive their cars like my WRX so I'm not really pushing the traction to the limit on them! I think I've made the traction control on the Sienna kick in , I don't think its the stability control itself as it was in a straight line but its the same light going off on the dash. When the weather is bad, my high schoolers drive the OB which makes me breath a lot easier and is much better for my blood pressure. Is the VDC "worth " it for me, dunno. Is it good for my familys safety, probably.
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    ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    Yeah, the van has an off switch but I hear it just increases the threshold.

    When it snows I'm taking the wife's Forester, so no thanks! ;)
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    thallbergthallberg Member Posts: 18
    I like a manual transmission for performance reasons and for driving fun (not to mention it will cost $1000 less than the automatic). But what about this difference in AWD systems? Does anyone have an opinion about which will work better for my needs? I've had 3 OB's, all auto, a 96 wagon, 99 SUS, and currently a 03 VDC wagon.
    In deep snow, the VDC never really kicked in.
    In loose gravel and wet roads it will engage momentarily.
    Where I notice the greatest difference is on ice packed roads, especially while turning or going up an upgrade. The first time it kicked in I was turning on an icy road and had the eerie feeling that the engine had died. The car pulled through the icy turn, slower, but with no loss of traction. The Grand Cherokee that was tailgating me at the time ended up in the ditch.
    On the models I have owned without the VDC, there would always be some traction loss, but overall would perform well.
    Sometimes, though, I think I would like a manual OB, especially when descending icy streets which require a stop at the end. I would like to downshift to slow the vehicle.
    All my cars were shod with all-season radials, not snows.
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    jim2345jim2345 Member Posts: 45
    Thanks for the reply; I appreciate hearing about your experience.

    When you talked about descending icy streets, you really got my attention because this is something I have to do a lot. And it's at times like these that you really want to stay off the brakes. At the end of every ski day, I have to come down the winding mountain roads - often just after or during a flurry where the road surface has gotten covered and then packed by the traffic coming off the mountain. But doesn't your 2003 Outback have a shiftable automatic or does this not work as effectively as a manual transmission in slowing you down on steep down grades?

    Please reply as engine braking on a steep slope is something I probably cannot determine very well when I take out an automatic for a test drive. Thanks.
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    thallbergthallberg Member Posts: 18
    When descending a slippery slope I do down shift with the 2003 VDC, and it does do a good job of slowing the car without skidding, but engagement seems a bit slow.
    What I have noticed with the AWD manual is the feeling of being more in control by "playing" the clutch and the brake, if you know what I mean. Probably isn't good on the clutch, but sliding into a busy intersection could be worse.
    Most of my driving is urban and highway, and the VDC is great for that.
    If I had a lot of twisting mountain roads, I'd be inclined toward the manual.
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    xwesxxwesx Member Posts: 16,833
    Well, the weak link with either transmission is the tires. They only have so much traction, so if they lose it (whether it be engine braking or discs braking), they lose it. I found the 07 manual I owned to be more effective at engine braking than my '96 (which was an auto), but probably just because the first gear was a bit lower of a ratio than the 4-speed auto. For my '08 auto, it was more cumbersome to put into specific gears because it only does so in the "manumatic" mode, but it was effective at engine braking, and held gears to red-line before automatically shifting to the next gear, so you would not have to worry about it shifting without your input. One thing is for certain - ditch the OEM tires, especially if you plan to use all-seasons rather than dedicated winter tires.

    The only place I can think that the auto might make a drastic difference is with emergency maneuvers when immediate responsiveness is needed. If the manual driver is not perfectly in tune with the car, it may not be in the right gear at the right time (or even running, if the driver let the engine stall out) to avoid disaster. But, that is a driver consideration.... ;)
    2018 Subaru Crosstrek, 2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2013 Subaru Forester, 1969 Chevrolet C20, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250
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    jim2345jim2345 Member Posts: 45

    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 . . .
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    jim2345jim2345 Member Posts: 45
    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)?
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    xwesxxwesx Member Posts: 16,833
    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. ;)
    2018 Subaru Crosstrek, 2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2013 Subaru Forester, 1969 Chevrolet C20, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250
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    jim2345jim2345 Member Posts: 45
    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.
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    krzysskrzyss Member Posts: 849
    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.

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    jim2345jim2345 Member Posts: 45
    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
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    xwesxxwesx Member Posts: 16,833
    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.
    2018 Subaru Crosstrek, 2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2013 Subaru Forester, 1969 Chevrolet C20, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250
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    paisanpaisan Member Posts: 21,181
    I've heard that some of the 09s are getting Yokos? Vaguely remember hearing that.

    Motorsports and Modifications Host
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    kentuckyrangerkentuckyranger Member Posts: 41
    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.
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    jim2345jim2345 Member Posts: 45
    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
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    kentuckyrangerkentuckyranger Member Posts: 41
    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.
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    jim2345jim2345 Member Posts: 45
    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
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    kentuckyrangerkentuckyranger Member Posts: 41
    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:
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    jim2345jim2345 Member Posts: 45
    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
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    kentuckyrangerkentuckyranger Member Posts: 41
    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.
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    noey8noey8 Member 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:
    http://www.subaru.ca/WebPage.aspx?WebPageID=10918&Range=Forester&ModelYear=2009&- - WebSiteID=282

    2009 Outback:
    http://www.subaru.ca/WebPage.aspx?WebPageID=10996&Range=Outback&ModelYear=2009&W- - 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?
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    noey8noey8 Member 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.

    See: http://www.svtoa-toronto.ca/publications/articles/wintertires.html
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    jim2345jim2345 Member Posts: 45
    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
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    kentuckyrangerkentuckyranger Member Posts: 41
    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.
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    kentuckyrangerkentuckyranger Member Posts: 41
    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)
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    leo2633leo2633 Member Posts: 589
    I have a 2001 Forester and my wife has a 2003 Outback. Both have the 5 speed manual trans and the limited slip rear differential. I have a set of Blizzak WS50s on steel wheels for both cars, and usually mount them around mid-end December and run them until around mid-late March. We've gone through some pretty good snow storms with both cars with the Blizzaks. I am extremely impressed with them.

    Along with Subaru's AWD, the Blizzaks have made the cars feel pretty much unstoppable in snow. Virtually no wheel spin when starting out from a stop, no sliding around turns and no problems braking or steering. As a matter of fact, I can't recall the ABS ever kicking in while driving in snow. I've owned conventional 4 wheel drive trucks, and the Subarus have worked better in snow, for me, than any of them.

    My wife and I have been driving for many years, and we both drive pretty conservatively, especially in inclement weather. We live in south-central New Jersey, and we usually get at least one good storm per winter, and several lesser storms (though last year we got almost nothing).

    If you're looking for a dedicated winter tire, I highly recommend the Blizzak WS50.

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    kentuckyrangerkentuckyranger Member Posts: 41
    As good as the Blizzak's worked on my Probe I knew they had to be awesome on a Subaru.
    I remember when I used to run into California over Donner pass, when the Chain laws where in effect they would only allow Vehicles with Blizzak and very few other Tires to proceed without Chaining up.
    They call Tires like that Chain rated or something like that.

    I'd say a Subaru with Blizzacks would be in stoppable in the Snow.
    Thanks for the reply.
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    jim2345jim2345 Member Posts: 45
    Hi Noey,

    I found some more info you may be interested in. It appears neither you nor I were exactly right about the torque split on the 4-speed automatics with VDC. There is another forum - "4WD & AWD systems explained" that goes on and on and on and on, but post #1134 appears to be the definitive answer from Subaru of America.

    It basically says there is no default split on these transmissions as there is on the others. It's continuously variable from 90/10 to 50/50 depending on sensor input.

    - Jim
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    noey8noey8 Member Posts: 16
    Hey Jim,

    Thanks for the heads up. Just wondering, will you get the manual or the auto tranny? I don't currently drive nor have ever owned a Subaru but I'll be in the market for an Outback down the road. I test drove a used Legacy wagon (4EAT) and 1st generation Forester (manual) sometime back during the winter season to see what these Subies were all about. I was truly impressed with both units. From what I've heard with the latest Subies is that the AWD in the manual is very good while the AWD in the auto is better.
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    jim2345jim2345 Member Posts: 45
    Hi Noey,

    I'm really no expert. All I know is what I have read and you should know that I have been driving Jeeps for 20 years. But on paper, the Outback looks like the perfect replacement for me so I've been doing my homework and I really want one because I'm ready to "downsize". In part it's for the fuel economy but also I no longer have a trailer to pull so I don't need the big engine. I never go off road (on purpose) and really just need something that will keep me on the roads in winter, when I do most of my driving. I'm up in the mountains skiing every chance I get - at least twice a week. And my driveway is long and steep, so anytime I'm out and it snows, I run the risk of not making it back up. This happens to my wife all the time and about every other winter, she gets her FWD Sable stuck sideways on our driveway when she loses traction halfway up and slips back toward the street. I've solved these problems for 20 years by keeping the driveway cleared for my wife and buying Jeeps for me, but it's really overkill.

    I'm ready for something more car-like but I hate bending my knees and back at the same time to "crumple" myself into my wife's Sable. My jeep fits me just right - I can stand up straight along side it and slide my butt sideways onto the seat - don't have to bend anything to get in! I'm expecting the Outback, with the same ground clearance as my Jeep to be pretty much the same - maybe just duck my head a little.

    But to answer your question about transmissions, I'm leaning towards the automatic so my wife can also use it once in a while - maybe it will even become hers one day. So when I go to the dealer this month for a test drive I plan to drive both. I'm not expecting the test drives will show any big difference in traction so it's going to come down to one thing - is the automatic powerful enough? I read somewhere (Edmunds?) that the 4-cylinder auto is a real snooze - but's that's OK with me as long as it's not dangerously underpowered. I plan to give the sportshift feature a workout to be sure of this.

    The other big deal for me (and if you've read my other posts in this forum you must know) is the tires. I just don't want to leave the dealership with those Potenzas still on. I hope I can work something out with them on tires.

    - Jim
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    kentuckyrangerkentuckyranger Member Posts: 41
    Hey Jim.
    As to the 09 Outback's ease at getting in and out I'm 6'0'' and it's very easy to get in and out of.
    I injured my Back in 06 and this was a very important thing for me.
    It's very easy and in fact I find I'm stepping down just a little, not too much, to get out.
    I had an 06 Kia Spectra5 and it was really hard for me to have to lift myself up out of the Car and getting in was a chore as well with my Back and Leg pain.
    The 09 Outback is perfect for me.

    As to the 2.5i Engine not having any performance I thing the reviewers are trying to compare this 4 Cylinder with a V 6 or something.
    For a 4 Cylinder Engine it's very responsive and has plenty of power.
    Granted, you're not going to burn the Tires off the Rims or beat a Honda S 2000 in the 1/4 Mile, but that's not what this Car was made for.
    Yes, the AWD takes some of the Power away but it's not that bad.
    In fact, I have a very secure sense of control with this Car when taking off from a standing stop.
    So far merging onto the Interstate, passing etc isn't a problem at all.
    Now if you want pep and bragging rights, go for the Turbo Charged version.
    It costs allot more and you can only get it with the standard Tranny but hey, it's a sports version. :shades:

    Like I had said before, the Potenzas seem to have allot better traction than the miserable Set I had purchased Years ago for my Ford Escort GT so I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt and I'll see if they've changed for the better.
    The owners Manual packet came with a Good Year and Yokohama Warranty Brochure inside, as well as Bridgestone so I'm sure some dealers spec them with these Tires or they wouldn't have been in there.

    If you want your Wife to climb up your Driveway like a Tank then look into getting a set of Firestone Blizzak Tires.
    I guarantee she won't slip and slide anymore.
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    jim2345jim2345 Member Posts: 45
    Thanks Ranger.

    The Blizzaks are near the top of my list - not too expensive, either. By the way,
    I checked out your website. Good job!

    - Jim
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    ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    The real problem is that at first Subaru used "VDC" to descrive a model. When it came out, 2002 IIRC, they called the H6 Outback the "Outback VDC".

    Today VDC means traction + stability control, but a while back it was synonymous with that model.
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    jim2345jim2345 Member Posts: 45
    I just want to thank everyone who replied to my posts about AWD systems and the OEM tires on Outbacks. I have heard from a lot of people who say these tires are terrible and that they have either switched over to a decent set of all-season tires or are using dedicated snow tires in winter and switch over twice a year.

    I've been to the dealer and drove both an automatic and a manual. The manual was a blast but the automatic I thought was underpowered. As for the tires, they claim to have never heard a bad word about them and (of course) there is nothing they can do about upgrading/replacing them. I asked about the pictures in the brochure and the TV advertising and they said all of this is possible with the Potenzas - they think they're really good all-season tires.

    I would probably buy the manual because of the fun factor and because I thought the automatic was too lame, but I didn't because I was very troubled that my wife will never drive it and then there's the tire issue. I will need to replace them right away or I won't be getting back up my driveway this winter. So I left without even asking for a trade-in appraisal.

    Across the street from the Subaru dealer is a Jeep dealer. I stopped in and got a great trade. I just bought a new (2008) Grand Cherokee Laredo 4x4 (MSRP over $32,000) for under $20,000. I'm only going to get 17mpg, but my monthly payment is at least $100 less than a Subaru comparably equipped. Bottom line is that I'll spend more on gas, but far less overall each month. The big plus is that I have the vehicle that will get me where I need to go in winter - no question, no worries. So what it handles like a brick - I've already been driving them for 20 years.

    I won't be posting here anymore and I'll bet a lot of you will be glad I won't be ranting about the Potenzas any more. Thanks again for your interest.

    - Jim
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    ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    They really are giving those away. Wow. That was a $26 grand vehicle a couple of years ago.

    Just beware of resale value. Or even finding a buyer, at any price, for it used.
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