Subaru AWD vs. Honda VTM-4

imaginaryimaginary Member Posts: 62
So I'm comparing the Subaru AWD system found in the 2004 Subaru Forester XT to the VTM-4 system found in the 2003-04 Honda Pilot.

I'm curious what differences there are in terms of light off-roading (no rock climing) and pavement driving in severe weather conditions. I guess the first thing I would say is that one is AWD and the other is 4WD (or 4x4?).

Apparently the Honda Pilot for 2003-04 model year has traction control. Does it really have "traction control" or is that just websites claiming the Honda Pilot has traction control since technically that is the case because of how the VTM-4 system works. From what I've read, supposedly the Honda Pilot is FWD until it senses wheel slippage and then will transfer torque to the rear wheels. So basically it is 100:0 front to rear to 30:70?

How does the Subaru AWD system (auto trans) for the 2004 model year compare to the Honda Pilot?


  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    edited December 2010
    Back in '04 Subaru actually used VTD AWD (Variable Torque Distribution) for that model, so it's among the best.

    The biggest difference is that's it's truly full-time, both axles get power all the time. Default is 45/55 I believe, so it actually sends more than half the power to the rear axle, vs. VTM being FWD until slippage.

    For me VTD > VTM-4 by a wide margin.

    VTM-4 is closer to the Auto AWD Subaru uses on the base/automatic models (90/10 default split), but even then Subaru's is full-time and VTM is not.

    I rank it this way:

    Subaru VTD > Subaru VC > Subaru auto AWD > VTM-4

    VC=viscous coupling on MT5 models, split 50/50.
  • rshollandrsholland Member Posts: 19,788
    edited December 2010
    Actually all AWD systems are 4WD (despite what Honda's marketing department says). Yes, there are different types of 4WD/AWD, but for all intents and purposes Honda's RealTime 4WD is just another AWD system.

    The big difference is that all Subaru AWDs are full-time units, whereas the Honda's is an on-demand unit. The Honda is actually FWD until slippage occurs. Also, in the case of the Pilot (and Ridgeline, not sure about the CRV?), all 4 wheels do engage any time power is applied. So pulling away front a stop light, or when accelerating, the vehicle is in AWD mode. Once in cruising or coasting mode, it reverts to FWD; not so with Subarus.

  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    CR-V's RT4WD is FWD until slippage, then the rear axle is engaged.

    Bob - VTM-4 disengages the rear axle completely above 29mph (IIRC, not sure about the exact speed), then it is 100% FWD.
  • rshollandrsholland Member Posts: 19,788
    edited December 2010
    Yeah, that too.

    One other thing: Not all AWDs/4WDs are equal. If you recall looking at those roller videos, Subaru does a better job of transferring power to all the wheels, as some of those so-called AWD vehicles couldn't make it up the roller incline.

  • imaginaryimaginary Member Posts: 62
    But the CR-V's AWD system is different from the Pilot's AWD system. And yes, I've seen the roller videos. How unfortunate; I had higher hopes for Toyota and Honda back then. But that's ancient history.

    I'm not trying to belittle Subaru's fantastic AWD system but you know I would love VDC if not VTD as well on the model year '04 and up. And I'm not sure if has it incorrectly but VTD was employed on the Subaru Forester starting in model year 2007 on the XT Sports, not 2004. If it was in the model year 2004, I wouldn't have started this thread and wouldn't have weighed other options besides the 2004 Subaru Forester XT which are in the same price range.

    Traction control is a big plus but I know I'd rather not deal with a failed transmission compared to a head gasket failure, which I have now heard doesn't plague the turbo engines, only the non-turbos for 2000-2003 (and disappears gradually up in the model years for the non-turbos).

    After hearing that the turbos aren't plagued by the head gasket failures and comparing them to the common transmission problems found in the '03-'04 Honda Pilot, it looks like the Subaru Forester XT is starting to look more like the obvious choice.

    But I'm still curious. How would the Honda Pilot perform in terms of off-road and snow? Are websites wrong to say the '03-04 Honda Pilots have traction control?
  • imaginaryimaginary Member Posts: 62
    I've replied to part of your post in my above post. As for VTM-4 in the ranking, how do you come to that conclusion? I know that VTD is a lot better than VDC and VC (starting from 2009 of course) but how did you gauge VTM-4 so low? Even if VTM-4 is reactive, it doesn't really make sense that a computer inside the car can predict when slippage is going to occur. So from that, other AWD systems are just as reactive. It's just going to depend on how quick they can reactive given the torque split, at least from my thinking I'm assuming that's how it goes.

    Personally I'd rather have the '09 torque split in the '04 Subaru Forester. :< 60:40 to 50:50 seems so much more better for traction anytime, anywhere even if it is VDC and not VTD. Of course I wouldn't mind VTD either instead of VDC. Traction control, to say the least, would be very nice in the '04 Subaru Forester XT.
  • rshollandrsholland Member Posts: 19,788
    I'm sure it will handle snow fine. Light off-roading will also be fine. Neither the Pilot/CRV/Ridgeline, or any current North American-spec Subaru offers a low-range transfer case for more difficult off-roading. You can lock the Pilot/Ridgeline into 4WD in 1st and 2nd gear, as AJ mentioned; but it will disengage at or around 29 mph.

  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    I stand corrected on the model year, they've had so many different systems that it's hard to keep track. That generation Forester went from 2003-2008 and I assumed it was consistent for that time period, but I guess not.

    They say when you get old two things happen: you lose your memory, and the other thing I forget!

    The reason I ranked VTM-4 lower is because it's not full-time, and the other systems are. I realize it's better than RT4WD, though.

    Subaru was late to the party with traction control, but prior models (S from 2000+ and XS later) had a rear limited-slip, at least.
  • apetollaapetolla Member Posts: 1
    I've driven Chevy Astro AWD's for many years. The AWD works great. Goes FAR better in deep snow that any 4 wheel pickup I've had. My question is , would the Subaru get better mpg if it had a AWD-on-demand rather than full time AWD? And limited slip differential is a must. Does the Subaru have it? I live in heavy snow mountains in Idaho.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    Most new Subarus have open diffs and allow the VDC (traction and stability control) manage traction on each axle. A few models still have mechanical limited slips, though.

    I don't think part-time AWD would increase mileage much because the half shafts turn with the wheels anyway (I doubt the hubs disengage).
  • harginhargin Member Posts: 1
    I own a 2005 Forester and a2010 Pilot. Under adverse weather conditions like snow and ice the forester gets around far better than the pilot. The AWD system of the forester works great. The Pilot is like driving a big sled that cannot handle slick or snowy hills. Where as the forester handles the same conditions with ease. When the going gets tuff, get a Subaru.
  • hangfirew8hangfirew8 Member Posts: 1
    This link has an excellent explanation of the original Pilot VTM-4 (also used in the Ridgeline). Not every Pilot had VSA.
    From the article: "The maximum torque delivered to the rear wheels allows the Ridgeline to claw up a 28-degree (53-percent slope) dirt grade. " That does NOT describe a "90/10" system. The center locking differential can lock to 100% as can either or both sides of the rear diff (which is not really a differential at all, if you read the article).

    I have a Pilot and can tell you, it holds its own against the neighbor's Subarus. The primary difference between the two in snow and ice has to do with the quality and condition of the tires. The OEM Pilot tires for that era were awful. I run Michelin LTX MS/2's which are excellent in snow and OK on ice. To do better one would need a dedicated Winter tire.

  • tdorthtdorth Member Posts: 2
    I've owned a 2003 Pilot now since...well, 2003. So that's 14 years. This thing is amazing in snow and ice and on sand. I've literally driven circles around big tough 4x4's and other AWD vehicles in all conditions. The thing is unstoppable. My favorite moment was yanking a 4x4 Tacoma out of the sand as it dug itself in up to the axles with the Pilot on its original highway tires! Now...I didn't buy this vehicle for this purpose. I bought it way back when the kids were little and we wanted a family wagon that would haul a lot of stuff. Well, since then...we just kept it. Now, one kid is out of college, and the younger is still in college. That's another way of saying my discretionary income all goes to higher education and not to my vehicles. So, the trusty Honda continues in the stable..unperturbed by snow, ice, sand, or mud...or hauling my daughter and her friends to college with all of their stuff.
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