Subaru celebrates 40th anniversary of all-wheel-drive system

With 40 facts about it
Dec 8, 2012

Subaru AWD

In 1972, the Leone became Subaru's first model to be equipped with its now-famous all-wheel-drive system. Though the system was first offered as an option for the Leone compact wagon, it was subsequently rolled out across the Japanese carmaker's entire range.

Today, save for the rear-wheel drive BRZ and a few entry-level Japanese Domestic Market models, Subaru's permanent symmetrical all-wheel-drive system comes as standard with almost all Subaru models.

In honor of this milestone, Subaru shares 40 facts about its all-wheel-drive system:

1972: The Subaru Leone becomes the brand's first all-wheel-drive model, as part-time all-wheel drive is introduced to the wagon variant.  The Leone had already been on sale as a coupe and sedan since 1971.

1977: Subaru's all-wheel-drive system is also offered as an option to the Leone sedan.

1978: The Leone-based Subaru BRAT (short for Bi-drive Recreational All-terrain Transporter) is launched as an all-wheel-drive pickup.

1979: The second-generation Leone goes on sale globally, featuring a part-time, dual-range all-wheel-drive system on all models with a manual transmission.

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1980: Subaru's involvement in the World Rally Championship begins as Noriyuki Koseki, founder of Subaru Tecnica International (STI), enters three versions of the Leone in Group A of the 1980 Safari Rally of Africa.

1981: Subaru becomes the first Japanese manufacturer to introduce an automatic transmission to an all-wheel-drive system, in the Leone.

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1983: The world's first four-wheel-drive kei car is launched in the all-wheel-drive Subaru Rex. A turbocharger is made available as an option for the 0.5-liter engine three months later. Throughout its life, the Rex will be badged as the Subaru Mini Jumbo, 600 and 700 in Europe.

1984: The third-generation Leone is launched, available with part-time all-wheel-drive and pneumatic ride height-adjustable suspension.

1985: Permanent all-wheel drive is introduced to the Leone with both manual and automatic transmissions.

1986: Part-time all-wheel drive returns on the third-generation Rex.

1987: The Rex gets an optional full-time all-wheel drive and a rear-axle limited-slip differential for greater traction.

1988: Having been on sale for a year, the Subaru Justy gets its own all-wheel-drive system to help keep owners of the new city car moving in tough conditions.

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1989: The all-new Subaru Legacy is launched, offering all-wheel drive as an option across the model range. The Legacy quickly becomes one of Subaru's most popular vehicles.

1991: The Subaru SVX performance coupe, designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro, is launched. Subaru offers buyers a choice between two all-wheel-drive systems: ACT-4 (active torque split) and VTD (variable torque distribution). ACT-4 models are front-wheel-drive, but can transfer up to 50 percent of the 3.3-liter engine's power to the rear wheels if the front wheels start to slip. VTD models benefit from permanent all-wheel drive, with a 36/64 front/rear torque split.

1992: A watershed moment in Subaru's history as the brand launches the replacement to the Leone: the first-generation Impreza.

1993: Subaru scores its first World Rally Championship victory when Colin McRae wins the Rally of New Zealand with his Legacy. With a Prodrive-developed Impreza waiting in the wings for the 1994 season, this is the last time the Legacy is entered in the WRC.

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1994: The second-generation Legacy is introduced with permanent all-wheel drive standard across the model range.

1994: A new derivative of the Legacy range is launched later in the year in the Outback, featuring permanent all-wheel drive and increased ride height.

1994: The Subaru Impreza, showing early rallying promise, takes its first WRC victory with Carlos Sainz winning the 1994 Acropolis Rally in Greece. Subaru wins twice more during the season and takes second place in the constructors' championship behind Toyota.

1994: Subaru introduces the 'STI' brand to its passenger cars. As upgraded models from the standard WRX derivatives, the STI-badged vehicles feature blueprinted performance-tuned engines, transmissions and suspension setups.

1995: Subaru wins its first WRC constructors' championship with the Impreza, and Colin McRae makes it a double victory by placing first in the drivers' championship.  Subaru goes on to win the constructors' championship three years in a row, from 1995 to 1997.

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1997: The first-generation Subaru Forester is launched, making it one of the world's first crossover SUVs. The Forester's permanent all-wheel-drive system can send up to 50 percent of the engine's torque to the rear wheels, and a raised ride height makes it a highly capable off-roader.

1998: The third-generation Legacy is introduced, again with permanent all-wheel drive as standard.

1998: At the same time as the launch of the latest Legacy, Subaru also introduces a new Outback model--no longer a derivative of the Legacy range but a vehicle in its own right. Permanent all-wheel drive and a raised ride height highlight the Outback's potential to go anywhere.

1999: Subaru UK launches the special-edition Impreza 'RB5', celebrating Richard Burns's return to the Subaru World Rally Team.

2000: Subaru launches the second-generation Impreza, once again with permanent all-wheel drive.

2001: Richard Burns wins the 2001 WRC drivers' championship in the new Impreza.

2003: Subaru shows the B9 Scrambler concept car at the 2003 Tokyo Motor Show.  A futuristic two-seater electric hybrid roadster with all-wheel drive, the Scrambler has a range-extending 2.0-liter boxer engine and self-leveling air suspension.

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2003: Subaru launches the second-generation Forester, following the successful sales of the previous model. 

2003: Subaru driver Petter Solberg wins the WRC drivers' championship in the Impreza.

2003: The fourth-generation Legacy is launched. Already equipped with permanent all-wheel drive, the new Legacy receives the first five-speed automatic transmission made by Subaru.

2005: The Subaru Tribeca midsize SUV is launched.

2007: The third-generation Impreza is launched, this time as a five-door hatchback. The Impreza remains one of the few cars in its class to offer permanent all-wheel drive across the range. The sedan variant is launched a year later.

2008: The third-generation Forester is launched with a greater ride height than the previous model, ensuring it remains one of Subaru's most capable models on the road and off it.

2009: The third-generation Outback is launched, again with greater ride height. Robust body cladding also helps the car over tougher terrain.

2009: The new Legacy, in its fifth iteration, arrives, offering all-wheel drive as standard throughout the range.

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2010: Two years after the Impreza WRX STI hatchback was launched, the sedan variant becomes available once more.

2010: And later in the year, Tommi Makinen drives the WRX STI around the Nurburgring Nordschleife in seven minutes, 55 seconds--a lap record for a four-door sedan that still stands today.

2011: The all-wheel-drive WRX STI smashes another high-profile lap record, as British rally champion Mark Higgins sets a time of 19 minutes and 37 seconds around the Isle of Man TT course--a new course record for a car.

2012: Subaru launches the XV into the highly competitive compact crossover market. Only a few months after its launch, the XV is already winning plaudits for its ability to tackle harsh conditions and tough terrains.

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