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Review and photos by Mike Schlee

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Comparison Test: AWD vs FWD Family Sedans on Ice

Mecaglisse, QC – Okay, I know what you’re thinking: Subaru stacked the deck. They invited me out to Mecaglisse Motorsports Complex, which is a world-famous racetrack facility that transforms into a winter wonderland of snow and ice racing every winter, to test the revised 2013 Subaru Legacy against two of the segment’s bestsellers, the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord Sedan.

Upon receiving the official invite, flags were immediately raised in my head, mental alarm bells went off, and a virtual referee’s arm was up in the air – offside! How can we test two front-wheel-drive (FWD) family sedans against an all-wheel-drive (AWD) legend? Where is the Fusion AWD, or even Suzuki Kizashi AWD? Well, the answer is, this event was less about highlighting Subaru’s mechanical all-wheel-drive systems but rather a showcase of the benefits of symmetrically even weight distribution from the car’s chassis design. Still skeptical? Read on.

We left the hotel on a frosty January morning with temperatures reading a balmy –30 degrees C. We were headed, in 2013 Subaru Legacy sedans, to Mecaglisse along cottage country back roads that had been plowed, but were still covered in a thick layer of hard-packed white snow. The Legacy felt planted in the snow thanks to the low centre of gravity and equal lateral distribution of its 1,594 kg, substantially more than the 1,441-kg Camry and 1,526-kg Accord. All of our test vehicles, the Legacy, Accord and Camry alike, had the same Bridgestone Blizzak tires installed on stock OEM tire sizes. The tires made the hard-packed snowy roads feel more like dirt roads in minus 30-degree temperatures. I could actually hear the tires ‘squealing’ over the snow during hard cornering.

Comparison Test: AWD vs FWD Family Sedans on IceComparison Test: AWD vs FWD Family Sedans on IceComparison Test: AWD vs FWD Family Sedans on IceComparison Test: AWD vs FWD Family Sedans on Ice
Comparison Test: AWD vs FWD Family Sedans on Ice. Click image to enlarge

Once we arrived at the motorsport complex, it was time to perform a series of tests to demonstrate how important a well-sorted, balanced chassis really is to winter driving. First step was to disable all the stability and traction control systems in the vehicles. Like all modern Subarus, this cannot be achieved 100 percent as traction control can be turned off, but stability control is merely reduced. In the Honda Accord, all systems can be disabled and, surprisingly, so too in the Camry.

We all know that AWD helps a vehicle gain acceleration traction in the snow and ice, and during our one and only traction test during this comparison at Mecaglisse, it was readily apparent. On a moderate incline, the Legacy momentarily spun all four of its wheels as it fought for traction before slowly pulling away without any further issues. The Accord, on the other hand, would comically spin its front wheels while the rear wheels did not move an inch; it looked like the parking brake was engaged. AWD superiority proven. Moving on.

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