There’s wasn’t a whole lot of hype about it, and the exact vehicle that achieved the production benchmark hasn’t been disclosed. But last month, somewhere in its network of assembly plants, Subaru built its 20 millionth vehicle equipped with all-wheel drive, the technological mainstay that has defined Subaru products for at least a generation now. The official announcement came from Subaru Corporation of Japan, indicating that the landmark vehicle may have been produced for its home market.
The photo, which shows the driveline and suspension from a current Subaru Outback, explains what makes this company so intriguing. Subaru produces technologically unique and fascinating vehicles, which mount a horizontally opposed engine – the layout ensures the engine’s crankshaft pulses are inherently self-cancelling and thus balanced – with permanent all-wheel drive. Subaru cut its teeth in North America by marketing itself as a good winter car, which it certainly is, but anyone whose driven one of its products through a blinding Florida downpour, like we did yesterday, can attest that its feeling of security translates well to warmer climes, too. Subaru has been producing all-wheel drive vehicles since it introduced the Leone 4WD Estate Van, Japan’s first mass-produced passenger vehicle with all-wheel drive, in 1972. The DL/GL station wagon with AWD, the ancestor of today’s Outback line, was introduced to American buyers in 1975. A new-generation, full-time system that supplanted the earlier shift-on-the-fly setup came in the 1980s. In 1996, Subaru made AWD standard across all model lines, which remains the case today except for the base-level BRZ sport coupe, a shared platform with Toyota, which starts out as front drive only.