Remarkably well, thanks to its highly capable all-wheel drive (AWD), generous ground clearance, and capable all-season tires.
Every version of this five-passenger midsize crossover SUV comes with Subaru’s Active Torque Split AWD. The system continuously varies engine power front-to-rear to maintain optimal traction at any speed. It’s more reactive than AWD systems in most rivals, which normally operate in front-wheel drive and redistribute power rearward to quell tire slip.
Outback’s system also includes the automaker’s X-Mode control logic. Activated with the press of a console button, X-Mode automatically calibrates the powertrain and regulates individual wheel spin to further manage traction. With a Jeep-like 8.7 inches of ground clearance and all-season tires narrow enough to cut through the white stuff, this is among the most snow-capable vehicles of any stripe.
Among rival five-passenger crossovers, you’ll have to look to certain versions of the Jeep Grand Cherokee for comparable snow handling. Those equipped with the brand’s most-sophisticated Quadra-Drive II four-wheel-drive setup have an electronic limited slip differential, an air suspension that can provide up to 10.8 inches of ground clearance, and a terrain-management system with a dedicated snow setting. It adds up to blizzard-busting performance.
The automatic drivetrain adjustments at the heart of Subaru’s X-Mode are similar to the central workings of a terrain management system. However, terrain management systems typically include driver-selectable settings that automatically adjust the powertrain for snow, sand, mud, rock, and on-road driving. The Ford Explorer and GMC Acadia are among midsize crossovers in this price range with terrain management systems.
Some midsize crossovers enable the driver to lock the AWD system into a 50/50 front/rear torque split. But that lock capability is active only below 20 mph or so. Thus, it’s not an effective snow-handling adjunct at much more than around-town speeds, unlike Outback’s Active Torque Split AWD.