Spring 2006 Forward to a Friend

IN YOUR DRIVING EXPERIENCE, have you ever had to swerve to avoid something that suddenly appeared? Did you hit your brakes very hard? Were you able to accomplish these seemingly simple maneuvers without spinning or skidding?

If so, you’ve used some of your vehicle’s active-safety features. You use them any time you drive, to one degree or another.

When discussing safety, we tend to focus on seatbelts and air bags, but there are dozens of systems and hundreds of details that contribute to your safety in a Subaru. The automobile industry generally divides vehicular safety systems into two types – ACTIVE SAFETY and PASSIVE SAFETY. Active-safety features help you avoid an accident. Passive-safety features help protect vehicle occupants should an accident occur. The 2006 Subaru vehicles have both types of safety features.


Control is one of the most important aspects of driving a vehicle. Steering, braking, cornering, shifting, accelerating – these all contribute to how you control the vehicle.

When you’re in control, you determine how closely you follow the vehicle in front of you, when and how you come to a stop, when and where you make turns and hundreds of other driving decisions. Sometimes decisions are made in a split second – emergency braking, for example. That’s a clear case of active safety.

Consider how these Subaru active-safety features play a part in accident avoidance. Notice, too, how their functions interconnect.

STEERING. Your vehicle’s steering system is one of the most obvious active-safety features. Precise rack-and-pinion steering systems are standard in every Subaru vehicle. Response is immediate, and changes in direction are direct.

BRAKING. Another obvious active-safety feature is braking. Most Subaru vehicles have four-wheel-disc brakes, which cool quicker than drum brakes to reduce brake fade. As a result, the brakes will stop better. Disc brakes also function better than drum brakes after driving through high water.

Subaru braking systems are all equipped with four-channel antilock systems (ABS), most with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD). ABS helps to prevent wheels from locking up under emergency braking. This active feature is not intended to shorten braking distances, but rather to allow steering control. A sliding front wheel provides no directional control – it just slides forward. A rolling front wheel lets the driver steer away from trouble.

Disc brakes cool quicker and reduce brake fade.
EBD can shift brake force from front to rear under emergency braking. Most of the braking is usually done by the front wheels – again, for greater control. (Locking up the rear wheels can cause a spin.) By shifting more brake force to the rear in predetermined circumstances, EBD evens out the braking effort between all four wheels.

ENGINE AND DRIVETRAIN – SUBARU SYMMETRICAL ALL-WHEEL DRIVE. All Subaru vehicles have horizontally opposed (boxer) engines that are fuel-efficient, low in emissions and powerful. Horizontally opposed engines have a flatter profile than in-line or V-type engines. That helps to lower the vehicles’ centers of gravity, which has positive effects on handling and resistance to rolling over. Subaru is one of only two vehicle manufacturers that build boxer-type engines for the U.S. market; the other is Porsche.

The Subaru Boxer engine’s lower center of gravity causes less body roll than an in-line or V-type engine.

Engine performance also enhances safety, because it allows the driver to accelerate away from trouble in some situations. Subaru vehicles have good power-to-weight ratios, which improve acceleration – especially with the turbocharged and six-cylinder engines.

All-wheel drive (AWD) provides motive power to all four wheels. Four wheels fighting for traction are much better than two. AWD improves performance in all weather conditions – even in dry climates.

With the Boxer engine laid out longitudinally in the vehicle and AWD, one side of a Subaru power train mirrors the other. That’s what makes it symmetrical, balancing the vehicle and adding to driver control.

FOUR-WHEEL INDEPENDENT SUSPENSION. Each of a Subaru vehicle’s four wheels is suspended independently from the one opposite. Each responds to road surfaces without being tied into what the other wheel is doing. That means the wheels are more likely to be in contact with the road surface and maintaining traction – for greater control in steering, accelerating and braking.

VEHICLE DYNAMICS CONTROL (VDC). Standard on the Subaru B9 Tribeca and the Outback VDC Limited Wagon, VDC is a stability-control system. When VDC senses that the vehicle is sliding due to understeer or oversteer, it will manage individual wheel braking and reduce engine power to help correct the slide – adding to driver control.

TIRE PRESSURE MONITORING SYSTEM (TPMS). This system measures air pressure in the vehicle’s tires and alerts the driver via a warning light if pressure has fallen below a safe level. Proper inflation is important to the vehicle’s consistent handling. TPMS is standard on the Subaru B9 Tribeca and six-cylinder Outback models.

OTHER ACTIVE-SAFETY FEATURES. Besides engine and chassis features, others play a part in active safety:
VISIBILITY FROM WITHIN – the ability to see well all around a Subaru can help a driver be aware of potential problems as they develop. Notice how well you can see out of your Subaru.
VISIBILITY TO OTHER DRIVERS – all Subaru vehicles have standard daytime running lights. These make a vehicle easier to see, helping to reduce accidents.
CLIMATE CONTROL – heating and air conditioning keep fresh air flowing through the cabin, as do optional air filtration systems. These features contribute to active safety by helping to keep the driver alert.


Passive-safety features don’t play a part in protecting a vehicle’s occupants until an impact occurs. Some of these features, like crumple zones and air bags, are not visible unless utilized. Others, like seatbelts, should be a part of every trip in your Subaru.

The word passive shouldn’t imply that these features and systems are slow. They have to react in fractions of a second to provide the award-winning protection of which they’re capable. Also, passive-safety features are designed to work together as a system to help protect vehicle occupants.

SEATBELTS. All Subaru vehicles have height-adjustable, three-point front seatbelts. By adjusting to an occupant’s height, the seatbelts provide improved protection. Three-point belts, which help to prevent a person’s torso from lurching forward, are standard for all seating positions.

The front seatbelts also have pretensioners with force limiters. In an impact, the pretensioners’ control unit signals them to reel in slack in the seatbelt, which helps to hold occupants in place, allowing air bags to be more effective. In impacts of sufficient force, devices in the pretensioners called force limiters unwind the seatbelts a little to help prevent injuries caused by the belts themselves.


Federal crash-testing as well as tests by insurance groups prove the effectiveness of Subaru safety engineering. Subaru vehicles consistently earn high ratings in these tests.


B9 TRIBECA. 5-Star crash-test rating, 4-Star rating for rollover resistance – National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
OUTBACK. 5-Star crash-test rating – NHTSA
LEGACY. Top Safety Pick, Gold Rating – Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)
FORESTER. 5-Star crash-test rating – NHTSA; Best Pick Frontal, Good rating for protection against whiplash injuries – IIHS
IMPREZA. Best Pick Frontal – IIHS

For information on NHTSA’s crash tests and rollover ratings see http://safercar.gov. For more on IIHS testing, go to www.iihs.org.

AIR BAGS. Depending on the model, front, side-impact and side-curtain air bags inflate upon impact to help protect occupants. These are part of the Subaru Supplemental Restraint System, which is intended to work in conjunction with the primary restraint system – the seatbelts.

RING-SHAPED REINFORCEMENT FRAME. The cabin is surrounded by a frame made of high-strength steel. It’s intended to prevent intrusion and to protect the occupants in an impact. The Ring-Shaped Reinforcement Frame functions along with the front and rear crumple zones to absorb and redistribute impact energy away from cabin occupants in an accident.

COLLAPSIBLE STEERING COLUMN. In a frontal impact, the steering column collapses toward the front of the vehicle. This helps to absorb impact energy so that it’s not passed on to the driver.

ENGINE. The engine is held by bolts that shear in an impact. Due to its horizontal profile and low placement, it is designed to pass under the vehicle, minimizing intrusion into the passenger cabin.

HEIGHT-ADJUSTABLE ACTIVE FRONT-SEAT HEAD RESTRAINTS – in an impact, active head restraints automatically move forward to help prevent whiplash.
BRAKE-PEDAL ASSEMBLY – in some Subaru vehicles, the pedal assembly moves forward in an impact, helping to prevent injury to the driver’s feet and legs.
REAR DOOR SAFETY DOOR LOCKS – these prevent children from opening the doors from the inside while allowing them to be opened from outside.
INTERNAL TRUNK RELEASE – an illuminated release handle in the trunk lets someone inadvertently locked in the trunk to escape.
LATCH – the federally mandated system simplifies the installation of child safety seats, enhancing safety.
OCCUPANT DETECTION SYSTEM – in some models, this system determines the weight of the occupant, turning on the front-passenger air bag for an adult and turning it off for a child or when it’s empty.