Stbilitrac vs. AWD

I am in the market to purchase a car and I’m trying to decide between a 2007 Subaru Outback wagon 2.5 or a 2008 Saturn Aura. I realize they are different classes of cars, but I’m curious as to what the difference is between stabilitrac and awd and will the stabilitrac perform as well as the awd in inclimate weather?


Stabilitrac only sends wheels to one or two wheels on the front axle and uses braking system to send power to other wheel by means of differential. Subaru AWD sends the power not only to the front axle but also the rear axle.

However in about 90% of conditions you hit FWD will be fine, this is coming from a Subaru owner. There are certain locales and driveways that simply require AWD and traction control is not a substitute. I am not sure how well or not stabilitrak works however some one axle based traction control systems are so poor they cannot get a car moving on ice or snow as they fight themselves and usually owners have to disable them.

Stabletrak is a system that helps you steer and brake in poor conditions via a computer and individually operating the brakes. AWD sends power to all four wheels at all times, which helps you get going and makes you less likely to get stuck if you have to drive regularly somewhere that gets an exeptional amount of snow or somewhere that doesn’t get much snow removal. The Aura is FWD and probably has a traction control system and so for most people it would be just fine, especially with four snow tires.

Also note that you do pay a price for the AWD system in terms of reduced mileage and some service issues, such as having to replace all four tires at a time.

I will only add that for snow and ice, it is the ability to stay on the road and to stop that is of primary importance.  Getting stuck is not fun, but it causes far less damage and injury.  Having four winter (not all season) tyres on either car will make a far greater safety improvement than any difference between the cars.  The AWD with winter tyres will do best on all counts, but is likely overkill for 95% of drivers.  I would guess the abilities of a FWD car with winter tyres and an AWD car without would give the FWD the advantage in all situations.

There are a few situations were AWD with all-seasons is better than FWD with winters. One easy one is on pure glazed ice, acceleration in general and also in deep snow situations.

My brother in laws winter tire equipped Saturn(FWD) cannot get through the drifted snow that is usually about 12"+ at my family’s estate. My Subaru WRX with all-seasons can always pull through that deep yet light snow.

He walks about 1/2 mile across the field I drive in.

AWD sends power to any of the four wheels at any time.

Stabilitrac is a system that doesn’t allow the driver to lose control of the vehicle under various driving conditions. How this works is, the system takes information from the steering wheel angle sensor. Depending on the speed of the vehicle, how sharp the turn is, and the road conditions, the system determines if the turn can be made safely without the loss of control. This is done with the use of a brake pressure transducer, accelerometers, and a vehicle yaw sensor. So for example, if the vehicle takes a corner too fast, the yaw sensor would measure how much the vehicle is leaning during that turn, the accelerometers measures the vehicles speed, and the brake pressure transducer measures the amount of brake being applied. If the system determines that the situation is unsafe, it automatically applies the ABS to whatever wheel(s) neccesary, and the engine mangement system may detune the engine to prevent the loss of control of the vehicle.

These systems are mostly found on SUV’s where the center of gravity is higher than on a car. But there are some cars coming out with these systems. So think of it as a system that won’t allow you to lose control of the vehicle, even if you wanted to.


I agree with Tester, he is usually correct. My 2000 Intrigue calls it PCS (precision control system). He couldn’t have described it better. Trac-Control works with just the front wheels on a FWD and is a separate system, at least on mine car.