Subaru Outback gives its all in the snow; Durango brings up the rear

Photo courtesy of Dodge & Subaru
Photo courtesy of Dodge & Subaru
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 2, 2011; 12:40 AM


The post-Christmas snow descended with militant urgency, wind-blown at 37 mph. By the time it ended, our travel plans were redrawn.

The 2011 rear-wheel-drive Dodge Durango Crew sport-utility vehicle, with its 290-horsepower V-6 engine and commodious, comfortable cabin, would remain parked in the driveway here.

The 2010 Subaru Outback Limited 2.5i wagon, with its small 170-horsepower four-cylinder engine, and its relatively tight-fit cabin, would be the family's transportation workhorse for the rest of the holiday season.

The difference was all-wheel drive. The Outback Limited 2.5i, usually garaged at our Cornwall house, had it. The version of the Durango driven here didn't.

Big, rear-wheel-drive sport-utility vehicles are great in places such as Louisiana and Mississippi, where snow remains a foreign concept. But Cornwall, 55 miles north of New York City, located on the western shore of the Hudson River, is Subaru territory.

Bragging rights here go to vehicles that can keep moving with agility and confidence in severe winter weather. Subaru, having developed one of the world's best functioning, most reliable, symmetrical all-wheel-drive systems, is leader of that pack.

We drove the Durango here from our Northern Virginia homestead because we needed a vehicle with hauling ability. The five-door Durango Crew has lots of that. It can carry 1,300 pounds onboard and haul a trailer weighing 7,400 pounds.

There were heated family arguments about the Durango Crew's potentially lousy rear-wheel-drive performance in snow. But in the manner of a politician pushing through a last-minute amendment in homage to rank self-interest, I argued that we'd "be all right" because the Durango was fitted with "all-terrain" tires.

It was baloney cooked up to save gas money.

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