It’s been 40 years since Japanese automaker Subaru launched its first all-wheel-drive car, so the company is celebrating its first vehicle with four driven wheels. The car in question was the Subaru Leone Estate Van 4WD, launched in Japan in 1972 and pictured here.
Although Subaru advertising campaigns in the U.S. market hinge on all its cars offering Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, Subaru does sell cars in Europe and Asian with front wheel drive. Even so, about 56 percent of all Subaru vehicles ever produced have been equipped with all-wheel-drive — a total of 11.8 million cars globally since 1972.
The Subaru Leone was launched as a front-wheel-drive coupe in 1971, but the all-wheel-drive Station Wagon quickly gained favor in 1972 for use in snowy areas – especially after it launched in the U.S. in late 1974. In fact, Subaru claims the car became so popular with fans of skiing and fishing that the Leone was once the world’s best-selling all-wheel-drive passenger car – not that there were very many to choose from at the time…
Subaru may tout all-wheel-drive as a brand hallmark in many of its advertisements, but the upcoming BRZ sports coupe may throw a wrench in that formula. The 2013 BRZ, co-developed with Toyota, is only rear-wheel-drive. Once the car goes on sale here this summer, Subaru will no longer offer an entire lineup of all-wheel-drive cars. It remains to be seen how the company’s marketing department will tackle that hurdle.