Subaru WRX In Snow & Winter Driving? (Explained)

The WRX is undoubtedly Subaru’s most iconic vehicle. It’s success in the World Rally Championship in the 1990s and 2000s made the Japanese automaker famous all over the world. 

Nowadays, the WRX still remains true to its roots and continues to use the same formula that made it a successful rally car and a favorite among auto enthusiasts. 

The WRX’s turbocharged boxer engine and outstanding All-Wheel-Drive system not only give it exceptional acceleration, but also great handling in all sorts of driving conditions. 

Many also love the fact that all this performance is packaged in a regular four-door sedan — making it a very practical vehicle. 

But how well does the WRX perform in the snow? We’ll take an in-depth look at its snow and winter driving ability in this article.

Here is the short answer to whether the Subaru WRX is good for snow and winter driving:

The Subaru WRX is a very capable daily driver in the snow. Its state-of-the-art symmetrical AWD system combined with various safety features make this vehicle a good choice for the winter. However its lower ground clearance means it won’t be able to drive through really deep snow.

Is the Subaru WRX Good in the Snow?

Although the WRX is geared towards high-performance driving on twisty back roads and on the track, it also has a lot going for it when it comes to driving in winter conditions – this is largely attributed to its Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive.

Unlike other AWD systems that function primarily as front or rear-wheel drive cars, the WRX’s AWD system constantly sends power to all four wheels.

All of the WRX’s four wheels will give you lots of grip and traction so you can easily navigate slippery ice-covered roads, steep inclines, and unplowed roads. 

Added to this, all WRXs have powerful turbocharged engines that deliver a lot of torque.

And while too much power can cause your wheels to spin excessively, it can also help you crawl your way out of snowy ruts and keeps you from getting stuck. 

The main down side to this car is its ground clearance, sitting at 5 inches it is not ideal for deep snow.

However, for light to moderate winters, the Subaru WRX when equipped with the right winter tires will still be an extremely reliable daily driver. 

What Features Will Improve Winter Driving?

The modern WRX is packed with lots of features and tech to make it a more capable winter vehicle than other performance-oriented sedans. 

In this section, we’ll take a detailed look at the WRX’s most notable winter features. 

Symmetrical AWD 

The WRX is equipped with Subaru’s legendary Symmetrical AWD system, which is ideal for snowy conditions.

Subaru calls it symmetrical because all the driveline components are laid out along the centerline of the vehicle.

This makes the vehicle more balanced and power delivery to all four wheels more efficient.

Unlike other systems, the WRX’s AWD is always sending power to all four wheels at all times. This helps pull the car forward even when things get very slippery.

In other AWD vehicles, you can easily get stuck in deep snow and halfway up slippery inclines if the AWD system doesn’t switch on fast enough. 

With the WRX, and all other Subaru AWD vehicles, you won’t lose forward momentum when driving through slippery winter roads because all four tires are always clawing at the road surface and moving the vehicle forward. 

Vehicle Dynamics Control 

The WRX comes with Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC) which improves a vehicle’s stability by detecting and reducing loss of traction.

The computerized system utilizes various sensors and constantly monitors:

  • Wheel speed 
  • Steering wheel position 
  • Yaw rate 
  • Lateral acceleration

It will automatically apply the brakes and cut engine power if it detects that the vehicle’s handling limits are about to be reached. 

The VDC also shuffles power from side to side to improve the car’s handling.

It improves traction by applying the brakes to any wheel that’s slipping too much.

This causes the differentials to send more power to the wheel on the opposite side which helps propel the car forward even in very slippery conditions. 

The WRX also comes with Active Torque Vectoring which applies the brakes to the inner wheel when you’re going through corners.

This helps rotate the car in the right direction and reduces understeer and oversteer even if you’re driving on slippery roads where there’s less grip available.

You may also be interested in our article: Subaru Impreza in snow and winter driving

Driver Controlled Center Differential

Unique to the STI models is the Driver Controlled Center Differential or DCCD. It allows the driver to manually control how much power is sent to the front and rear wheels.

The STI also uses a more reliable and predictable mechanical system for its center differential.

The DCCD can be set to Auto mode so the system automatically decides how much power is sent to the front and rear wheels. 

In Auto mode, the DCCD takes into account the following data to adjust the torque split for optimal handling and grip:

  • Acceleration
  • Braking 
  • Steering angle
  • G sensor
  • Yaw rate

Switch it to Auto+ and the system will deliver a 50/50 split between the front and the rear. This can make the car more predictable in the snow.

Auto- sends more power to the rear, which improves its handling in the corners and on the track. You can also use this mode if you want to have some fun by drifting the back of the car around in the snow. 

Subaru Intelligent Drive (SI-DRIVE)

The WRX and WRX STI come with an advanced engine management system called SI-DRIVE which has three modes:

  1. Intelligent (I)
  2. Sport (S)
  3. Sport Sharp (S#)

The different driving modes adjust the car’s throttle response, boost pressure and transmission settings. 

The lowest setting is Intelligent mode and is perfect for maximizing fuel economy and driving on winter roads. 

Sport and Sport Sharp will give you more performance by sharpening the throttle response, increasing the turbo’s boost pressure, and making the transmission more aggressive.

Models that don’t have SI-DRIVE equipped basically run on Sport Sharp at all times. 

Traction Control

Like all modern cars, the WRX comes with Traction Control to keep the wheels from spinning too much which causes the tires to lose traction. 

Without traction control, you can easily break traction if you step on the gas pedal too aggressively.

This can happen quite easily in slippery conditions, especially with the WRX’s torquey turbocharged engine.

During the winter, you will sometimes get stuck in snow or slush.

In order to get moving again, you may need some wheelspin to power your way out. 

Unlike some modern vehicles that make it difficult or impossible to disable traction control, the WRX has a Traction Control button on the center console that can be easily switched on and off. 

If the Traction Control system is cutting off power too early when you’re going up really steep inclines, or through deep snow, and slippery slush, you can just turn it off and give it as much gas you want.

Limited Slip Differential

The WRX STI also features mechanical Limited Slip Differentials (LSD) both front and rear. 

An LSD instantly transfers power side to side when one of the wheels starts spinning. This significantly improves traction and the car’s handling characteristics in the corners. 

Non-STI WRXs try to emulate the effects of an LSD by applying the brakes to the spinning wheel to force the wheel on the other side to turn.

But this system is not as responsive and there’s a significant delay before power can be applied to the right wheel. 

Anti-Lock Braking System

In the winter, you need to be very gentle with the brakes to avoid skidding out of control. 

The WRX’s Anti-Lock Braking System minimizes the effects of aggressive braking by quickly modulating the brake pressure on and off when it senses that the wheels are losing traction and are about to lock up. 

This helps keep the wheels turning during braking which maximizes your tire’s available grip so you can slow down more effectively.

The WRX also comes with Electronic Brake Force Distribution which automatically adjusts how much brake pressure is sent to the front and rear. 

Normally, more braking power is sent to the front wheels because braking moves the weight of the vehicle forward and loads up the front tires more.

In addition, the weight of the engine in the front gives the front tires more grip. 

But when you’re carrying passengers in the back or heavy cargo in the trunk, the rear tires are loaded up more.

In these situations, sending additional braking power to the back wheels helps the vehicle come to a stop faster. 

Please also read our article: Are Subarus easy to work on, repair & maintain?

EyeSight Driver Assist Technology

The WRX Premium and Limited models can be equipped with Subaru’s EyeSight Driver Assist Technology. It’s not available on the Base WRX or the STI. 

EyeSight keeps you safer on the road, especially during the winter when sudden steering movements and braking can cause you to slide and lose control of the vehicle. 

These are the extra features you will get with EyeSight:

  • Adaptive Cruise Control
  • Lane Keep Assist
  • Lane departure warning
  • Pre-collision braking

Heated Side Mirrors and Front Seats

All trim levels of the WRX come with heated side mirrors as standard.

Heated front seats can be equipped through the All-Weather Package which is available on all trim levels except the base model.

The All-Weather Package also includes a windshield wiper de-icer which can significantly improve visibility during really cold winters.

Remote Engine Starter

The Subaru WRX can be equipped with a remote starter through the dealer. It’s only available as an optional accessory and doesn’t come standard on any trim level. 

Being able to start up the engine from outside the vehicle can be really useful in really cold weather. It lets you warm up the cabin fully before getting in the car.

Does the WRX Have Snow Mode?

The Subaru WRX does not come with a Snow Mode.

Unlike other Subarus like the Crosstrek and the Forester, the WRX also doesn’t come with an X-Mode, which is Subaru’s version of Snow/Off Road mode. 

In most cases, the Snow Mode that comes in other vehicles just makes the transmission a bit gentler. It starts shifting from second gear and shifts up much earlier to reduce the chances of wheelspin. 

You can emulate this in the WRX by being a bit gentler on the gas and using the paddle shifters (or a manual transmission) to use the higher gears more often. 

Related: 10 Best & Worst Subaru WRX Years (With Pictures)

Can You Install Additional Snow Gear on the WRX?

The WRX is an extremely popular platform for modifications, so you’ll have no trouble finding winter gear and accessories for it. 

You can find all sorts of snow and winter gear designed for the WRX and the STI such as:

  • Snow tires
  • Tire chains
  • Snow socks
  • Studded tires
  • Tow hooks

How Much Snow Can a WRX Handle?

Since the WRX was designed for spirited driving, its ground clearance is not very high at around 5 inches. 

It’s ground clearance is similar to the regular Impreza and other compact sedans, but significantly lower than the Crosstrek, Forester, or Outback. 

With its extremely reliable AWD system, it can easily power through moderately deep snow, but it won’t be able to do it for prolonged periods.

You can easily get stuck and high centered if you’re driving it through unplowed roads with more than 4 inches of snow. 

But in light to moderate snow, the WRX’s lower ride height and lower center of gravity makes the car very easy to control even if the roads are quite slippery.

How Do WRXs Handle Low Winter Temperatures?

The Subaru WRX uses a very reliable engine that’s also used in lots of other Subaru Models.

It’s extremely well developed and can easily handle really cold temperatures. 

As long as your battery is in good condition, it won’t give you any hard starting issues. 

It also uses a modern fuel injection system so the engine’s computer will automatically compensate for different operating temperatures to make it run as smoothly as possible.

If you live in a place that experiences really long and really cold winters that regularly drop below zero degrees, you can prepare your WRX for the harsh conditions by:

  • Switching to cold-weather rated engine oil
  • Installing an engine block heater
  • Hooking the battery to a battery tender
  • Using a battery warmer
  • Keeping tow hooks, tire chains, and a jump pack in the car

Can a Subaru WRX Drive on Ice?

The Subaru WRX can easily handle ice-covered roads as long as it’s fitted with the right winter tires – however you should always exercise caution when driving on ice. 

Its AWD system provides excellent traction in all conditions which includes snow, ice and light off-road. 

The car’s VDC and Traction Control systems will also help you stay in control and drive safely on roads that are covered with ice and slush. 

The WRX is also relatively light compared to bigger trucks and SUVs, which means you’ll be able to stop the vehicle quicker even when the roads are really slippery. 

It’s low center of gravity and lower ride height also makes the car more stable and easier to control even if you start skidding and sliding on ice.

What About Older WRX Models And Winter Driving?

Older models of the Subaru WRX or Impreza WRX all have pretty reliable AWD systems which makes them pretty good in the winter.

The formula Subaru uses for the WRX has stayed pretty much the same. The newer models just have more safety features and modern electronics. 

Stability and Traction Control were only introduced in the third generation Impreza WRX, but that doesn’t make the older models any less reliable in snow and ice. 

Do Subaru WRXs Need Snow Tires?

If you’re going to be driving through snow covered roads, winter tires will always give you more traction and we highly recommend them. 

Most WRXs will come standard with sport-oriented summer tires.

These make them grip the road better during normal driving conditions, but they won’t offer much grip come wintertime. 

When temperatures drop to 40 and below, summer tires will start to harden up and you’ll feel like you’re driving on hockey pucks. 

If you’re driving to a place that’s really cold, you need to fit a set of really good all-season tires to cope with the changing weather conditions.

If you live somewhere that experiences long winters and really low temperatures, you need to swap out your summer and all-season tires for proper snow tires.

This will give you the better grip and enhanced stopping distances in snow and ice. 

You may also be interested in our article: Infiniti Q50 in Snow & Winter Driving

Can You Mount A Snow Plow on a WRX?

We don’t recommend mounting a snow plow onto your WRX because this will require major modifications to your bumper and bodywork. 

Most snow plows need to be attached directly to a vehicle’s frame which is why you’ll only see larger pickups and SUVs using them. 

Despite having decent power and a good AWD system, the WRX doesn’t have much ground clearance. So it won’t be able to easily drive through really deep snow for extended periods. 



  • Ian Sawyer

    Growing up with a father who was a mechanic I had an appreciation for cars and motorcycles from an early age. I shared my first bike with my brother that had little more than a 40cc engine but it opened up a world of excitement for me, I was hooked. As I grew older I progressed onto bigger bikes and...

    View all posts